Last week I was given the amazing experience of getting to meet Paul Louise-Julie, author of The Pack and creator of the shared universe of Aya. within 5 minutes of talking with Paul It was clear to me that he was really passionate about what he does and the stories he tells. I got to sit down with him and talk about all the projects he had lined up for his second phase of stories. Our conversation went as follows:
What makes the stories you tell different from other writers?
I have this process of building them that is similar to planting a seed and letting it grow. I like to refer to my stories as “Organic”. You take this idea, then let it grow and soak into any other inspiration. This can sometimes take weeks or months. Once I have a concrete idea, I work it like putty. So to answer your question, my stories come from my subconscious. I give them time to separate from myself. That way, I can be the spectator and storyteller. The stories themselves are constantly growing and are stylistically very different from the mainstream. Aesthetically, I try to pull my stories from outside of western culture, we need diversity to highlight the value of the property. This isn’t just a question of seeing yourself in a superhero roster, but rather seeing new ideas. People nowadays are so multifaceted that we jump from one interest to another. As creators, we have to find a way to stimulate the senses in rotation. It helps formulate the character in a way that they are built by the society around them.
Moving onto Yohance, what is the meaning behind the name?
It actually originates from the Hausa culture and just so happens to be my middle name! I wanted to go with Yohance because it’s just so personal to me. I really wanted to bridge that part of myself to my work. Most people don’t know this, but this is the realization of my dream since I was 7 years old.
I noticed a new poster on the Facebook page! What’s that about?
I was originally going to release a 35 page prequel of Yohance for free, followed by a a kickstarter at the end of the year. I’m still doing that except now, the story has gotten bigger with more content. So it will be split into to two parts, 25 pages each and released 2 weeks from each other. Part 1 will be free as promised and released on Comixology, iBooks, Kindle, and Google Play with Part 2 being released 2 weeks after on the same platforms for $4.99.
Tell us about the color palette in Yohancé.
It’s interesting you ask that because in some parts of Africa, people like their bright colors while others enjoy more earthy tones. For Yohance, I was very inspired by the sunset, paradisiac hues of 80’s-90s Sci fi classics such as Blade Runner or Fifth Element. Paying close attentions to that aesthetic was important. You will also notice in Yohance a characteristically African aesthetic of minimalism that I tried to maintain.
What kind of Character is Yohance? I know he’s a thief, but is he an honorable
thief, like a Han Solo type or something else entirely?
Well let’s just say there’s a reason he’s called the “Monkey”. They’re crazy and unpredictable and that’s very much what Yohance is. He can be very selfish. When I say that I mean he doesn’t care about how his actions affect others. He has all these great talents but only uses them for himself and not the greater good. He does have a lone-cowboy streak but I can’t divulge whether or not that changes. All I can say is he’s not your typical anti-hero.
So he’s not a good guy or a bad guy?
I like going in and creating characters that are Three-Dimensional and complex. I then put that character in tandem with another character and see how they interact. At that point you have a conflict which in turn furthers the story allowing the reader to see the character evolve. I always say that I don’t create “heroes” or “villains” – I create characters and conflict. Then I simply let the story play out as it would. Pre-defining a good guy and a bad guy from the start to me is very limiting – even boring.
Let’s move onto your shared universe of Aya, why are shared universes valuable in this day in age?
One of the many things the Marvel Cinematic Universe does well is how it mixes many different Genres into one world. Take Captain America: The Winter Soldier for example, I didn’t see it as a superhero movie but instead as a spy/thriller. You can have all these different genres fall under the same umbrella. They’ve literally diversified the superhero portfolio. What I tried to do was to tell different stories within the same world and make it believable. The world itself changes through different stories. For example, if you want a steampunk story but do not want to leave the world of Aya, there’s the Voor Saga. I have a platform that allows me to do just that while also connecting to my other stories. So when they leave that story and read another, they still have that connection to the one they just enjoyed. There’s something for everyone!
Why did you decide to Self Publish these stories?
I cannot stand when you have non-creative Executives who are calling the shots just because they have money. Their only concern is to make money or sell toys & merchandise. That’s exactly what happened with Batman Forever or Batman and Robin – they stop caring about story focused on alternate ways to make profit. I wanted to avoid that conflict of interest entirely.
Tell me about your “Green Screen” method, I have never heard of that being used in a Comic Format.
I like to think that I developed this technique. I don’t know if it’s ever been used in Mainstream comics, but it’s essentially the same idea as Hollywood Green Screen. Basically, you fully render your main elements on one layer (Characters, props, etc) then composite that onto a background generated by a pre-designed Matte Painting. This allows the same consistency and detail from panel to panel, bolstering that cinematic feel.
How has the process of creating The Pack change throughout the years?
The first two issues of the Pack were drawn and inked traditionally then scanned and inked digitally. That process quickly became too strenuous due to the workload so I eventually bought a tablet to centralize production digitally. there was definitely a learning curb at first. It was very hard to getting accustomed to the technology and the process reminded me of that scene in Man of Steel where he’s learning to fly. It stared with a few high jumps and hard falls but he eventually got a hang of it. That’s exactly happened in The Pack Issue 3 and now Yohancé.
You have Indian Heritage as well, are you open to telling Stories about India?
I am. Thanks to my mother, my Indian heritage is also a major part of my identity. It’s such a rich and beautiful culture coupled with an equally fascinating history. You know, it’s funny… I was actually asked this question by my mother. I had recently unveiled the Children’s books I had planned for Phase 2, Ti Coco, Banjo Girl, and The Lost Prince. The concept behind them was to familiarize my newborn son with his rich Creole, African, and African-American heritage. So she asked if I would do the same for his Indian Heritage. So that sparked a few ideas and I have every intention of exploring that in Phase III. More than likely it would be a combination of Children’s books and Graphic Novels. Midas Monkee is very much an international company.
Lets talk about the Children’s Books.
As I mentioned before, the concept of Children’s Books came because my firstborn son’s impending arrival in may. Words cannot express how excited I am to finally meet him. It was around Issue 3’s production when I found out we were going to have a son. It’s amazing how quickly my perspective on things shifted. I thought to myself: “What kind of images and cultures would he be introduced to first?”. Well the answer would be Children’s Books. I knew I wanted something on the same level of quality as the bestsellers on the market but simply relating to his heritage.
So there is Ti Coco, which will represent his Creole heritage and Banjo Girl which explores his Mother’s North Carolina African American heritage. There will also be The Lost Prince, which takes place in Aya and follows a lost Mande prince in the desert trying to get home.
What can you tell us about the Voor Saga?
The Voor Saga is me touching base with another part of my heritage and that of most people in the African Diaspora. The Saga tells the epic tale of Azané, a young Senufa Prince who gets caught up in a sinister slave trade, whisking him on a fantastic and sometimes scary adventure. It’s a layered Novel with complex undertones, touching on themes such as corporate greed’s link to racism while exploring the world of Aya.
So is Azane privileged?
Absolutely. He’s the Crown prince to Wealthiest Merchant Kingdom in Western Aya. Being thrust into this new and horrific world will not only transform him but redefine his purpose.
When you think of Dwarves you think of the LOTR dwarves, what made you design them this way?
Man, these guys were tricky. I had been workshopping them for years. It kept coming around to the same problem: you can just color them Black and say “Oh, African Dwarves!” It just kept looking awkward. During my research, I stumbled across some Bakongo fetish Statues and it hit me: “Why not just use these!”. That epiphany kickstarted the design process for the Ayan Dwarves, inspiring myself from various cultures such as the Songye along the way. The idea to make them out of wood came when I didn’t want to lose the Sculpted nature of the Bakongo fetishes.
Kush and Candace:
Kush and Candace are the first in a line of Mini-series I’m doing called “Monarchs of Aya”. Kush takes place 600 years before The Pack. So not only do I get to show a different age of Aya but also how certain things began and setup things you’ll find in The Pack. Kush goes through a very interesting story arc. He has to overcome much in order to be the legendary Leader his people need him to be and eventually the founder of the Nubian Empire. I would say that many of his stories were heavily influenced by the Bible. Years later, we find the story of Candace.The last descendant of Kush, she is forced into exile with her mother after her father is murdered by her half brother. They take refuge in the mountains and are welcomed into the Halls of the Dwarf King. Candace’s story follows how she must embrace her lineage and reclaim the Throne of Kush for the sake of her people.
To end off, how can Pages like Geeks of Color help writers of colors get their work out there?
We have to encourage people to start this movement. Instead of just sharing something on
Facebook or retweeting it on Twitter, buy it. Buy It, Review it, Rate it then Share it.
All these steps are important:
Buy It: To support the creators. Every dollar counts. Better content always takes more time. You have situations were artists would work hard for months but when their final product is released, it’s disappointing because they don’t get the immediate support from their fans. Buying a piece of work right away allows them make ends meet. Most aren’t asking to be rich, they love what they do and just want to create content while making ends meet. Wealth comes later. By you supporting them, they can keep providing you with content. Regardless of it being digital, don’t wait for the Kickstarter simply because you “prefer print”. In most cases, the only way an independent publisher can survive is through digital publishing. They need to survive in that time before the Kickstarter can even happen.
Rate It: If you’re an independent publisher, 9 times out of 10 you’re publishing online. Whenever you rate a book, that comic or books gets pushed to the top of the store and can even become just as, if not more popular than the latest Batman issue that just dropped.
Review it: Reviews are VERY important. They’re the first thing every online shopper looks at. That’s how they determine whether or not a product aligns with their taste and standards. When you put so much time and hard work into something, a 5 star rating doesn’t cut it. You want to know what touched them -what they liked or didn’t like. That validation helps justify to others that it was worth the purchase. Especially, since most of the time, that purchase doesn’t exceed $7 – the amount you’d spend at Starbucks anyway!
If you want to see representation you have to support it.
Share it: After you’ve bought, rated, & reviewed it, the last step is spreading the word. Exposure for independent publishers is very expensive, so it’s up to the fans to help the writer give their work exposure! Most of us don’t have marketing budgets so our publicity relies entirely on the fans.
If all four of these things are done, you will begin to see many quality products from people.
Talking with Paul for 3+ hours about his work, star wars and the marvel cinematic universe was an amazing experience for me. If you’re interested In his work you can find The Pack Issue 3 Here:
Google Play: http://buff.ly/1SaGRt5