If there’s one thing we love about an idea like the creators of Vault Comics hit series Wasted Space interviewing each other, it’s the deep and personal insight readers can gain from seeing two pros with a strong working relationship discussing their craft with each other. If there’s another thing we love it about, it’s that they’ve done our job for us and all we have to do is post the article. But if there’s one thing we don’t like about, it’s that they may be better at our job than we are! What do they even need us for?! Nevertheless, writer Michael Moreci and artist Hayden Sherman sat down for in-depth interviews with each other, and you can read both below.
First up, Sherman interviews Moreci:
If there’s anything I know about you, it’s that you enjoy yourself some good science fiction. What’s the first sci-fi thing you remember engaging with that made you fall in love with the genre?
This is very true—sci-fi is my bread and butter. My passion. Always will be. As for as introductions for, there’s this little sci-fi film that spoke to me as a kid—it’s called Star Wars. You’ve probably heard of it?
Kidding, of course. Everyone knows Star Wars, and everyone who knows me knows I love the galaxy far, far away more than anything. But! Now, this is crossing into blasphemy, but it wasn’t first encounter with sci-fi. That belongs to…
I was two; my parents took my brother and I to a drive-in, and the first movie of the double feature was Wrath of Khan. That’s my first sci-fi memory and my first movie memory.
On top of that love of genre stories, what drew you to write comics?
Having comics around the house was a big part of my love of comics—my mom worked in a toy store (Child’s World) when I was a kid, and she’d always bring home remaindered comics. Just there random issues packed together, and they made no sense together. They were out of order, DC and Marvel alike. But I loved them. I fell in love with the medium, and that’s stuck with me forever.
WASTED SPACE is such a good title name. It fits in so many ways. This isn’t a very probing question, but how stoked were you when that title was arrived at?
VERY. I’m terrible at titles. I swear, it took me longer to come up with a title for Black Star Renegades than it took to write the damn novel. But Wasted Space was a breeze—it came together as fast as the story itself. Both of which never happen for me. So this book must be fate!
Wasted Space feels very well fleshed out, how long did you spend building this story/world before it went into production?
Weirdly, not long. I swear this never happens, but the entire story came to me—like, all of it—in one day. Christmas day, and I was hopped up on cold medicine because I was so sick but needed to get through it for my kids. I was driving to my in-laws, sick, tired, and pissed, when the story struck me like lightning. I mean, it’s evolved since then, but I had it all in a crazy short amount of time.
Every issue of Wasted Space has such a satisfying balance of humor, action, character development, and plot moving going on in it. How do you navigate creating that balance?
Well, I like to think it’s because I know stories well, and I think (hope?) I do. How they function, how they work, etc. And I’m adhering to those principles a bit, but I’m also subverting them, and my subversions come through just doing the things I want to do. I think—in fact, I know—that Wasted Space is me and my most natural. Writing fun, writing humor, writing crazy shit and big action, it’s what I do best. So, I think I’m able to follow my instincts pretty well and zig and zah in places where maybe I’d normally follow convention.
The characters throughout Wasted Space each have very clearly defined ways of speaking, making every time they interact a lot of fun. How do you go about finding your character’s voices? And once you’ve found them, is there anything you do to help yourself stick to them?
Going off what I said above, I feel like I know these characters so well. I know who they independently, and I know who they are to each other. So getting them in a room or even paired up, I can hear their voices really easily. I know what they want, where they’ve been, and what drives them. With that in mind, it’s really easy to hear their voices because I know how they’d react to any given situation—and characters react best when placed in extremes; Wasted Space is nothing of not a series of extremes.
22 pages isn’t a whole lot of time to make an “episode” in a series. With so much to do in each issue, do you end up leaving any favorite moments on the cutting room floor?
You know, I have how some comics write for the trades. I mean, in a sense, that’s inevitable. Trades should be contained stories. But nothing more dissatisfying than reading 20, 22 pages of a comic, putting it down, and thinking “nothing happened, what did I just read?” And that happens waaaaay too often in comics, in my opinion. My approach is to jam as much shit as I can in there, and that’s with story and visually. I want to go to new places, see new characters, encounter new things. I mean, that’s part of the fun of sci-fi, right? But it’s also a means to make each individual issue feel unique from the rest, and it gives the sense that something’s actually happening.
When writing, I always seem to get stuck wondering “how much exposition is too much exposition? How much is to little?” All of the information in Wasted Space is given in a way that feels entirely accurate to the characters delivering it. How the hell do you do that?
I have no idea. I feel like the characters in Wasted Space—Billy, in particular—have word diarrhea most of the time. But, you know, it comes down to delivery. I think you can get away with exposition in dialogue—I mean, you have to. It just depends on how you do it. The beauty of Wasted Space is you have these colorful character who are talking about bullshit as much as they are about the story itself. It’s a balance. And in that, you like to hear them talk. You enjoy it. But if you’re not giving some flavor to the story with dialogue, if it’s just people talking about the story itself and nothing else, then it feels like info dumps. And info dumps are bad.
Wasted Space deals a good amount with religion, and specifically the grimy side of those who take advantage of it or become disenchanted with it. I was raised Christian, myself, and have long since left that faith for a variety of reasons, a number of which you address within Billy. I’m curious, were there any personal experiences you had with faith that led to this depiction of religion?
Well, I was raised Catholic, but I’m not an active member of the church anymore. So, that certainly plays a role. And while religion is central to the story itself—and the overarching theme—I want the message to be about systems of control in general. Politics, religion, romantic relationships, family—there are so many things that keep individuals in line and controlled, and that’s a big part of Wasted Space. Maybe the biggest. And every character is experiencing the exertion and stress of that control, which is what I want. Wasted Space, ultimately, is about finding your best self on your own terms—understanding who you are, coming to terms with your noble tendencies and your flaws, and freeing yourself from the world’s relentless bullshit.
You recently had your super cool novel Black Star Renegades come out, and I’d imagine there’s a good deal different between writing a comic script and writing a novel. What are some of the advantages/disadvantages to these two different forms of storytelling that you found while working in them?
Well, the main advantage of comics is working with stupendous artists like you, my friend. And I mean that. But they are very, very different beasts, and I love them both for different reasons. I love novels for the solitude, but I miss the ability in comics where, panel to panel, as much of the story is happening in the cracks between; I miss that movement. Novels, you can’t really do that; you have to either lay it all out or find a way to fudge details. But I love how novels are made in completion—you sit down and you do it, start to finish. Comics, you have these tremendous gaps, and sometimes you go back to writing a series, and you’re like “what the hell am I writing again?” But both—I love them both, and I’m so lucky to be able to work in both mediums.
Are there any other genres you’re currently chomping at the bit to try your hand at?
Hmmmm…not really, because I’ve been lucky to do a good many things in my career. I just covered the spy tradition in my novel The Throaway, and I’ve done horror with Curse and Burning Fields. (I have a new horror series, with Tim Daniel, coming in 2019, in fact!)
I’d like to somehow build a massive sci-fi superhero universe, like a Marvel cosmic thing. That would be awesome. But, otherwise, I’m happy telling my sci-fi stories and making the most of them.
If you could adapt, or expand, any story from another medium into a comic what would you choose?
Carnivale! Most people are probably saying “Huh?” right now, but Carnivale was this show on HBO in the early 2000s, and it was amaaaaaazing. It ended on a cliffhanger, and I’ve been wanting to tell that story forever. Also—Last Starfighter. And Krull. And maybe turn some Jo Clayton novels into comics. And..there’s a lot. A lot.
If you could have an action figure of any one Wasted Space character, who would you want? My vote is for a 12 inch tall Legion.
THAT would be the best. Maybe a plush Dust? You know, so you can snuggle you favorite Fuq bot all night long.
If you were a replicant, do you think you’d know?
Nope. And I wouldn’t want to!
And lastly, I listen to a lot of audiobooks while I work, what would be your top recommendation for a sci-fi book for me to grace my ears with?
I love Old Man’s War. Scalzi writes in such a casual, conversational way, and it really lends itself to audio. Great book, great audio recording.
But don’t leave yet! Now our guests switch places as Michael Moreci interviews Hayden Sherman! But first, a gallery of Sherman’s covers for Wasted Space #1-5:
Every article must have a visual element is what our editors keep telling us. We’ll bet Moreci and Sherman didn’t know that. Ha! Still useful after all!
So, you’re an art wizard. Tell me what that’s like.
Seriously, Hayden—the world of Wasted Space is so robust and detailed and insanely cool. I love every page.
(And people reading this, you should know—Hayden brings SO MUCH to this book; much of what you see, that is all Hayden).
So, tell me, how do you keep coming up with these fresh designs? Is your brain just exploding with visual ideas?
Man, Art Wizard would be such a great occupation. It’s funny, a lot of the designs for Wasted Space don’t make any sense to me until I’ve drawn them. In fact at first on this book I’d created a couple sheets worth of alien designs to anchor myself back to, so that the population of the galaxy would look diverse, but with a consistent element that comes from having a limited amount of species in existence. I use that reference less and less now though. Now I’ll be drawing a scene and think “what if this guy was covered in eyes and needles?” and then I’ll figure out how to make it work. Most of the designs are really spur of the moment in that way, which I think helps keep the book from feeling stagnant.
Tell me about your art background. When did you start drawing? When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
Shhoooo….I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t drawing. When I was really little, I’d set a sheet of paper and a comic side by side and try to copy the comic drawing until I got pretty close. I did that a bunch. Even though I was just copying, it was so cool to realize that in some way I could do what those artists were doing. From there I made characters of my own and so the story goes.
As for knowing I wanted to be an artist, I feel like I first really knew in high school. I’d always drawn up to that point, but it was always just for me, the idea of it being any sort of job hadn’t clicked. Anyhow, in high school when I was busy slacking off and being an idiot, my art teacher was relentless in pushing me to do more and better. She’d call my home and make sure I was drawing! She helped me realize that I could become part of this thing that I loved if I just put in the time and decided to make it happen. Mrs. Janak’s the best.
And how did you become passionate about comics?
Movies were my gateway, oddly enough. I was introduced to Batman through the Burton/Schumacher movies and fell completely in love. From there I just wanted more, and comics has nothing if not MORE. I didn’t get to frequent comic shops as a kid, but I’d get trades or pickup issues from garage sales (a whole bunch of the Reign of the Supermen arc was a massive score) and I’d read what I could. But more than anything I’d look at the art, I’d read most of them solely through the art even. I loved how massive the stories could be, how personally they could be experienced, and the fact that they were drawn. They made me want to draw like nothing else, and still do.
Let’s talk about inspiration, because I see so many greats in you. Chaykin, Ronin-era Miller, to name a few. What artists speak to you, and what do you draw from them?
God there are so many I love. Frank Miller (especially with Klaus Janson inking him), Paul Pope, Mike Mignola, Tim Sale, Cam Kennedy, Mike McMahon, Sergio Toppi, and so many more. What I love about all of their work is how much they show their worlds and stories as they feel, without relying strictly on representation. They’re not sitting there thinking about how the anatomy has be “just so” or making certain all the windows are in a perfect line. That doesn’t matter. They’re focused on mood, on the world, and on making art that’ll transport the reader. It’s comics, a bunch of lines on paper, and they run with that to make incredible things you can’t see anywhere else. I @$#%ing love that.
In Wasted Space, how do you find the characters? Because every panel, you’re giving everyone such robust life. How do you go about making these characters feel so real?
Well, for starters, it helps that they speak in ways that feel incredibly specific and excellently characterized to begin with. To say it as a massive understatement: your writing rocks. When I look at the script I can pretty easily imagine how these characters move and carry themselves around each other. My aim is to always have their body language go hand-in-hand with their dialogue, so much so that even when they’re not speaking their body should continue that conversation of who they are. Which leads to fun stuff where I’ll think “oh Billy is absolutely buddying up with Dust right here” or “There’s no way Rex doesn’t use this chance to flip everyone off.” But that all comes from their excellent characterization in your scripts, man. I’m happy the art can carry that on.
I’m taking one of yours: If you could adapt, or expand, any story from another medium into a comic what would you choose?
Hell yeah! First, a Metal Gear Solid V comic, with the whole story in tact. Second, Metroid, it’s crazy to me that there hasn’t been a Metroid comic yet. And third, (run with me on this) so Joel Schumacher had a fifth Batman film planned, I dunno if there was a script or not, but I’d make that in a heartbeat. And yes, I’d play it straight up and keep the bat-nipples.
On your end, how long did it take you to develop the world of Wasted Space? Because, again, this is mostly you at work.
Actually not too long for me either. The whole thing came together pretty instinctively. From the beginning I knew I wanted to go for a “mid-budget 80’s sci-fi movie” style. Where the designs would be simple, but fun to look at, relying more on big clunky shapes than sleek detailed space-stuff. Since I was born halfway through the 90’s, and my dad raised me on movies like Alien/s, Bladerunner, 12 Monkeys, Wrath of Kahn, Star Wars, and the like, that style of rounded monitors, chunky equipment, and broken in space junk really IS sci-fi to me. It’s definitely what resonates with me most, so I had to bring it here!
And when you’re working on character designs, what do you do to get to know characters?
Uh oh, this might sound irresponsible. I only did one character sketch each for Billy, Molly, and Dust. Then I figured out how they’d move in the issue layouts. A lot of the characters felt so clear from the start that I could draw them once and be happy with the result. I did several variations to arrive at Legion (mostly messing with his eyes) but yeah, with a lot of the main characters there’s a feeling that I get from the script that translates real smoothly to the art. With side characters I try to world build a bit, since they can be more one-and-done anyways. Like with the Darkly, they were meant to be grizzly reptilian thugs, so I thought a race of snake aliens that piloted robot bodies would be fun. I definitely get to know them best through drawing them on the pages though.
Let’s talk process—first of all, do you work to music? Or just audiobooks? TV on or off?
I work to a lot of audiobooks and podcasts mostly. Recently I finished listening to the first three books of Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive (I could listen to that book’s narrator’s all day), and podcasts like the Adventure Zone. I wish I could work with TV or movies on, but it tends to slow me down. That being said…I 100% flew through the entirety of Clone Wars and Rebels last year while working, and it was glorious.
And with process, how much time does it usually take for you to finish a page, pencils and inks?
On Wasted Space, roughly 4 hours per page. Two hours to pencil, two to ink, less when I’m lucky. I draw them at print-size and aim to churn out 3 each day. I try to keep things quick and fun. Partially because that’s my temperament, but also because I think that sort of thing translates to the reader. Wasted Space is a bit messy, a bit reckless, but I think it gives it a fun charm.
If you could be one Star Wars character, who would it be?
Captain Rex! That guy makes it from the Clone Wars to the battle of Endor and beyond, and never loses himself or stops fighting. That’s the kind of resolve I’d want in that world. But if his mind isn’t available to be taken, then I’d happily take up residence inside R2-D2 and talk shit all day.
If you were plugged into the Matrix right now, would you know it? And if you did, would you want out?
I doubt I’d know. This Matrix just brought Star Wars back, gave me a Spider-man game, and a bunch of comics to make. So I’ve been plenty contented. But if I start seeing a bunch of Agent Smiths, then you can take me to Zion.
The collected edition of Wasted Space Vol. 1 hits comic stores on September 26th, and new issues of the ongoing series can be pre-ordered at your local comic book store or on the Vault Comics website. Wasted Space #5 is in stores now.
Wasted Space TP
(W) Michael Moreci (CA) Tim Daniel, Marguerite Sauvage (A/CA) Hayden Sherman
Billy Bane is a prophet who got it all wrong, and the galaxy has been burning ever since. All he wants is to waste away in the darkest corner of space with his best pal Dust, a supercharged Fuq bot. But when a new prophet comes calling, Billy is summoned to save the galaxy he’s at least partially responsible for destroying. Too bad he couldn’t care less. Michael Moreci (Roche Limit, Wonder Woman, Black Star Renegades) and Hayden Sherman (The Few, Cold War, John Carter: The End) have thrown Philip K. Dick in a blender with Preacher. Take a sip and get wasted.
In Shops: Sep 26, 2018