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Monkeybrain Comics has had a very good couple of weeks. Its initial launch announcement was so well received that it launched through comiXology, the digital comics site, two days early.
Aesop’s Ark is a series of stories about the animals on the Ark, as they tell each other tales, argue and do their best to survive in their temporary, but extremely unusual, new home. I spoke to writer J Torres and artist Jennifer L Meyer about the book.
Aesop ‘s Fables is obviously an element of the book, but what else influenced it?
JT: “Another influence is the Arabian Nights . I’ve always liked stories within stories, which we see in some of my favourite children’s books like Alice , P eter Pan and the Oz series too. But I guess this all starts for me in Catholic school and all those parables from the Bible.”
J, one of the things I loved about the book was how each animal had such an identifiable voice. Have you got rules set out for that or is it just how each animal sounds to you?
JT: “As for the characters’ voices, no rules. It just tends to happen as I write. I hear voices. Usually it comes from the dialogue and the rhythm and type of language I use.”
J, is there an end point for the book?
JT: “I do have an end in mind. But since each story is meant to stand on its own it almost doesn’t matter if we go 40 days and nights or more, and how it all ends. Which of course we know how it ends. They get off the ark. That said, I’ve got tentative plans for a longer story, an arc if you will, but right now my focus is on the short fables.”
Jennifer, I loved the way the panels mimic the geography of the story. Is this something you’re going to continue to use as the book continues?
JM: “I was designing the panels with pacing and movement in mind. Especially the movement in first page outside the boat where I wanted to create a rocking sensation and on the story page I was pushing the up hill feel.
“I do enjoy experimenting with the panel layout, and will do what I can to push the experience. So yes, different panel layouts will pop up when they are helpful to the story. In fact, chapter tqo will have one page designed around the up-sweeping movement of the humming bird.”
Jennifer, how much of a challenge is it to give the animals personality without anthropomorphising them?
JM: ‘Honestly, it’s not much of an issue for me – I like working both ways. For this project I just take a stylised but naturalistic approach.
“I keep them without clothes (limiting it to the occasional flower or plant decoration) and the only critters that stand up will be ones that can do that normally (squirrels, chipmunks, bunnies, etc). I enjoy drawing animals especially ones with personality.”
Aesop’s Ark #1 is out now on comiXology , priced $0.99