Only just launched in this past month, Everstar has quickly proven to be one of my favourite Thrillbent titles. Sure, it helps that it has robots, space adventures, lighthouses AND sailing in it – and who doesn’t love all four of those things? – but it’s mainly due to Becky Tinker’s light-hearted and bouncy script, and Joie Brown’s gleeful and vibrant artwork.
It’s the story of a young girl, Ainslie, a keen sailor and adventure fanatic who finds herself accidentally relaying a message into outer space which gets her – and her friend George – beamed up into a spaceship. Whereas anyone else might panic a little upon being shot into space, Ainslie takes to it immediately, forms a quick bond with the ship, and starts piloting it around the galaxy as the new captain.
She’s great, is Ainslie.
Anyway! With Everstar proving to be a warm, hugely enjoyable series, I was lucky enough to get the chance to talk to both Joie and Becky about their work on the comic. They talk about how the series came together, what it’s been like working with each other, the joy of designing spaceships and robots – and also where Ainslie’s name comes from….
Steve: What’s Everstar all about? What’s the premise of the series?
Becky: The simple answer is it’s about a girl and her spaceship. Ainslie, a fun and reckless young girl, accidentally sends an intergalactic signal into outer space and is picked up by a rogue spaceship hiding out near Earth. Ainslie forms an immediate bond with the ship, and when danger strikes she takes the lead and flies it herself. It’s about adventure, curiosity, and finding the courage to become the person you’re meant to be.
Ainslie (who sails in the first issue, by the way – are you fans of BRITISH HERO Ben Ainslie?) is a really fun lead character, and so far she’s had one laugh-out-loud moment in each of the two chapters. Is it fun to get to feature such a contrarian lead character?
Becky: You are the very first person so far to recognize where Ainslie’s name came from! I used to sail growing up and it became a huge part of my childhood. I knew I wanted the main character to be a sailor as well and Ben Ainslie seemed like the perfect person to pull her name from, what with him being the best of the best and all (and once I tried it out the name just fit her so perfectly). I hope you don’t mind that I borrowed a British hero for this…
Ainslie couldn’t be more fun to write. The humor often came out naturally while I was writing because her personality led to funny sequences so easily. She’s such a mischievous kid and she has so much energy that it’s a given she’d create these humorous situations all the time.
Joie: It’s most certainly fun to draw a character like Ainslie! She’s a rather mischievous and expressive gal, which makes for some great reaction takes and interactions.
What do you think are her most notable traits? What is it that defines her, as a person?
Joie: From my perspective, it’s her uncrushable spirit. She’s young and excitable, but she’s also brave and extremely dedicated to adventure. When she makes a decision, get out of her WAY!
Becky: Above everything else, she’s courageous, especially for someone her age. She has limitless amounts of confidence and she’s truly a natural born leader—which is a role we’ll gradually see her step into as the series progresses. She has a wonderful sense of curiosity, so you can imagine what being in outer space will do to that side of her. However, being wild, inquisitive, and fearless can make for a dangerous combination, and as a result she doesn’t always think of the consequences of her actions before flying off the handle.
How did her design come together, Joie? Did you go back and forth on ideas for her?
Joie: After reading the scripts, I had a pretty solid idea of what I wanted Ainslie to look like. I wanted Ainslie to be a little rough-and-tumble, but not straight up tomboy. I also wanted her to always sport a bandage on her knee. I sent a short written description to Becky, and amazingly we were on the exact same page. I did a quick sketch, and BAM– we had our Ainslie.
On that – how did you first meet one another? When did you decide to work together?
Joie: Becky found me earlier this year at WonderCon. I had a booth set up, and she saw my work and contacted me the next day. The second I read the scripts for Everstar I was 100% sold on the story, and jumped at the chance to do the art test.
Becky: I was very lucky in that after the scripts were written, Thrillbent was very supportive in allowing me to find an artist that would fit well with the style that I had in mind. I found Joie at Wondercon and I loved her work, so I contacted her afterwards to see if she was interested in taking on the project. Fortunately she was!
How have you found the collaborative process?
Becky: It’s been fantastic. Joie and I work very well together and it’s been amazing to see the project coming to life through her artwork. Oftentimes she’ll come up with a design that’s even better than I had pictured in my head. From the start we had similar ideas about what it should look like, so it’s really been a great collaboration. I feel very fortunate to have an artist like her bringing Everstar to life.
Joie: Collaborating with Becky has been exceptionally easy and fun. We are on the same page about just about everything. Her writing is expressive and strong so I can easily picture what she’s going for.
When did the series first come to Thrillbent? How did they get involved as publisher for your story?
Becky: It was actually originally written as a television script. John Rogers, the co-owner of Thrillbent, read it and thought that it would make a great comic. I was asked to come in and pitch the idea as a comic series to John and Mark Waid, which I did and soon after I got the news that they wanted to do it as a Thrillbent original series. They had been looking to reach other demographics, such as kids, so it turned out to be the perfect fit. It was definitely a dream come true for me as I have been a lifelong comics fan but had never been sure how to get my foot in the door of that area of writing.
So far the comic is grounded on Earth, but you’ve been steadily building up to the cosmic element of things – once you knew the comic would be published at Thrillbent, did that change the way you paced the comic? Knowing that Thrillbent publishes things in chapters rather than the standard comic format?
Becky: There was definitely a change in the way it was paced. I put a lot of thought into where each chapter should be broken up to make sure the story still flowed and the pace never let up. With chapters, you have a shorter amount of time to convince people that this is a story worth reading, so I tried to make sure that there were moments in each one that would hook the readers and make people want to come back for more.
As a digital comic, you can try a lot of things that print comics can’t – a sequence where she’s sat on a chair in chapter two, for example, rocking back and forth. How’ve you found writing and drawing a digital series which can experiment like this?
Joie: I went to school for illustration and animation, so getting to use a digital format like this allows me to use that knowledge to help sell certain sequences. The chair-rocking part you mention is my favorite. It had a great 1 -2 -3 punch to it that really helped show Ainslie’s childlike mischievousness and glee that I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.
Becky: On the writing side, it was both challenging and incredibly fun. With the Thrillbent format (overlays that change from one “panel” to the next), it adds a whole other dimension that you need to think about when writing the scripts. Once I got the hang of it, getting to write those types of sequences was an absolute blast. It leads to endless possibilities for what we could do visually, and we wouldn’t have that opportunity anywhere else.
Other series on Thrillbent use the format for horror reveals or action sequences, while I thought it would be fun to play around with things like physical humor and character expressions to keep in line with the tone of the series. Joie did a truly remarkable job in actually executing those sequences and making them transition well on the page.
Steve: Joie, can you tell us more about how you approach those sequences?
Joie: Becky’s scripts are infinitely helpful when it comes to pacing. She indicates to me if she wants an action to span over a few different “swipes” (Thrillbent terminology for when you click the “next” button on the comic), and I’ll sit and think through how best to show that to the reader. It’s almost as if the Thrillbent format is a comic/storyboard hybrid– it really opens up the possibilities for storytelling!
At this point the series hasn’t yet gone into outer space, but it looks like we’re on the verge of it! What can readers expect over the next few chapters?
Becky: There will certainly be a lot of excitement in the next few chapters! We’ll be seeing the story shift from Earth to outer space in what will hopefully be a really fun way. Readers will finally get properly acquainted with the spaceship Everstar and meet some new characters as well! Thus far we’ve gotten the setup for Ainslie being brought into outer space, and now we’re about to see that actually happen.
Steve: How are you approaching the sci-fi stuff, Joie? Are you going for a complete hi-tech and futuristic look at outer space, in stark contrast to the reality on Earth; or is your goal to make space look realistic, beaten, battered, and not so disconnected from life on Earth?
Joie: It’s a little bit of both, I’d say. The Everstar itself (the ship that we spot right at the end of Chapter 01) is heavily influenced by sailboats with a touch of steampunk thrown in. It’s technological and sleek, but has a bit of a connection to our own technologies here on Earth. The Jade, another ship that shows up later, has a sleek and predatory look that’s reminiscent of both a hawk and an octopus.
There will be some amazing technology, but almost everything is rooted in or influenced by things we’ve seen here here on Earth– particularly things that relate to the ocean. Cool hologram projections and giant gears? We’ve got a little of both!
Steve: I have to single out the robot character, Rusty – because everybody loves a robot. How did you get their design together? Was it inspired by anything in particular, or is this something entirely from your own imagination?
Joie: Rusty was really fun to design for me. How does one take a hunk of metal and make it emote? You’ve got to show the eyes to really sell emotion with it, and of course he needed arms that could flail and cross. I wanted Rusty to be able to express his short temper, yet still be comically wobbly. So, I ended up with a little bit of Short Circuit and Wall-E plus Gizmoduck from Duck Tales. Everything is more fun when it rolls instead of walks!
In comics, there’s a tendency for sci-fi stories to be aimed at boys, rather than girls. Is Everstar in part a deliberate attempt to shake that up a little?
Becky: Absolutely. There just isn’t enough out there for girls, and that was something that I certainly grappled with when I was younger as an avid sci-fi fan. When girls are featured, it’s often only in a supporting role. When I came up with the initial “kid in a spaceship” idea, I immediately wanted it to feature a swashbuckling heroine to help balance things out a little and hopefully provide young girls with a protagonist that they can relate to.
Was it important to you both that this be an all-ages series?
Becky: Creating something for kids and adults and everyone in between was one of my main goals in writing Everstar. I grew up on amazing comics and movies and the like that reached both kids and adults equally, so I’m always hoping to do the same in what I write.
Joie: I generally prefer working in the all ages genre when it comes to everything—not just comics, so yes it was rather important to me. I want to create stories and material that anyone of any age can appreciate and be entertained by!
How long-term are your plans with the series at the moment? Do you hope for it to go on indefinitely, or do you have an endpoint in mind for further down the line?
Becky: Right now the first volume will be twelve chapters, and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that we’re able to do more in the future! My hope is for it to go on much longer, as there are many more adventures to be had and storylines to explore. Whether or not we’ll get the greenlight to do more of Everstar is a decision that’s up to the Thrillbent team. Hopefully readers will respond to it and ask to see more.
Joie: I don’t know what Thrillbent’s or Becky’s plans are, but I’d love for it to go on indefinitely. I see a lot of potential for hilarity and adventures with Ainslie & company.
What else are you working on right now? Where can people find you online?
Joie: Right now I’m doing various freelance projects, including concept art for theme park rides, and my own comic book Heavenly Kibble Guardian Corgi. I’ve got a few other unannounced projects in the mix as well that’ll pop up eventually. People can find me at www.joieart.net, on Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and DeviantArt too if they’re bent on seeing everything I’ve got! Feel free to reach out to me on social media; I love talking to and connecting with new people!
Becky: Right now Everstar is my sole comics endeavour, but I hope to be involved in a lot more projects in the future! Definitely check out Joie’s “Heavenly Kibble Guardian Corgi” comic. In the meantime I can be found on Twitter right here.
Many thanks to Becky and Joie for their time! The first two chapters of Everstar are available on Thrillbent to read for free – chapter three and beyond will require a Thrillbent subscription. WORTH IT!