Piper is a super hero-in-training who has a lot to learn about taking the law into her own hands. When she stumbles on Sloane mid-crime, their paths continue to collide and intertwine in unexpected ways. Through a Freaky Friday-esque switch up, Anti/Hero explores the gray areas of heroics and villainy, class struggles, family life, family legacy, friendship, and the every day frustrations and joys of being a 13-year-old-kid trying to figure out their place in the world. Oh and that Batman guy shows up once or twice.
This is the first graphic novel for all of you. How did you manage the transition from your usual work to this format?
Karyus Quinn & Lunetta: There was a bit of a learning curve! We had to think about how everything would fit on the page and what needed to be said in dialogue versus what could be shown in the drawings. Once we saw that it was very much like screenwriting, Kate’s expertise kicked in. She has an MFA in Film and Television Production. We were all newbies, but our editors at DC were amazing and were very patient with guiding us through the process, while also contributing great ideas and suggestions! When it came time for art, Maca really saw our vision and it was so easy to work with her.
Gil: I do storyboards for animation but I’ve always wanted to try my hand at drawing comics professionally. I have a huge stack of printer paper full of comics from when I was younger, telling crazy stories about high school or magical girls. It’s a really accessible way to tell a story visually when it’s just you!
Storyboards are also a form of sequential art where you pick the camera placement, compositions and pacing of what happens in the script, so it didn’t feel like such a big jump for me, but some things kind of were! You can go really rough in storyboards; the point is to make the idea come across with as few elements as possible. When inking you need to KNOW how to draw that specific car from that specific angle while doing clean lines. Or that really tall building, or that girl sitting in a kitchen counter seen from above.
When I started there was so much more perspective than I was comfortable with, but slowly I started getting my shorthands and my draftsmanship got better. I felt so much stronger and comfortable at the end.
Thankfully, Sam Lofti, who is the wonderful layout artist for this graphic novel paved the way and helped me a lot this first time. His compositions were strong and clear and it made the inking a lot easier. The next time I’d like to do the layout myself, though. It looks like a lot of fun and it’s closer to storyboarding.
Writers, this is also your first middle-grade work. How difficult or easy was it to shift your thinking from catering to a young adult audience to this age group?
Karyus Quinn & Lunetta: We both have read widely in kids’ lit, so I don’t think there was much of a transition. It was actually nice to write the story without worrying about romance, and pre-teens are just as angsty as teens, so we had that handled. Also, Kate has two middle grade aged children, so it was easy for her to think about what appeals to them.
Tell us a bit about your creative process and collaboration.
Karyus Quinn & Lunetta: Collaborating is so much fun! Especially when we brainstormed. We would bounce ideas off of each other and see what stuck. We came up with a lot of fun stuff. After that, we would each take turns writing. The other one would go in and add or change or comment. Then we would hash it out (sometimes arguing passionately for our ideas but we always avoiding get angry at each other) and brainstorm again. Rinse and repeat! It was very cool to be able to work together and get an end product greater than the sum of our parts.
Gil: The script was almost finished by the time I came into the project, so I visually designed the main characters using the story and character descriptions. It was so fun playing around with their proportions and features. I had to improvise some incidentals and background designs during production, but this didn’t slow the inking process too much.
After the design stage, I would deliver some pages every week and get feedback from the team. Sometimes it was just lines or props for continuity that I missed, sometimes bigger changes in clothes or action, but I felt very comfortable through the whole process. My notes and decisions were trusted, and there was a very open communication between all of us that led to a better product. I appreciated that a lot. Also, I loved that Kate and Demitria’s notes were always focused on enhancing the emotional storytelling through the art, and always on point!
How does it feel to be working within the Batman legacy while shaping your very own characters for this world?
Karyus Quinn & Lunetta: When Kate told Demitria that DC was interested in the pitch, she screamed for ten minutes. Demitria is a long time Batman reader and being able to set a story in the DC universe is a dream come true. Batman is such an iconic character, we had to put him in our graphic novel! Don’t tell anyone, but Kate had a crush on cartoon batman when she was younger. I mean, I think we can all agree he’s the ultimate brooding bad boy.
Gil: It was so cool. If I told little Maca that she would get to draw a canonical Batman in her own style she would pass out. The characters were perfect for this world, and the fact that they’re so glee and excited about him makes it so perfect.
What was your inspiration for the character designs and their unique outfits?
Karyus Quinn & Lunetta: Sloane and Piper are middle school kids who wouldn’t have access to polished super costumes. We wanted their outfits to look homemade, and also reflect their personalities. Sloan is no-nonsense, and flirting with the life of a villain, so her all-black outfit and face mask fit her perfectly. Piper, on the other hand, is bubbly and colorful. Her outfit is a bit chaotic but the individual pieces are all something she would already have in her closet.
Gil: Once I got Piper and Sloane’s descriptions I sat down and spent hours drawing them over and over again. I could see their personalities so clearly in my mind, I felt I knew exactly how they had to look, but on paper, there were so many different ways to portray the energy they transmitted to me. Even though I had a general idea of what I wanted, I had to think a lot about myself at that age; how I felt I was ready for everything and how old and mature I thought I was. How everything felt so visceral and raw. I wanted them to feel exactly like 13-year-olds. The thing is, drawing 13-year-old girls is hard! There’s this line visually where they either look like old teenagers or younger, 10-year-old kids. I also wanted Piper and Sloane’s body type and features to feel opposite but balanced, and even though some of the main elements were already given to me, I wanted the clothes throughout the graphic novel to feel somewhat modern (doc martens, crop tops, sneakers!). I first presented the team with a lot of different ways Piper and Sloane could look, and in the first batch, there were some designs that ended up, with slight iterations, being the final thing.
Themes of family, empathy, reputation, and collaboration are strong in this story. What kind of real-life experiences did you draw on to help shape Anti/Hero?
Karyus Quinn & Lunetta: Everyone has felt like they don’t belong. Everyone has things that they think define them, either skills and weaknesses. We wanted to bring out the things that these girls were confident in—for Sloane it’s her intelligence, for Piper, her strength—and flip them on their heads. The fish-out-of-water narrative is very personal to us. As is the change the girls face, learning to become more than just the one thing they thought they were. We definitely drew on real life in the “mean boy” character. Anyone who has been told they’re not good enough can relate.
Gil: Kate and Demitria’s story is so solid and sweet. I had such a good time reading it but it also hit me hard because it felt so relatable to me. To the closeness and fights with some of my best friends during middle school. The fact that the story was so good made my job easier, but I wanted the art to make justice to it! My goal was to conserve and expand the emotional impact of the script, transferring those themes and feelings to their expressions and body language.
Anti/Hero is available today.