Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the recent release of the first issue of Sweet Lullaby! For our readers who may be unfamiliar with the story, how would you describe its premise?
AJ Scherkenbach: Thank you. It’s really crazy and fun to see and hear about other people enjoying our little creation. Sweet Lullaby is, not surprisingly, the story of Lullaby -- a 20-something assassin who is starting to question her career path. In the book, you get to see her being raised by her father and, at a very young age, training to become a professional killer. Despite loving her chosen occupation, her boyfriend remains unaware of her career -- and Lullaby knows she can't keep the truth from him forever. She has a lot to juggle, and a lot of people counting on her.
J. Briscoe Allison: Thank you! We're absolutely thrilled to have our little baby out in the world! Sweet Lullaby is a 6-issue mini-series about the girl next door, who also happens to be an assassin. She works alongside a host of colorful characters including her father, who trained her and shares her profession. While the arc is filled with white knuckle thrills, the core of the story (at least for me) is how Lullaby balances her dangerous career with the more ordinary aspects of her life, such as family and romantic relationships. As you might imagine, the juggling leads to some pretty interesting situations.
BD: In light of the popularity of spy properties like James Bond, The Professional, and Alias, why do you feel that readers will gravitate towards Sweet Lullaby, and what do you feel sets it apart from other spy thrillers?
AJ: Readers will love Sweet Lullaby because it’s quiet. When I first conceived of Lullaby’s world, one of the main conceits I wanted to dramatize was that these characters are not saving the world from some mastermind-driven plot each issue; they're taking out the day-to-day scum that plague our neighborhoods. Lullaby and The Service want and need to permanently remove these sociopaths from society, but they don't want to make the national news.
The meat and potatoes of Lullaby are her bonds with her father, her organization (The Service), and her blossoming romance. She’s torn because, for the first time in her life, the path ahead is uncertain. How can she carry on a romantic relationship and continue as a professional assassin?
BD: How would you describe your creative process in working together on this series?
AJ: How do I describe working with John? I think he plucks the best ideas out of my head and makes them better. I give him the script, he hits me with better ideas, I rewrite, and he lays it all out on paper more visually than I ever imagined. It’s been great working with him and, honestly, I can’t imagine a better partner in crime!
JBA: It's very 'hand and glove.' Working with AJ is an absolute pleasure! He dreams up these 'killer' stories that basically could double as a 'wish-list' of things I'm interested in drawing. Once I read the script, we then bounce ideas back and forth, and then I get to the drawing. So far, he's the only writer that I've worked with, and if I have my way, we will be collaborating again very soon!
BD: How did you determine your artistic approach and style for the series?
JBA: AJ's writing really dictated the tone for me. The world that he created felt very 'real' to me. I do a LOT of backgrounds, and it's not because I enjoy it, or have the 'free time' -- it's because when I read the scripts, the world that these characters inhabited felt like it needed a high level of detail and realism. I went in a different direction for that world's inhabitants, giving them a more stylized, 'cartoony' look. To me, the exaggeration makes relating to these larger-than-life characters easier on the reader. My goal has always been to take the reader and plunk them down into this crazy world that Lullaby and Co. populate. And have it feel both real and heightened.
BD: The single issues of Sweet Lullaby are currently being released digitally via ComiXology, and the trade paperback is set for a March 2017 release. Do you have plans to continue the series in later arcs?
JBA: I'd defer to AJ on this one, but I certainly would like to see more, and I know that AJ's got a million and one ideas stomping through his head. Fingers crossed!
AJ: When I first wrote Sweet Lullaby, it was intended to be only a limited series. I wanted readers to walk away with a complete story, which is what they'll get in the upcoming trade. With that being said, as I fleshed out these characters and the world, there seemed to be more story to tell. John and I have discussed other arcs, and we’d love to tell them. We’ve already plotted a direct sequel based on Lullaby’s father, Z. It really comes down to if the fans want it -- John and I would be excited as hell to bring future Lullaby stories to fruition!
BD: What makes Darby Pop a great home for Sweet Lullaby?
AJ: In recent months, I’ve had a lot of people ask ‘why didn’t we self-publish?’ ‘Who knows your material better than you?’ Here’s the answer: editorial expertise and DARBY POP! As soon as we signed with them, they brought us in like family and have helped make the scripts... the layout... everything... go from good to great! Their tireless efforts can be seen throughout the pages. It’s been exciting and fun to work with such great professionals. A big thank you to Jeff, Renae, and everyone at Darby Pop Publishing!
JBA: In a word, 'care.' It was clear, from the jump, that Jeff, Renae and the whole gang at Darby Pop had no interest in just getting Lullaby out the door to make a quick buck. They've become very involved in the creative process and have contributed some great ideas to the series. They're a pleasure to work with, because their goal is the same as ours, which is to put out the best version of this story possible. Everyone seems to leave their ego at the door, and we just hammer away together to elevate the story. They've been awesome!
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
AJ: Once again, we want to tell more Sweet Lullaby stories! But, I’m currently lettering Slate & Ashe -- a Lethal Weapon meets zombie story. I also plan on completing ‘Til Death -- a 1930s gangster/vampire comic. (It’s about half-done right now.)
JBA: Aside from more Sweet Lullaby, I've been kicking around an idea about an alien invasion horror/comedy. Really, the only item on my artist wish-list that Sweet Lullaby doesn't satisfy is MONSTERS!
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Sweet Lullaby and your other work?
AJ: I’m on all the usual suspects of social media: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Stop by and friend, like, or follow me. You can also find Sweet Lullaby at darbypop.com. (They’re all over social media, as well!) And, of course, you can purchase from Comixology, Amazon, B&N, or request from your local comic book shop or local bookstore. Thank you in advance to everyone willing to check out our book. And let us know what you think!
JBA: I'm on Facebook and am learning how to tweet, haha, Beyond that, word of mouth on Sweet Lullaby has been very positive so far. I'm all thumbs when it comes to marketing, though, so I leave that part of the job in the care of smarter folks than myself. If I could add one last thought: I'd like to thank our readers! You are the reason that we do this! Thank you all so very much for giving us a shot, and for making the dreams of a starry-eyed kid from Texas come true!