I reviewed the Carpe Chaos book, Ignition, a few months ago. It is a fun and thought provoking read. It left me with a few questions. Well, I got some answers recently when I sat down with the co-creator Jason Bane, who along with Eric Carter created this alien infused universe. Jason and I had a nice long conversation about this intriguing story.
Okay, who are you and where are you from?
I am Jason Bane. I am from Gardena, California, U.S.A. and also Torrance kind of both, really right now I live in the SF bay area. I work a tech support job to pay the bills and make comics in my spare time.
Do you remember the first comic that you read?
Honestly it was probably Garfield or something like that. I didn’t read many comic books when I was a kid, but I loved Calvin and Hobbes. I had most or all of those books, now I have the complete collection.
What inspired you to want to become a writer?
Writing wasn’t something I aspired to, initially the whole Carpe Chaos project pushed me in that direction. Years and years ago, when I was a freshman and sophomore at UCSC, a few friends and I got together and decided we wanted to make a video game, it was going to be the biggest and best video game ever. The project never got coded but we had fun thinking up the story, that was the most interesting part of it to me. A couple of years after that, months before my graduation, I found myself thinking back to the project and all the ideas that we (mostly Eric) came up with. I decided that I wanted to explore that universe without all of the technical hang-ups and obstacles that prevented us from doing it the first time. I didn’t want to go and write a science fiction novel either, I wanted something more social and collaborative. So I settled on comics as a medium and set to work recruiting artists, researching and learning about comics, and eventually enticing Eric to join too. I knew I had things I wanted to say, but this project really help me decide what it was that I cared about and what I wanted to more or less declare as my values summed up in our mission statement.
Let’s talk about the creation of the Carpe Chaos universe. I dont know if you knew but I reviewed Carpe Chaos: Ignition in this column a few months ago and was really impressed. Where did the idea come from to have a totally non-humanoid universe?
Haha thanks.I did read that review and really enjoyed it, because you had so many nice and insightful things to say about it! The book was called Ingition because it’s just the first 6 months of our work. The book is a little over 100 pages and we’re getting close to 500 now, on our website. The idea for a universe without humans came from a simple declaration from Eric, he said, “nobody wants to play humans in video games, so why would they want to read about them in comics?!” He was half-joking but thinking about World of Warcraft as an example, the number of non-human characters dwarfs the human character population. Really it came down to this. If you read a story about humans and aliens, or humans and anything else, intelligent monsters, whatever, you automatically identify with the humans. There’s the familiar, and there’s the “other.” But when there are only “other” choices, it breaks down the reader’s prejudice and forces them to choose their favorite races and characters based solely upon what they read in our stories. There is no preexisting information to form stereotypes from, at first , our universe doesn’t have “good guys” and “bad guys”, just characters of each species. Each species is undeniably different, but not all members of a given species are the same
the different alien races can take turns being the villains.
Well, thats one of the questions that I think you guys pose well in Ignition, what does it mean to have “humanity” in a totally alien environment?
That is a big question: What does it mean to be human?
You guys posed it. LOL
It’s true our stories don’t have humans.
But your stories are rich with humanity.
But the big secret is that all of our characters are humans, just from very very different backgrounds and not just culturally different backgrounds. Their very anatomy shapes much of who they are and makes them fundamentally incompatible with one another in different ways, down to the very air they can breathe. I think humanity and ethics are closely tied together. when you see someone grossly violate his or her culture’s system of ethics, they’re often called “inhuman” and “monster.”
The Porg are extremely different the the Turikasuu, yet through your storytelling we see how similar they are in their relationships with their fellow beings.
So I think our stories are rich with humanity because the cultures of these aliens are at the very least relatable, and the characters operate within these cultures and sometimes struggle with figuring out just how to be “human”, how to be Turikasuul to use Feilin in Rising Up as an example. That’s a common issue for everyone, humans and aliens alike.
Your art conveys your writing very well, where did you find the artists to interpret and design your universe?
Well, we got extremely lucky. All of our artists worked with us previously as concept artists as we built our universe. So they’re all pretty familiar with the universe, but even if they weren’t, we made the model sheets and defined the artistic styles of each race (and wrote the backgrounds) so that a new artist could come in and have enough reference material to get going fairly quickly, if we needed.
Anthony Cournoyer, our lead artist, came from DeviantArt. When I first started the project I began searching and searching that website looking for artists whose art I liked and started sending them messages. Anthony was one of only a few that responded. He was interested mostly because we wanted to make comics, something he had always wanted to do. It took us over 3 years to actually get to the comics though! Daniel and Joe joined later, I don’t remember how. I think another of our concept artists referred Joe, maybe. Daniel might have come from conceptart.org? Joe recently left the project by the way, after he finished the Midigan story
so our only active artists are Anthony and Daniel.
How do you and Eric work together? Give us a little insight into how you guys create an indie comic.
It starts with a story idea. Either he or I come up with it, and write a summary it. If we’re feeling inspired we might just write the whole thing, independently. But that doesn’t mean we’ll make it into a comic automatically. We collaborated really closely at the beginning, constantly reviewing each other’s work and giving one another feedback. And as editor I’m always checking for grammar and punctuation mistakes and stuff like that. Lately we’ve streamlined the process more. Like for Skies are Falling, which will be 9 chapters, I am writing the story pretty much on my own after working with him on the framework. And whenever I finish a chapter he comes and makes sure it’s “universe consistent” and gives his impressions. Likewise when he finishes a chapter of Transmissions I take a look and offer constructive criticism as editor, it sometimes spawns arguments but makes our writing stronger overall, so it’s worth it. We use a private wiki to track changes and it’s really easy for me to go and change a bunch of things and then for him to see exactly what I did in the history of the wiki script. Just like you can compare two versions of an article on wikipedia. same software.
That sounds like great software! I’d love to use it for my universe. What is it? And where can one find it?
It’s called MediaWiki. It’s literally the same as what Wikipedia uses and the default theme even looks the same though I’m sure Wikipedia customizes it some.
You just install it on a webserver and start building pages. It’s helped us keep our universe organized as long as we keep up with the cross-linking. We have a similar, skinned version with a few pages and scripts on it made public on carpechaos.com also. We stopped scrubbing our articles for the public wiki because not many people seemed interested but if interest ever picked up we’d probably continue publishing our background articles there over time.
That link is here: http://carpechaos.com/wiki/index.php/Main_Page
Can the fans find the entire Carpe Chaos series on your website?
It’s all there, and free to read in either HTML or Flash format.
Finally, do you have any future plans for the Carpe Chaos universe that you’re willing to divulge today?
Right now our focus is on our two currently running stories, Transmissions and Skies are Falling
Eric will be manning our table at Comic Con next month and I’ll have a Carpe Chaos table set up at APE,an indie convention in San Francisco run by the same people that do the big Comic Con show in San Diego. We want to release another book next year also. We’ll probably create a kickstarter campaign for it and see how we do.
A much larger book that will include most or all of our stories to date, like 400 pages large.
Yes, I know APE well. I’ll see Eric at Comic Con, and hopefully I’ll be up for APE this year too. If so, I’ll see you there. Let me know about your kickstarter campaign and I’ll let my readers know. Well, thanks for a great and interesting interview.
Thanks for talking to me! Sorry again that I missed our first appointment.
and for sure, I will do my best to let the entire world know about our next kickstarter
Andre Owens has been hiding in Los Angeles for over 15 years, a former Director of Photography, he now writes and publishes the cosmic comic, Force Galaxia. He is currently writing and plans to produce a webseries, The Psychedelic Detective. In his free time he enjoys long form television, sushi and a celebration of all things 420. His name’s not Supergreen!