Jason Enright, Fanboy Comics Senior Contributor: For readers who may not have read I Love Trouble yet, what is the book all about?
Kel Symons: It’s about a grifter who realizes she has a super power, and uses it for her own personal gain. Then, she shows up on the radar of a company that exploits people with special powers, until her talents are refined and she’s trained to become a corporate assassin. It’s like she’s a small-time criminal who’s suddenly been given a huge operating budget.
At it’s heart, though, it’s just a fun, stylish book. I don’t know if you’re allowed to call yourself “stylish,” but there, I just did it. Sorry.
JE: These aren't super-powered do-gooders like we are used to seeing comics. What inspired you to explore the less responsible choices people might make when given great power?
KS: I just feel that if one were given such a gift, they probably wouldn’t be putting on tights and saving the world. They’d be out for themselves. That’s what we have here. With Felicia, I centered the story on a somewhat morally ambiguous person; someone who, like just about anybody, has their fair share of issues. (To be fair, she might have more than most, though.) How would you or I or anyone deal with this gift? Would such a power amplify our issues? Affect our personality. Bring our faults bubbling to the surface?
JE: There are a lot of cool design elements to this book, from your unique covers to the cool next issue panel. Why did you and your team choose to take a radical, new approach to the standard comic book format?
KS: I wish I could take credit for these things, but a lot of these elements came from Mark Robinson, the artist.
Some came from Image – the publisher, Eric Stephenson, for instance wanted the stories to start on the cover, so we’ve got panels with dialogue and story starting our action right there. In a way, it’s a shame, because Mark’s inside cover art is spectacular and eye-catching, but only if our covers grab your attention first are you going to pick up the book and check it out.
The “teaser panels” as we’re calling them, which give readers a preview of the next issue, are all Mark. I was elated the first time I saw one of these, and immediately was like “Yes! Great idea! We have to do this with every issue.”
Mark really does have a unique approach to what he’s doing. I mean, he’s really killing it with each issue – there’s always some unique angle or perspective that shows off his talents. He’ll show a scene, just a static panel of two people talking, but have us looking at it from outside a window looking into the room. Very cinematic stuff, which I love.
I think it was the first issue, the two page splash of the plane crash where Felicia discovers her power to teleport, that really hooked me on him. He added these tiny windows, just little boxes throughout the progression of panels, and inserted art from those emergency instruction pamphlets the airlines have in the seatback. It was genius – honestly. That’s when I realized Mark was into some next level stuff.
And, the rest of the team has embraced this style. Paul Little’s colors imbue Mark’s art with a sense of reality, yet can be very eye-catching. They complement what Mark does while still being its own thing. There’s a dim grittiness to some of these pages, especially the night time panels. It sort of reminds me of the cinematography of the movie Se7en. And, Paul’s been game for adding little pop culture “Easter eggs” when I ask him – like there’ll be a subtle Jaws reference on one page, and then a video game reference a few pages later.
And, our letterer Pat Brosseau’s got game, too – he recently did a very complex and talky dialogue scene, and actually layered art into the foreground over bubbles to give the panel additional depth. Actually, I don’t envy Pat’s job much at all – our book goes from no dialogue for 7-8 pages, to massive amounts of talk squeezed into a few panels. If it turns out he’s got “Mark” and “Kel” voodoo dolls, I won’t be surprised.
JE: With the introduction of Thomas and the Mars Corporation, the super-powered world encompasses much more than the series’ main character, Felicia. Are there plans to explore other powered characters and more of what Mars is up to?
KS: There certainly were plans early on to explore a larger world – something that Eric Stephenson wanted to do. He wanted to create a shared universe of characters, normal folk like Felicia who discover they have these unusual gifts and powers, and focus on how they would react to having them. He reasoned, and I agree, that anyone would likely use such powers for their own benefit, as we all do with whatever innate talents we have, whether it’s a musical ability, or a gift for math. Eric wanted other creators and artists to develop characters in this world.
But, by the time Mark and I were onto the second or third issue of I Love Trouble, it seemed pretty clear that ours was the only book in this universe going forward. It’s a shame, really, because I think I would have told the story differently if I’d known that. I spent time referencing the world, talking about the powers, and others with them, assuming this shared universe existed, whereas if I’d known it was just going to be our book, I’d have spent more time with Felicia.
Mark and I also thought there’d be more stories beyond the first six issues, but it seems like we’re not going to have the chance to explore Felicia’s personality further. The story ends on a few notes of closure, but it was definitely told with the belief there’d be more stories, and I probably would have played things out differently had I known that going in. I mean, there’s a perspective shift in the next two issues, and some plotlines are left open-ended. Knowing what I know now, I would have brought a much more definitive sense of closure to everything.
JE: Are there any other projects in the works for you aside from I Love Trouble?
KS: Yeah, I have another book coming out with Image, this fall I hope, with another artist, Mathew Reynolds. It’s a much different sort of book, a straightforward action adventure story that takes place in the South Pacific in the late 1930s; tales of espionage and fortune-hunting set against the backdrop of the Chinese-Japanese War leading into WWII, following a motley crew of ex-pats and mercenaries tooling around the South Seas in an old German U-Boat. It’s sort of like Raiders of the Lost Ark meets Firefly, by way of Howard Hawks. Mathew’s art has this really striking Jonny Quest flair. It’s just going to be a good, ol’ fashioned yarn. Also, I like it because I get to use the word “yarn.”
JE: Being that we focus on all things “geek” at Fanboy Comics, would you care to geek out with us about your favorite comic books and graphic novels?
KS: I really wish I could say I’m a huge comic book reader, that I’m in the store every Wednesday loading up with an armful of books. But, sadly, I’m not. My love of storytelling is based mostly in movies and TV shows. I mean, that’s what I grew up on.
Not to say I don’t read comics, just not as voraciously as a lot of other folks in the industry. Guess you couldn’t call me much of a capes and cowls kind of guy, though Batman was probably my entrée into comics in the '80s. And, it doesn’t get any better than Arkham Asylum.
I really love the Alan Moore run on Swamp Thing, bought all those hardcovers the last few years – just lyrical writing. Pure poetry. Love, love, love BKV’s The Runaways. B. Clay Moore’s Hawaiian Dick books. Been reading the French series The Killer. Dig the Umbrella Academy books. And, it doesn’t get much better than Darwyn Cooke’s adaptations of the Parker novels. Seriously amazing design and storytelling from start to finish.