The following is an interview with writer Dillon Gilberston and award-winning artist Francesco Iaquinta regarding their upcoming comic book series, Sweet Heart, from Action Lab: Danger Zone. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Gilberston and Iaquinta about the inspiration behind the series, their shared creative process in bringing the story to life, the impact that the story may have with readers, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming release of your creator-owned comic book series, Sweet Heart, with Action Lab: Danger Zone! What can you share with us about the inspiration behind this story?
Dillon Gilberston: Thank you! It’s been quite a journey, so we are excited for people to finally read it. The initial inspiration(s) for Sweet Heart were my experiences growing up with Type-1 Diabetes. Diabetes often feels like this constant threat, something that demands attention at all times, lest it ultimately wins the fight. But being diagnosed at a young age means, as you grow older, it can feel like a chore; you can forget how dangerous it really is until something bad happens to remind you. So, I’d started to think how a physical threat, a monster, like this might affect someone and their family. A threat that CAN be managed if you’re careful, but really only becomes more dangerous with age. The fact that it’s always there means it can be hard to remain vigilant, but is also what makes vigilance so important.
But the crux of the story lies in its overlap with so many other chronic ailments – whether physical, mental, social, or emotional. If you subdue them with medications, what happens if they fail or have adverse effects? How might their loved ones react knowing there is little, if anything, they can do to help them?
For this particular story, I could only speak from the perspective of Diabetes, but I’ve known and loved people who’ve struggled and sometimes even failed to fight these things, and it’s scared the hell out of me. It still does. I tried my best to express those fears and the fears of people I know as best I could without it feeling exploitative or disheartening. I like to think there is a positive message in this book despite all the “doom and gloom.”
BD: Francesco, how did you come to work together with Dillon on Sweet Heart, and how would you describe your shared creative process in bringing the story to life?
Francesco Iaquinta: I had just won the Ghastly Award that year (2016), and I was very happy, but very tired after so much hard work. I’m on every social network and I constantly update them; however, at that time, I had taken a break – I remember receiving an email telling me that I had a new private message on my DeviantArt which is also my personal portfolio.
After 2 or 3 days, I logged in and found the message from Dillon; he was very enthusiastic which I have to say is probably what made me accept his proposal. He told me that he had a story in mind for many years now, and that he wanted to develop it with me. When I read the first script, I was really impressed; a monster in the shadows that haunted this entire family (I love drawing monsters) and a secret, or at least I think there is a secret (laughs). I did not fully understand where the story was going at the beginning, but the first issue ended at the best moment!
It took some time to complete; every time I sent the layouts to Dillon, I always made sure that everything would come out in the best possible way. I am really satisfied with the final work we’ve done with this series. Dillon has been very helpful and gets my style of making comics, for which I am very grateful.
BD: What makes Action Lab: Danger Zone the perfect home for your series?
DG: A big part was the freedom they allow their creators. We had spoken with various other creators from Action Lab who said they were very “hands off” in the best way. We had no notes saying what we could or could not do. We were able to tell our story the best way we knew how.
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 Sweet Heart’s story will connect with and impact readers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
DG: Sweet Heart is a book for anyone with a monster that has followed them their entire life or even a monster that may have recently found you. There are things about monsters (literal and figurative) that are tough to grapple with mentally and emotionally. Things that were actively explored during this book’s creation. Things I, myself, wasn’t sure how to face. This book isn’t just an expression of fears, it’s an active attempt at working through them. And I hope others are willing to take that leap with us.
BD: How many issues are planned for this first story arc, and do you have plans for future story arcs, as well?
DG: This first arc will be 5 issues. I do have a continuation concept, some ideas I would love to explore, and thoughts on separate stories in this same world but, to be honest, I’m happy with this first arc. It really tells its own story. So, we’ve not set any concrete plans for future arcs. I think something really special would have to present itself to warrant some kind continuation in this world.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
DG: I can’t say too much, but there are a couple projects I’m currently wrapped up in. I was recently invited to pitch a story for Red Stylo Media’s Dracula anthology. But that will depend on its acceptance. Another is an adventure/drama. I guess you could call it a “pre-apocalyptic” story where society hasn’t quite collapsed, but things are looking grim and the actions some people are taking to prevent it are rather unsavory. I’ve also recently started my first work in prose which is sort of a sci-fi/fantasy that has a very “Douglas Adams meets Neil Gaiman’s Sandman” feel to it.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Sweet Heart and your other work?
DG: You can find more about Sweet Heart at some of your favorite comic book news sites! Issue #1 is set to be released March 11th. And you can always get more info about Sweet Heart from the folks who run your local comic store.
Beyond that, you can see more of my work at DillonDoesComics.com. I’m also on Twitter/Instagram @DillGilbertson (but mostly Twitter).
FI: You can see much more of my art at my DeviantArt page. I’m also on Twitter (@badboyFinnegan) and Instagram (@iaquinta_francesco).