Intergalactic X-Change: An Interview With Creators Liam Stephens And Butch Mapa

Hello everyone! Today I had the opportunity to speak to the creators of Intergalactic X-Change, a graphic novel about two kids who meet an exchange student that comes from another […]

Hello everyone! Today I had the opportunity to speak to the creators of Intergalactic X-Change, a graphic novel about two kids who meet an exchange student that comes from another world! 

Both the author, Liam Stephens and illustrator Butch Mapa provide their experiences on this project, and how it came to be! So without delay, let’s begin! 

Q1.  Now that Intergalactic X-Change has been released, what can you recall about the graphic novel’s origins and Influences? 

Liam Stephens: Initially I wrote INTERGALACTIC X-CHANGE as a film script. I had seen that outside of superhero films there was a real lack of content in the kids sci-fi genre compared to when I was growing up. Films like THE EXPLORERS,  FLIGHT OF THE NAVIGATOR, SPACE CAMP, BACK TO THE FUTURE and THE LAST STARFIGHTER definitely paved the way for INTERGALACTIC X-CHANGE. The original intention of the graphic novel was to provide a boost for the film script it was based on. I thought having a graphic novel already in play might aid the script getting turned in to a film.

Butch Mapa:  Liam first pitched the idea of Intergalactic X-Change while I was working on another story of his called Welcome to Hell.A. (Available at a Comixology near you!) – – by then we’d already had a pretty good working relationship, and it was just a matter of opening up time on my schedule for it, as it turned out to be the largest project I’ve ever worked on!

 

Q2. What was the writing and illustration process like for you guys? What challenges did you guys encounter?

LS: We had already completed one graphic novel together called, WELCOME TO HELL.A. That graphic novel is very different from INTERGALACTIC X-CHANGE. It’s an adult zombie comic full of sex, drugs and zombies. It had been completed piecemeal over a couple of years which really didn’t help the flow of our process, but it did however help me realize I needed to get Butch the full script from the start so he had clear path to follow. Compared to HELL.A., INTERGALACTIC X-CHANGE was definitely a breeze. (For me anyway!)

BM: The only difference from typical comics work is that Liam comes from film, so the story was formatted more like a movie script when he passed it to me. He graciously gave me the freedom to break it into comic form. I’ve done this for some projects in my career, it’s just a matter of figuring out how much to include, as each page added increases production and printing costs. Liam told me to get as much of the script on to the comic, and that made things go smoothly.

 

Q3.  What can you both describe about the main protagonists, Chase and Harold? What makes them relatable to readers? And what do each of you find about the protagonists that you both relate to? 

LS: The idea of Chase and Harold is that even though there seems to be a clear hierarchy between them at the end of the day they are both dorks. To Harold, Chase may seem like the cool guy and to Chase, Harold is a nerdy scientist but to everyone else they are one in the same.

BM: We were all kids once, right? And when we were, what did we want to be? “Astronaut” and “scientist” are up there on the list, I’d think! “Galactic overlord” too… or was that just me? Whatever floats your boat, I’d like to think that while reading Intergalactic, you can remember being in the same position that Liam wrote for the characters, whether it was being bullied, having a crush, or just hanging out with your best mate.

 

Q4. When conceptualizing the characters, were they always meant to be as intended? Was there anything in the early stages of this story that remained the same? 

LS: The majority of the characters outside of Chase and Harold are intended to not be what they seem. I wanted to show that pre-conceptions of people usually lead to surprises and lessons learned. 

BM:  Here are my first ever illustrations for Chase and Harold. At this point I was trying to throw as many ideas at Liam and see if we could figure out the broad direction we wanted going in. I wasn’t concerned about the style I’d be using, focusing more on just conveying the thought for each design:  

From there I’d go on to this. The kids are much closer to what would end up being on the page. Harold in his giant lab coat made him look like a bit of a wizard. They’re both a little older than what Liam wanted, so they ended up with shorter body types.

Colorist Lisa Moore did a great job finishing their looks!

 

Q5. Do any of you have a particular favorite character from this book? If so, you who and why? 

LS: Franky, he is a new soul, unsullied by life and love. He is a lump of clay waiting to be formed. Thankfully he has Harold and Chase to help guide his formation.

BM: Definitely Harold. I still remember constantly drawing myself as a scientist when I was young. I drew myself with robots, spaceships, gadgets– until I started getting pretty good at the drawing thing!

I can see Harold as being a fan of the kinds of stories I like. Isaac Asimov, Warren Ellis, David Brin, all that Sci-Fi good stuff.

 

Q6. Franky the alien is a very fun character. Was Franky intended to be fun from the very start? Or was he much different prior to figuring out his character? 

LS: I wanted him to be goofy from the outset. He is older than Chase, like a big brother. I didn’t want him to be a perfect character that Chase would be in awe of. In this instance, Chase has to be the big brother.

BM: Visually, I wanted Franky to stand out from the other cast members. Chase and Harold are kind of shorter and chubby, so with Franky I gave him a lanky look, with sharper facial features. He’s always got an easy smile, even if he doesn’t always understand what’s going on, he’s not shy or awkward about it.

He’s the older, cool big brother that Chase and Harold never had, but he’s also their buddy, part of their crew

 

Q7. The Overlord is the main antagonist of Intergalactic X-Change. What was it like writing and illustrating The Overlord? 

LS: It’s always tough writing a disembodied character. There is no physical presence or force just a voice. It was very helpful I had Skull and Scab for him to work off.

BM: Without going into spoilers, I just want to say that Liam did a great job on the identity of the Overlord, so much so that when I found out who he was, I got annoyed because he was set up so well!

 

Q8. Who did you enjoy writing and illustrating the most? 

LS: I had a lot of fun writing Skull and Scab. I’ve always loved henchmen, they are so blinded by their faith and admiration that they lose their objectivity. Having their true inner selves trying to assert themselves at inopportune times was also a lot of fun.

BM: Without a doubt, Scab and Skull! Especially when they turned into agents of the Overlord. Even if they were technically bad guys, I just loved their look and personalities. Had a lot of fun with illustrating their facial and body expressions.  I would draw a Scab and Skull comic in a heartbeat!

 

Q9. What scenes did each of you guys enjoy writing/illustrating?  Any scenes that you can loosely allude to that might have been your favorite to make? 

LS: The roof rocket scene early in the graphic novel is my favorite for sure. There is so much going on. Our process really brings Butch’s talent to life. I’ll give him a script with simple explanations what is going on. He never fails to go further than what I had intended with his illustrations. Some scenes that I had treated as throwaways or setups he found a unique way to make them so much more. The art in the forest scene is amazing, really would love to see that on the big screen. 

BM: My favorite scene happens after Chase and Harold are chased by the Janitor in his van. Angela stumbles on the pair and they have to figure out a reason for their odd behavior. And in the middle of all that– Harold gets Chase to ask Angela to the school dance! By this point I’d gotten quite attached to the little guy and was rooting for him– and I really wanted to convey that to the reader!

 

Q10. Will there be another Intergalactic X-Change installment?  And are there any future plans for the next project that you guys have down the line? 

LS: There is definitely another installment planned. INTERGALACTIC X-CHANGE only takes place over a couple days so there is a lot of Franky’s exchange to cover. Not to mention, Chase who has a very interesting origin story that needs to be uncovered. There is also a couple female characters who only had bit parts so far, but will emerge with greater roles.

BM: Hopefully their world can expand to other media, a cartoon would be perfect! As for more comic adventures– I’d revisit the kids anytime! Seems like there was a bit of a twist there in the end, eh?

Anthony Andujar Jr.

About Anthony Andujar Jr.