Corey Lewis: Video Games, Comics, & Sun Bakery! [Interview]

IMAGE COMICS: The entire anthology has a strong video game influence. What were some video games that helped you develop these stories or your own storytelling?

COREY LEWIS: "Arem" is very much Metroid Prime inspired. I always loved how a big part of that game was walking around, observing the various foliage on a planet. I wanted to translate that into a comic, and I felt using something like social media—Instagram specifically—would be a perfect way to make that kind of scavenger quest relevant to modern times.

“Dream Skills” isn't particularly inspired by any game. It more comes from my desire that the world would go back to using swords instead of guns. I view bladed weapons as so much more elegant and artistic—but also brutal. The brutal nature is also addressed in the comic, in a vaguely video-gamey way, too.

STONE: Was SUN BAKERY always intended to be an anthology, or were the individual stories originally conceived as something more standalone?

LEWIS: Most of these stories started as my own zines and mini-comics. I keep it pretty varied when it comes to the stories I want to make. I spent too long making original graphic novels. Those are too hard. After I finished the second Sharknife graphic novel, I pretty much only wanted to make 20 to 40-page comic bursts. I've learned you can tell a very compelling story, even in shorter amounts of pages. SUN BAKERY is a way for me to collect those stories under one roof, with a kind of shared energy. A shared universe, even.

STONE: The anthology is structured like an issue of the manga magazine Shonen Jump. How big an inspiration has manga been with SUN BAKERY?

LEWIS: Huge. Ever since I discovered manga and anime when I was 12, my comics have been supremely influenced by them. I really like my comics upbringing. It started with '80s and '90s Marvel, then manga and anime, and then I took some time to appreciate the classic titans like Jack Kirby. All those eras and people seem to have a similar bombastic, graphic style that I'm very keen on. I'm trying to infuse all that into my SUN BAKERY comics.

STONE: SUN BAKERY originally began as a Kickstarter project. What made Image Comics the right publisher to publish the ongoing book?

LEWIS: I've always wanted to work with Image. I mentioned the influence of '90s comics on me earlier, and obviously a huge part of that is Image Comics itself. I've always viewed Image as a kind of publisher with endless potential—in the same way I view SUN BAKERY as a comics anthology with endless potential.

I've worked with Image before, including doing another single graphic novel with them, SEEDLESS. SEEDLESS was something a tad more experimental for me at the time, something I feel will work much better as a cartoon or something. SUN BAKERY, and the stories I'm going to tackle within it, feels much more like the kind of voice I want to display with Image.

STONE: Each story has their own distinct visual style and color palette. How did you know what you wanted each story to look like?

LEWIS: They definitely each have different feels. "Dream Skills" is a bit brighter, hence the yellow and pink hues. "Arem" is a galactic martian jungle comic, so purple felt good.

I like graphic, more simplistic color schemes, which is why I stick to limited color palettes. Again, it's harkening back to that kind of retro Shonen Jump feel. So each individual story section feels very blatant.

STONE: Speaking of color, the third story, "Bat Rider," is entirely in black and white. Was this another callback to the anthology's manga inspiration?

LEWIS: Yeah, definitely. And in general, I still quite enjoy black & white comics. I was just discussing this as the Fury Road "Black & Chrome" edition came out, and it is apparently George Miller's favorite version of the movie. Black & white shouldn't be considered a step below color or something—some stories and visuals are more striking in black & white. I feel "Bat Rider" is definitely one of those stories. Any time I've tried to color the characters from "Bat Rider," they feel less authentic to me.

STONE: Technology is another recurring element across all three stories in this anthology, from the scanning tech in "Arem" to "Dream Skills" featuring swords being viewed as superior to modern weaponry. What do you find fascinating about technology and social media?

LEWIS: Technological hardware is like an extension of our biological selves—and social media is technology extending—essentially—our emotional self. It's fascinating either way, but combined it's a whole new world. One that we currently inhabit.

STONE: In the liner notes, you mention that "Dream Skills" is very much the centerpiece of SUN BAKERY, and has the clearest comparisons to your previous work, Sharknife. What distinguishes "Dream Skills" within this anthology?

LEWIS: "Dream Skills" is more of my bread and butter, Shonen Jump-style action-y comics with levity. Not trying to re-invent the wheel here, just having fun with what I already really enjoy. "Dream Skills" and Sharknife both have blade-wielding protagonists out to make the world a better place to live, you know? "Arem" and "Bat Rider" are a little more personal, a tad more experimental.

STONE: There's a recurring theme of transformation through an external source, be it through armor in "Arem," a sword in "Dream Skills," or a skateboard in "Bat Rider." How important do you think external stimulus is for personal transformation?

LEWIS: Very important. You have to let yourself be changed by external stimulus. Transformation is half what happens to you, and half how you deal with it.

SUN BAKERY #1 is available for preorder now, and debuts 2/22.