KAYA #1 is an excellent read with an emotional story, gritty art, exciting panel layouts, spectacular colors, and clean letter work. This week, Monkeys Fighting Robots talked with the creator of KAYA, Wes Craig (DEADLY CLASS and GRAVEDIGGERS UNION). Craig handles art and story on KAYA, with colors by Jason Wordie and letter work by Tom Napolitano. The new ongoing series from Image Comics hits your local comic book shop on October 5, with a final cut-off for pre-orders on September 12.
About KAYA #1:
After the destruction of their village, a young girl with a magic arm and a fighting spirit is tasked with delivering her little brother to a faraway safe haven. There he’s destined to discover the secret to overthrowing the all-powerful empire that destroyed their home. This is an astonishing, immersive story about siblings surviving in a world full of monsters and mutants.
Enjoy the interview below.
MFR: Wes, thank you for taking the time to talk with me.
CRAIG: No problem, thanks for having me.
MFR: I read the first issue and then found the prologue during my research. How do you want a new reader to experience KAYA?
CRAIG: Yeah, the prologue is up on Webtoons as a quick introduction to the world. I wanted something out there for free that people could easily check out. If they like that, they can pre-order KAYA #1 at their comic shop or online now. That begins a longer story that takes place over the first five issues.
MFR: What does your script look like when you are the artist and the writer?
CRAIG: Pretty traditional but with some weird quirks, I guess. For one thing, I write it all out by hand. I find the ideas come easier when they’re written out on paper instead of on a computer screen. I make two columns, one for panel descriptions and one for dialogue. It’s all pretty spelled out for me by the time I get to doing the real drawing. But unlike working with a writer, there’s a lot of adjustment throughout the process since I don’t have to check with anyone else. Lots of adding and subtracting dialogue and images.
MFR: I was impressed with how emotionally invested I was by the end of the first issue. Can you talk about your writing process and how you developed the main characters?
CRAIG: That’s great to hear. I’ve been slowly building up this world while drawing Deadly Class, so some of the development is a distant memory at this point. But I’d say finding an emotional connection to the characters is vital. And figuring out what the reader reacts to emotionally. It’s embarrassing to say because this should have occurred to me much earlier, but I didn’t used to take the reader into account. I used to just write the story I wanted to write, for myself. But if I’m just writing it for myself, what am I doing really? I write stories to share them. It should be a back and forth between writer and reader. So you always have to think about their experience, emotionally, intellectually, etc. And hopefully make characters that are three-dimensional enough that they stand up and walk on their own and aren’t just slaves to your plot. I think that’s what Kaya and her little brother Jin do.
MFR: Kaya’s design is badass. Did it take you several iterations to get to her final look?
CRAIG: I’d say she was pretty fully formed from the beginning. Her metal super-powered arm, the dreads and black across her eyes. But originally, way, WAY earlier in the development of the world, she was an adult. Eventually, I thought, if she was a young girl, that’d just make everything that much harder for her. And making things harder for your main character is always a good idea. Haha.
MFR: What were the conversations like with Jason Wordie deciding on a color palette for the universe of KAYA?
CRAIG: We talked it over a bit and I sent him some images of the desert at different times of day to show him what I had in mind. And pointing out where the color becomes more subjective than objective, usually because one of the characters is going through some intense emotion.
But also trying to leave Jason room to explore and have fun. I think at first there’s more “direction” as you’re feeling each other out. But that becomes smoother as you get comfortable with each other.
MFR: The panel layout in the book works well to communicate the story, the action, and especially the emotion from Jin. Can you talk about the panel layout of the first page and what you were trying to accomplish?
CRAIG: I think it was just trying to pull out to see how stark this land is that they’re dealing with for the first issue (that landscape will continue to change as Kaya and Jin continue their journey), and how unforgiving it is. Jason REALLY brings that intense heat to life in his colors. And then pulling in tight on the characters to experience how that heat’s affecting them. With a new comic, I don’t feel like you have very long to hook the reader, so I needed Kaya and Jin to be in deep trouble right away. I wanted the reader to wonder, “how will they get out of this?” almost from the beginning.
MFR: The letter work by Andworld is very clean. Was that the plan from the start? (The all-white Onomatopoeias works so well.)
CRAIG: Yeah, that’s something I do in Deadly Class too, with colorist Lee Loughridge. Those sound effects are hand drawn. And for the lettering, Tom Napolitano from AndWorld Design is handling that and he blows me away. We’re working together to make something that’s open, easy and fun to read. Between him and Jason’s colors, it looks so good. I feel very lucky to have them with me.
MFR: With a new issue like KAYA, how do you measure success?
CRAIG: Well, unlike Deadly Class, I don’t have Rick Remender’s name on this one, so I’ll try not to measure it to that level in terms of how many copies I sell. But from the little bit I’ve put out there so far people seem to really dig it, so that’s amazing to hear. I feel successful on a personal level because I think the characters are very real, and the story is strong, and I LOVE drawing it. Now all that’s left is the financial side of it. Will it be successful enough to do the comic for as long as I want? I’m doing my best to get the word out about it. But at the end of the day, a lot of that is out of my hands. So I’d say, if I can pay the rent and continue to do this comic for as long as I’d like (a few years), then that’s success. Anything beyond that is just gravy.
MFR: A year from now, you have a table at a convention, and you see someone cosplaying as KAYA; what will your reaction be?
CRAIG: Oh my god, I haven’t even thought of that. That would be so cool. I’d probably have to give them something from off my table, at least.
MFR: Wes, thank you again for your time, and best of luck with the series.
CRAIG: Thanks a lot! You can pre-order KAYA #1 until September 12, and the first issue comes out OCTOBER 5. For more on all that, you can follow me online at @WesCraigComics.
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