Welcome back to Newsarama’s Wide World of Webcomics, and the conclusion of our two-part interview with Greg Rucka and Rick Burchett, creators of the steampunk adventure Lady Sabre and the Pirates of the Ineffable Aether. In our conclusion, Rucka and Burchett talk about some of the biggest influences on Lady Sabre, and some of their favorite current comics – and offer some hints at upcoming projects that fans have been waiting to hear about.
Newsarama: Greg, you talked earlier about the allegorical qualities of the Western and Victorian eras, and I’m curious about what sort of research you’ve done for this, because things like Queen and Country were very heavily researched, and I’m not sure what exactly you can do with flying steam-pirates….Greg Rucka: Well, mostly we went to the London Historical Society of Flying Steamships and…no. There’s a lot of conversations with Rick that went along the lines of, “How does this work?”
His nature as an artist is that when he starts drawing something, for example the Pegasus, the ship, he needs to know how it works. So we use that as an automatic point of engagement, and actually, we’re still going around and around on this.
I enjoy world-building, so in the absence of real research, what I wind up doing is a lot of creation. I’ve got a great big rather appallingly large document at this point about the different political powers of this world, about this sphere, about the nature of the aether, about aether storms, about Lady Sabre’s background, her family tree, this guy that she’s fighting currently, there’s an almanac on the website with a bio on him.
Really, all we’re trying to do is make the world as coherent and tactile and believable as possible. I mean, my dream for this – one of my dreams, anyway – is that in a year’s time, I would love to be able to have a section of the website where different writers are coming in and writing different short stories set in this world that may have no bearing whatsoever on the main action of the comic.
The idea is that we’ll have built a world that is comprehensive enough that someone can go, “I want to tell a story about a prospector in the Tanitin Easterly, and they will have access through the almanac, through what Rick has done and through what I have done, to enable that.
Rick Burchett: Yeah, and my standpoint is that in presenting this as steampunk, we really do have to pay attention to the whole Victorian design ethic. Things have to look like they did back then, maybe extrapolated to look bigger, or changed in some way, but they do have to look like that.
Nrama: And you have those parts of the site where you show how things work – have you made any models or anything for the devices shown in the strip?
Burchett: At this point, it’s basically taking what existed and cobbling together parts of other things to make something different. But I want all the elements that come together to make the machine or whatever to be from the same era. How we put them together, and how they work together, is what makes it different.Nrama: Steampunk is a fascinating sub-genre of SF and fantasy – people love to dress up and make these devices and things. I’m curious as to your thoughts on its basic appeal.
Burchett: The fact is, I’ve been a fan of steampunk my entire life and didn’t know it – I didn’t know that’s what it was called. When I was very young, I saw two movies that literally changed the way I thought about stuff. The first was Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and the second was George Pal’s The Time Machine with Rod Taylor.
I was very young, and I saw those two movies, and they just had a very profound effect on me. First of all, the idea that people in other times had science fiction was a new thing – “My gosh, they thought of those kinds of things back then?” More so from the standpoint of The Time Machine is that it was my first introduction to time travel as a little kid, which is a lifelong thought. I constantly think about that.
And second, it presented the scientist as action hero. Not only did the Rod Taylor character invent this wonderful device and do this, but he wasn’t above throwing down with the Morlocks and getting his knuckles busted! That was a completely new concept!
In the movies prior to that, you had the egghead scientists who gave instructions but were passive, and then you had the military guys who were active. This was the first time I’d seen the combined into the same guy – “you mean, you can be smart and tough both?”
From that standpoint, and the whole notion and design of those wonderful machines in both of those movies, I was off and running. And just recently, I discovered this huge network of people invested in that and fans of that – there are whole steampunk conventions, and it’s really exciting!
Nrama: How long do you see the strip running? Is it going to go on indefinitely, or do you see it as a finite story!
Rucka: For me right now, certainly indefinitely, which is a bit dangerous. The narrative for me breaks down into chapters, and chapters fit into books. At this point, I have ideas for three entire books, for lack of a better phrase. I suppose we’ll pursue it for as long as we have a passion for it, and as long as it’s viable.
Burchett: I’m on board for the duration. This is one of the few times I’ve been on board for something in comics from the creation. That opportunity just does not come along, especially not for guys like me.
It’s wonderful – I feel invested in this character and this world, and I take very seriously what I do. It has to be consistent, I hope it looks cool to people, and I will keep trying to push my own personal envelope to make sure the art continues to get better as we go along.
I have a lot to learn, because I’m coloring this myself, and four months ago I didn’t know how to color comics on a computer! (laughs) It’s a learning experience.Nrama: What do you guys have coming up separately? Greg, I know you’ve just started Punisher, and Matthew Southworth mentioned to me you were working on another Stumptown arc…
Rucka: Yeah. The next Stumptown is called “The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case.” Matthew’s almost finished with issue #7. We’ll solicit when all the issues are done.
It was always our intent to do Stumptown sort of staggered as a series of monthly arcs, but we had difficulties getting issues out on time, so we’re not even soliciting until we know we know everything is done and we can hit our monthly release.
Punisher, Marco is doing great work, and there’s some other things I can’t talk about…I talked to Steve Lieber recently about the next Whiteout story, and I’m hoping to have scripts ready for him soon. Doing some Queen and Country for 2012, and there’s a big project I’m kind of desperate to do, but that’s contingent on things with whichever publisher I finally settle upon.
That one I can’t talk about yet, only that I’ve talked to an awesome artist about it, he’s on board, and we’d love to do it, but if we can’t find the right publisher and the right deal, it’s not going to happen.
Burchett: I’m working on the latest Batman: The Brave and the Bold animated book, out every month. The heavy lifting on that book goes to Sholly Fisch, who writes very, very good stories in only 20 pages within incredible restrictions as to what he can and can’t write. The fact that he writes stories as good as they are, so full of humor and heart, is amazing.
Nrama: What comics are you currently reading and enjoying, online and off?Rucka: I really, really, really enjoyed what Scott Snyder did with Severed. I’m enjoying Mystic, speaking of stuff I read recently.
Burchett: And I’ve been immersing myself in all the wonderful reprints of classic newspaper strips that have been coming out in the last couple of years. I just received the fourth volume of Rip Kirby, and having the opportunity to read those and the entire run of Terry and the Pirates…it’s just such a gift to have them in such beautiful editions.
Rucka: I want those Pogo collections.
Nrama: Anything else you want to talk about that we haven’t discussed yet?
Rucka: Just that we’re going to keep going at this, and keep trying to make it work.
Burchett: And we’re going to keep getting better.
Check out Lady Sabre and the Pirates of the Ineffable Aether Tuesdays and Thursdays at www.ineffableaether.com.
Next: Sit down for some Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal with Zach Weiner! And later on – talks with the creators of Unshelved, Schlock Mercenary and more!