Nicholas Tana eJUNKY comic interview by Anthony Andujar Jr 8/28/23

Interviewee: Nicholas Tana

Interviewer: Anthony Andujar Jr

Q1: What inspired you to get into the medium of comics? Who were some of your early influences in comics and film?

NT: My inspiration to enter the world of comics began with my childhood. Some of my earliest memories revolve around browsing through comic shops, eagerly flipping through panels and stories, all while trying not to annoy the shop owners, as I knew I couldn’t buy everything I wanted. The world-building, the characters, and the pure escapist entertainment fueled my imagination and ignited a passion for more. Naturally, movies became a companion to my love for comics. Storyboards used in film development reminded me of the storytelling in comics, where narratives unfold through moving images. Regarding early influences in comics, it was primarily the writers who left a mark on me. I have to mention luminaries like Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Frank Miller and Alejandro Jodorowsky. They bring a depth to the mythology and stories that I often find lacking in comics. 

In the world of film, the list of influences is almost endless, including names like John Carpenter, Akira Kurosawa, Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, George Lucas, and Stanley Kubrick for epic world building through moving pictures. Additionally, Terry Gilliam, David Cronenberg, and David Lynch for their surreal, macabre uniqueness, which lingers like a life-changing dream. I also hold Joe Dante and Joss Whedon in high regard for their brilliant fusion of comedy and horror, a personal favorite genre of mine. For sheer originality of spirit, I admire Nicholas Ray, Federico Fellini, Spike Lee, Guillermo Del Toro, Quentin Tarantino, Walter Hill, and Alfonso Cuarón. And, of course, TV creator legends like Gene Roddenberry and Rod Serling helped shape and inspire my imagination. ;-)

Q2: Your latest project eJUNKY is set in the year 2055, a dystopian future where technology has taken a stranglehold on society. The protagonist is Hector Holmes, a former investigator and eJunky. What was the process like developing the character of Holmes? Was Holmes always intended to be the main protagonist? What makes him so compelling that you had to center the story around him compared to the other cast of characters?

NT: Hector was always meant to be the central protagonist, although in a more conventional narrative, his brother Alex might have taken the lead, with Hector playing a supporting role in Alex’s story. (Who knows, that might become another comic!) When I started developing Hector’s character, I glimpsed a person in pain, addicted to experiences he could barely control, which were slowly destroying his life. However, I was aware that something in Hector’s backstory drove him to be masochistic. My process of discovering Hector’s past was similar to his role as an alternative reality investigator within the story. I gradually unraveled what had happened to Hector through my writing. What makes Hector the most interesting character to me is his raw, iconoclastic, masochistic spirit. It propels him to seek out experiences that most people would fear to confront, which adds to his appeal. He’s not like his older brother, Alex, who adheres to the rules. In many ways, Hector straddles the line between hero and villain, which further enhances his complexity. He’s the ultimate antihero, and his willingness to risk his life to rectify past wrongs also makes him sympathetic.

Q3: When developing eJUNKY, what was the development process like? How many years was this series in the making?

NT: Originally, I hadn’t intended it as a comic or graphic novel. To be honest, I thought it might be too expansive and intricate. It seemed that much of what I was reading at the time was rather superficial. While there were a few grander concepts, they often lacked well-developed characters. eJUNKY is layered with complexity that could engage a discerning reader for weeks, provided they take the time to explore it fully. However, if someone were to read it casually while flipping through their smartphone, bouncing between social media platforms, or watching streaming shows, they might either become confused or miss the essence of the story. I hope that eJUNKY will captivate more thoughtful readers over time, aided by publicity and interviews like this one. In truth, the concept of eJUNKY initially began as a novel, but I struggled to commit the time required to finish it in that format. Instead, I opted to write a screenplay. 

   After about thirty drafts, I edited the script to the point where it was a semi-finalist in the Stage 32 New Blood contest. Unfortunately, I couldn’t secure the funding to turn it into a movie. People in Hollywood’s development circles kept stating that it was a big-budget project and that it was challenging to move forward without big-name stars or significant financial backing. They suggested I adapt it into a comic because that might provide a better avenue for it to become a movie or TV series. Given my previous success with my comic Hell’s Kitty, which became a movie and a musical, I decided to give it a try. I knew it would take several years to develop into a comic, but after pitching it to Don Handfield at Scout Comics, he embraced the idea. The more I considered it, the more I realized that eJUNKY was best suited as a graphic novel. Science fiction lends itself well to the graphic novel format because the artwork can vividly bring futuristic elements and technology to life. By interspersing prose chapters within the panels, I was also able to incorporate futuristic advertisements and enrich the world-building with details about other characters, which would have been more challenging to achieve with a traditional novel. Three years later, we were ready for publication!

Q4: What were some of the challenges when creating eJUNKY? And what made Scout Comics the perfect publisher for this series to be distributed?

NT: One of the major challenges was the complexity of the story. It’s filled with numerous twists, turns, and high-tech elements that can be quite intricate for casual readers. Many contemporary comics tend to focus on relatively straightforward concepts or draw inspiration from well-trodden themes. This is because such approaches have proven to be successful, and people are willing to pay for familiar stories. It’s akin to a soap opera; once readers connect with an idea, character, or world, they keep returning for more, rather than exploring new, uncharted territories. This means that most publishers often prioritize the development of stories that are variations on existing ideas, which essentially offer a fresh spin on familiar narratives. I did initially take eJUNKY to another publisher but they were sluggish during the pandemic. Consequently, I approached Scout Comics. I had previously met Don Handfield at Digital Hollywood, where we were both part of separate panels. Don is not only a partner at Scout but also a producer. I was impressed by his vision for the story and his enthusiasm for its potential beyond comics. Scout Comics was willing to take a chance on something new, recognizing that it’s the only way to stand out amidst the plethora of content available. In a world awash with mediocrity, being truly unique is essential to garnering attention. The rest, as they say, is history in the making.

Q5:  What was the collaborative process like working with illustrator Kyle Faehnrich, and the rest of the creative team on this series? There are concepts within this series such as N.R.D’s (Nerve Reading Devices) and Emo-Regs that regulate emotions and pain. What were some of the inspirations for this world? 

NT: Working with Kyle (the artist) was a fantastic experience. His art style is as unique as the story and this made for a great partnership. Kyle eagerly embraced the project from inking to coloring, lettering, and beyond. Even after completing the primary panels, he continued to contribute by designing futuristic advertisements and creating all the layouts and artwork for the interchapters. His style aligned perfectly with the tone of the story, possessing a gritty, horror vibe and a sense of punk rock originality that helped the narrative stand out.

Q6:  There are concepts within this series such as N.R.D’s (Nerve Reading Devices) and Emo-Regs that regulate emotions and pain. What were some of the inspirations for this world? 

NT: In addition to running my production company, I’ve spent over twenty years as an IT consultant, including bio-tech experience. Furthermore, I have a child with a life-threatening illness, which often keeps her in the hospital and necessitates extensive research. The technology in eJUNKY, like the N.R.D.s and Emo-Regs, is based on developments I know are being explored. For instance, the N.R.D.s bear some resemblance to MIT Media Lab’s Dormio project, which interfaces with dreams. The National Library of Medicine has research on emotional regulation technology. The drugs administered by the Emo-Regs subcutaneously, which regulate dopamine and serotonin, are similar in function to contemporary antidepressants and other medications. Tools for monitoring heart rate and EEGs (which read electrical activity in the brain) have advanced significantly, and I’ve witnessed their use as a parent of a child with severe epilepsy. Combining all these elements led to the concept of the Emo-Reg. In a society driven by a desire to escape pain, suffering, and reality (a multi-billion dollar industry encompassing pharmaceuticals and escapist entertainment), imagining such technology in our future doesn’t seem far-fetched.

Q7: Given the current state of technology, what are some of the hopes and fears that came to mind when crafting the concepts of this world that Hector Holmes inhabits? 

NT: One of the prevailing concerns is that, in our quest to eliminate all pain and suffering, we may inadvertently forget how to truly live. As a society, we could become so focused on survival that we end up destroying ourselves and our planet. Of course, this is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek observation, but it does carry a degree of seriousness. In sincerity, there is ample evidence that drug abuse, addiction to escapist entertainment, and the obsession with altering our world to control our experiences rather than confront our fears, demons, and pain are hindrances to personal growth. It’s essential to learn how to sit with pain and suffering, explore why we dislike certain things or people, and even better, transform negative circumstances into opportunities for compassion and wisdom. Pain and suffering can facilitate the development of qualities that define sentient beings, particularly our ability to empathize with others and show love. They can also serve as potent motivators. Without pain and suffering, what sort of world would we inhabit? There would be no blues music, for instance. As a professional musician, I believe a world without blues music would be shallow and devoid of meaning. That’s the core message of eJUNKY.

Q8: Despite the story being set in a futuristic world set years ahead of modern times, there are themes you touch upon such as augmented reality, addiction, ideological conflicts, and redemption. Given the rise of A.I., corporate monopolies, economic crisis, civil unrest, and concerns of the future, When writing this series, what came to mind that you wanted to reflect through this series as a mirror to readers? 

NT: The prevailing message I sought to convey is that while knowledge is indeed powerful, wisdom lies in the ability to employ knowledge in ways that bring inner peace and alleviate anxiety. Knowledge alone often falls short and can even exacerbate problems. The age-old stories of Adam biting the apple of knowledge, leading to his expulsion from the Garden of Eden, or Prometheus stealing fire and facing punishment from the gods, reflect the ancient understanding that knowledge carries pain and suffering. As we become conscious of the fact that everything we do will ultimately be forgotten, and everyone we love will eventually pass away, this awareness can be emotionally burdensome. Most of our pursuits in life serve as distractions from this realization. The more we know, the more anxious we tend to become, driving us to seek various forms of anesthesia. This is the world I fear we are living in. Personally, I prefer to find coping mechanisms that foster inner peace. Our current society appears to lack this balance. Our aversion to the controlling and divisive aspects of religion, combined with the scientific revelations that have eroded faith in cosmic or spiritual elements beyond our five senses (despite ongoing discoveries that expand our understanding of the universe), has driven us to seek solace in materialism. However, material possessions alone cannot provide lasting peace; they often lead to more suffering. eJUNKY presents two contrasting approaches: one seeks to use technology to eliminate pain and suffering, while the other believes that true fulfillment arises from spiritual growth achieved by facing and embracing pain and suffering.

Q9: Given that this series is based in a dystopian future, where do you see the future of technology and society going? Pros and cons? 

NT: At its worst, I fear that technology will continue to lead us toward lives filled with meaningless activities and distractions. At its best, technology could enable us to cure diseases like cancer and various genetic disorders, potentially extending our lifespans. The critical question remains: how will we fill the additional time gained? Will we indulge in even more games and escapist entertainment, further depriving our lives of depth and introspection? Or will we harness that extra time to nurture our minds, not just our brains, and become wiser, more compassionate, loving, patient, and less self-centered individuals?

Q10: What projects down the pipeline should readers keep an eye out for? Where can they find your work and stay up to date? 

NT: In addition to writing both a prequel and sequel to eJUNKY, I’m currently in early development on an action-packed science fiction comedy horror project I wrote titled Hillbillies vs. Alien Chickens! I’m actively seeking an illustrator to collaborate with, but the scripts are ready, and I’m excited to see it come to life. It’s more akin to my previous work, Hell’s Kitty, which falls within the comedy horror genre. Additionally, I’m in the process of writing a middle-reader novel that offers a unique take on the superhero genre, infused with humor and originality. As a producer and director, I’m working on a film about the first Black U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Joycelyn Elders, known as “The Condom Queen.” I’m also heavily engaged in creating music videos and composing new songs for my Spotify station under my full name: Nicholas Tana.

To stay updated on my work and ventures, I recommend visiting my production company’s website,, or my personal website, Given the diverse nature of my projects, you’ll quickly discover that I thrive on keeping things interesting. You could say I’m an “experience junky” (eJUNKY)! ;-)

By Anthony Andujar Jr.

Anthony Andujar Jr. is an NYC cartoonist and lover of comics and music. So much so that it led him to writing comic book reviews in between it all.