Monty Nero and Yishan Li Introduce Your New Best Frenemies

The cover of Frenemies

“If you imagine Saga meets X-files with a sprinkling of Raiders Of The Lost Ark in space you won’t go wrong.” Throw in some Star Wars, and you’ve got a pretty big claim on your hands. But writer Monty Nero (X-Men, Hulk) and artist Yishan Li (Paradox Girl, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Hellboy) promise to deliver with Frenemies.

The first issue is ready to print and has already reached its first funding goal on Kickstarter. Turning their attention to stretch goals that include bookplates, signed art, and more, Li and Nero are excited to bring their story of seven Camford University folks transformed by an alien artifact and pitted against each other on a hunt for a legendary planet that houses incredible knowledge that could save or destroy the world. To up the stakes, they are all connected telepathically and must work together, despite some clashing personalities, to find the planet and survive the ruthless beings hunting them—but in the end, only one of them can succeed in acquiring the planet’s knowledge.

Blending wit and Nero’s love of classic scifi, Frenemies could just be your next best comic friend. Here’s what Nero and Li have to say about it.

Where did the idea for this story come from and how has it evolved since its inception?

Nero: It actually started off with me watching Birdman on a plane to Australia and thinking how great the character interaction was. I decided to do something about the relationships between seven diverse characters, their rivalries, insecurities, differences, creativity. Then I combined that with another idea I’d had about searching for incredible alien technology in space, solving traps and riddles to unlock the location of a lost planet. The action pays homage to films like 2001, Star Wars, and Indiana Jones. I love all those films but rather than portray the narrative of a white straight man for the billionth time Frenemies was a way to spotlight LGBTQ and straight heroes from around the world and enjoy their adventures kicking ass across the cosmos. It’s something we need a lot more of.

Who do you imagine narrating the introduction of the first issue?

Nero: Well … spoilers! I know exactly who’s narrating the opening sequence, and it will be revealed toward the end of the story. There are quite a few cunning Easter Eggs in the opening sequence. I like to hide stuff in the long grass and have it emerge later. 

Talk about the costume design? Where did the inspiration for these designs come from and how did the overall character design evolve?

Li: Monty basically just told me to do something cool but with no specification, so I just sketched away and did these. Just in one go, except that some big armors needed to be simplified so the characters can actually move!  

Nero: As an artist I know how inspiring it is to just have someone say “I trust you. Come up with something cool” I wanted to work with Yishan because I love her character style, the way she draws, so telling her what to do would be limiting. I just explained the scenario and personalities and let her loose. And what she came back with was perfect … better than I’d hoped. 

Are either of you cosplayers? What are your thoughts on the art of cosplay?

Li: I am not but I am a keen admirer. I can’t stop taking photos when I am at comic cons. It always amazes me how much effort people put into their costumes, and my dream would be one day people actually cosplay one of my designs!

Nero: I wish I had the skills. Cosplayers are incredible. They bring so much excitement to comic cons and fandom. I’ve designed costumes for computer games, so I know how hard it is to design and make outfits in 3D on computers—but to actually create them for real and walk around in them looking so awesome? Incredible! And, as Yishan said, the ultimate accolade is when someone cosplays as one of your characters. That happened a few times on my last comic and it blew my tiny mind! 

The cast is wonderfully diverse. What consultation did you undertake to ensure that the characters are appropriate representations of these diverse groups?

Nero: I always talk to people with the relevant background, culture, identity, nationality, sexuality. Usually I’m talking to them anyway, they’ve inspired me as peers or colleagues, and I guess living in big university cities which warmly embrace diverse lifestyles helps. But sometimes it’s more formal and I do an interview. I also read and research widely, biographies, history, current affairs from round the world. Part of the reason I’m a writer is it gives me the opportunity to explore the world, stay humble, stay inquisitive, and empathise and learn from different people every day. Empathy is the most important quality humans have, and it’ll save the world If we keep at it. We just have to keep making the effort to understand and help each other as equals. Frenemies is a very hopeful story, ultimately. 

Which of the characters best represents you?

Li: Cai because I am Chinese 🙂 She’s sexy and can kickass.

Nero: Minerva has a wild rebellious energy I relate to. She’s my favourite to write so far.

Sunny’s shy in company, often overlooked, and I relate to that too. One of the reasons I write is because I’m not very comfortable talking. Putting my thoughts on paper is much more enjoyable. I can be a lot more imaginative and freer in my own head and I’m sure a lot of writers feel the same way. 

As of this moment, your Kickstarter is funded. How does that feel? 

Li: Awesome! 

What have you learned through your Kickstarter experiences?

Nero: I’d say the main thing I’ve learned from Kickstarter is the more you share other people’s work, the better everyone does. We went fully funded on June 2nd and I was super excited. We can’t wait to see these amazing characters blasting across the cosmos. Space battles! Fiendish alien traps! Extranormal mysteries! Love among the stars! We’ve got three weeks of funding left so there’s some amazing rewards and bonuses coming up too. Stay tuned to our site. 

The Frenemies Kickstarter runs until June 25 and you can learn more about the book and its creative team on Facebook.

Wendy Browne

Wendy Browne

Publisher, mother, geek, executive assistant sith, gamer, writer, lazy succubus, blogger, bibliophile. Not necessarily in that order.