This week, Boom!’s imprint Archaia released The Joyners in 3D – an original graphic novel that makes use of actual 3D from start to finish. Billed as "a story of personal betrayals, industrial intrigue, and sexual desire in uncompromising and visually impeccable terms," this book promises to deliver more than just a gimmick-driven reading experience but some a substantive narrative as well. Newsarama had the chance to talk with writer, R.J. Ryan (Syndrome), artist David Marquez (Ultimate Comics: Ultimate Spider-Man, All-New X-Men, Syndrome)and Tara Rhymes (who provided 3D conversion assistance to Marquez) to discuss some of the creative choices they made along the way.
Newsarama: Thanks for taking some time to talk once again about your upcoming book from Boom!-Archaia, The Joyners in 3D. In an earlier interview with Newsarama (available here) you mentioned that you"promised a genuinely sad story from the very beginning, "and that while you were "also are trying to craft something that [readers would] want to share with a friend, that will look nice in [their] home," the overall aim was to "stir a deeper emotional reaction than anything [they've] seen in 3D before."
So why go this route? Why leave readers with a "punch in the gut" at the end of this reading experience?
R.J. Ryan: It's the shape this story just had to take, and one that David and I agreed was the appropriate juxtaposition to what we both wanted from the book visually, which is this open, crisp, lighter-than-air quality to the pages and the actual cartooning. The work we talked about a lot with respect to this book is David Mazzucchelli's City of Glass, the comics adaptation of the Paul Auster novella, and that book similarly had a peculiar visual grammar that demanded a "not happy" ending for lack of a better term. I also happen to think that comics do "sad stories" as well as if not better than any other medium.
David Marquez: As much as we wanted the book to be a visual statement, we also wanted it to be something that would stick with the reader long after they've finished reading. I certainly didn't begin the process of creating the book thinking that I wanted to tell a sad story, but oftentimes the characters and the narrative kind of take control and lead you in the direction that they need to go. I thought Josh's script was beautiful and haunting and was excited to bring an art style that would pair and contrast well with that emotional weight.
Nrama: What inspired you to tell this story in the first place? Was there a specific "ah ha!" moment, did it come out of a conversation with David, or was this something you (Ryan) were working on over a period of time?
Ryan: The seed of The Joyners in 3D was figuring out what I would most want to see Dave draw over the course of months and years -- I love how he has his characters emote deeply using facial expressions and supremely recognizable body language. At the same time, Dave is a master designer, an experienced animator, and I wanted to present him with a story that would challenge him to build these incredible, transporting and immersive environments. So, the tension we're going for is big visuals vs. personal and emotional intimacy. Our discussions from there lead pretty organically to a story about a crumbling "family of the future."
Marquez: In early discussions, the story took a number of different shapes, and ultimately, I was really happy with the way things came together. We both knew from the outset that we wanted something that would contrast not only with the other titles on the shelves but also with what I was doing in my mainstream work. That led to the experimentation in terms of style and the attraction of using 3D . We were drawn to the creative and technical challenge of trying to do something that was so totally out of our normal wheelhouse.
Nrama: Speaking of narrative choices, what drew you to telling this story in 3D?
Ryan: So many things. It had never been done before with a totally original graphic novel of this length and thematic ambition. We knew some really interesting and ambitious 3D movies were on the horizon, stuff like Life of Pi and The Great Gatsby and Gravity. Clearly, stereo can be used to make challenging stories resonate more strongly. We had some confidence that Archaia would say 'yes' and that Dave could execute this on a technical level. We wanted to experiment with 3D as a storytelling tool -- and that meant writing the script "in 3D" even, making sure every panel had something going on in it that the stereo effect would enhance. And because of Dave's rising popularity at Marvel, we wanted to offer something you genuinely could not find in a four-dollar mainstream superhero comic.
Marquez: I'll confess to certain trepidation at the beginning about the idea of using 3D. So often, it's just been a gimmick that really doesn't add to it as the aesthetic or narrative strength of a work; it really is just something to try to get people to spend an extra dollar on a comic that really doesn't benefit from the application of the technique. But the more that I thought about it the more intrigued I was by the narrative and visual possibilities 3D could open up. In the end, I decided that the only way I'll be happy using 3D in the books is if I had complete control over it. At least that way if there were any mistakes, it would all rest on my shoulders and not because somebody else, talented though they may be, didn't have the same emotional or professional investment in the project as I did.
Ultimately, this is somewhat ironic as I ended up needing great deal of help with the 3D . While I was pleased with the technique I had developed, it was incredibly time and energy intensive. This is where Tara came in, streamlining the process and ultimately took on half of the 3D work. Her input and creative decisions were more than just an education for me, but elevated the book as a whole.
Nrama: Obviously, this isn't the first comic to use 3D. How then does The Joyners in 3D stand out from some of the other titles that have used this approach?
Marquez: Perhaps the most definitive guiding principle when approaching the 3D was not to give in to the temptation of the book being nothing more than a collection of "money shots." One of the things that I respond to most in 3D films is the subtle use of 3D in quieter, intimate scenes - drawing the audience into the moment with the characters on screen. We added the 3D to augment the entire reading experience, not just forcing elements up into the readers face. A great deal time and effort went into finding tasteful and subtle applications. As just a couple of examples, 3D really lends itself to creating a sense of space and depth and given the sky bound setting of our world in The Joyners in 3D, this is an obvious and really well-suited application of the technique. We also found the 3D let itself really well to interesting compositional possibilities, which informed much of how Tara and I approached the 3D.
Tara Rhymes: There are several aspects to the 3D employed in our book that make it unique from other 3D comics. Being devoted to the creative challenge of doing an all-3D, full-length graphic novel David did exhaustive research on how anaglyph (red-blue) 3D was historically done, and with modern tools created he a new process. I helped him refine this process and together we created a truly unique 3D style that employs volumetric depth, reduces eyestrain compared to older anaglyph 3D methods, and acts almost like a lens on a camera to give focal points in each panel. The 3D process was also not universally applied across the book. Each panel was meticulously and painstakingly modeled in 3D to compliment every panel's tone and to help draw readers into story narrative. Hundreds of hours and lots of teamwork went into the 3D to make The Joyners in 3D a truly immersive experience.
Nrama: Readers will likely pick up on strong influences from the manga format and more specifically, David Mazzucchelli's Asterios Polyps. What other works – comics or otherwise – informed both the narrative and artistic processes behind this original graphic novel?
Ryan: David Boring by Daniel Clowes for sure. But in talking about these books between Dave and myself the conversation is usually what NOT to do. The objective was to feel as strong and original, especially on the visual level, as City of Glass, David Boring or Asterios Polyp; and I like to think our book can appeal to readers who liked those stories.
Marquez: What's entertaining there is that the manga influence in particular ended up being entirely unintentional. Probably the most explicit point of reference in terms of the art style were Daniel Clowes' David Boring and Mazzuchelli, just like Josh said. Another influence especially in terms of finding art style that would suit the 3D application was Travis Charest's work in X-Men/Wildcats The Golden Age. While Charest is certainly one of my biggest influences in terms of my mainstream art, the tasteful use of gray tones he had begun experimenting with kind of planted the seed of an idea that ultimate resulted in what you see on the page with Joyners in 3D. And there were other influences: Disney, Bruce Timm, Darwyn Cook, and like you said, Manga. A lot of this, though, is only apparent in retrospect and wasn't necessarily planned.
Nrama: What would say was the most challenging aspect (or aspects) of bringing this book to readers?
Ryan: Getting the word out is hard because there are a lot of good comics being published right now. This is a new golden age, especially when it comes to independent comics. We knew we would face technical and even business challenges during production on a project this labor-intensive, but reminding people that the book exists and is coming is a huge, complicated task unto itself.
Marquez: Absolutely. I mean, I don't want to downplay the technical difficulty of creating this book. In addition to the 3 years of slow development taking us to the summer of 2013, Tara and I worked literally 18 hours a day for almost 3 months straight to get the art done in time for the rest of the folks in the pipeline to have time to do their jobs. And then there was a rigorous back and forth between us, our designer Jon, the publisher and the printer to fine-tune the final physical product. But that only takes us to September of last year. This is a challenging book that's very unlike the other comics that are available, and there is a TON of great material out there competing for the readers' eyes and hard-earned cash.
Rhymes: From my perspective, there were lots of technical challenges with creating the 3D effect as well as some post-production ones to get the 3D to look correct in print (like finding the right ink colors to best minimize “ghosting” effects.)
More broadly speaking, I think the fact that this project is so unique and designed more as an art object rather than a consumable serialized comic could potentially be challenging for distributors. In some ways, it could be seen as a risk because it’s a weird, arty project compared to mainstream comics. But that’s also what makes it significant.
Nrama: This book will be available for purchase in print copy, and it will include a pair of 3D glasses, correct? What about readers who want to experience the book in digital format? What will that reading experience be like? Will there be a need for 3D glasses for these readers as well or will it be reformatted in 2D?
Ryan: We've previewed a digital version of the book for press but our preference with this material is that it be experienced in print. We have no current plans for a digital version. The print version is the definitive version of this material and was personally proofed and overseen in its presentation by us. The book comes with two pair of 3D glasses, designed by Jon Adams (of citycyclops.com fame), in "his" and "hers" styles. It's a thick, heavy, handsome volume and we consider the tactile element of publishing as seriously as every other element.
Marquez: What he said.
Nrama: For comic readers and nonreaders alike who are on the fence, what's the one thing you would say to sell them on buying this book?
Ryan: Right from the start, we set out to make an involving and entertaining reading experience that hinges on a career-best performance by David, where you're seeing him designing, storytelling, conveying real emotion and pain. As a huge fan of Dave's comics for Marvel, I can guarantee this book is a must-have just on that level of appreciating the range and power this guy -- my friend and partner -- wields.
Marquez: Thanks man. But really, I think the biggest selling point of this book all stems from the story and the script that RJ put together. The Joyners in 3D is a story that resonates because of the universality of its themes. It speaks to our hopes and our dreams, and the consequences that sometimes arise as we reach for them.
Rhymes: Without risk, there are no rewards.
The Joyners in 3D hit newsstands and bookstores on February 19th and additional information can be found on the official Archaia website (here).