If you like your science fiction delivered via planet-hopping adventure along with a healthy dose of raunch, there's a new comic book series you may want to add to your pull list.
The Sweetness, from Z2 Comics, revolves around intergalactic smuggling and a pair of mismatched female smugglers with lots of issues. Now they find themselves in the middle of an operation to help alien addicts get their fix from an earthbound substance that is utterly irresistible.
The series has an offbeat tone that feels like a late-'80s buddy comedy set in space. That's largely by design from the creative team, the husband-and-wife duo of writer/artist Miss Lasko-Gross and Eisner-nominated cartoonist Kevin Colden.
Blastr talked with the couple about the new series, the complex universe they're building within the story, and their unique working situation.
Then check out an EXCLUSIVE preview of The Sweetness below. Issue #1 drops Wednesday.
The concept for this book seems brilliantly simple -- can you tell us where the idea came from, and how the story developed?
Miss: During a pitch meeting, I went off on a tangent about a well-known much-hated comic industry heel (who, years ago, took credit for a couple of characters I created.) Then I segued (as a crazy person does) into discussing this filthy broke down sci-fi universe that I was never able to develop. At which point my publisher greenlit an outline/issue 1.
Kevin: We usually bounce ideas off of each other, and edit each other's scripts, and when I read The Sweetness I instantly knew exactly how it should be drawn. Traditionally when I look over Miss's scripts I offer only an editorial eye, but this one really hit a nerve, and I said immediately that I wanted to draw it. Luckily, everyone else involved agreed.
- The book's central premise is that there is Intergalactic demand for an earthbound substance -- and it's not cocaine or reality TV ... it's sugar. Where did that come from?
- MLG: You may regret asking that question. Okay, the Circuitous thought process involved the sometimes arbitrary value of commodities. For example, a diamond's only intrinsic value is as a hard material for industrial drills etc. Their “scarcity,” “luxury” and the “demand” are all socially engineered. So what would advanced alien civilizations want from our earth? Water? Oil? Gold? Sexy Human Ladies?
Putting aside historical motivations for human conquest, and the laziness of having E.T.s share our cultural values or physiological needs, I hit on the concept of sugar. Dumb, simple, plentiful, taken for granted.
And yet, the sources of Sweetness (Bees, Sugarcane, Fruit) are so intrinsically linked to the co-evolutionary process' of life on this specific planet.
KC: What she said.
- Of the three main characters in the first issue -- Nelly, Scout and Bachmaan -- Nelly seems to be the only one who kind of has her act together. We know she's an ex-con. What kind of skeletons is she hiding in her closet, and will we be learning much more about her?
- MLG: Nelly is fascinating for the contradiction between her superior intellect and lowly social status. She is always professional and meticulous but receives exactly zero credit for it. She is clearly NOT embarrassed by her past, only exasperated at being denigrated for it. Without revealing too much I'll say there's definitely a reason for that disconnect (beyond class and race). Nelly has had to face some serious obstacles.
- KC: Nelly's our lens to the ways in which our society hasn't really moved forward at all. We've made contact with aliens, but a lot of our current racial and gender constructs haven't progressed much for the positive. Nelly's got a lot of depth, and there haven't been enough characters like her in comics.
- What about Scout and Bachmaan? She's a hot mess, but quite entertaining. She reminds me of the friend everyone has ... the person who still parties like she's still in college even though she left campus years ago .. and just can't get her act together. Am I totally off base there?
- MLG: You're not wrong. Scout throws herself head first into pleasure and intoxication wherever it's found. On one level, she does seem like the tragic burnout (who would profess their undying friendship between bouts of vomiting across your sneakers) What sets her apart from your average needy, bile-chucking compatriot, is a preternatural savviness that often keeps her afloat where “smarter” people drown.
Bachmaan is as sour as Scout is goofy. He's an overreaching coward WAY out of his league. He would never take on a powerhouse like Nelly without the uZAP remote. He's also the kind of dick who's deferential only to those he needs. But who's true venomous colors come out in his interactions with social “inferiors.”
- The book has a strong action comedy vibe - in a sci-fi setting. Is that what you're going for?
MLG: We're all about taking you on a raunchy intergalactic journey full of Chaos, filth and pushing the limits of bad taste.
KC: I draw it as a comedy first, and everything else comes after. Sort of a cross between Broad City and Love and Rockets, back when it still had rockets.
- How big a universe will THE SWEETNESS encompass? will we be seeing the main characters scouring the galaxy ... and when will we learn about the people behind the shipment on the Fast Loris?
KC: The official ship cargo is human – cryo-frozen people traveling to a planet outside of the solar system, and we see them very soon. The unofficial cargo will lead us to a quick detour and then some very colorful characters not too long after that.
MLG: By the end of the initial run you will have gotten to know a large scummy sector of an infinitely despicable universe. Tentacled Junkies, kinky space bigots and militant nudists. (Seriously, that's a thing)
As a married couple, how do you guys manage the storytelling part of your lives? is there a point in the day where you say, 'OK, that's enough work talk. lets make dinner plans' ... reason I ask is that my wife and I work together from home and it's sometimes tough to 'turn off' the work relationship.
MLG: We are never really “off”. NEVER. Even when working on our individual projects. Over the years we’ve both grown accustomed to trusting each other for HIDEOUSLY honest critiques of our respective works.
KC: Ooooh, no, there's not really off time in the middle of book production. We'll watch some TV on the weekends after we put our son to bed, but generally if we sneak out to dinner, it's when family comes to visit and pushes us out the door. I'm not sure anyone can maintain a career in comics without at least occasionally having workaholic habits.
I bet you're one of a very few comic book creative teams who actually work on a book in close proximity to each other. Nowadays, most work via email/text/Google chat ... do you find that to be helpful?
MLG: Absolutely! It's a throwback to the early days of the comic medium. Weirdly old fashioned but the speed and clarity of being physically present is something no amount of janky-assed skyping can replicate.
And if you WANT to turn a list of corrections into a pissy back and forth over misinterpreted tone, by all means, use email.
KC: Oh, yes it's fantastic. We've tried to keep it as local as possible, and I think it shows in how cohesive the book is.