Thanks to the joys of creativity and modern special effects, we’ve seen fruit walk, talk and even sing – I’m looking at you, California Raisins. But have you ever seen them fight?
In the upcoming graphic novel Seedless, a group of anthromorphized grapes from another world intervene to stop a tyrant named Crazy take over the world – and a cute girl named Harmony. Seedless comes by way of the eccentric cartoonist Corey Lewis, who wowed comics fans years ago with his graphic novel Sharknife and one-shot Peng. Since the success of those two projects, Lewis has been working on a sequel to Sharknife and the online publication of Seedless as a webcomic. With a stack of finished pages surrounded him, he took it to Image who will be releasing it as a graphic novel at the end of this month.
Newsarama talked with the Portland-based creator about his webcomic-turned-graphic novel Seedless, as well as the hope for the sequel to Sharknife.
Newsarama: Corey, you’ve described Seedless elsewhere as Batteries Not Included meets Mega Man. Can you tell us how these ideas all came together?
Corey Lewis: Mostly by coincidence. I was twelve years old when I created the Seedless characters, so they pretty much just reflected what I was into at the time. It's kind of like Batteries Not Included in the fact that these are little alien creature things flying around, confusing humans. And it's like Mega Man coz they get power-ups and whatnot consistently. There's lots of flying, robots, energy, etc.
Nrama: You’ve said you first created the ideas of Seedless back when you were 12. What led you to revisit those ideas for a new comic?
Lewis: I was feeling kind of burned out about what I was surrounded by within comics. Basically, humans. I was tired of humans. [laughs]
I was feeling pretty jaded by the seriousness of comics, etc. I mean, seriousness is great, and I respect it. But I appreciate the formless energy of youth-oriented simpler stories. I stumbled upon drawings of silly grape characters I drew when I was a kid, and was pretty moved. I immediately began drawing new pages of the grape warriors (which is included as a "bonus feature" in the back of the Seedless OGN). Later, my friends at Pink Gorilla and I were talking about doing a weekly webcomic, and Seedless was the one.
Nrama: Seedless is about grapes – and as a grape lover, can I ask what kind of grapes they are? Or your own personal recommendations for the best grapes?
Lewis: There are some very interesting grapes out there, actually. When I was a kid working on this comic, I had an Asian friend whose mom was very knowledgeable about different fruit types. The main Seedless characters are of the standard grape variety, but in the future, I plan on introducing larger Muscat grapes, Shelled grapes, etc.
I really love grapes, too, and fruit in general. A comic that even predates the original Seedless is my very first comic ever, Fighting Fruits. Which, instead of just grapes, was a whole myriad of fruit-themed warriors. And I also have an older web-comic that ran in Image's Popgun anthology called "PINAPL" about a dude protecting some kind of magical pineapple. I love fruit. I actually consider comics themselves a kind of fruit for our mind-stomachs.
Nrama: Can you tell us about the girl who’s taken by the grapes, and what’s her part of the story?
Lewis: Despite my slight jadedness (at the time) about humans, I quickly realized Seedless needed a human character for readers to relate to. Or I should say "Humanoid" because Harmony is not such a simple human in the end, either. Anyway, yeah, basically I just decided I needed a cute girl to draw against the cute little grape characters. Story wise, Harmony acts as a guide to the Earth-bound alien grape warriors. She stops them from attacking animals, makes them muffins, etc.
Nrama: These grapes she’s banded together with – who are they?
Lewis: Heroes of their home world, Vitis. It's kind of a complicated story that I basically figured out while making the comic. The Seedless Grapes were created by a scientist (named Dr.G) to battle his first botched creation (the antagonist of Seedless, Crazy). Dr. G treats the Seedless Grapes as his own sons, so they are in fact brothers-- He also gave them souls and compassion. So they have all the qualities of other sentient beings, but they deal with the fact that they were in fact created in a lab. It's akin to Astro Boy or something. Also, they are "seedless" so they can manipulate the "inner gel" within their bodies, harnessing their superpowers much more proficiently than a grape with a seed.
Nrama: Crazy, the grape tyrant – what’s he after?
Lewis: Well his name is "Crazy", so, y'know, he has that going for him. Crazy's thing is he has the ability to control the minds of any grapes with seeds. Basically, he wants to put that power to good use and create his own huge army of grapes. For power, ambition, destruction, what have you. He's probably also jealous that his creator, Dr. G, favors his "little brothers" (the S-Grapes) more than him.
Nrama: This is your first solo release through Image after years of doing stuff through Oni, Udon, online and your own self-publishing work. I may be reading too much into things, but I see a lot of Image influence in your work – are you, or were you ever, a hardcore Image reader?
Lewis: Yeah, I grew up with comics around the time when Image had its huge explosion, so definitely. My friends and I were into all the main Image titles of that day. Specifically, I was really into Shadowhawk during my formative years. I never even really read the Maxx comic at the time, but I loved the cartoon on MTV fiercely. Savage Dragon & Spawn were always prevalent in my life, as well.
It's funny because I feel that Seedless is something a bit different for Image. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I don't see a lot of "cute"-ish stuff coming from them too often. So I'm excited to see how it's received by comics’ fans, and Image-specific fans alike.
Nrama: I’ve been following your work for years now, and been continually amazed by all the projects you jump around to: from t-shirts, animation for movies, paintings, music, and some comics all in-between. Reading your LJ gets the gist of all this – and it seems like if you’d been born 15 years sooner you would have done something like Paul Pope’s THB; a sort of anthology of all your various ideas. Is it hard to remained focus to continue or project, or do you think the variety helps you for the work you eventually put out?
Lewis: I have a lot of great friends who truly understand comics and comics is their primary 100% thing. But me, yeah, I've always been one to experiment with different mediums. Even when I was a kid, I made Fighting Fruits comics, but I spent an equal amount of time sculpting Fighting Fruits toys out of Sculpy clay, and my own "comic cards" of my characters, etc. I think I even hand-drew a couple t-shirts with my own characters, so yeah.
It's a mix of slight inability to stay focused, and also wanting to endeavor on any opportunity to use my abilities in different ways.
As for that anthology idea... I am certainly aiming for something like that in the near future.
Nrama: One of the longest awaited projects is the second volume of Sharknife. Can you give us an update on that while we have you here?
Lewis: Sharknife Double Z is all drawn. It is now in the final stages of toning / lettering. It's a huge relief to finally almost be done with this book. It kind of truly represents me struggling heartily, while also living very viscerally within this comics realm. I never imagined this would be the way I'd draw a graphic novel, taking so long on one... But when I look at it, I'm quite pleased. And with all the art finally getting its final polish, I can actually see why it took me so long. Some of the stuff in this book, it's like I WANTED to screw with myself. [laughs]
I remember finishing the first book, then going back and looking at the first page-- I was like "how the heck did I DO THIS?". It was truly something supernatural to me. I maintain that most my comics thus far have been made purely on instinct. I've never really had a "plan". For Sharknife Double Z, my instincts were skewed every which-way... In that regard, working on Seedless definitely helped me get back on track with steady comics production (with it's weekly updates, etc).
Last I heard from Oni, Sharknife Double Z is scheduled for January 2011.