Think there's nothing more harmless than a child's imaginary friend? The covert agency known as I.M.A.G.I.N.E. strongly disagrees.
Writer Brian Joines ("Noble Causes") and artist Bachan ("Justice League") explore the very real danger of imaginary friends in "Imagine Agents," their BOOM! Studios miniseries launching in October. The book follows a special agency tasked with tracking the inventive and very real creatures born straight out of kids' imaginations. Joines spoke with CBR News about the mythology of "Imagine Agents" and the agents who keep these "figments" in line while sharing an exclusive first look at Khary Randolph and Felipe Smith's covers for the first issue.
CBR News: What can you tell us about the world of the "Imagine Agents?" Who are the agents of I.M.A.G.I.N.E., and where does the story pick up?
Brian Joines: "Imagine Agents" is set in a world where the imaginary friends of children -- referred to as "figments" by the characters in the book -- are real creatures, visible only to the child that has "created" them -- unless you have the specialized equipment worn by the agents. When the child outgrows the friend or (especially) if the figment gets out of line, I.M.A.G.I.N.E. will step in and handle the situation as needed.
Our story focuses on two agents: Dave Slatern, a 20-year veteran of I.M.A.G.I.N.E. who has become jaded over the years and lost his appreciation for all the wonder of this world; and Terry Snowgoose, a younger, slacker-esque agent recruited from the I.M.A.G.I.N.E. archiving department who is bungling his way through his first week in the field. Their story begins on a routine day that evolves into something much bigger than they'd imagined.
Within this high-concept of secret agents and childhood imaginary creatures, what's the tone of the book? The solicits mention "Men In Black" and "Chew," which seem like some interesting touchstones.
I think the tone of the book is light-hearted and fun, but not afraid to get a bit dark if it needs to. The big distinction between this and something like "Men In Black" is that, here, there's always a child and his or her extended family involved, rather than just an alien entity to deal with. And when you get a kid in the mix, and possibly put him or her in peril -- that definitely ups the "serious ante" a bit more. Besides, I think the best stories are the ones that have a healthy mix of light and darkness. Without it, you run the risk of having a story come off as saccharine or overtly morose.
As far as being an all-ages book, I wouldn't have any problem sharing the book with my five year-old niece. We tried to make the language the characters speak realistic, but in a "broadcast network television" version of realistic. So there's a light smattering of swearing scattered through the issues, but we're not going all "Deadwood" on the readers.
Where did the idea of having this agency watching over imaginary creatures come from?
I've always been fascinated by the idea of imaginary friends, in part because I had one when I was five -- yeah, I was the little kid on the swing set having a full conversation with nobody else there. The idea of doing something with that kind of stuck with me over the years, and while there have been a few projects made using the idea, there was never one to really address what happens if these creatures actually existed and not all of them were on the up-and-up. What if a little kid suddenly had the creature in their life and it was kind of a jerk or, even worse, a blatantly villainous being? Who would take care of something like that? And figuring that out is eventually what led to "Imagine Agents."
How much input does Bachan have in the development of these creatures, and can you tease some of the your favorite creatures that we'll be seeing?
Bachan is amazing and has taken what sketchy notes I have on the main characters' appearances and just run with them, turning them into these very adorable or very scary figures that are better than I could've imagined. His designs definitely help me to find the voice for these characters.
But I would say the best thing about Bachan is, when he's asked to design some random background figments, he comes up with these creatures that absolutely blow my mind. I can definitely say I've seen at least three or four designs that, given the opportunity, I want to incorporate as major characters in future storylines. That's a tremendous gift to me as a writer.
As far as some personal favorites -- two that spring to mind are Moog of Mog and Big Doll, who is Raggedy Ann by way of the Incredible Hulk. You'll just have to see it to believe it.
Speaking of future storylines, the series' big concept is one that's certainly open to a wide range of exploration. What other stories would you like to tell in this world?
This miniseries barely scratches the surface of what this world is like. The book focuses on the Seattle branch of I.M.A.G.I.N.E., but it's a global organization with branches around the world. It'd be great to drop Dave and Terry into the London branch, or the Tokyo branch, or even another U.S. branch like New Orleans, and see what kinds of figments show up there.
Plus there's the history of the organization, the characters' personal histories, the history of figments -- all are ripe for exploration. And that's not even taking into account the daily in-and-out job Dave and Terry do and what can happen there. I'm excited over the possibilities and, readership-willing, I'll have the opportunity to tell those stories and many more.