Justin: Not a lot different, honestly. It’s changed a bit from say, the first issue of the first series, but by the time we were on the backhalf of that series, we’d established a good working rhythm that has continued into this one.
We’re really, really fortunate that Tradd, Felipe and I think pretty similarly and have a lot of the same instincts for the story. So it’s made it really smooth because we’re usually mostly thinking the same thing at the same time. Beware the Luther Strode hivemind.
It has continued to get a bit more streamlined as time goes on, because of the above. The scripts are a little leaner, and Tradd and Felipe are adding and improvising a bit more because we’re all comfortable with each other now.
Tradd: I would say that things are working even more seamlessly now than they did before, but I don’t think our working process could be any more comfortable and organic than it already became while working on The Strange Talent! Working with these guys is pretty much all I know at this point. I kind of feel like I’m cheating on them when I collaborate with other folks, honestly. I mean, I do it anyway, but I feel dirty afterwards.
Felipe: I think that the longer you work together in a team, the easier the communication gets, there’s a lot of shortcuts and things that don’t need to be said, because you’re already used to how the other people work and what to expect.
2. How has your method of creation changed/evolved since the beginning?
Justin: Well, it continues to evolve all the time. I know that for this one, my outlining process was somewhat more detailed, and the story itself is different. You don’t want to stagnate, so I also had to keep an eye on not just retreading the same old same old we did in Strange Talent of Luther Strode. That, obviously, isn’t a problem I had to consider with the first one.
Tradd: I don’t think we’ve consciously changed anything about our process, but I do think that we’ve each become better at our individual duties since the beginning. Art is a constant growing process, so I feel like my work and process is shaping and evolving with every page I draw. It’s kind of trite, but I think the “practice makes perfect” idiom fits quite nicely here.
3. How do you keep the ideas for Mr. Strode fresh for yourselves after you’ve spent so much time working and creating him?
Justin: That part is mostly pretty easy, because this story grows pretty organically out of the first one. The real genesis of this was me looking at the plot for the first one and realizing that what I was writing was essentially a tragedy; Luther loses everything because of the decisions that he made, but you can’t see him making any other choices, because that is who he is.
But unlike a lot of tragic heroes, he doesn’t die. So I was wondering, what do you do after you lose everything. Who would Luther become after what happened in the last series. And that kept it fresh for me, because his circumstances are radically altered. And if he lives through this and we get to do another mini, his circumstances will have changed again.
On the other hand, one place where I did have to make a real effort to keep things fresh was in the violence. We were pretty careful, believe it or not, in parceling out the violence in the last one, and we wanted things to be bigger and bolder here without becoming gratuitous or too over the top.
Which is tricky, since a lot of people probably thought the first one was both gratuitous and too over the top. Fortunately, Tradd has an apparently inexhaustible imagination when it comes to new and interesting ways to kill people.
Tradd: Yeah, Justin pretty much nailed my thoughts on this one.
That said, even though I’ve spent a lot of time with the character, we’ve only released six issues. That isn’t much in the grand scheme of things, so he still feels really fresh to me.
Also, I just really like drawing fight scenes, so I’m having a blast.
4. What do you find is the most effective way to communicate as a team?
I mean, I’ve only ever heard Felipe’s voice twice, when we were recording a commentary podcast, and I never talk to Tradd except in person and via email, with the former being maybe a half dozen times this year.
The first issue was actually out and on stands before I ever spoke to Tradd in anything but email, largely due to neither of us being big phone guys, so the internet is pretty much our prime enabler there.
But again, this works in part because we are all mostly on the same page about most things, so the actual amount of communication needed is actually pretty minimal, although I do enjoy talking to both Tradd and Felipe.
Felipe: via very obscure encoded messages, disguised as classified ads in Organic Gardening magazine. I remember that Tradd once published an ad that read “Mikhail Dmitri Zhenya Boris”, which according to the codebook meant “In page 2, panel 4, please make the henchman a redhead”.
Tradd: Yep. What Felipe said.
Seriously, though, we’re all about the email. I don’t know that we’ve gone more than a couple days at a time without some sort of email discussion/update in almost… wow, almost two years now.
5. Is everybody a part of the story creation?
Justin: Yup. More so on this one. But Tradd and I knocked around a lot of the story elements when we were doing signings, and I always send notes and scripts to everyone to get feedback on how the story is going to go. A good idea is a good idea, even if it isn’t mine.