Creating a "Forgetless" Comic Book

Wed, December 16th, 2009 at 11:58am PST

Comic Books
Josh Wigler, Staff Writer

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Forgetless"Forgetless" #1, on sale now

Despite the title, "Forgetless" is a reading experience that writer and creator Nick Spencer hopes you'll remember. The Image Comics/Shadowline miniseries thrusts readers into the final night of Forgetless, modern Manhattan's most notorious and cult-revered party. Sonia and Sara - a pair of models and occasional assassins - are attending the party with their lethal sights set on Derrick, an egotistical youth that's in way over his head. Of course, things don't go quite as planned, leading to a series of interconnected events as told by a variety of perspectives.

While each issue focuses on a different character, the various points of view go beyond the story's players thanks to the three different artists working on "Forgetless." The first, third and fifth issues are all drawn by W. Scott Forbes, while Jorge Coelho illustrates the second and fourth installments. Marley Zarcone is contributing a back-up feature that runs throughout the miniseries' five-issues.

CBR News spoke with Spencer, Forbes, Coelho and Zarcone about working together on "Forgetless," what attracted the illustrators to the project and Spencer's reasoning behind the title's multi-artist approach as opposed to working with a single illustrator.

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CBR News: Nick, let's take it from the beginning. How did Scott, Jorge and Marley come to be involved in "Forgetless?"

Nick Spencer: I think in a lot of ways, the book started with Scott. I've been the guy's biggest fan for years. It's been a lot of fun watching him grow as an artist. Of all the artists I work with, I probably talk to Scott the most. We have a lot of similar interests and tastes, not just in regards to comics. When "Existence 2.0" dropped and saw some success, I knew the door was open to do some more work with Image/Shadowline, and the first thing I wanted to do was a project with Scott. There are certain things I know he loves to draw - very fashionable and beautiful women, for one. Big cities, parties, this stuff is his forte, so I literally built the main story for him from the ground up.

Forbes' art from "Forgetless" #1

That said, due to time constraints and other commitments, we knew it would be impossible for Scott to do a regular monthly 22-pager. So I started to think of different ways to make it work, and came up with the sort of jam-piece non-anthology idea that became "Forgetless." Once we figured out how that would work, it was time to find the right artists to join the band. They needed to be artists that sat well next to Scott's work, but weren't so similar that they looked like fill-ins or something. We needed artists that could maintain that indie/hipster vibe, too.

The first name that came to mind for both of us was Marley Zarcone - and, well, approaching Marley was a little strange for me, I think, because she's someone I've been a fanboy of for a very long time. She is, in all seriousness, one of my favorite artists working in comics, period. When I emailed her, I was sure we would never hear back, and we certainly couldn't get her for the book. So when she said yes, Scott and I were both way past thrilled. So it's kind of cool to be working with someone when the dynamic is basically fan-based rather than as peers or whatever.

Then it was time to fill that third spot. Now the stories in "Forgetless" #2 and #4 are pretty crazy - there's some stuff in there that's really gonna make people's jaws drop - so I wanted someone who could make it a lot of fun, someone who could really capture the insanity. I'd seen Jorge Coelho's stuff in Eric Skillman's exceptional "Egg" anthology and was really impressed. As soon as he said yes, I sat back and looked at the artistic team and just said to myself, "Wow, this thing is gonna look really fucking good." As an art junkie, it was a thrill, and I know it will be for the audience as well.

Scott, Marley and Jorge, what did you three find intriguing about the premise of "Forgetless" when Nick reached out to you? What sort of unique opportunities did this project present to you as an illustrator?

W. Scott Forbes: The concept behind "Forgetless" is pretty unique. I liked the idea of having the story being told from various perspectives, illustrated by different artists. At first I thought it could be a little jarring, but when I heard that Marley Zarcone and Jorge Coelho would be working with me, any doubts I might have had quickly vanished.

This is my first time illustrating a comic book, so ["Forgetless"] presented a vast number of unique opportunities. Normally, I keep to singular pin-up/collage illustrations, so trying to make myself think sequentially was tough. It presented a new challenge. Placing the characters into a surrounding, keeping the flow to the page, acting, etc. - it was all pretty new to me!

Marley Zarcone: I love the group of characters [that Nick] built. There's a girl in the script, Darla, whose qualities include a very overbearing personality. I'm having a lot of fun portraying that. She does some very wicked things, but she has some softness hiding in there somewhere. Darla is a unique opportunity. Coming across characters like her is a rarity for me, so I find that very inspirational.

Jorge Coelho: It's a simple yet well-fabricated concept revolving around an underground party, and that was very appealing to me. Mostly, the deep sense of a "nowadays" story - that "could be today, could be tomorrow" story, is what totally attracted me. Visually, it's very actual, so the challenge is to mirror the kind of surreal, freaky times we're living in. But it's also the ensemble cast, which is unique - that's my impression. As a newcomer, I can only say that I'm having a great creative experience. There is a mix of freedom and constructive pinpoints included in the production, which isn't easy to find.

Zarcone's art from "Forgetless" #1

Nick, can you lay out some of the benefits and drawbacks of having multiple artists on "Forgetless," as opposed to one illustrator for the entire miniseries?

Spencer: Well, starting out, I'll admit I was nervous about how it would play out - I knew it was a lot of cooks in the kitchen. But I've been pleasantly surprised by how smooth it's gone. In terms of the production cycle, it really is like working on three books at once, which is pretty crazy when you consider I'm working on three other books on top of that, but hey, that's how I like it. I'll tell people about the number of books I work on, and they give me that "Are you insane?" look - but yeah, I love the diversity and the excitement that comes from having all that up in the air. Brian Bendis always talks about this: there is no better feeling than waking up, opening up that inbox, and seeing art from three or four amazing artists all at once. It's like Christmas morning. So with this book, I get it all in one place. I've genuinely fallen in love with the format and think the audience will, too. I hope I get to do more stuff like this. I think the final product, it just feels like you get more for your money here.

The problem with having a workload like this, with so many different artists and colorists and letterers in the mix - and this is something I've learned a lot about in the last month - is when something does go off the rails somehow, you're spread a little thin in terms of how you can respond. It's just like juggling: you never drop just one ball. So you put out a fire, but it costs you some time over in the other area. Again, "Forgetless" really is like three books in and of itself. That makes for a great treat for the reader, but it's always a lot more work behind the scenes. That said, I have to give a lot of credit to Scott, Marley and Jorge, all of whom have been incredibly understanding about this and have really endeavored to get everything done in a professional way. I got pretty lucky in that regard.

How difficult is it to coordinate the book's visual design? How do you ensure that everybody is drawing from the same basic world?

Spencer: You know, it's been tricky, but what we've decided is to not get too caught up in the details there. To me, it's part of the fun to see how Scott and Jorge draw the same apartment a little differently, or how Marley's New York differs from Scott's. I think we've pulled it off for the reader in such a way that it isn't confusing, but I definitely look forward to seeing people compare and contrast them a million different ways.

Coehlo: We circulate our workflows. I always know what Scott and Marley are doing and [it's] the same way around. Nick has the structure pretty well-crafted, so when I began working and read my part of the script, it felt like, "Okay, this makes sense," then loose pencils, inks, and grays - which Eric Skillman then colored - always with the whole team's awareness.

Forbes: For the sequential work, we mostly work alone without any input, aside from Nick and [Shadowline editor] Kris Simon. But for the cover to issue three, Nick had the idea of getting Marley’s characters somewhere on the cover. Marley and I talked about it and liked the idea of them sitting underneath an umbrella with the blood raining down on them. She provided the line-art and I integrated it into the final image.

Speaking of covers, "Forgetless" is boasting some memorable visual elements such as the magazine-style cover and the use of Twitter in the interior pages. Can you discuss those aspects of the book's design?

Forbes: Tim Daniel actually came up with the idea for the cover - the fashion magazine theme seemed only fitting given that Sara and Sonia are models.

Spencer: We were having fits with that first cover, just finding that dynamic "wow" cover that sets the tone for the series, and then Tim came in and within a day solved all our problems. The guy is a genius when it comes to presentation.

Coelho's art from "Forgetless" #2

As for the Twitter stuff, that was a story decision on my part. I wanted to capture this lifestyle as accurately as I could, to make it a sort of snapshot of a certain subculture in New York at a certain moment, and you really can't do that without including sites like Twitter and Facebook and YouTube. Those sites drive so much real-world interaction that leaving them out almost would have felt dishonest.

The key to using them, I think, is to make sure it's not a gimmick of some kind, but rather to stay true to their actual usage. These aren't intended as narration or as punch lines to finish jokes that start in word balloons. I tried to think of when the characters would actually tweet or text message or whatever, and put them in there. Like in the preview, Derrick isn't going to be tweeting while Sonia has a gun to his head. It was just about capturing these characters' lives a little more fully. The really fun thing is when you realize you're telling a story about a character who's using a web site to tell her own story - trippy!

Nick, how descriptive do the "Forgetless" scripts get? Do you add an Alan Moore level of detail, or is it pretty detail-free?

Spencer: Oh God, no. I think I write incredibly loose scripts. It's very rare that I'll put more than two to three lines of description in. I have zero desire to micromanage visuals. To use an often-abused comparison, I tend to view myself as the screenwriter and the artist as the director. I usually talk about what I'm trying to convey rather than how they need to convey it.

Marley, Scott and Jorge, what is it like for you interpreting Nick's scripts?

Zarcone: There's a lot of room for interpretation. I do the line work first then send it out for approvals, make any suggested changes, add some colors and then that's it.

Forbes: It's a push and pull situation, I find. Nick will have an idea of how he wants the page to look, but if I see it another way, we will talk about it and see what works best for the scene. Once I have an idea down of how I see the page, I'll pass along my quick sketches that define the page to him and Kris. Once they're approved, I move onto cleaning up the rough pages and then applying the colors in Photoshop.

Coelho: Like I've mentioned before, he has the whole structure pretty well built. He gives me panel descriptions - detailed, but not constricted - and he was open to suggestions, which I incorporated on layouts and were used, so it felt like pure teamwork. Some visual references, like tweets, YouTube and fashion, are just true reflections of a contemporary story.

Is there anything else you want to add about working together on "Forgetless?"

Spencer: It really has been a thrill. The thing I like about "Forgetless" most is, I genuinely believe it's something very new and very different for the market. There's something very unique about both the story and the format. Christian Ward, the amazing artist behind "Olympus" and a good friend of mine, called it a very confident book, which really made me smile. I do think we did something pretty bold here in a sales environment that tends to reward you for falling into some pre-assigned genres.

"Forgetless" #1, written by Nick Spencer and illustrated by W. Scott Forbes with a back-up feature by Marley Zarcone, hits comic book stores today, December 16. Jorge Coelho drew the second issue, which debuts on January 6, 2010.

TAGS:  image comics, forgetless, nick spencer, w scott forbes, marley zarcone

 
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