Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the recent release of your sci-fi graphic novel, Spectre Deep 6! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the graphic novel’s premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Jules Rivera: The high pitch came from Jennifer Brody, my co-writer, after she got an idea from a trailer she saw. She emailed me, telling me she had a wild idea for a new story. We had already become acquainted by collaborating on our other story, 200, but this was something out of left field. The story as she pitched it was “what if soldiers who died in the line of duty got reanimated and put back into the field as ghost agents?” Literal ghost agents.
I’m a good artist. People approach me for pitches all the time. This was the single craziest one I had ever heard.
Of course I was in.
Farther down the road, as we were collaborating on the individual characters and character stories, the story became about creating these sharp, distinctive, fun characters and showcasing their lives. Jen knew what she was doing when she tapped me for the story. I had already drawn several graphic novels with diverse casts. Diversity matters to me, because I want to reflect the world I see. I live in Los Angeles. I was born in New York. I am surrounded by ethnicity. People of all colors and flavors inspire me to create. Variety is the spice of life! That kind of character and flavoring is what I wanted to bring to Spectre Deep 6 to make it… come alive.
This is a book about dead people, so expect more dead people puns.
BD: How would you describe your shared creative process in bringing this story to life with author Jennifer Brody, and what have been some of your creative influences?
JR: Our entire process is bananas. We gather at Jen’s place, brainstorm and riff on each other (often in varying states of inebriation). Then, once we’ve got our respective ideas lined up, we go to work filling in parts of the script scene by scene, chapter by chapter. This script was truly a collaborative effort and we’re very happy with the completely insane story we’ve given the world.
As far as creative influence goes, it’s near impossible to hide the fact that I’ve watched a LOT of anime in my life. Like. A lot. And manga. Definitely left a mark. I’m inspired by the likes of CLAMP, Naoko Takeuchi, and Kenichi Sonoda. But also I’m inspired by western artists like Amanda Conner and Stjepan Sejic. I’m also likely influenced by macho man action movies from the '80s and '90s (Hello, Point Break and Demolition Man.) I also fell down a K-drama hole two years ago and I haven’t seen since. (Watch Mr. Sunshine, which I referenced in a tiny way in Spectre. My latest jam is Rugal on Netflix.)
BD: At Fanbase Press this year, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Spectre Deep 6’s story will connect with and impact readers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
JR: As I’ve said before, this story is an ensemble piece. This story is about six different people from six different backgrounds who aren’t made up of six crappy stereotypes. I put in the research to try and get the stories to be as emotionally real as possible. I talked to friends, I attended movie screenings, I kept my eyes on social media. I wanted to make these characters feel like people you’d meet walking around your city.
The emotional impact this story is meant to have on readers is simply being seen.
And especially in the case of readers of color, being seen in some other way than facing “The Struggle” (i.e., the big ol’ fist fight with white supremacy this country is locked in today). Struggle porn is over. This book is about ethnic escapism. Let me count the ways:
Bianca is a Latina secret agent fighting to liberate her child from foster care.
Kim is a black cat lady trying to save her four cats from her evil aunt.
KC is a trans woman trying to protect her wife from discovering a dangerous box in the attic.
Bart is a Pacific Islander working to reconnect with his depressed best friend.
Sparks is a black contractor looking to continue his whistleblowing campaign on the government contractor who had him killed.
John is a Korean marine who drank the toxic masculinity Kool-aid and has a lot of apologies to make.
Everyone has their flavor.
The world needs to see people of color as something other than victims of our circumstance. Black lives matter, but so does black happiness, black thriving, and black quality of life. And these things don’t happen until the world sees us as something other than criminals or helpless victims.
These stories break that mental ground for people, or at least that’s a goal. Sometimes, that goal doesn’t happen. I’ve seen people miss the point…
…And then put that miss into print.
BD: Do you anticipate expanding the story to further story arcs for additional graphic novels?
JR: Look, if a bag of money with a contract update landed on my doorstep tomorrow, there will be more Spectre books. Right now, we’re contracted for three books, but I like to think the future of Spectre Deep 6 is open-ended. We’re currently working on pitching it to TV, so it’s entirely possible there will be more Spectre books yet to come. We’ll see.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
JR: Jen and I are at work on another series to release in November called 200. It’s the story of a world where we’ve cured all disease, but at the age of 200, people’s minds start to go. This story follows Eva, who is the most Jules character, who is not me. And the crazy thing is I didn’t create her.
Jen did four years before she even met me.
I did say that Spectre Deep 6 was the craziest pitch I had heard. But 200’s development is just as crazy. 200 is based on a short story Jen wrote four years earlier. We met at Anacon, the library convention in Anaheim, on a sci-fi panel. Jen saw me be myself, which entailed lots of shouting and salt, and thought I’d be a great artist for her story, 200.
Because the main character… is effectively me.
As an artist, nobody has ever asked me to draw… me. But Eva is me. She’s a hard-smoking, bitter, slighted woman who resolves her problems with screaming, fisticuffs, and death threats. So yes, lots of my personality in there. But I think the wildest thing about Eva’s experience once everyone sees it is how universal it is. Eva has gone through similar experiences to me, but I’m sure many, many many women (and probably men) will see themselves in this mess.
Side note: 200 is also a scathing review of the police state, because *waves to the flaming mess outside.*
I also do a webcomic, Love, Joolz, but I’m kinda keeping that one on hold until I can finish up 200. Still there’s a lot of backlog to comb through if you readers feel like reading something filled with Latina outrage and drawings of butts.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Spectre Deep 6 and your other work?
JR: You can find me on www.julesrivera.com.
Twitter: @julesrivera / @scipirateradio
You can find Jen’s stuff at www.jenniferbrody.com.
Instagram: @Jennifer Brody Writer