An Interview With Abelard Alexis

Interviewee: Abelard Alexis Interviewer:  Anthony Andujar Jr  Q1. How did you get into comics/manga? And what were the stories that inspired your current work? AA: Hey Anthony! First off, thank […]

Interviewee: Abelard Alexis

Interviewer:  Anthony Andujar Jr 
Q1. How did you get into comics/manga? And what were the stories that inspired your current work?

AA: Hey Anthony! First off, thank you for having me and taking the time to read my comic. I’ve been drawing since I was about 6 or 7, and thanks to my brother who was an avid writer, I’d always create detailed stories behind the characters that I’d draw. Eventually, these stories turned into 30+ page stories that I wrote when I was like 10… Looking back at these stories now, most of them made absolutely no sense, and were blatant copies of my favorite stories/games/anime/cartoons at the time haha!

But what got me into comics/manga was my inner child; my innate desire to explore other worlds outside of the one we live in. Although the plot and storylines were nonsensical and sometimes bizarre, I realized that as a kid I was unafraid to delve into topics or concepts that weren’t not fully understood. I was unafraid to be wrong about topics we’d consider obscure like death, dreams, the supernatural, history. As I grew older, I felt limiters being placed on myself; I would tell myself I can’t talk about death because what the hell happens after death? Or I can’t write about dreams because science has yet to fully understand what dreams are and why we have them. 

I vividly remember writing a story about a boy who dies in the beginning of the story and becomes a spirit that would fly around the world viewing the world’s problems from a different POV. 

What stories inspired my current work? 

Alternia is a comic ( atm ) but I’ve taken inspiration from a variety of mediums and I’m hoping to have this story transcend beyond just the world of comics. My inspirations start from Neverwhere, Nier Automata, Steins Gate, Final Fantasy to even soundtracks from some of my favorite games that inspire certain visuals like Nobuo Uematsu, Keichii Okabe, Hans Zimmer just to name a few. 

When I was a kid, my brother put me on to Final Fantasy starting with Final Fantasy 6 which has become an all-time favorite for me. Final Fantasy 6 had such a masterful blend of enjoyable storytelling and compelling characters that no single character out of the main cast of 8 characters stands out as a MAIN character. 

In a way, I’m attempting to do that with my characters as well. Although we have Mal as our lead in this Alternia Prelude, we’ll be introduced to more POV’s and characters with Chapter 1 and the later installments of the story.

Q2. Alternia is your latest project that you’ve been working away on as both illustrator and writer. What were the challenges that come with creating a bulk of the book assuming both creative roles? 

AA: The challenges for the most part were more-so mental than physical. I knew I could do it, but my mind was limiting what I believed I could do. I’d begin to ask myself questions “am i biting off more than I can chew?” . “Perhaps this isn’t a career for me”. “Perhaps my indecision to pick a particular side of the coin will be more of a detriment than an advantage.”

With that being said, artist and writer’s blocks were very much obstacles I’ve faced, individually. So what helped me is setting small goals on both ends, for example, a physical challenge for me was time. Where could I find the time to do both? So on my train to and from work, I’d close my eyes and listen to music and soundtracks of those games and shows I mentioned before, which turned into pure emotions and concepts that I took to write certain quotes, story, and visual ideas for the story. When I’d get home I’d set about maybe 30 minutes to do some light sketching or drafts… Although it doesn’t seem like a lot, it was the best I could do while being realistic with myself and not tiring myself out.

Eventually, after setting small goals, and being patient with the creative process you’ll realize you’re making progress. All in all, it was a challenge but finding a balance between time, progress, and care for myself was what eventually led to the eventual completion of Alternia 0.

Q3: During the drafting phases, how many drafts of concept art and scripting did you run through before finalizing the look of the characters and the initial prélude of Alternia?

AA: I’ve gone through quite a few drafting phases! I’m glad you asked. There’s a quote I’d always remember from a professor of mine from college, shout out to Dan Sheffelman. 

“The creative process can either take 2 days or 2 years.”

With this concept of Alternia being a project on my mind since I did a few panels for my college thesis in 2017. The story itself, its themes, and characters have been reworked MULTIPLE times, (probably 4-5 times). With it being 5 years since college, there’s been a lot of shifts in my personal life that forced the theme of my story to change as well. I’ve watched multiple interviews of writers like Steven King, or George R Martin talk about characters, and how they’re all a part of you as the writer. And the way I look at it is, if you as the writer can undergo the process of growth then so can your characters as well. This causes a trickle-down effect where the shift in your character affects the setting, which then affects the themes, plot points and then all together affects the story itself. 

Lastly on the writing side of things, having my editor, Whisper, helped ground me and keep me on topic if there was ever a point where I was straying off. Sometimes we need someone over our shoulder to tell us “Hey… That doesn’t work…” or “Hey, slow down…”

In terms of concept art, I was a little less strict on myself… The concept art side of things was really scattered, and rather disorganized but I stayed pretty flexible in case there were any changes in writing that was done! I’d draw out scenes I knew FOR SURE I wanted to be in the story before anything else. I have reference photos and sketches in my sketchbook that I’ve recycled for certain gestures.

A positive about being the writer and the illustrator is that I was able to make changes and not be an inconvenience to an inker or penciler working on a particular page. I was able to be very flexible with adjustments, especially with things I wasn’t too sure of.

Q4: The protagonist is Malachai, right? What was the development process like when creating him and the world of Gaia? Was he the initial protagonist at the start of development of this series? We’re there some points of reference that served as inspiration for the city? How did your editor Whisper Blanchard guide you through the development stages?

AA: When I started the story in 2017, I created it from the lens of Keith Everette, a much younger kid already traversing the dream world of Alternia. When I created Malachi however, I wanted him to be a little older. Making him older allowed me to justify putting more pressure on him as a character by making him an older brother, a High School student, and even touching on themes like the anxiety of meeting the high standards his parents have set for him. I decided this would be a more relatable character to start off the story with, and pushed Keith’s story arc back for a later issue. Whisper came into the picture to help me make the pressure on Malachi more believable and not overwhelming. There were many talks between us on “do we want to do this now? Or should we save this for later?”

I’ll always appreciate her candidness to tell me “I like this idea..!” and also in the same breath to tell me “You can leave this out.” There was one spot where she was like “what’s happening here?” (haha). 

Working with Whisper has been great! As soon as I told her what I wanted the theme to be, which is grief, she made sure to keep me on board with that idea all-throughout. We planned multiple dates to chill and chat about progress and benchmarks that I could reach while writing and doing the artwork. Each meeting involved slight shifts or changes to some things in the story, which turned Alternia 0 into what it is today! Thank you Whisper!

Q5: There are some clever storytelling devices as seen in the Prelude issue such as the use of color and the use of black and white. There are some clever uses of color that are subtle and that appear throughout the book in small doses. Was it always intended to approach this book with the first few pages in color and the rest in black and white, similarly to traditional Manga?

AA: Yeah! The idea of coloring the first few pages in color was totally an ode to traditional manga, but also a way to set the tone of that dichotomy between the real world of Gaia, and Alternia the world of dreams. Each panel in color was used to show the dream moments. I also felt it’d be a compelling element to show that yin and yang between real life and dreams. You can also see on the bookmark the divide between the dystopian world of Gaia and the euphoric dream world of Alternia. (Send bookmark illustration)

Q6: How long did it take to develop the Prelude issue, and what was it like working with your editor, Blanchard, and the title card designer, Giselle Ramirez when developing the tone and look of the completed book?

AA: Throughout college, I had the honor of being surrounded by extremely skilled artists whom I look up to A LOT. A goal of mine has always been to collaborate with them on a project, and I felt Alternia is most definitely the perfect one for that. Giselle is one of those amazing artists that I went to college with; she was always very organized, she’s probably the most savvy out of all of us, with graphic design. Not only that, but I think Giselle is a sharpshooter when it comes to getting things done. She likes to do things once and makes sure it’s RIGHT the first time! We’ve known each other for so long I was able to communicate what I wanted and she was able to nail it almost immediately. In the future, I’ll definitely be bringing some more of my good friends from college on board (shoutout to Sandrine, Esther, Noelle, Davon, Sophie) to do variant covers or any other promotional artwork.

With that being said, the development of Alternia was about 2-3 years. This includes the unfortunate yet unavoidable obstacle of ADULTING and just outside events that thwarted my creativity or just delayed my ability to draw or write. 

It really started in 2017 with a “what if” question. 

“What if 2 people slept and in their dreams, they could meet each other within their dreams?

This led to more questions.

“What circumstance or conflict would lead to that?”

Within year 2 I was still answering that question… I let the natural course of events in my life occur, and it soon led to my question being answered in 2021.

Q7: When you developed this book from start to finish, what was it like using platforms such as Kickstarter? What made Kickstarter the suitable space to fund this book? 

AA: I didn’t initially intend to use Kickstarter to fund the book. I was actually going to save up and fund it myself, but after seeing the success of one of my buddies, Adhim on his comic ‘The Unforgiving Scruff’, I saw for myself firsthand how Kickstarter isn’t only just a tool for funding, but for promotion. Having the Kickstarter helped get more eyes on my comic, even people who had no idea I was writing a comic. It allowed you to see this, and so many more people to get first-hand looks at Alternia before I sold it on my website or at conventions. 

I felt that was the best part… The money from this comic isn’t truly important to me, but I just want to create a story that’ll be emotionally touching, and that people will love. 

Q8: What was the best memory that you had when making the book? 

AA: One of the best memories, and probably most hilarious memories while making the book was me accidentally publishing the Kickstarter page. Yep, it was an accident. But I guess it’s fair to consider it a happy little accident as Bob Ross would say. When I hit ‘publish’ I truthfully just wanted to see how the profile would look.

Thankfully I was able to make edits to some things after the button was clicked, but in reality, it turned out to be a blessing. Both because the campaign was a success and because of the overwhelming support that I’ve amassed because of the Kickstarter. 

At Blerdcon last year, I promoted the Kickstarter to a lot of people and so many people jumped on board to help me out, and for that, I am forever grateful.

Q9: Will there be more in store for Malakai, his brother Kai, and the rest of Gaia throughout the series? And will this be a mini-series? 

AA: Malachi’s story is only JUST beginning! Alternia 0 is the birth of Mal’s ghost that haunts him moving forward throughout the duration of the story. With that being said, this will be an ongoing story. Not only will there be more in store for Malachi, but we’ll be seeing how that event affected some other characters as well. 

We’ll be meeting Keith, Remi, Joani, and more characters I’ve been cooking up to be Alternia’s colorful cast of main characters. 

Q10: What should readers keep an eye out for next? 

AA: Alternia, The Dream Realm (Chapter 1) will be coming next ! I’m already writing and sending drafts over to Whisper to look at.

I want to be realistic with myself and take my time to deliver a story that I’ll be happy with and also a story that’ll be emotionally pulling for readers!

So keep an eye out for my IG @abeillustrations_ and @alternia_comic , I’ll be posting some artwork of Malachi and some of the future characters we’ll be seeing in the series!

Stay tuned for Alternia, The Dream Realm!

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