Jonathan and Joshua Luna made a name for themselves with a string of vibrant and complex creator-owned tales in the past eight years, from the likes of the super-heroic and scandalous Ultra to the virulent mystery of Girls to the modern sword-and-sorcery epic The Sword. But after wrapping up the latter in 2010, the Luna Brothers took a hiatus from comics to refocus and reforge their ambitions. Joshua came back into the spotlight at the beginning of the year with the Image series Whispers, and now brother Jonathan is back with his first solo endeavor.
Star Bright and the Looking Glass is an 80 page fairy tale picture book mixing prose text and full-page watercolor illustrations to tell the story of a winsome forest girl named Star Bright as she comes to know life, beauty and vanity through her animal friends and a scheming evil witch. Released at the tail end of November, Star Bright and the Looking Glass is the ambitious solo debut for writer/artist Jonathan Luna after years of working in tandem with his brother Joshua on books like Girls, Ultra and The Sword. This illustrated storybook isn’t actual comics, but using the similar method of telling a story with a juxtaposition of art and text makes it something fans of Luna, and fans of comics, would definitely have an interest in. Newsarama spoke with Jonathan about this backwoods fairy tale and his explorations of a new medium – watercolor – to give this story a visual life.Newsarama: Jonathan, what can you tell us about Star Bright And The Looking Glass?
Jonathan Luna: Star Bright and the Looking Glass is about a forest maiden whose beauty is stolen by an evil sorceress. She and her friends--Toad, Owl, and Capybara--journey to get it back. Beauty and narcissism are themes, but ultimately, this is a story about friendship.
Nrama: After winning over a lot of comic fans with your comics work like Girls, The Sword and Ultra, what led you to break from that and do this illustrated picture book?
Luna: I'm definitely not done with comics, but after doing six years of plot, pencils, inks, and coloring, I was so exhausted. After The Sword, I took a two-year sabbatical and worked on photography, film, and painting, all for fun. A lot of the themes I worked on was beauty and ethereal fantasy. I was planning on doing an art book, but realized I still wanted to work with a story element. I decided to do an illustrated book. This decision was definitely a surprise to me, as it also might be to others--I don't think I ever imagined myself doing a book like this. Especially by myself.
I was inspired by a lot of pop surrealism of the past few years. And there's the classic illustrated fairy tales in the early 1900s. I thought it would be fun to create something similar in this modern era.Nrama: Getting back to the book, it’s star is the titular Star Bright, a girl who grew up and was raised by forest animals. What can you tell us about her?
Luna: This book is practically a short story, so I have to be careful and not elaborate too much and ruin the story. Star Bright was raised in the forest, so she's a bit naive and out of touch. She lives a simple life, and, at least in the beginning of the story, is happy.
Nrama: Star Bright’s bucolic gets interrupted when she finds a staff with a looking glass on top which opens her up to physical and mental peril, from a sorceress and also her own ideas on beauty and vanity. First off, what does Star Bright have to fear from the Looking Glass?
Luna: Star Bright grew up not seeing many man-made objects. The Looking Glass is tall, dark, and foreign, so it intimidates her when she finds it. But she doesn't know what it does, at first.
Nrama: What does this evil sorceress want from Star Bright?Luna: The sorceress is known to be the ugliest woman in this world. When she finds Star Bright, she wants her beauty.
Nrama: Each of the 36 illustrations you did for this book weren’t done with computer color like people know you for, but going back to traditional watercolor. How’d you go about finding the right style and tone for this, and how’d you end up in watercolor?
Luna: This was a bit of a long process. I know how to apply color, but I didn't know how to use actual paint. During my sabbatical, I actually took a painting class to learn how. I used oil for the entire class, but realized later that I didn't want to lose line, which became obscured with the oil paint. I tried watered-down acrylic paint, but it was also obscuring. So I went with watercolor. It was tricky to use because it doesn't dry as fast as acrylic, and the paint still moved around if it was wet again. It was a bit frustrating and took some time to get used to, but the ability to revise was a good thing at times, too.
The choice of watercolor was also inspired by the fairy-tale books of the early 1900s. A lot of the artists then used it as well.Nrama: Correct me if I’m wrong, but this will be the first published work you’ve done all on your own, without a co-writer or co-artist. What’s that like for you?
Luna: You're correct. It was challenging because I was doing every single thing, and it's a lot of tasks for one person. Not different from my previous books with my brother Joshua, I did the plot, art, and book design, but this time I wrote it all. All said, it's also very gratifying to have such complete control. Every element of the book was created or decided by me, including the coating and weight of the paper. The only exception was the UPC code, but I even placed that on the book, myself.
Nrama: Could you see yourself doing more picture books and straight prose in the future?
Luna: I can. But I don't think that will be my next project. I'll reveal which medium I'll work in when the time is right.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!