The kingdom of Harbeny has crowned a new king, but tension mounts as the Lady Pyppenia (Poppy to her friends) is targeted in what could be the beginning of a great political war. With her enchanted knight by her side, the two try to unravel the mystery of her attack and try to keep peace within the land.
Sarah Vaughn, Leila del Duca, and Alissa Sallah bring fantasy and romance with this week’s release of Sleepless, from Image Comics.
Newsarama had the opportunity to chat with the creative team about the upcoming title from the thoughts behind the visual aesthetics to meaning of the magic that keeps the Sleepness Knights awake through their life.
Newsarama: So Sarah, Leila, and Alissa, what can you tell us about the world of Sleepless?
Leila del Duca: Sleepless is set in a country called Harbeny which has strong political ties with Mribesh across the sea, and Edtland in the north.
At the beginning of the first issue, a new king is beginning his reign and the court is in flux from the change. People are careful to stay in his good graces, including our main characters Poppy and Cyrenic.
There’s a subtle element of magic in Sleepless. Cyrenic is under a spell which prevents him from sleeping and is part of a special sect of knights all under the same spell.
Also, people can be healed with magic, but time is taken from the end of their natural lifespan as a result.
There isn’t any wand-waving or spells being thrown around, but it does affect our characters on a day-to-day basis, especially Cyrenic.
Nrama: Sarah, how would you describe the relationship between Cyrenic and Poppy?
Sarah Vaughn: Poppy and Cyrenic have a very intimate relationship that also has many walls. They have spent nearly every day and night together for the past three years, which can’t help but create a closeness. But Cyrenic was sworn to protect her, and is in service to her. Poppy is a king’s daughter and a noblewoman and, as such, is at the mercy of court and the new king for her future. Cyrenic is well aware of the distance he needs to keep, and doesn’t let Poppy get too close. Poppy, meanwhile, delights in pushing those boundaries.
Nrama: Fantasy comic bookss have their own distinctive aesthetic, what were you going for with Sleepless with the visuals or even the design of the logo?
Del Duca: I had such a fun time designing the logo! I wanted it to feel sleepy and flowing, with heavy influences from medieval typographical designs. I did a lot of trial and error and came up with the logo you see today. It’s lilting and melancholic at the same time, which I’m hoping adds to the romantic tone of the story.
As for the rest of the visuals, I wanted to make sure this book was beautiful, with gorgeous dresses, dark corridors, and lush patterns. Originally we were looking to early 1600s Europe for visual inspiration, but Alissa suggested we start adding some Moroccan and Northern African influences to help round out the world. With all of that in mind, we created a story that we hope is rich with envious clothing, melancholy hallways, and longing romance.
Nrama: How did everybody come together on this?
Vaughn: I’ve had the concept of Sleepless for a while, and Leila at New York Comic Con one year asked if I was interested in collaborating with her. Which, hell yes, I was. I loved her work on Shutter, and as odd as it sounds, I fell in love with the way she drew noses, and knew she could draw an incredible book. I sent her a group of elevator pitches, Sleepless included, and she chose Cyrenic and Poppy! We developed from there.
By glorious chance or fate, Alissa Sallah was interning at Helioscope, and Leila had a great feeling she’d be perfect for the colors. And then we learned she had editing experience, and I really loved her suggestions and directions for Sleepless, so we asked if she’d be open to also editing the comic, and she said yes! And when we say editor, she really takes apart the plot, the script, and keeps me on task for making the story the best it can be. She pushes us in directions that have only made the book better.
Leila brought in Deron for letters, and he’s been a dream to work with. Really wonderful and talented and skilled, and I’ve learned a huge amount about the lettering side of comics from him. He’s always been open to answering even the smallest of questions I have about lettering standards, which I have to say, have never been intuitive for me.
Nrama: Alissa, what was your color theory when taking on Leila's sequentials?
Alissa Sallah: What I noticed about Leila’s work before Sleepless was that she uses a very lively line, with each mark adding a lot to the gesture. I felt it would distract from those nice lines to do too much rendering so I decided to use a simple wash style so that the color highlights those lines. I have a similar concept of watercolor washes with my own work, so that made it pretty intuitive to start coloring for Leila.
The setting influences color a lot as well; since Sleepless takes place in an old world kind of setting, I wanted to keep the tone more natural without looking drab. I rarely get very saturated and I try to keep the palettes soft and cohesive. It’s especially fun to portray mood with the colors. The story is very character and emotionally driven, so I let those feelings dictate the palettes of a scene.
Nrama: There's this scene with the Sleepless catacombs so will we dive into their history in the first arc or is that something to be revealed later?
Del Duca: We definitely learn a little bit more about the catacombs throughout this first arc, but I also think we leave them mysterious enough that they’re an open-ended question.
I love when readers are forced to wonder and make up their own ideas about unexplained aspects of a story and the catacombs are a perfect place to leave a bit unexplained.
Nrama: A recurring theme in this was the power of sleep and dreams. Whether it was Poppy's ring or Cyrenic's enchantment, what is it about the world of dreams that is such an important part to this?
Del Duca: The recurring theme and important element here is more about Time.
The people of Harbeny revere Time and their magic is Time-based. Cyrenic’s Sleepless spell, for example, allows him to never sleep, therefore having all the time in the world to watch over Poppy.
Vaughn: Dreams and sleep definitely relate to the Sleepless Knights and the culture that has revolved around them. In the book, the themes also have to do with the way we as humans deal with stress and fear, and how they affect sleep and dreams. But Harbenian culture itself focuses far more on Time, and the Sleepless Knights are the ones to have taken on sleep and dreaming into their own way of life.
Nrama: Sarah, you have a tendency to write self-contained and finite stories, will that be the case with Sleepless?
Vaughn: Yep! It’s hard to explain for me why, but I’m really passionate about standalone stories and limited series. I like things to be complete and definite, without any worry of the future. I’m sure I could anxiously over analyze that, but I love pulling a book off the shelf or pressing play on a show or movie and revisiting it over and over rather than wondering what will happen to my favorite characters next. It’s not better, it’s just what calls to me more.