If governments outlawed caffeine, only outlaws would have caffeine.
That's the world of the new miniseries Helena Crash by Fabian Rangel, Jr. and Warwick Johnson-Cadwell. Readers into this world through the titular Helena Crash, a black market courier of coffee and all things caffiene (and anything else illegal) that runs afoul with two crime bosses after she was approached by one to assassinate the other.
The Space Riders writer and Tank Girl artist bring their previous experience to bear in this new original, creator-owned work scheduled to debut in March from IDW Publishing. Newsarama talked to the duo about Ms. Crash, the mobsters who are targetting her, and the the idea of coffee being illegal.
Newsarama: Fabian, who is Helena Crash?
Fabian Rangel, Jr.: Helena is a courier of black market goods in the future. She's also a skilled fighter and racecar driver (known to make other racers crash their cars, hence where she gets her nickname).
Warwick Johnson-Cadwell: If you need a rare, illicit or perilous thing, she is the go-to guy in town.
Nrama: So what's this world like that Helena is in?
Rangel: The future! It's a future very much defined by an ''anything goes" way of thinking. Mutants, monsters, aliens, robots, they're all there. I wanted it to feel like it could take place in the world of Samurai Jack, or even Star Wars.
Johnson-Cadwell: It has everything in it! It’s a world where everything fantastic and strange to us is completely normal and probably queueing for a hot dog.
Nrama: What were your influences and theories in designing this world?
Johnson-Cadwell: 2000AD, Akira, Blade Runner, Yojimbo, Samurai Jack, probably some Richard Scarry and certainly Ralph McQuarrie. And old Lucha movie posters. I’m not trying to mash different elements together but to work with the similarities these things have to produce a world that looks believable, though it’s unbelievable at the same time.
Nrama: So what is Helena involved in with this miniseries?
Rangel: This first volume (hopefully we get to do more) focuses on introducing her and her world. Pretty much, she's saving money to hopefully retire from her dangerous profession. Without giving too much away, she ends up pissing off two different mob bosses. This arc shows her dealing with that.
Nrama: Who are the other players in this beyond Helena?
Rangel: Like any classic story, there are allies and enemies. On her side she's got Hemingway, an old man who raised her, who also happens to produce coffee in the basement of his boxing gym. There's also El Lobo, a former gang leader/mechanic. Her two biggest problems are Rojo, a luchador mob boss who runs a nightclub, and White Demon, an alien ninja/crime boss.
Nrama: How did this series come about between you, Warwick, and IDW?
Rangel: I've worked with IDW in the past on a short TMNT story, and I've pitched them various things before this. This one felt like it would fit in really well over there, and luckily, they thought so too! As far as me and Warwick, I saw his art and instantly knew I wanted to do something with him. He posted some car drawings (vampires delivering blood, and another one having to do with coffee), and I had this idea about coffee becoming scarce in the future, so I hit him. He really killed it on this book.
Johnson-Cadwell: Really, it came through Space Riders from Black Mask Studios. Fabian wrote it and Alexis Ziritt’s art is awesome. I love that book, I was a fan. I really enjoy Fabian’s writing, the Helena script had me smiling and laughing throughout. He got in touch as he’d seen my work and he had this wild idea.
Nrama: Warwick, you're coming to do this from doing Tank Girl - how would you compare and contrast her and Helena Crash?
Johnson-Cadwell: There are similarities between the two, they are both strong and independent but I doubt we’ll see Helena Crash farting on a kangaroo.
I think that Tank Girl is the center of her world and everything then comes from that, whereas Helena’s world is as much a character as Helena, her companions and adversaries. Helena deals with her crazy world in this book and the world deals with Tank Girl in that one.
Nrama: Last question, then - this is about coffee being made illegal - so tell me, what is your caffeine of choice?
Johnson-Cadwell: Black coffee. Our tin is a mix of about 1/4 of what’s left and 3/4 of what we we’ve just bought which is rarely the same. No milk. no sugar, never instant.
Rangel: I drink Deathwish coffee exclusively (here's hoping for a sponsorship). I'm fueled by coffee, man.