Interview: R.J. Ryan And David Marquez
The world of 3D entertainment has grown exponentially in recent years. It’s no longer a shock to see each new movie premiere in 3D alongside its regular format. But what about the genre of 3D comic books and graphic novels? Once a platform for fun, lighthearted comics featuring licensed characters like Mighty Mouse and The Three Stooges, the genre is about to get a serious overhaul. After working together on Archaia’s Syndrome, R.J. Ryan and David Marquez have teamed up again for The Joyners in 3D. A preview of The Joyners stirred up the audience recently at C2E2, and with good reason. Not only will The Joyners be the longest original 3D comic ever, but the story and artwork can be enjoyed on its own, apart from the 3D imaging. Ryan and Marquez spoke with Comics Crux about which previous comics and cartoonish art influenced The Joyners in 3D, the technical side to creating an engaging “sad family story”, and the differences between the 3D film experience and 3D comics experience.
Who are the Joyners? What is the setting for this sci-fi story?
R.J. RYAN: They’re the quintessential family of the future, a family that from an outsider’s perspective is seen as doing well for themselves. The book is all about delving into this family’s private life—the betrayals, the stubbornness, the emotional neglect. The future we’re describing here is one that’s 50 years ahead of our own, year 2062. During this time period, the story takes place all over Northern California as we dramatize the Joyner family slowly dissolving like an Alka-Seltzer tablet in water.
DAVID MARQUEZ: The objective of our story is to bring something to life that is visually hopeful and deeply designed, but also emotionally raw, honest and frequently dark with its themes. That was a hugely interesting juxtaposition for me going in.
RJR: I keep warning people, “This is a sad family story” because Dave is drawing the aftermath of the death of Miles Morales’s mother in Ultimate Spider-Man, a title that is arguably the best-selling family tragedy in comics right now. The man was born to draw The Joyners in 3D.
You two previously worked together on Syndrome for Archaia Entertainment. What influenced your decision to create a new comic book in 3D?
RJR: Our inspiration was drawn from looking at the small pool of anaglyph 3D comics that had been produced and feeling we could do something distinctive and frankly better in that space, since it is a super-small space compromised by a lot of licensed books. We felt that serious art in 3D comics hasn’t really been attempted much. I pitched the 3D element to Dave in October of 2010, while we were all still promoting Syndrome and Dave was just starting at Marvel, and I was stunned at how little I had to twist his arm about it. He was excited and hungry for the technical challenge.
DM: We were determined to do a book together, and 3D was one of the last pieces of the conceptual puzzle that came into the project before we pitched it to Archaia and our editor, Stephen Christy. Archaia loved the pitch for the book but made us do a series of 3D art tests before they approved that part of the book.
David, how does 3D change the creation process for you as an artist?
DM: The 3D conversion process has actually slid into my process very smoothly, after a long period of experimentation and streamlining. I already work primarily in digital formats, but researching the methods used by 3D pioneers such as Joe Kubert and exploring the capabilities of currently available software—Photoshop in particular—I’ve been able to develop a technique that allows me to achieve really subtle, yet powerful, 3D effects. One very happy surprise was being able to bring my wife, Tara, into the creative process of the book. Tara has been an active partner in my career from day one. She was integral to my “breaking in” period as well as the rapid career progression over the last few years. She is also a very talented and accomplished artist in her own right—having received her BFA in Fine Art. When the sheer scale of what Josh and I were trying to accomplish with JI3D became apparent, she stepped up to the plate by using her artistic talent to help me with the 3D conversion process. We now work as a team to bring each page to life: trading pages off as I complete inks, next she prepares the pages for final 3D, and lastly, I create the layers of depth you see in the completed pages.
Your panel about 3D comics at C2E2 was awesome—I didn’t realize the medium had such a long and interesting life. How did the history of 3D comics influence the writing and art for The Joyners?
RJR: Thank you! I hope it came across in the panel that we have a huge amount of affection for all 3D comics, the good, the great, and the horrible included. We both spent the entirety of 2011 basically teaching each other a graduate school level course on 3D comic books, showing each other everything we could find and talking for hours on end about what we thought worked and what didn’t. We also looked at the full history of the technique.
DM: As we mentioned on the panel, a lot of it circled back to the real pioneers and workhorses of 3D comics, such as Joe Kubert and Ray Zone. But when our book comes out it will be one of the longest works of original-to-3D comics ever produced (or single handedly, THE longest), and we’re explicitly stating we want to be one of the best and most daring expressions of the form.
What sources served as inspiration for the style of the artwork? In particular, the “futuristic family drama” plot?
DM: This is a new art style for me that I developed over an eight-month period at the beginning of the project. I’m warning fans of my Marvel work that this is a completely different approach for me and I’m inviting you to come along for the ride and tell me if it works. Daniel Clowes’s David Boring is an inspiration I cite a lot, but there are others. While for my mainstream work I draw from influences ranging from Kevin Nowlan to Jim Lee to Travis Charest, my artistic tastes and influences range much farther. For JI3D, I found myself drawn to cartoonists such as David Mazzucchelli, Bruce Timm, Darwyn Cooke, and surprisingly, a heavy dose of Disney and manga. Perhaps because of the rather blatant satirizing of the future popularized by The Jetsons, a much cartoonier style seemed appropriate. As we’ve previously mentioned, this is a book where we really want to play with juxtaposition and the art style was INTEGRAL to that.
RJR: I looked at the big “future family” stories that mostly date to the middle of the 20th century and really pried apart the thematic building blocks of these properties: The Jetsons, Lost in Space, Fantastic Four, Jonny Quest, Thunderbirds—what were they trying to say about families and what was under their skin, apart from the corny adventure/comedy stories? When you take a hard look at it, George Jetson is a terrible husband. The Joyners in 3D is fusing an examination of that weird, “future family” cultural phenomenon, with a whole-hearted attempt to tell an entertaining emotional story about complicated characters. For me, the single most inspirational work(s) would have to be The Ice Storm, both Ang Lee’s film and Rick Moody’s book. My hope is that if you liked either of those, you’ll find something interesting in The Joyners in 3D.
If given the opportunity to create another 3D comic, what would you guys create?
RJR: We keep saying we’re only doing this once. Fans, if I do another 3D book, it means I’ve deviated from my plans in life.
DM: We’re trying to make a definitive personal creative statement with 3D in this book, and then never do it again. We LOVE 2D comics.
RJR: Think of Eminem with movie acting. He did it once, it was pretty cool, and there was no need to do it again. That’s our best-case scenario with this: 8 Mile.
DM: He was also in Funny People.
RJR: Oh yeah, he was good in that, too.
Josh, I distinctly remember you stating that the Michael Jackson 3D comic was your favorite during the panel. Which 3D comics, besides The Joyners, would you recommend to readers new to the medium?
RJR: I loved the Captain Eo book—and people audibly gasped when we put the 3D pages from that up on the screen during the panel; you can hunt them down online. It’s a cool-looking, well-drawn comic with a goofy story that is pure Michael Jackson. The costumes and designs from the theme park movie, directed by Francis Coppola, looked better in the comic than they do in the attraction. I love it ironically and unironically at the same time; it’s the rare comic book that had to be approved by Coppola, George Lucas, and Jackson himself before it saw print. You can feel all of their influences as you read through the book.
DM: For newcomers who dig well-executed superhero stories, the Ray Zone 3D conversion of Lobdell and Charest’s X-Men WildC.A.T.s The Golden Age is a wonderful, done-in-one adventure story where Charest’s art transforms in front of your eyes. It is the gold standard in terms of 3D superhero comics.
How do you think 3D comics differ from 3D films? Which 3D movies best utilize the medium as a storytelling device?
RJR: The big thing we talk about is eyestrain. You’re kind of screwed if your eyes get tired in the middle of The Great Gatsby, which I loved, but with a 3D book, especially a long one, it is absolutely not necessary to experience it all in one sitting. There are natural break points and reading the whole thing in one go might be a fun psychedelic experiment, but it isn’t mandatory.
DM: Also, the flip side is you can read it once for story and then immediately go back and study the more interesting or elaborate 3D compositions throughout the book. We want readers to get lost in this 3D world we’ve spent a few years building.
RJR: As for recent movies, I was really impressed with the 3D in The Great Gatsby and found it added to the entertainment value immensely. Even during the melancholy moments of that film, the 3D was delightful and interesting. I am also a huge fan of what was done in 2010 with Jackass 3D, which was actually shot in 3D as well. I’m a big fan of homemade 3D conversions—you can see people doing that on YouTube with stuff like Citizen Kane. I recently watched homemade 3D conversions a friend of mine did of National Lampoon’s Vacation and Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove and had the best time. In 3D, both films succeeded in inching me a little closer to the story and its participants, which is exactly what we’re trying to do with The Joyners in 3D.
Thank you guys for tackling our questions! We can’t wait to get our hands on The Joyners in 3D later this year.
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