How did this project originate? My understanding from Paul's Newsarama interview is that Mark had come up with the concept before Paul was involved. Just how fleshed out was Aqua Leung at that point? What kind of collaboration went on before the two of you actually started producing the finished pages?
MARK: Aqua Leung wasn't too fleshed out when I had started. I'd done a few pages of brainstorming and rough and fast ink drawings. When I start working on something new these usually get my mind to start working and it's a part of my creative process. So in my rough thumbnail style inks not much was fleshed out, I had some quick doodles of Aqua, Ringo his sidekick, and then King Calamari, and that was about it. With Aqua I knew that I wanted a boy with dark circles under his eyes that looked a bit like he never slept, I might have thrown the boxer wraps on his feet as well. Paul did a piece called Conquer and it's the one with Aqua and he's got several robots behind him. For me that became the character of Aqua Leung when I was working on the scripts, but even that changed and Aqua keeps evolving in his costumes and as a character. Originally the idea of Aqua Leung was meant to be more of a Saturday Morning Cartoon, but we were teetering back and forth between that idea, and doing something that's more like Titus with cute characters and just dark in feel and mood. We went with the later.
PAUL: I remember losing Mark's photocopied drawings of Aqua's characters before I really got a chance to look at them. Later after I had designed everything I found them and they were strangely similar to what I had done. I guess our ideas were pretty similar at the get go as far as what we wanted it to look like.
The early sketch alluded to above
Paul has said that he wanted to defy the usual expectations for a comic with an underwater setting. Was creating the overall visual style also a collaborative process?
PAUL: I think Mark pretty much trusted me to go off and do my thing. Once the vibe of the book was established by Mark and I, it was easy to start running with it, and the look developed really early on. I know some people might ask me why people aren't swimming, or why everything isn't blue, but I just didn't want to go in that direction. I wanted the characters you would find underwater, but not the physics or the kind of strict color pallet that kind of comes along with doing the "Atlantis" story. So thankfully Mark just let me ignore tradition and I think it worked out nicely for this book.
MARK: A lot of it was figuring things like that out. I knew that I wanted human style characters in there that exist in the sea, and shark fighters, but in my head it was more of a blend of half aquatic half human characters that walk as well as fish swimming around and then giant oversized bosses. But to give all of the fish human characteristics and sea people was Paul's idea. In a way it was stuff that I kind of half knew in my head when I was writing it but there was some sense of uncertainty, so Paul figured out the visual style and by doing that more of the physics for how it all worked. Colors are a very important part of the book and not doing a book that was all blue was a very good idea. The colors here in this underwater world are very vibrant and full of life.
What should readers expect from Aqua Leung? It looks more like a straight-up action/adventure comic than one might expect coming from either of you.
MARK: I think readers will be taken by Aqua Leung and it's got a wide range of emotion, moods, and tones throughout the work. It's definitely an action adventure comic in every sense of the word. But also there's a lot of our own personalities and humor that you can usually expect from us throughout the story. I think it's okay to just do full on action and let loose. The style and the material is also something that's very attractive. So I think it will defy all reader expectations in many ways but then satisfy them in many other ways.
PAUL: I admit to google'n up Aqua to see if anyone is blogging about it. There's a lot of people that are going to pick this up thinking of Mark's Amazing Joy Buzzards writing, and are looking for more of that. The rest seem to be drawn in by my colorful art and cover. Aside from that, we've kept this book under our hats big time. I think people looking for fish fighting each other and giant sea monsters will be pleased, but the book really isn't ALL about that. 200 pages of epic battle might be great for some people, but I had no interest in drawing one big fight scene. There's a whole lot of fun side quests, goofing off and character development. We actually get past the the traditional origin set up in this volume, and get down to the meat of the book, which I think is very important.
So Aqua Leung is going to be a series, rather than a one-off graphic novel?
MARK: Aqua Leung is a series of graphic novels. Most likely we'll do at least three and they should come out around the same time every year.
PAUL: Yeah, we were planning to do a 4 issue mini series and take it from there. Image smooth talked us into this new format, and I really think this way is much much better considering the way the market is these days.
The serialized OGN seems to be getting more and more popular, and it seems like there would be a lot of advantages in working in it. Has the increased page count affected your storytelling choices?
PAUL: Yeah action wise definitely. You can draw out a battle scene that would normally short change a monthly book buyer due to lack of story within the 22 or so pages. But in a graphic novel you can do all kinds of crazy stuff. As soon as we knew we were doing Aqua as a series of graphic novels, and not a monthly I immediately wrote in a 5 page splash. I love stuff like that.
MARK: Yeah Paul's answer says it all.
This is going to sound a little strange, but I'm curious: what are the dimensions of Aqua Leung? Is it going to be digest sized or what?
PAUL: It's typical Image style size. I don't think we ever considered doing the smaller Manga format. I think Aqua has a bit of American Manga flavor, but would probably get lost in the shuffle in that format I think. I'm not against smaller size books, but for a color book I really like a bigger presentation with shiny paper and loud colors. I'm totally a product of the early Image era, so that's what I'm used to.
Aqua Leung is presumably a play on the Jethro Tull song "Aqualung." Would you say that the interplay between electric guitar and flute exemplifies your collaborative process?
MARK: That's a good idea and I'd wish we thought of something that cool. I think the guitar in that song is amazing. So for our name we wanted to do something with water, or an Aqua Lung like the piece of scuba equipment. So I got it from there first and then the Tull song. But the guitar at the start of the song does kind of exemplify what kind of raw and dynamic energy you should imagine when reading the book. So to use your idea I could say yes and that the interplay between electric guitar and flute exemplify the creative process, as long as I can be the guitar.
PAUL: I was thinking about learning the flute just so I could do a little JT at cons. People would come up to the booth and I would just jump out from behind the curtains and start rocking out on top of the table. I would of course sign the book eventually.
That does bring up other possibilities for future collaborations: Thick as a Brick, Locomotive Breath.... I could definitely see myself buying a comic called Locomotive Breath.
PAUL: See, now why aren't YOU writing comics? Thick as a Brick would make a good autobiographical comic about myself I bet.
The first volume of Aqua Leung will be out on April 9. It will be 208 pages long and will retail for $17.99.