The creative team behind the Eisner-nominated Spera are back. Now, instead of high-fantasy, writer Josh Tierney and artist Afu Chan take readers to deep space in the futuristic world of HaloGen. Taking place on Cityship Q, a rebellious young woman named Rell is an outc st on her world, due to her special ability to cast holograms. When rumors of the body of a long dead god reappearing are circulating around the cityship, Rell is employed by the HaloGen organization to locate and bring it back.
Newsarama spoke to Tierney about HaloGen and the creative process behind it and what led to him working with Chan once more, as well as the visual inspirations behind it, the aspirations for it being an ongoing, and what he has after HaloGen has wrapped. He’s included a sneak peek at the second issue’s cover as well.
Newsarama: Josh, so it's been awhile since Spera and you're back at BOOM! with HaloGen so you're not a stranger to tough heroines. Tell us a bit about the world of HaloGen and Rell, your heroine.
Josh Tierney: I like to approach projects as my one shot at a particular genre, so HaloGen is made up of everything we love about sci-fi, with some ideas originating from back when I was a teenager. I've long wanted to write something set on a cityship, with the body of a dead god discovered in the depths of space. I also love sci-fi universes that feel endless, with potential to explore an infinite number of planets and see an infinite variety of alien creatures.
Rell became the connecting link for all these ideas we've had over the years. [Co-character designer] Giannis [Milonogiannis] first drew her as an unrelated sketch, and from there we decided to put her on the cityship, searching for the body of the dead god by traveling to different planets, meeting many aliens and robots along the way. We gave her the power to form holograms as another hook, inspired by shounen manga and superheroes.
Nrama: It seems science fiction as a genre is coming back pretty strongly as of late, but most of them are ongoings, why do you think HaloGen works better as a mini than extending to an ongoing?
Tierney: HaloGen is intended to be an ongoing series, but is being tested by BOOM! as a mini first. The idea is that Rell will discover a different piece of the dead space god in each arc. This mini is the story of that first piece.
We hope readers will give HaloGen a shot so that we can continue the series!
Nrama: You're working with Afu Chan here who is handling the art, his style would be considered "unconventional" by some and has a sort of Ron Wimberly mixed with Andrew MacLean, what was it about his style that you found fitting for the story?
Tierney: HaloGen wouldn't exist without Afu and Giannis -- it's a shared universe, featuring characters created by all three of us over the years. I feel Afu is the perfect fit for the first arc as many of the characters are of his own creation, and he knows how they work better than anyone.
Afu's art style is just incredible to me, with the right amount of detail and intensity, his interiors made richly atmospheric by the colors of Shelly Chen. His sense of design, in all aspects -- character, world, composition -- is some of the best out there right now.
If HaloGen gets picked up as an ongoing, Giannis will likely be the artist on the second arc, and I feel it would be fascinating to see his take on the world we've created together.
Nrama: The first issue has been out and I have to say, you waste no time getting to this story, why was that approach important for you?
Tierney: I've thought about why I like to just dive into the middle of story, in a world that feels preexisting, and I really think it might be because of how I've experienced entertainment throughout my life: if I decide to check out an issue in an ongoing comic series, it's usually whatever the most recent issue is; if I decide to check out a game series, it's because of whatever just came out; sometimes it's the same with novels, movies, TV, etc.
I greatly enjoy the feeling of being lost and having to piece things together as I go. There's an extra layer of mystery to a story that you're joining in after the proper introductions have come and gone. The characters feel more real to me because I'm just now joining them in the middle of their adventures -- in a way, it's like they have lives of their own. The worlds feel even more real to me for a similar reason.
We try to make sure readers feel comfortable enough when diving in with us.
Nrama: What was some of the visual elements you really wanted for HaloGen? Did you have a lot of sci-fi inspiration going in or were you trying to make something all your own?
Tierney: The look of HaloGen is largely defined by Afu and Giannis. We went back through their sketches and one-off illustrations to find characters to populate the world with. Most of my visual input is in the settings and backgrounds, which I like to write detailed descriptions for. The cityship is an example of that.
If we're talking general sci-fi inspiration, then, speaking for myself, here are some of the ingredients that are going into the writing: Metal Gear Solid, Zone of the Enders, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Ghost in the Shell, Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris, the stories of Philip. K. Dick, X-Men comics that take place in space, and shounen battle manga. I feel our influences can be pretty visible in each issue.
Nrama: Can you tell us about some of the collaboration process with your art team?
Tierney: It mainly amounts to collecting characters created by all three of us, then finding ways to fit them together in the same world. Some characters already existed, some are new and some are collaborations, where Afu will take something like a face sketch by Giannis and complete the design.
Afu has been drawing an alien band he created for years now, and in HaloGen #2 we open with that band performing a sold-out concert on the cityship. Taking all these characters and putting them into the story like this is one of the key aspects of the collaboration.
Nrama: When you went into creating characters, especially Rell, did you want more humanoid looking or was it just something that came organically? Especially when it came to her being a person of color.
Tierney: The core of Rell -- a woman with a tilted halo and futuristic outfit -- already existed as a sketch by Giannis. We passed around some ideas on her suit and how it functions, then Afu came in to refine those ideas and finish the design.
Nrama: How would you compare HaloGen to Spera in terms of story and structure?
Tierney: HaloGen is more focused in terms of advancing the plot. In Spera the characters are often wandering around, looking for adventures, with some adventures connected to the main plot and some not. We also have a single artist for each full arc of HaloGen, while Spera features a different artist in each chapter.
Nrama: After HaloGen is wrapped, what do you have else down the line fans should be on the look for?
Tierney: We're currently working on more Spera, as well as a massive, '80s-fantasy-inspired collaboration called Hunters, which features the phenomenal Miguel Valderrama as the main artist.