Sometimes, you find a comic book that really sticks with you. I remember a few months ago, Comixology had a sale on some titles, and one of them was the Image book, Wayward. Once I read it, I was instantly hooked! It’s been a favorite of mine for quite some time now – so being able to interview the creative team of Jim Zub, Steven Cummings, and Tamra Bonvillain was a very exciting experience! Check out what they have to say about creator-owned comics, Yokai, and, of course, cats.
For anyone who hasn’t read Wayward, how would you describe the series?
Jim Zub: It’s a bit like Buffy in Japan, with teenagers fighting Japanese mythological monsters on the streets of Tokyo.
Steven Cummings: Rori Lane sets out to start a new life with her mom in Japan, the land of cute and fashion and technology. But instead our character finds herself fighting monsters from the folklore tales that children are told. Tales that are coming to life intent on her. Very much a new person in a new land sort of tale with Yokai… and the occasional cat.
Why did you pick Japan as the setting for Wayward?
J: Steven Cummings, our artist and co-creator, lives in Japan and he’d always wanted to set a story there. I’ve travelled to Japan quite a few times and love the country and its mythology, so it seemed a good fit all around.
S: I told Jim that I was really interested in setting a story in Japan and he was game for it. A lot of chatting ensued about how to include the city and what parts to use and what parts to avoid in the beginning. Getting to draw a story in my (almost) hometown is a joy beyond description!
What was the decision process like in creating the character (and character design) of Rori Lane?
J: Rori was originally just one of six different supernatural teens that we designed for the series. As the first story arc was developing I realized that her arrival to Japan could serve as a really good touchstone for readers, a way to bring them into the setting so they could discover it at the same time she does.
I wanted to avoid just giving them basic “super powers,” so all the teens were built around central ideas about Japanese culture or society, some more blatant than others.
S: We wanted a slightly punky teenager with a sense of initial fashion that would really stand out from what is the norm in youth fashion here. The natural red hair helped but I also went with a Chelsea [haircut] to seal the deal.
Tamra, you jumped onto Wayward a few issues in. What drew you to the project?
Tamra Bonvillain: Initially, it was Steve’s art and our past working relationship. I worked with Steve previously, doing Pathfinder covers. I really enjoyed how our work meshed, and we were trying to team up again going forward. Before taking over interiors, I was asked by Jim and Steve to do some variant covers, so it let me dip my toe a bit before coming in all the way. Of course, once I got to do that, then the subject matter and the story drew me in further. It’s a very fun an imaginative story. It’s very challenging to work on, but also very rewarding.
Let’s talk about creator-owned comics! What do you feel are the pros and cons to working on Wayward as opposed to working with licensed properties?
J: The biggest strength for me is that we’re able to build Wayward exactly the way we want. Image lets us run wild and take risks with the series. It’s a passion project through and through. The downside of that can be a lack of structure. Everything is being built from the ground up so we’re constantly having to figure out aspects of the setting and plan for the future in a way we wouldn’t with an established fictional world with oversight. It’s liberating but also a ton of extra work. In addition, Wayward isn’t an established property so we have to spend a lot of time letting people know we exist. Image is making huge strides in comics, but compared to the worldwide brands of some licensed/work-for-hire books it still requires a lot of outreach. That’s why it’s so important for readers to support creator-owned series they love and to pre-order whenever possible. That kind of grassroots support means a lot for books like ours.
T: Working on creator-owned properties often gives us all a lot more freedom, but also the opportunity to create something new and be the people who are defining what that thing is. As fun as licensed stuff can be, you are often one of a long line of people who have worked on that property. That’s not a bad thing necessarily, but it is nice to have something more closely identified with the work you and your team have put into it. However, there’s a lot more risk in creating something new versus coming on board something already established as being successful.
S: The biggest pro is that you can work on your own vision and bring it to life. With work-for-hire you are usually making someone else’s story have that life but it is ultimately not your own work. So no matter what you do it might be undone by a later creative team. But with Wayward, we are our own bosses and plan and carry out all the story and art. But that also means we are responsible for getting it together on time and doing all the promotion. That is the con. But it is worth it because Wayward is such a labor of love.
Okay, fun question time! Do you each have a favorite Wayward character? If so, who and why?
J: It’s really hard to choose. Ayane’s the obvious choice, but her mercurial and violent nature is definitely a blast to write.
T: I’m also terrible at picking these things. Ayane is fun to color, and we get to change up her look a lot. I think for some reason I connected more with Emi as a character.
S: Shirai for me; he is fun to draw and is either cool and collected or aflame with blue energy and about to go into a super powered rage. Just simple and fun. Nikaido is a close second as he pretty much always has the same composure no matter what is going on.
The second arc ended with a pretty cool revelation and one heck of a fight scene! What can we expect going into the third arc?
J: We’ve upped the ante in arc three, that’s for sure. Rori’s big revelations in issue 10 have wide-reaching ramifications and it’s going to cause no end of trouble for our teens. In addition, we’re broadening the scope of the story and introducing some new characters into the mix. It’s going to be a blast.
Obviously without spoiling anything, is there anything happening in the new arc that you’re particularly excited about, or excited for fans of the series to find out about?
J: The end of issue 11 brings in a character people have been asking about quite a bit. His arrival, and the new aspects of the story we start to explore in this arc, should keep readers guessing about where it will all lead.
S: We have new characters that add to the cast of friends and villains in Rori’s struggle as well as we develop the world/situation around them. The effects of Rori’s and friend’s struggle is beginning to be noticed by the “outside” world and we see its effect on normal people. And cats.
Wayward #11 is due out on November 18th! I highly encourage everyone to pick up a copy!