The following is an interview with Sam Sattin (The Silent End, League of Somebodies) and award-winning artist Chris Koehler regarding the upcoming debut of their new comic, Legend, through Z2 Comics. In this interview, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor Barbra Dillon chats with Sattin and Koehler about their decision to move into the sequential art medium, how Legend easily maneuvers through multiple storytelling genres, why Z2 Comics makes the perfect home for the series, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor: Congratulations on the upcoming release of your creator-owned comic, Legend! Given that this will be your debut in the comic book field, what inspired you to tell this story in the sequential art medium?
Sam Sattin and Chris Koehler: Thank you! We’re excited to bring this story to the world.
SS: I thought of Legend as a graphic project from the beginning. I started tossing the idea around a few years ago in a really rough form. I’d always wanted to write an animal story with teeth. When Chris and I were pitching ideas back and forth, Legend ended up growing legs, and man, am I glad for it. Chris’ expertise, insight, and raw talent lend an entirely new dimension to what would have been a different story if delivered in prose. It’s a truly collaborative work. I think that the comics medium has done a lot of interesting things in terms of reinventing animal-centric stories. This is our contribution to that legacy, and we hope that it does everyone proud.
CK: I come from an illustration background, so telling stories with images is the only way I know. Although I think Sam could have spun this idea in a great novel, his writing is incredibly vivid and visual and it lends itself to imagery. The collaboration process has really helped evolve the core idea into something that neither one of us could have done on our own. Sam’s influence and inspiration is over every image, and my visuals have informed the narrative in the same way.
BD: Legend encompasses a wide variety of genres, including science fiction, fantasy, and horror. How do you feel that the story embodies all three of these genres so seamlessly, and what do you hope that readers will take away from the book?
SS: I’m a big believer in genre-fluidity. I think that the traditions that have influenced Legend borrow unconsciously from various genres themselves; as a motif, animal stories are fantastical, though certainly in varying degrees. In some ways, Legend follows in the tradition of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh and Watership Down, a tale of animals trying to find safety in a perilous world. But, it also takes after the fall of mankind, in a place where frightening creatures crawl through the night, old corgis tell the future, and cats fashion battle armor. It concerns itself with mythos and religion, with eco-mutation and climatology. I don’t want to prescribe motives for readers to take away from reading Legend, but if anything, I hope that this story will stir those who come to it. I hope they’ll become invested in the universe we’re creating, and that that investment leads them to searching out universes of their own.
CK: I’m a huge fan of those genres, and the visual language inherent in each has informed my illustrations to a heightened degree. In terms of takeaway, Legend is a story about hope and resilience, and ironically enough, humanity. It’s impossible to really talk about the human experience without touching on all the genres.
BD: Sam, you have found great success with novel writing, with previous works including The Silent End and League of Somebodies. Did you find that your previous writing experience with long-form narrative transitioned easily to the sequential art medium?
SS: I’ve been obsessed with comics for years, so I’ve wanted to try my hand at making some for a long time. But, there’s a difference between wanting to do something and having the tools to follow through. Comics are hard. Books are hard as well, but comics are deceptively hard. Many people seem to have an assumption that they’re easy to create—probably because of the fact that they’re easier (or faster) to read. The amazing amount of time and effort they require can come as a surprise. So, on one hand, I would say that I had to learn a whole new set of rules and skills. But, on the other hand, I think that writing long-form helped me pick them up quicker. Novels are all about structure, character, pacing, and plot. Style is a boon, but since novels aren’t a visual medium, you can’t get away with writing a shaky story. My novel writing has informed my comics writing, and my love of comics, so I hope, has informed my novel writing in return.
BD: Chris, given that Sam was previously your student at California College of the Arts, how have you seen your working relationship transform through Legend, and how would you describe your creative process in telling this story together?
CK: Even when I taught Sam in a Masters program, the relationship was always more as colleagues than student/teacher. We really got along well in class and had similar pop culture diets. Getting to know him and, in the process, learning more about the writing side of sequential (and non-sequential) work has been the most rewarding part of this whole comics adventure. Our collaboration is really fluid and open. Sam is unusually open to hear ideas I have pertaining to the narrative, and I value his opinions and critical feedback on the art. One example is the color. I had originally planned on doing the entire series in a sepia-tinted monochrome. Sam really pushed for some richer color experimentation, which was far out of my comfort zone. I originally pushed back, but out of respect for Sam’s opinion, ended up trying it out. The result being a huge game changer in how we approached the book’s aesthetic.
BD: Z2 Comics continues to release a fantastic slate of creator-owned comic books. What makes Z2 Comics a great home for Legend?
SS: Z2 is willing to take risks. Their love of comics and embrace of a diverse roster of creators and stories makes them the ideal publisher for something like Legend, which is a unique story in its visual style and themes, and the ideal publisher for a wide array of stories and experiences going forward.
CK: What I love about Z2 is that they let us work with almost no editorial intervention. The level of trust they have in us and our vision is unheard of in this industry. Plus, book for book, Z2 has one of the highest quality lineups in comics right now.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
SS: We are both continually working on our own projects, although Chris and I have batted ideas back and forth—some of which range from a magic fiddle heist from hell, to an anthology of existential science fiction stories. Right now, though Legend takes up most of our time!
CK: And, I recently opened a gallery with my brother and a friend. We just had a huge show, The Spirit of Hayao Miyazaki in a Magical Art Exhibition, and have more great shows coming up.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Legend and your other work?
SS: You can visit my website, www.sameulsattin.com, or follow me on Facebook or Twitter.
CK: You can visit my website, www.chriskoehler.com, or follow me on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.