For those of you who only know Amelia Earhart from the news headlines of late, writer Jay Faerber and artist Sumeyye Kesgin are set to introduce you to a more vital version of the awesome aviator in Elsewhere from Image. Set in a fantastic alien land, the first arc of this title is collected in a brand-new, bargain-priced trade, just for you! Jay and Sumeyye were kind enough to spend some time answering my questions before the holidays, and here are their answers:
Doug Zawisza: Jay and Sumeyye, what made now the right time to launch Elsewhere?
Jay Faerber: Well, we launched the series in August 2017. That was a reasonable amount of time after Image approved the series. It gave us time to build up some nice momentum, so that by the time issue #1 sent on sale, I think we were already finished (or close to finished) with issue #4, the end of our first story arc. So that ended in November, and then we took December off and launched the first trade paperback in January. Then we’ll also take February off, and resume the monthly series with issue #5 in March. Staggering the schedule this way ensures that each issue goes on sale when it’s solicited, and there (hopefully) won’t be any delays.
Sumeyye Kesgin: Yes, after I finished 3 issues we got a launch date from Image.
DZ: The release of the first collection comes after a bit of a break from the issues coming out, but not too long of a break. Is this your intended cadence going forward: four issue arc then a collection?
JF: Yes, that’s it exactly. It helps the whole creative team to build in little breaks after each story arc.
DZ: So let’s get into the story itself. The cover of Elsewhere #1 caught my eye, with what could only be unmistakably Amelia Earhart and an apparent dragon (with dragon riders) described in strong, but subtle tones. The story then opens with Cort and Tavel as they make their way across the tale and into their roles as tour guides for this strange, alien world. In their flight (no pun intended) they happen across Earhart stranded in a tree that has snarled up her parachute above the ground. Why Earhart?
JF: Because she’s a real-life icon. If someone simply told you about her life, it’d be understandable to think she’s a fictional creation. A larger-than-life heroine out of the pulp novels. But she was a real person, and everything she accomplished actually happened. And the way her story ended was so tragic and yet also so inspiring. I just thought she made a great heroine for this fantasy story.
SK: You know the story includes real-life persons who are still ‘missing’. When Jay told me he wanted to make Amelia as a main character, I really love the idea. She is a great choice.
DZ: I presume Amelia Earhart was always connected to this story, but if not Earhart, would this story still have worked?
JF: She was pretty much entwined with the story from the start. I think it could’ve worked without her, but it would’ve lost something. It wouldn’t have been so gripping from the first scene.
SK: The book’s idea is very original IMHO: missing people from history open their eyes in a different world. We know it’s a fantasy story and on the other hand it’s a little realistic too. I think it could’ve worked either but she’s one of the most famous one who got lost and yes, her story would have been incomplete.
DZ: Can you provide a quick rundown – two to three words each – of the rest of the Elsewhere cast?
JF: Our lead character is the famous aviator, Amelia Earhart. Before too long, she meets another infamous missing person with a connection to aviation, the sky-jacker D.B. Cooper, who leapt out of an airplane with all the ransom money he collected in a 1970s sky-jacking. Then we’ve got Cort and Tavel, the two natives who befriend Amelia. Cort is a heroic adventurer, Tavel is the much more selfish and reluctant sidekick. And then there’s Lord Kragen, the evil despot who rules the kingdom. And lastly, theres Fred Noonan, Amelia’s aviator. Not many people know that she didn’t vanish alone. Fred vanished with her. And her mission in this fantasy land is to find him, so they can both return home. Whether or not she actually finds him, well, you’ll just have to read it for yourself.
DZ: As you mention in the course of this collection, Jay, Earhart became a household name. Clearly, she means something to you. Sumeyye, what did you know about Earhart when you started working on Elsewhere?
SK: I knew Earhart was one of the most important figures in history- she had world records and sadly she got lost. But I didn’t know all the details then. After Jay told me she was going to be our main character, I felt happy to know her much more. I love to draw strong female lead characters. I guess I can identify easier with them as a woman myself.
DZ: Sumeyye, your characters are lively and fun, animated in their actions and expressions while also being solid and grounded in the settings around them. Amelia Earhart, especially, has a dynamic range of expression and a nose for action. What influenced your interpretation of Earhart?
SK: It’s been always a little hard to illustrate real people for me. I did searches on the web for Amelia. I studied images that I collected and I tried to find a formula which I can build every expression on. Also I try to estimate her persona on each panel. I believe she was a kind, naive, and brave woman in her life and so I’m trying to reflect her feelings according to these impressions.
DZ: How many different interpretations did you try and what single quality made you lock into the way you draw Earhart?
SK: Actually I didn’t do so many interpretations. The character’s outline has stuck in my mind after a few pages. And we went forward. But sometimes I still need to check her photographs and trying to avoid making her too cartoony.
DZ: Sumeyye, do you draw on paper or a digital medium? (If digital) What application and platform?
SK: I’m mostly drawing covers traditionally but interior pages are digital work. I have a Wacom Companion 2 and and I’m using Manga Studio.
DZ: Sumeyye, most artists have tools that they default to using. What are your preferences?
SK: I prefer digital tools because it’s faster. But I can say I really miss ink and paper so i’m doing covers traditionally.
DZ: Sumeyye, do you provide color cues in your drawings?
SK: Ron Riley’s coloring our book and I’m pretty happy about it! Most of the color choices belong to him. Jay and I tell him if there is any specific color choices.
DZ: What kind of artistic prep work did you have to go through prior to drawing Elsewhere? Did you build models, take photos, or craft reference of some other kind?
SK: For an unique fantasy world, I did lots of research for visuals. Also yes, I’m making some rough sculptures for some characters’ bust. Clay is very helpful for perspective and so fun!
DZ: Jay, what kind of prep work did you do? Do you have whiteboards or notebooks of story branches, or do you sit down and just crank the story out?
JF: I did some basic research into Amelia’s past, but I didn’t go too crazy. Our story is fictional, obviously. It’s not a biography. And along with our editor, the invaluable Frank Pittarese, I mapped out a rough outline covering the first twelve issues. But it’s all just in a Word document. I don’t use whiteboards or notebooks. I’m all digital.
DZ: What informed your take on Earhart, Jay? Was it anything in movies, podcasts, or other works, or did she just always have a fanciful spot in your imagination?
JF: It’s really just some of the biographical information I read about her — her views on feminism, for instance. And the fact that she and her sister used to fire their father’s guns as young girls. Stuff like that helped inform how we’d portray her as a fantasy heroine.
DZ: Why include D. B. Cooper?
JF: He just sorta… fit. The fact that he’s a famous (or rather, infamous) missing person connected to aviation. It was too good to pass up. He’s our charming rogue. He’s a thief, after all. But he becomes Amelia’s ally. And he’s also a great voice of humor. I took a lot more liberties with him, obviously, because almost nothing is known about the real man.
DZ: This collection ends with a nice conclusion to an adventure, but clearly leaves so very much open to further adventures. Will Earhart and/or Cooper anchor the next set of Elsewhere issues?
JF: Yes, Amelia and DB are our lead characters. They’re number 1 and 2 on the call sheet, in TV terms. So the series will remain focused on them more than anyone else.
DZ: Will Kragen make a return?
JF: Wait and see…
DZ: How vast is Elsewhere? Are there different “realms” or “regions” and, if so, will we see a map at some point?
JF: I don’t know about a map, but our second arc is all about getting out into the world and exploring just how vast Korvath is. So we’ll get to see a lot of new sights and meet a lot more characters and species.
DZ: Have you both been keeping up with recent resurgence in the “news” that Earhart and (Fred) Noonan were prisoners in Japan prior to their demise? Does that affect your approach to the next story?
JF: Yeah, that “news” broke just before the series launched, so the timing, from a promotional standpoint, was excellent. But all it amounted to was one more theory. As far as I’m concerned, nothing was proved. And it didn’t effect our approach to the story.
DZ: Let’s wrap up with some word association and one more question after that. Sumeyye, here’s five words for you, please give me the first word that comes to mind for each:
DZ: And Jay, let’s do the same for you:
DZ: Sumeyye and Jay, could you tell us how you decided to work together, specifically on this project?
JF: I had seen Sumeyye’s work online and approached her about working together. We put together a pitch for a different project, but Eric Stephenson at Image suggested we go bigger — find something more original. So we started brainstorming back and forth. Sumeyye put together lovely sketches of various creatures and landscapes and I hit on this idea of a world full of missing people. And very quickly had the idea to center it on Amelia Earhart and DB Cooper. From there, things came together quite quickly.
SK: I was working with another comic company when Jay contacted with me. I was always dreaming to have an creator-owned book and Jay was amazing, so I said yes immediately. First project was great either imho but we have had a chance to start Elsewhere and it provided us a bigger universe to explore.
DZ: Finally, this collected edition is a nice one-stop-shop to get caught up quickly. After reading this, what do fans have to look forward to, and how soon?
JF: The series resumes with issue #5 in March, and will run monthly through June. Then the second trade paperback will be out in August. That second story arc is where we really explore what lies beyond the kingdom we got to know in the first arc. We see a much more varied landscape, with new species — both friend and foe. Amelia and her allies undertake a massive quest that she hopes will lead her home. But there are forces very close to her that don’t have her best interests at heart. This story really takes everything we established in the first arc and builds on it in very exciting ways. We can’t wait for you to read it.
DZ: Thank you both for you time and insight. Fans, you can catch Elsewhere Volume 1 as one of Image’s amazingly approachable $9.99 collections on January 3, 2018. Readers, you can thank me later.