A lush, mystical world. A grand adventure. Two siblings venture out into the world with the goal of surviving. This is Leila del Duca & Kit Seaton’s Afar. del Duca & Seaton were kind enough to take Comicosity into the fantastic world of Afar, available in stores March 29, 2017!
Aaron Long: So, how did Afar come to be? Had the two of you been looking to collaborate for awhile?
Kit Seaton: We have been friends for many years, since we graduated from art school. I worked for Leila as her colorist on a graphic novel called The Pantheon Project. Not too long after that, she approached me to collaborate on a graphic novel. Leila has always been great to work with, and has a brilliant creative mind. I knew that by signing on, I’d be drawing things I never had before, and that was an exciting challenge.
Leila del Duca: I’ve definitely wanted to collaborate with Kit for a long, long time, ever since I saw her artwork hanging on the halls of the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design that we both attended around 2006-2008. Kit’s artwork has always wowed me, so when I had the chance to write something, she was the one I wanted to work with above all others.
AL: Can you discuss the world of Afar?
KS: Afar is a universe a bit like ours, but with people who can travel through space and time by temporarily inhabiting another person’s mind light years away via astral projection. Imagine having the ability to truly walk a mile in another person’s shoes. Boetema discovers right away the problems that can arise when she stumbles upon her own ability to project.
LdD: Kit describes it pretty well! AFAR takes place on a planet and in a country that had an incredible industrial revolution but a series of sandstorms and resource wars destroyed most of this technology. Boetema’s little brother, Inotu, wants to be an engineer so he can help revive the lost technology, and on their journey the two siblings walk through tech ruins that scatter their world.
AFAR also takes place on other worlds, too. Boetema projects her mind and soul into other being’s bodies while she sleeps. She’s able to visit richly diverse planets that are so different than her own, yet at the same time are familiar in many ways. There are 8-limbed and 4-eyed green cats, muscular snake men, praying mantis shamans, humanoids with six fingers and spots on their skins, and many more combinations inspired by our own planet’s biodiversity.
AL: What is your favourite part of worldbuilding?
KS: This was fun because Leila is also an artist, so we could bat ideas back and forth. She could send me a doodle and I could build off it. I liked having the ability to collaborate in that way. It was nice to have her insight and direction on the designs, but I never felt stifled. Afar really is a joint effort that combines our mutual and varied interests.
LdD: My favorite part was dreaming about what I wanted to see Kit draw! She’s already done a lot of historical fiction, so I wanted to see her incredible design sense applied to science fiction and fantasy. Astral projection seemed like a fun element to throw into the mix, since it would allow us to do even more world building and skill stretching and she continually inspired me with every new concept we developed.
AL: Let’s talk about Boetema. Who is she and how does she fit into the world of Afar?
KS: Boetema was great to have as the entry point of the story, since she is brave and independent, but also young and still finding her feet. We can learn about the universe as Boetema does; it is a frightening place, but also full of wonder and beauty. Her curiosity and adventurous spirit is necessary to propel her through the story. She has a core of ethics that binds her to her little brother, but also drives her sense of justice and responsibility, and that characteristic enables her to grow and learn from her adventures.
LdD: Boetema is a 15-year-old girl who is having a hard time coping with her father’s inability to hold down jobs he’s unqualified for, which causes problems for her mother and little brother, too. While she’s planning to run away, she hits her head and has a strange vision. Afterwards, whenever she falls asleep, she dreams she is in the body of strange creatures on other worlds light years away. Boetema has to face her fears and deal with her new abilities with the help of Inotu, her big-hearted little brother with a penchant for trouble.
AL: With the first volume of Afar, you’ve built a complex world and introduced strong characters full of spunk. Do you have a set number of volumes planned for this story?
KS: That all lives in the enigmatic place that is Leila’s noodle. I’m just happy to be along for the ride.
LdD: I’d love to make this a trilogy! If this first book is successful enough, Kit and I have already talked about doing more and where the story would go. I’m incredibly excited for it, so I’m definitely hoping people like it enough to warrant a sequel.
AL: Leila, how does your approach to writing differ to your approach to working on Shutter?
LdD: With SHUTTER, I can just dive in a draw a page since I already have skill sets in place that make drawing easier and getting into the groove effortless. With writing, I’m still a newbie, and it’s terrifying! I knew I would need help, so I hired amazing editor and writer extraordinaire, Taneka Stotts, who helped me SO MUCH I can’t even begin to tell you. The first third of AFAR went through tons of necessary rewrites, thanks to Taneka’s wisdom and advice. She helped craft me into a better writer and the book is so much better having had her on our team!
Other than hiring an editor, writing for me came in short bursts. I would write for about 2 hours when I had time, but I would feel so burnt out and tired afterwards. During cram time, I would write for 1-2 hours whenever I could find the time between drawing SHUTTER, SCARLET WITCH, and the other few gigs I picked up last year. I worked myself to the bone and learned that I need more time for writing, research, planning, and editing than I previously thought. That all said, this was an incredibly rewarding experience, and I look forward to writing again.
AL: Kit, can you discuss your character designs and the aesthetics of Afar?
KS: Certainly! When we meet Boetema and Inotu, they’re a couple of kids who have moved around a lot, but have lived mostly in small towns. These are places where everyone knows each other, and that can make new kids feel a bit like oddball outsiders. They’ve picked up a lot from the various towns they’ve lived in, but they also stick out a bit. Even when they travel to some bustling metropolis areas, they still feel like fish out of water. Leila was very helpful in assisting with aesthetics, garments and hairstyles in the regions that informed the Afar universe. We wanted Boetema and Inotu to feel like they came from a world as richly textured and diverse as our own, but a unique difference. Their world has experienced the Seneca effect. A mysterious and highly advanced civilization collapsed eons ago. New, vibrant cultures exist, and they’re trying to make some sense of the old through the remaining broken technology. Like our world, it is a blend of the old and new, just in the reverse, and that concept drove much of how we designed their world. Every world Boetema visits has some kind of rule which helped provide a framework for how it could be designed. Much of the time, this would also be defined by the use of limited color palettes and shape language.
AL: Any final words for readers about Afar?
KS: Leila and I dedicated this book to all the daydreamers out there. We hope it inspires young storytellers to build their own worlds and share them. I hope readers can get to know Boetema in this book, and enjoy traveling with her as much as I do.
LdD: This book was partially inspired by my deep longing to escape my boring reality while I was growing up in small-town Montana. I hope that it provides a fun escape for teens who need a little adventure and positivity in their lives.
Check out Afar from Image Comics wherever you buy your comics on March 29, 2017!