|BRANDON THOMAS & JUAN GEDEON
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DF Interview: Brandon Thomas & Juan Gedeon put a new twist on ‘alien invasion’ in Horizon
By Byron Brewer
Writer Brandon Thomas, artist Juan Gedeon and colorist Frank Martin team up for Horizon, an all-new summer series from Image’s Skybound brand.
Zhia Malen thought she’d fought her very last war, until she learned her planet was targeted for occupation by a desperate world … a planet called Earth. The people of Earth will be told that her arrival on the planet means invasion. These are lies. This is retaliation, and Horizon explores what happens when Earth finally runs out of second chances, and when we meet an alien race just as committed to survival as we are.
To get the full 411, DF News sat down with the writer and artist to learn more. This is what Brandon Thomas and Juan Gedeon told us.
Dynamic Forces: Brandon, what you once called the “biggest secret of my life” is out, that you have been working on Horizon for about two years now. Tell us how the concept came about.
Brandon Thomas: Oh, I’ve been sitting on the basic idea of Horizon---“Earth invades alien planet” -- for several years now. One of those things you jot down in a notebook and hope that you’ll be able to get to before someone else does. When Skybound approached me and asked for a few pitches, it was the first and only thing I sent them, because I still thought it was a great high concept, and if I could live up to that cool idea, we could have a great book on our hands.
The first little one sheet laying out the main premise of the series and a couple of essential twists went in early 2014, and we’ve been working on it in some shape or form since then. Getting the official green light was the most important development of my professional life, and I’m so glad that I don’t have to keep it a secret anymore. It’s enormously exciting to have reached this point, and getting to unveil it at Image Expo was a dream come true.
Best of all, I’m ready to write a book like this now. When I first had this idea, I just wasn’t ready for it, not emotionally, and the great thing about this lengthy development process is the comprehensive understanding of the characters and the world I have now. I needed that to feel better prepared, and the more we worked on it, the better and more refined it got, the sharper and more intense the character interactions, etc. The version I turned in so long ago is a pale imitation of what we’re working with now, and now we’ve got a book that works on several levels, and can more confidently deal with the themes of cynicism, prejudice, and redemption that we delve into.
DF: What can you tell us about the storyline of this “sci-fi conspiracy thriller” and about your protagonists?
BT: Our main lens of the book is Zhia Malen, a senior officer in her home world’s planetary security services, who after several years, is finally adjusting to a planet that no longer requires what she does best. But she’s just discovered humans living in secret on her world, paving humanity’s way for invasion and ultimately, occupation. Earth is dying out, and they believe they’ve found a perfect new home.
So Zhia puts together a strike team of her closest friends and allies, and comes to Earth to trap us on our dying planet. The book starts with Malen coming down to Earth in the wrong location, under desperate circumstances, and over the first issue, we follow her as she regains her footing and begins to assemble the rest of her team. Through this, we learn more about the current state of our world, and the planetary conspiracy that’s been built up to escape it.
Also, explosions, gunfights, car chases, cool alien tech, and the work of Juan Gedeon hitting critical mass alongside celebrated color artist Frank Martin.
DF: Speaking of your artist … Juan, unlike a lot of books starting out I understand you already have drawn a number of issues. What can you tell us about the “look/atmosphere” for this new series and how you are achieving that?
Juan Gedeon: Style-wise, I'm going for a Cory Walker/Kris Anka thing, with maybe 10% or 20% James Harren. I feel Horizon is more serious and cleaner than other stuff I've done. And it moves at a different rhythm. Brandon tells the story as if it was a TV series or a movie, and it's great because we get to explore so much different stuff. Some scenes look like something out of Fast & Furious, others are stealthy like Metal Gear, others are set in an urban environment. There's also good dialogues and drama, so there's a little bit of everything.
Since it's a sci-fi book, I tried to study movies, video games, etc. from that genre and took some elements to re-arrange them for Horizon. Star Wars, Total Recall, Tron, Matrix, Dead Space ... Not different than building your own Frankenstein monster. And I keep the art simple and easy to read so it flows faster.
DF: Can you tell us a little about what went into designing some of Horizon’s characters? Challenges you may have faced and/or fun you’ve had in doing so?
JG: Brandon described their personalities and the role of each character and I went from there. Basically, I put all the stuff that I like in a blender and see what happens. First I think about the tone of the story and try to find "ingredients" that would work for the mix I'm trying to create. I used stuff from Mass Effect, Metal Gear, Tron, Tsutomu Nihei, HR Giger, etc. Apart from being able to identify a character by its silhouette (that's Character Design 101), I ask myself, "If I didn't know anything about this character but saw them in Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter, would I choose them? Or would I buy the action figure?"
Another key element was the hair. My current style is pretty simple with very little rendering. So I came up with weird and distinctive but simple hairdos for each character. Not unlike Mickey Mouse's ears. I think I got the hairdos from Ashley Wood's Three A figures and Dragon Ball Z.
DF: Brandon, can you tell me a little about your creative process in working with Juan?
BT: Well, when my editor suggested him for this, I was so, so excited, because like a lot of people, I read Ghost Racers and knew this was the next big artist in comics. When we talked about him, the most exciting thing is that as fantastic as he is right now, in two years, we’ll have to fight to keep him on the book because everyone will be coming after him hard. You can’t see his ceiling, and it’s my job to give him enough exciting, dynamic material to get there, because that’s really his specialty, and when the heat turns up, Horizon hits another gear visually.
But once he was officially on board, it really altered my approach to the scripts, and fortunately, because I’m pretty far ahead, I’ve been able to go back and tinker with some scenes, and give him much less direction in regards to the action sequences. He’s better at choreographing them than me honestly, and I’ve learned firsthand that giving him the broad strokes and major beats of a scene is more than enough to bring that greatness out. Every time we work on a sequence, the results get just a little bit better, a little crisper, and he recently turned in a scene for #4 that is just astounding. When Frank gets his hands on it, I’ll be grinning ear to ear.
On top of all that, Juan is a cool dude, a hard worker, and we get along great. Been an absolute pleasure thus far.
DF: And Juan? Your creative process in working with Brandon?
JG: He's one of the nicest guys ever. With some people it's "my way or the highway", but fortunately Brandon is not like that. He is always open to suggestions, ideas, etc. Same when I have a question about the story or a certain scene. I'd just send him an email or a private message and he responds right away. We also have stuff in common so it's easier to explain ideas. Example: When we were doing the alien armored suits, we'd say "What if we do something like Spawn? Or like Venom? Or like Tron, but changing this and that ..." Brandon described a certain shot as something from Zelda, and I'd say, "Gotcha!" It's pretty cool.
DF: Thus far in your creation process do you have a favorite character, and if so why?
BT: Oh wow, I won’t even try to choose (laughs). It’s the diplomatic response, but I love them all for different reasons, and they all have great (and horrible) qualities that are either exaggerated extensions of my own personality, or even idealized versions of it. I love Zhia’s stubbornness, Sherrie’s irritability, Coza’s patience and wisdom, and Finn’s idealism. And that only deals with the main cast, as there are some great, complicated human characters being introduced in the first arc and beyond.
It really depends on the day, really; today I’m working on #11, and so Mariol Coza is my absolute favorite thing ever. You’ll have to wait a little to find out why, but excited and honored every time I get to sit down and write more adventures for these characters.
JG: Zhia and Serrie are my faves. Zhia's suit is like Tron meets the Eva 01, mixed with Raiden from Metal Gear, and Sherrie is kinda like that but on steroids, so she is like also 20% Zangief or Predator. I like Sherrie's hair in alien form and glasses a lot, and Zhia's neck spikes.
DF: To your mind, what sets Horizon off from other SF-oriented comics? What makes the series one readers will want to pick up?
BT: I think we’re approaching the common sci-fi trope of “alien invasion” from an unusual angle, which is going to give this book a perspective and a canvass that will lead to cool stories. Honestly, if some alien race was encountering us for the first time, and had even a cursory read of our history, they’d be absolutely terrified of us. We would look like some of the most dangerous, backwards people that anyone ever met, and they’d want nothing to do with us. And they definitely wouldn’t want us anywhere near their planet.
I think given the kind of discussions we’re having just in this country makes this book right on time, which feels great given how long we’ve been working on it.
Plus, I mean, what other comic has Juan Gedeon, Frank Martin, Rus Wooten, and covers by Jason Howard? This comic is almost obscenely great looking, and Juan’s commitment to dynamic, kinetic action sequences and otherworldly design work is gonna be the talk of the town this time next year. His art is a revelation, and I’m so happy to be giving the world Horizon right beside him, and I hope people will give us a read when we launch out on July 13, 2016.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Brandon Thomas & Juan Gedeon for taking time out of their busy schedules to answer our questions. Horizon #1 from Skybound hits stores July 13th!
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