Plutona: Life Goes On [Interview]
December 17, 2015
Image Comics: The covers are pictures of the main cast standing in the woods, looking directly at the camera with a neutral expression. Why did you choose this approach for the covers? Emi, can you talk a little bit about how you created them?
Emi Lenox: I knew that I wanted to draw the kids in the woods. Originally, I wanted to have them all together, and when you laid the issues next to each other, it would have made a scene. But that was more difficult and not as eye-grabbing for the shelf. Jeff suggested I do portraits of each kid for each issue, so I went with that! I knew I wanted to watercolor them, since that is my one coloring talent. I guess I wanted the covers to reflect the tone of the book, hence the neutral, somewhat serious stares from the characters. I mean, they are about to go through some serious stuff, after all.
IC: Mike leapt out to me as one of the most interesting characters in the book almost immediately, thanks to his age and reaction to the discovery of Plutona's body. Was Mike always part of the gang when you were coming up with the story? How would you describe his place in the tale?
Jeff Lemire: Emi can probably speak better to this, but Mike was always part of the gang. It seemed more interesting to have one member of the cast who was a different age, and who was a sibling. It certainly gave me more to work with as a writer. And I know the Mike and Mie characters are based, at least loosely, on Emi and her own brother.
EL: It's interesting to me to hear which character stands out to readers. It seems to differ more than I had expected. He was always part of the gang, like Jeff said. I suppose it's because him and Mie are loosely based on my brother and I. My brother constantly was on his video games. Still is, in fact! They just seemed like a package deal to me. I don't even know how to explain it. I guess his role is being the epitome of childhood innocence. The other kids are already tainted with life troubles and the pains of social hierarchy, but Mike is still in that young age where nothing matters but getting to the next level in his video game.
IC: The personal lives of the characters—be it the main cast or Plutona herself—are centered in the main story and back-up. Do you see this as a superhero story, or is it something that defies easy labeling?
JL: I kind of see it as an anti-super hero comics in some ways. This is a character piece about friendship and coming of age that uses a superhero universe as the backdrop.
EL: I definitely would not call it a superhero story. Think about what you consider are superhero comics. This definitely does not fit in that box. This, for me, was never meant to be intentionally against superheroes. I just have more interest in how the superheroes affect the regular people. I'm more interested in that. It's something I always think about! Maybe 'cause I can relate to it more.
IC: What's the appeal of doing a story like this for you two, where a superhero looms large in the background, but the effects of her death are foregrounded?
JL: The biggest appeal was getting to work together after years of friendship. But more to your point, in terms of the story, I think, for me, it provided a really unique entry point to exploring super heroes. A totally different perspective on super heroes than we normally see in comics or movies. And that is harder to find than you may think. Mostly though, I just loved the characters, and I loved the idea behind this story and how it would allow us to explore these kids and their friendships.
EL: Aside from working with a friend, I think we both enjoy darker stories with a touch of slice-of-life. Personally, as much as I enjoy reading fantastical stories, I am always more interested in the ones that are grounded in reality. So I really love that this is character-focused and not so much action-focused. Action things are boring to me, I admit.
IC: I really liked the storytelling in the dinner scene in PLUTONA #2, the way that the reader can intuit a lot about the families of each of the core cast simply at a glance. How much have the characters changed from your original conception of how they would be?
JL: I think Emi and I nailed down the characters pretty quickly and stuck to those initial ideas. I felt like I knew these kids right away and they just sort of let me into their little world.
EL: What Jeff said! I always think it's corny to say but it's so true that as you go forward in a story, the characters reveal more and more to you.
IC: In some ways, PLUTONA is kind of a break from what you're separately known for, but feels very much within both of your wheelhouses. Were you at all anxious about the response to the series from your long-time fans? How has the response been for you?
JL: I wasn't anxious at all, because I believed in the project and I knew Emi and Jordie Bellaire would make something beautiful. The response has been fantastic, the characters seem to have really struck a chord with a lot of people. I wouldn't say I'm nervous about the ending, but I am very curious to see what the reaction will be. There is quite a twist coming.
EL: I'll admit I was nervous. Namely because I haven't really done a miniseries before. People mostly know me for EMITOWN, and that art style is quite different. I was also nervous that my art style wouldn't be as accepted in the comics world. I was relived to see that some people liked it. Oh man, so relieved. But I wasn't nervous about doing the project. I know we really have our hearts in this and there is a confidence that comes with something like that!