Robots versus humanity is a tale as old as time, as far as the science fiction genre goes, but a new comic book title called Wretches has a very personal origin.
Currently in its last days of a successful Kickstarter campaign, Wretches follows orphans Shea and Sean, growing up as each others' only friends amidst a galaxy ravaged by wars against aliens, fellow humans, and robots who rebelled against their masters when they gained sentience. For writer James E. Roche, it’s a story that found its inspiration in his own family’s past when his mother died in her early 40s.
With Wretches #1 scheduled to debut in June, Newsarama talked with Roche along with artist Salomon Farais about this new sci-fi story that modernizes some classic tropes of the genre while bringing to life a very personal story.
Newsarama: James, what is Wretches about?
James E. Roche: Wretches is a sci-fi tale about a sister-brother duo, Shea and Sean, who are both struggling to deal with their traumatic past. With nothing in the galaxy but each other they were forced to survive on the streets from a young age.
We come into the story when they’re all grown up. Violence, now a deep-seated part of their lives, catches up to them by the end of the first issue. When one of their lives is put in jeopardy they will have to fight to keep it all together.
Nrama: What's the world like in Wretches?
Salomon Farias: In Wretches we traveled with two siblings from planet to planet where every planet bring us a different adventure for these siblings. Their vengeance drives them to want to exterminate the robots who escaped and destroyed almost all of humanity on their home planet.
Roche: Wretches takes place in a fictional galaxy that’s teeming with life. However, since we’re following two rag-tag mercenaries who’ve only known hardship, we won’t see the bright side of this world, only its shadows. And there are no shortages of shadows in the world of Wretches.
My goal was to have every location we visit completely unique from one another and full of its own history. We hop from the busy city streets of one planet, to another whose surface is unlivable, forcing its inhabitants to live in industrial warehouses in the sky. We’re also going to delve into underground cities run by alien gangs and a robot base established on a lifeless moon.
Nrama: How would you describe Shea and Sean and the bond they have with one another?
Roche: Shea and Sean have the kind of unique bond that could only be made through suffering together.
Farias: They suffered the death of their parents at the hands of Bots at an early age. This made them tough very young and they had to do whatever it took to survive and carry the legacy of their parents who gave their lives to protect them.
Roche: Loss, hardships, struggles, as painful as these things are they can bring people together in an incredible way. That being said, I wanted it to be evident that they have a special relationship, the kind where they can fight to the death together one second and then turn around and make fun of one another the next. The kind where they can make each other cry and then be the one to make them feel better.
Nrama: And who or what pulls them apart?
Roche: No spoilers!! The end of Wretches #1 will answer this one. Violence begets violence, and since that was almost all they’d ever known it was only a matter of time before it caught up to them.
Nrama: Okay then, how would you describe the Bots?
Roche: The Bots are a pretty tragic group. Sentient robots, they’d once shared a planet with the humans who’d created them. After being denied their own rights, they waged a war which soon cost them their home planet. The few who remained were unwanted by the rest of the planets, and forced to establish a home on some lifeless moon. With little to no resources needed for survival, they were suddenly forced to face their own mortality. Many of them went mad and fled, trying to take refuge secretly on other planets. Others would have more sinister plans in mind.
Nrama: Salomon, what's your favorite character to draw in this?
Farias: Sean is my favorite, although all of them I like. I like to draw his hair and bushy eyebrows. Yes, it's a character I enjoy a lot drawing.
Nrama: What is this miniseries inspired by -- other fiction, or perhaps some real life events?
Roche: There’s nothing in particular that Wretches is inspired by. It started off as something else entirely, then after many months it morphed into what it is today. It’s basically a culmination of everything I like; action, adventure, heart, sympathetic characters.
I suppose that the heart of the story, family and loss, is pulled directly from my life. I lost my mother when I was 20; she was only in her early 40’s. My three younger sisters, father and I all dealt with it and are still dealing with it in our own ways. I was in a dark place for a while, and understand that place all too well. So, in a way, writing certain scenes in Wretches and putting Shea and Sean through a bit of tragedy has been somewhat therapeutic for me.
Nrama: I assume this is creator-owned and self-published. Do you own it solely, or is Salomon Farias also own part of it?
Roche: At the moment Wretches is self-published and I am the sole owner. We had several discussions on the matter early on and the work-for-hire route is the path Salomon has chosen to go.
Nrama: How did you and Salomon connect to do this series?
Roche: Salomon and I connected in late 2013 to do a short story, “Apex War,” that I’d written.
Farias: It was a short but very interesting comic, and working with James was very comfortable for me, we connected very well with the ideas he had for the script and I to the art.
Roche: We ended up getting it published in an anthology by Alterna Comics. Little did we know that that was just the beginning for us. It laid the ground work for Wretches and those nameless child characters would one day become Shea and Sean.
Farias: When James contacted me at the end of 2015 for the continuation of “Apex War” I had a lot of other work, but said that if his ideas for the comic were large and had a lot of challenges for me as an artist then I would like to be a part of it. After a couple of conversations, I started drawing the Wretches and I'm in love with this story.
Roche: Salomon and I have a very fluid collaborative relationship. He nails the page every time and far exceeds the original thoughts from my imagination.
Nrama: Salomon, what specifically made you interested in drawing Wretches despite all that other work?
Salomon Farias: I love science fiction comics, and Wretches is loaded with a strong human story of two siblings who have to keep going and not give up. Wretches came with a lot of challenges for me as an artist. To create worlds and towns from other planets, and all of this set in the future, has been the most difficult and yet the most fun for me.
I tried to do my best. We cannot forget Chunlin Zhao, who did incredible colors on my pages. I just hope that the public reads the story and sees the art and enjoys this as much as us.
Nrama: You're currently using Kickstarter to raise funds, and with just a few days left have already surpassed your $2,500 goal. Why'd you decide to use Kickstarter for this project, especially to fund not just printing and distribution but also pay the creators?
Roche: Kickstarter is a beautiful thing; a community in and of itself. It grants unknown indie creators a platform to pitch their stories directly to the public. Right now we have over sixty of our backers finding us on Kickstarter alone! That’s people who came across us simply because they were browsing and searching for projects to back, having nothing at all to do with our social media presence, marketing, or name recognition.
To get people’s attention and warrant their pledges, we made sure to treat this campaign with the same reverence as a pitch to a publisher. We had to show potential backers what we could do by nailing a short preview and giving them a taste of the final product.
Luckily enough for us Kickstarter responded. Now I know we’re not hitting massive numbers like some campaigns are, but for relatively unknown creators like us Kickstarter is allowing us to build an audience and bring our story to life.
Nrama: Since you've already reached your $2,500, do you plan on selling this outside of Kickstarter -- online, at cons, or through a distributor?
Roche: The goal is all of the above. We’re planning a decent sized print run so I will be able to continue selling printed copies online and at cons. I’m on the East Coast, so now that we have a successful campaign I am reaching out to cons up here. Whatever it takes to get Wretches out into the hands of comic book readers is what we’re going to do.