This March the prolific husband and wife creative team of Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman bring their talents to Image Comics with Invisible Republic. Hardman is arguably most recognized from his work at Marvel over the years, but it has been the duo’s work on properties such as Planet of the Apes at BOOM! and Star Wars at Dark Horse that have shown off their ability to handle big science-fiction stories. With their new creator owned Sci-Fi epic getting ready to hit the stands next month, Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko were able to take the time to discuss Invisible Republic, and what readers can expect come March 18th.
John Ernenputsch: Thank you guys for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with me today. I wanted to start off by talking about the genesis of Invisible Republic. It is wonderful to see the two of you setting up shop at Image with this title. You guys as a team have been prolific in recent years with titles together at BOOM Studios, Dark Horse Comics, and Monkeybrain. This doesn’t even take into account comics you’ve worked on separately, and non comics work. With your busy schedules, how long had the idea for Invisble Republic been simmering in your heads before getting to work on it and what made now the perfect time to bring the story to life?
Gabriel Hardman: Doing a creator owned, long form sci-fi comic has been an ambition of ours for years. Actually, we conceived of this specific story right after finishing our first creator owned graphic novel Heathentown in 2009. It’s just taking this long for the right circumstance to come along where we’d have the freedom to do it the way we wanted and as an ongoing. But all the freelance work we did, especially the Planet of the Apes and Star Wars books were a great proving ground for us. We loved making those books and we were also tuning up for this creator-owned work.
Corinna Bechko: The time really is right for this project. We’ve been thinking about it for quite a while, and now the pieces are finally in place for us to do it properly. We’re lucky that we were able to get Jordan Boyd on colors too. His work adds so much atmosphere to the world we’re trying to build.
GH: Absolutely. And the fact that we were able to work with Jordan on the last few freelance projects meant we were already on the same page and able to hit the ground running on Invisible Republic.
JE: In the first issue alone it is clear that the series is going to be ambitious. The scope of the story seems small with potential to go huge. There’s a highly personal story intertwined with the broader political aspect. How would both of you describe the series in a way that captures everything you’d want readers to know about it?
GH: It’s an epic story told on a person scale. There’s action (including a big fight sequence in issue #1) and there will be space battles and all that but at its core this is an intimate drama that plays out between Arthur McBride, the freedom fighter turned dictator, and his cousin Maia who knows him better than anyone else.
CB: Any story needs strong characters at its heart to ground larger themes, so we have tried hard to make sure that this is really the story of Arthur, Maia, and Croger. All of the drama and action is seen through their eyes.
JE:In the first issue the cast is kept fairly small. Readers will be introduced to the characters of Croger Babb, Maia, and Arthur. What can you tell readers about these characters and their personalities?
CB: Croger is a journalist who considers himself jaded, but as he uncovers Maia’s story he finds that there are still things he will fight for. Arthur starts as just another refugee, but he has the ability to be a leader, and the will to do whatever it takes to claim power. Maia, as Arthur’s cousin and closest confidant, has many secrets to protect, including some of her own.
JE: One aspect I found fascinating and all too rare in Science Fiction is that the genre doesn’t come before the story in Invisible Republic. A big part of that stems from the setting. Can you talk about Avalon, and the role it plays in the series?
GH: Avalon is a remote planet with limited resources that was colonized by a generation ship in the days before faster than light travel. So they have been out of touch with home for a long time. They weren’t able to innovate much technologically. In the time of Arthur McBride, Avalon is the place where the more powerful central government in this system gets recruits to fight in its simmering civil war. Much of this is stuff that we’ll deal with in upcoming issues. For us it was important to throw readers into the middle of this world in issue #1, make them catch up. I know I’m not a fan of explaining, especially in sci-fi.
CB: Before the days of faster-than-light travel Avalon and its system seemed to be the most important place in the universe to the people who lived there. Afterwards, everything changed completely. A lot of the story revolves around that contrast.
JE: Also, to expand a bit on my point above, the story comes before the genre. There’re flashes of sci-fi trappings, but also a real sense that the heart of the story could be adapted into any genre/time-period. Can you guys discuss the Science Fiction genre and why it was perfect for Invisible Republic?
CSB: Science fiction allows you to distill down the parts of a story that you really want to concentrate on. By changing some parts of the world you can discover things that would otherwise be swamped in extraneous detail. I think that’s one of the things that makes science fiction as a genre so much fun to read and to write.
JE: In my Advance Review comparisons are made to works like Blade Runner, Breaking Bad, and even The Godfather II. While the book stands on its own, are there any other works whose fans should be interested in Invisible Republic?
GH: The Godfather II comparison is apt but all of these are more about giving readers a comfortable comparison than actually being inspirations for the story. The kernel for Invisible Republic is from a traditional Irish ballad, an anti-recruiting song that we used as a jumping off point and developed into a big but grounded sci-fi world. A lot of what we’re looking to for inspiration are those traditional ballads and the way they weaved together different real life stories and inspirations to make a new thing. That’s the folk tradition. We feel like Invisible Republic is part of that.
JE: Possibly along those same lines, maybe not. While the art in the book is quintessentially Gabriel Hardman art there’s a pulpiness to the look and feel that is unique when compared to your other books. How did you guys decide on how the book was going to look/feel, and what inspired you two as that was being discussed?
GH: Honestly? I wanted it to look like a seventies movie. I wanted it to feel like a crummy world, a lived-in world. The art itself is a mix of inspirations but artists I’d look at for this were Robert Fawcett, Attilio Micheluzzi, Alberto Breccia and Jean (Moebius) Giraud’s Blueberrybooks. But I looked at a lot of photographers too. Felice Beato’s A Photographer on the Eastern Road, Josef Koudelka’s Wall, Fan Ho’s Hong Kong Yesterday and even Larry Clark’s Tulsa are all touchstones. All of them are inspirational but I’m not really referencing them directly. I don’t work that way. I just hope to bring a vague feel from these other artists into my stuff.
JE: There have been a few husband and wife teams throughout the years, and I’m always curious as to the process by which these teams create together. I was surprised when I read that you two still produce full scripts. Can you take us through the process behind the creation of a typical first issue on a series you guys create together? Also, i have to ask. I can imagine the positives being fairly significant, but what is the “worst” part about working with your significant other?
GH: The worst part is obvious, it’s difficult to separate work out from every other part of our lives. We’re always available to each other so wecan always talk about work. Not that we should. But the positives outweigh the negatives.
CB: Definitely the worst part is the fact that we’re always working. But that’s kind of the best part too. Since we know each other so well and share so many touchstones we can often use a sort of short hand to talk about ideas and scenes. If I say that I want something to have a bit of a Masked and Anonymous vibe, or reference a scene in a Patricia Highsmith book, Gabriel knows exactly what I mean. In general it’s a quite harmonious process.
GH: It’s true that we continue to write full scripts but it’s more to create a baseline. We’re free to deviate from them and often do as work on the issue progresses. I will often rework the panel layouts in the art and we tend to radically change the dialogue in the lettering. It’s a pretty fluid process but the full script gives us a solid foundation that we can then deviate from.
JE: Before we wrap this up I want to ask an important question that I want both of you to answer. In the comic book community one of the biggest issues has been one of gender and diversity among creators. Gabriel, Having come up in the industry yourself, and watching your wife do the same you have a fairly unique perspective on these matters so I’d like to ask you both. What advice can you offer young women looking to break in to the industry, and do you think the industry is heading in the right direction in that regard?
GH: Having a diversity of points of view is enormously important and I think the industry is generally heading in the right direction but it has a long way to go. I just visited the Savannah College of Art and Design’s Sequential Art Department for their Comic Art Forum and I was encouraged by how diverse the students were compared what the industry has been like up to this point. I’m not sure what advice to give to young female professionals that would be any different form the advice I’d give to anyone looking to break in. I can give advice to other males: treat women as professionals and equals. Don’t condescend or be a creep. Honestly, this seems like a pretty easy hurdle.
CB: Things have changed a lot over the years, but it’s true that we have a long way to go. At least now there’s an awareness that things should change. As to advice, I’d say to always act like a professional if you want to be a professional, and don’t ever let anyone treat you as less than that. Finding a supportive group of peers can really help too, since being a creator can be pretty lonely, and doubly so if you are underrepresented in the industry.
JE: Congratulations on getting ready to launch Invisible Republic. It is a stellar first issue that sets up a story that has the potential to be something special. Is there anything else that you would like readers and retailers to know about the series?
GH: I just want everybody to know that Invisible Republic is a book we are very passionate about and if you check it out, I think you’ll be rewarded.
CB: Thanks! And thank you to everyone who spends their time and money on what we’ve created. I hope you enjoy it!
Invisible Republic will be released in comic book stores everywhere and digitally on March 18th. The Final Order Cutoff is today February 23rd.