Interview: Space is the Final Frontier...for Bastards!
Jan 10, 2021
Interview by Troy-Jeffrey Allen
Space is the first bastard. Think about it. There was a big bang (heh heh), then came the universe (snicker), and...where is its creator? Hm? Right. He's an "absentee landlord!" And to make things even more uncomfortable, now you have commercial space travel -- with the likes of Elon Musk and Richard Branson -- showing up to be space's stepdad.
Face it. The bastardization of space has already happened. So, it makes sense that Humanoids' new series is embracing it with their new book. The title is called Space Bastards (of course), and after an impressive crowdfunding campaign, comic shops are getting the chance to have their universe rocked this January. We talked with co-creators Eric Peterson and Joe Aubrey and asked them why the final frontier has gone to the bastards!
PREVIEWSworld: First things first: What is the setting for Space Bastards?
Eric Peterson: Space Bastards is set in the not-too-distant future, in a universe colonized by America.
Joe Aubrey: Infrastructure is unreliable, unemployment is sky-high and the galactic economy is struggling.
PREVIEWSworld: Why does the future need an Intergalactic Postal Service?
Joe Aubrey: Same reason we need Uber/Postmates/FedEx. But on steroids. Goods of all types must still be physically transported between planets. Natural hazards, vast distances, and rampant piracy have made it nearly impossible for deliveries to be completed. The Intergalactic Postal Service is a descendent of the United States Postal Service, so it’s always been there but it fairly recently underwent radical changes that have, to a certain extent, solved these problems.
Eric Peterson: The rules are simple. Whoever delivers the package gets the cash. A postal worker can use any means necessary to steal that package in order to deliver it themselves. The more time that a parcel changes hands, the more times their dispatch bracelet says “parcel transferred,” the more fees the customer pays. Those fees go to the victor. This is the job that gives limitless potential and freedom. It is also the most dangerous.
PREVIEWSworld: How did Space Bastards come about as a project? Who approached who, etc.?
Eric Peterson: I started drawing a version of Davey Proton that bears no resemblance to his current form when I was 13 years old. I just wanted to create a world where I could tell more stories about smugglers and stuff, growing up with Star Wars. When I was in film school, coincidentally around the same time I was reading stuff like Transmetropolitan, I was building spaceship sets with my friends in my garage and backyard and that is how I met Joe. When the going got rough on these films, he always rose to the occasion and treated them as much his creation as my own.
Joe added so much and helped me elevate the characters and the setting. Writing with him just clicked. I didn’t feel like this thing was being spoiled so much as just getting better the more we collaborated. And eventually, we realized we could do more in comics than we could with filming in a painted set in my backyard.
Joe Aubrey: Then one day Eric set up a meeting in California with Darick. We spent several hours with him that day. Discussed Space Bastards and lots of other stuff, drank a bottle of Laphroaig, and the three of us decided to make a baby.
PREVIEWSworld: Tons of imagination goes into something this outlandish. When is it too much? Is it ever too much?
Eric Peterson: It’s not ever too much. I guess until it is. We know there’s hyperbole in this setting. I can’t really think of an instance with action or characters that we’ve dialed back, however, we do frequently dial back when logic is frayed. If I write something and Joe goes, “Why wouldn’t this character just do this instead,” we know we need to take what’s good there but find another route that isn’t so unbelievable.
Joe Aubrey: It’s never too much as long as we don’t exceed the imagination of the artists. And trust me, it’s nearly impossible to stump these guys. They can render anything, no matter how crazy it sounds on paper – and the visual interpretation we get back is usually about three miles further down the road. In the rare instance, they do alter something, it’s usually dialed UP.
PREVIEWSworld: What made you want to make these standalone?
Eric Peterson: I think one of my favorite things about those particular issues is that they are still part of a panoramic shot. They all work together. There are a few reading orders for year one that work. There’s the Humanoids release order, or you could read them chronologically if you have the gusto to figure out how, and then finally the purposeful way we present the story in our limited edition hardcovers. But you definitely could read these by themselves and find them enjoyable as well.
Joe Aubrey: We wanted to bring everything we had out onto the field. We had a lot of ideas that were trimmed from or never fully developed in the main story arc. The standalone gave us the opportunity to really explore some of the minor characters and “suburbs” of our universe and collaborate with different artists. Every standalone is a full meal in and of itself. But each one also works as an on-ramp to the main story arc. We hope that fans of each of our artists will read one of these stories and become interested in Space Bastards as a whole. We also hope our readers fall in love with our artists and check out the other great work that they’ve done and are doing.
PREVIEWSworld: You’ve snagged some heavy hitters in the art department. Can you tell us more about how you nabbed the rest of your creative team and who they are?
Eric Peterson: So there’s a whole ton of talented artists that I think could do a great job on a Space Bastards story. What we set out for very specifically was taking a pretty complex outline for all these stories we wanted to get across in the first year of the book, and then very specifically pick the best matching artist for each individual one. Like, even when an artist hasn’t had time to do it, we’ve been really fortunate that we’ve had time thus far to make it work. But we have had conversations where it’s like, “Shoot, should we just find someone else?” “Nah, we wrote it for this person. It’s meant for them.” Typically we outline really detailed. And then we really strive to impress a particular artist for that story and make them feel welcome to the family. And then I consume a heavy diet of reading ONLY the books they did in the past that I have fallen in love with. With Simon for example, I read Slaine a bunch over and over again. And with Colin, I read America over and over again. So that when the actual script itself is written we’re teased into thinking specifically in their visual language. A script we write for Clint would never just go to another artist or vice-versa, for example. That idea horrifies me. I love how each artist really tends to be on stories that Joe and I both think is with them for a reason, after knowing them and their work very deeply. It also helps that each of these artists has work that played a big role in my childhood love of comics during pretty formative years. If I went back in time and told a 15-year-old version of myself what to expect 20 years in the future, there is absolutely no way that a teenaged me would believe that I’d be working with my heroes from that time, or that they’re actually just really great people and that we work well together.
Joe Aubrey: Simon Bisley, Clint Langley, Colin MacNeil, and Boo Cook are the artists on the standalone stories. I could write volumes about each of them (and Darick) in terms of their visual style, how they react to the material we give them, which characters they tend to identify with, etc. The sequences or specific characters in the book that they really seem to enjoy are very different and it is fascinating to see what they produce when we play to their strengths. They are all uniquely talented and, together, have given the Space Bastards universe a rich complexity. We are lucky to have been able to work with each of them.
PREVIEWSworld: While two writers is never anything new, I’m always impressed by it. What's the creative process like between you two? Do the knives ever come out?
Eric Peterson: I think 80% of my writing emails to Joe start with, “This isn’t THE idea but it could lead to the idea.” My favorite thing is that I feel comfortable with giving Joe the shittiest ideas that I have, knowing that we both know it’s all steps. At the same time, and I think Joe would say the same, I don’t really think of a particular audience when I write. I write for Joe. And I think he writes for me. When we can make each other laugh out loud, hard, and for a long time, we know that’s when we’ve hit it. It takes work and we don’t really stop until we elicit the reaction we want from our “audience,” each other.
Joe Aubrey: How do people even write alone? If Eric and I weren’t doing this together, I don’t know who would read my early drafts and ideas.
Eric Peterson: Yeah, we do sometimes have the knives out. But I don’t think we’ve ever ended a conversation with knives out. It’s easy to get offended if an idea just isn’t the other person’s favorite. I know one recently I worked on that I was super excited about, and he liked the same things about it I did, but it just didn’t work. I angrily defended it for an hour. And then there was like three hours of texts about the better idea that the shitty idea led to. That’s kind of how it works when it is the coal before the diamond. When something doesn’t work, it’s almost never NONE of the ideas that is problematic. You have to mine together and figure out what is worth keeping and what the true problem is.
PREVIEWSworld: Looking forward, what can readers expect from Space Bastards?
Eric Peterson: Of course more mayhem. More heists. More competition. And surprises.
Joe Aubrey: Catharsis. Laughter. Despicable behavior. And a surprising amount of male nudity.
PREVIEWSworld: In terms of audience, who is Space Bastards for?
Joe Aubrey: Mature readers who like a science fiction setting. Fans of any of our artists will really enjoy Space Bastards. Anyone who’s ever had a job they didn’t like or weren’t able to advance in will enjoy the book quite a bit.
Eric Peterson: There’s a lot of series I grew up reading where I could say, “Oh, I remember this classic issue or that highlight.” So far, at least, I feel that way about every issue of Space Bastards. Working on subsequent issues for me in year one always felt like, “Oh, this is my favorite moment,” until the next issue was written and then that would be my favorite. Who knows if the public will feel the same way, but I know Joe and I have just always walked away from issues feeling like, “Yep, this is the best we can do and this paints this corner of the universe the way we want it and adds something,” even if it meant starting part of the process over from scratch. We were really uncompromising with this— Space Bastards is that comic series I want to bleed into, because of the talent involved, the friends I’ve made through it and get to work with, and also what the series stands to say. I really do hope even a sliver of the comic-reading public feels the same way, and that we both get to do much more of this.
Poor David S. Proton. A meek, unemployed accountant desperate for money, he joins the Intergalactic Postal Service, paired with Manny Corns, a.k.a. "The Manicorn," a sardonic brute who thrives on the competition provided by the IPS. But delivery is mercenary for these intergalactic dispatchers-payment goes solely to whoever fulfills the delivery, making every run a comically violent free-for-all between the most ruthless degenerates in the cosmos. Stand back, Lobo! Make way, Han Solo -- here come the Space Bastards!
Troy-Jeffrey Allen is the producer and co-host of PREVIEWSworld Weekly. His comic book works include BAMN, Fight of the Century, the Harvey Award-nominated District Comics, and the Ringo Awards-nominated Magic Bullet.