WAYWARD is an internationally favoured supernatural comic set in Japan and Ireland and Spooky Isles’ own ANN MASSEY O’REGAN is the Irish Folklore expert who provides the Irish backmatter essays for the series. CHRIS RUSH recently caught up with Jim Zub and Steven Cummings, the main creators behind the comic book which is currently taking the world by storm, and here’s what they had to say:
Rush: Hi guys, I suppose the first question I have before delving into Wayward and what goes on behind the scenes is could be give a brief background to yourselves?
Zub: My name is Jim Zub. I’m a Canadian comic writer. I started off working in the animation industry as a background artist and animator and eventually shifted over into art direction and writing. I created my first comic back in 2001, but didn’t really dive deep into comic creation until 2010 with my breakout book called Skullkickers, published by Image Comics. Since then I’ve been steadily writing comics while also teaching animation-related art courses at Seneca College here in Toronto.
Cummings: My name is Steven Cummings and I am a Japan based comic creator. I have been drawing professionally since 2002 and have worked on a lot of main line superhero work over the years. Marvel, DC, etc. I have also done lots of work for video games, paper and pencil RPGS, movie development art, packaging stuff. You name it, I have probably drawn it.
Rush: What prompted you to take on and develop the Wayward Comic Series?
Zub: Wayward is a mixture of ideas I had for a story about myth in the modern world with Steven’s desire to draw a story set in the “real” Tokyo, the complex and varied city instead of just high-rise buildings and “ninja temples” that tend to be portrayed in entertainment media.
Cummings: I love working on creator owned stuff more than anything else in the comic book world. My long term career goal was to more towards the creator owned end of the spectrum full time and do less work for hire books and Jim and I had talked about working together over the years on just that kind of project on more than one occasion. Timing wise it didn’t come together until sometime in 2014 I think. Anyway, I had always wanted to draw a comic book set in Japan to show what the real world here was like and I was thrilled that Jim liked the idea. It’s hard to imagine that we have come so far sometimes but as I type this we are on the downhill half of the 5th story arc and steadily moving Rori’s story along.
Rush: How do you think it stands out from others in the genre?
Zub: Wayward has a lot of magic and supernatural elements, but they all grow out of mythic history and real places to keep the series grounded. It’s a mix of reality and fantasy informed by the culture and history of Japan and Ireland with fun twists to keep readers guessing where it’ll go next.
Cummings: Our story has elements of action/superhero and fantasy tales in it but it’s mostly grounded in a Japan that is close to the real thing. That realism gives it extra character and provides a very real backdrop for all the action and drama going on that help it stand out.
Rush: The series contains both Irish and Japanese Folklore within the story, why did you choose these themes?
Zub: I don’t want to tip my hand too much in terms of the absolute answer to that, but suffice to say that Ireland and Japan have two of the most in-depth and unique mythic cultures in the world. Islands tend to create fascinating enclaves of culture and art. They’re very different from each other, but there are universal ideas about magic and the way people interact with gods and spirits that is fertile ground worth exploring.
Cummings: I love Japan, having lived over a quarter of my life here, so this was a natural place for me to want to set a story. When Jim suggested Ireland for its rich history and folklore as the other “half” of Rori I was sold immediately.
Rush: The lore information in the comic is incredibly in depth, is this hard to source and who helps with the sourcing?
Zub: While initially developing the series, I did a lot of reading and researching on my own, but once we got rolling I brought on board two “monster scholars” to help give feedback and provide back matter essays that are published in each issue.
Zack Davisson is an award-winning Japanese translator and researcher who had been writing about Yokai (Japanese mythic creatures and spirits) for years when I was first introduced to him by a mutual friend. He joined our team and started writing about Japanese culture and lore right off the bat. His feedback and insight has added a lot of depth to the story. You can find more about Zack at: http://hyakumonogatari.com/
Ann Massey O’ Regan is a writer specialising in Irish culture and lore who I reached out to as I prepared to take our Wayward story to Ireland. Like Zack, she’s been invaluable, providing focused reference material and writing essays about Irish lore and mythic creatures on sites including this one!
Cummings: I help with Japan related issue but Ireland is something I don’t know much about. We have often have chat sessions where we throw ideas back and forth and I enjoy getting to tell Jim about some of the lesser known elements of Japanese history and folklore. So for things taking place in Japan I can make suggestions and easily go and visit locations and take lots of photos for background reference. I guess that kind of makes me our location scout for Japan. Ireland is a different story and we were lucky that Jim was able to find such a knowledgeable source in the form of Ann O’ Regan.
Rush: What interested you the most about Irish folklore?
Zub: Irish folklore plays with lighter and darker elements so effortlessly. Whimsical stories and darkly violent ones interpose themselves in a way that feels surreal, but never lacking in emotional weight. The oral tradition of storytelling permeates each tale, making it feel like you’re hearing these stories from a close friend instead of a dusty historical text.
Cummings: The physical setting is the best part for me. Probably because I do the art. But the scenery and nature is beautiful and I love getting to draw the countryside as Rori and crew are traveling around.
Rush: Rori is half Irish was it always your intention to bring her to Ireland and why?
Zub: Rori’s Irish heritage has been part of the story almost from the start. I think the very first version of the pitch had her as half-American, but once I found a thread of Irish lore I wanted to pursue in my research I knew I’d found the right hook for her and, in turn, the rest of the story.
Cummings: Yes! That part is just as important as her Japanese half. It’s what makes her so special to our tale of cultural change generationally. She is both Japanese and something else at the same time and what will ultimately give her an edge in the battles to come!
Rush: A thing I noticed myself was the drawings and the vast amount of detail that they contain, how long does it take to actually complete a comic issue?
Zub: Steven can get more specific, but he’s usually completing line art at about 4-5 pages per week, so about 5 weeks per issue. Add in colouring and lettering and it’s about 6 weeks to finish an issue top to bottom, sometimes faster when we’re under the gun.
Cummings: I wish I could say a month but I am not a fast artist and like you already mentioned the art is detailed and demanding. I wish I could knock it out faster. Personally for an issue where I can draw decently fast it will take 5 weeks for the line art. Our colourist, Tamra Bonvillian, is pretty fast and I have seen her knock out and issue in under 2 weeks. So if she is colouring as I get pages done we can get it done in a little over 5 weeks. But like I said, that’s for a fast issue.
Rush: Can you see Wayward exploring other global folklores?
Zub: There are hints at that, but the core of this story will be Japanese and Irish for this cast of characters. That’s all I can say for now.
Cummings: That would be very fun to draw and it would be great to get to move in a direction like that… but who can say what future issues hold for our characters!
Rush: I also noticed that the series has a fantastic fan base, with drawings etc. sent into you on a constant basis. Can you tell us a little about that and what it means to you?
Zub: Creating something new and having readers embrace it is absolutely wonderful. With so many new comics coming out every month, having people hold up our book as one of their favourites and showing us that excitement through messages, art, or cosplay is the best. Creator-owned comics live or die based on good word of mouth and our fans do a great job helping spread the word.
Cummings: It means the world that someone who spends money on the book will take the time to do something as personal as draw our characters to share online and in the magazine. The same goes for people who do Wayward cosplay. They are incredible!
Rush: Do you have a favourite comic series yourself and why?
Zub: I read a lot of comics, both to see what else is out in the market and as a fan. Some of my current favourites include Atomic Robo, Brave Chef Brianna, Seven To Eternity, and Doctor Strange.
Cummings: My current favourite comic book is the Knights of the Dinner Table by Jolly Blackburn. It’s about a group of people who get together weekly to play a parody of Dungeons and Dragons and more or less reminds me of being in middle and high school and how absorbed I was in role playing games. It’s epic fun.
Rush: Finally, Wayward is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon, is there any inside plot info. You want to treat us to?
Zub: In our firth story arc, issues #21-25, the stakes are definitely being raised. Our wayward teens are tapping into greater power and they won’t be able to stay hidden any longer. The myths of old see them clearly now and know they’re a threat. The conflict is going to be epic.
Cummings: No ninjas yet! The 5th story arc is still partially in taking place in lovely Ireland. Rori’s path is leading her into conflict with similar forces in Ireland as she was facing in Japan and the ending to the story arc will be incredible. New foes and new allies and all action! I hope everyone will stay tuned for what we have in store!
Rush: Thanks so much for taking time out of what I’m sure is a busy schedule guys, I really appreciate it. This gives us a brief snippet of what goes on behind the scenes to produce a visual feast that is Wayward! And I for one wish you nothing but the best of success in the future.
Find out how to get your hands on Wayward here! https://imagecomics.com/comics/series/wayward