‘Hex11′ sees Futuristic Tech-Witches Get Tangled up in Black Market Magic [Back Pages]
Tech-witches living in the future. That's what comics are bringing us now. Hex11 is a series created by the HexComix team of writer Kelly Sue Milano, artist Lisa K. Weber, and editor Lynly Forrest. Set in a world where magic not only exists but has been commodified by giant corporations, the series focuses on Elanor Kent, an apprentice witch who accidentally gets herself wrapped up in a larger conspiracy that hurtles her into the dangerous world of black market magic.
The series has already wrapped volume #1, and the team has headed to Kickstarter to fund a print collection. They're also looking to set up funding to help produce the second volume of their story as they seek to build up HexComix as a new studio publisher. Nominated for the inaugural Dwayne McDuffie Award for Divisity this year, Hex11 seems like a project well-worth taking a closer look at, so we spoke to the entire Hex11 team.
ComicsAlliance: What’s the basic premise of Hex11?
Lisa K. Weber: Our quick pitch is “Harry Potter meets Blade Runner.” Our longer pitch is that Hex11 is a sci-fi/fantasy that takes place in a near-future world where magic has been discovered as a new technology. As would happen with any new resource, the corporatocracy is trying to control and commodify it, and have pushed those more naturally inclined to magic into a slum called the Hex.
Our hero, Elanor, is a young witch-in-training that lives in the Hex, apprenticing Vera, an eccentric caftan-wearing oracle. In the first issue, while on a seemingly ordinary errand, she stumbles onto a failed transaction between a black market warlock and a demon mercenary and begins to uncover a larger conspiracy being perpetrated by the powers-that-be.
CA: This feels like you have a whole world mapped out as part of the story - is that the case? How much planning has gone into the story here?
LKW: The seed of the story had been floating around in my head for several years before it got made. It started with just a rough idea of the main characters and the universe that they lived in. As I took in more influences and information over the years; reading up on history and mythology, following politics and futurism, the world started getting larger, more complete and detailed. A couple years ago, the story started to feel ready to be told, which is when I shared the idea with Lynly, who introduced me to Kelly Sue, and we’ve all continued to flesh it out from there.
CA: How did the three of you meet and start work on the series?
Lynly Forrest: Lisa and I have been friends for about ten years; we met while living in New York City. She’s been a professional illustrator since I’ve know her. I’ve always been a fan of her work and impressed that she has been able to make a living with her talent and professionalism. By coincidence we both ended up moving to Los Angeles within about six months of each other. In January 2014, we were having a post-LA transition/New Year’s goals conversation about “what’s next.” We were both new to town and standing on the edge of possibilities.
LKW: Lynly asked me what it was I really wanted to be doing with my work, and I said, “Well, I’ve got this idea for a comic book...” I told her about the story, and she said, “Let’s do it!” I was so excited when she signed on. Lynly is a magic woman, she just gets things done. We created a production schedule and business structure to get to work, and set a goal to have the first issue done by Comikaze in October 2014. After the initial groundwork was laid, we realized that we really needed a writer. I didn’t know how to structure it, and I wasn’t sure how to make the characters speak.
Kelly Sue Milano: I was recommended to the group by Lynly’s husband. We had worked together, and I had been in a television writing program at UCLA and quit my job to focus on writing. We set up the meeting and it was kismet!
LF: Kelly was able to come with the same level of professionalism that Lisa was delivering and we started working as a team in March of 2014. We debuted Hex11 #1 at Comikaze and sold out of our first run of books by Sunday. It was a tremendous success and ton of fun!
CA: How have you found the creative process? What's your collaboration like?
LKW: This collaboration has been remarkable! When I met Kelly Sue, she was super excited about the project and ready to dive in. We nerded out over the same things and found out that we had a lot of the same storytelling influences, which ended up making the development of Hex11 pretty seamless. When we started doing our weekly creative meetings over coffee, we even discovered that our wardrobes are strikingly similar. Kelly Sue calls it SameBrain.
We’ve forged a kind of unique approach to comic creating. We ebb in and out of each other’s processes during the making of each issue. Kelly Sue and I meet up for an outline where we discuss how the next issue should shape up. Which characters will be central to the action? What decisions will they make and why? What’s the big grab that we end on? When we’ve mapped it out, Kelly Sue works up a rough draft, we meet and edit some more, then she sends along the next draft. At this point, I start page layout. Just chicken-scratching how the action will play out from page to page, essentially figuring out how to fit it all into 22 pages.
Further editing or adding to the script happens as needed in layout and then I get going on final art. When drawing of the book is complete we meet with Lynly, who does the final tightening of dialogue and action, always asking the vital question, “How can we make this kick even more ass?”
KSM: Often I’ll get asked what it’s like to develop someone else’s idea, and though Lisa is the mother of Hex11 it has always felt like our story. That is the mark of a successful creative in my opinion. I have so much respect for Lisa’s vision and her story and really do see the opportunity to develop it as a privilege. Our way of work is untraditional but I think that’s what also makes it so successful. To have established a more tandem approach to workflow has been so beneficial and really so much fun. I also have found that it makes the story even more cohesive and gives the world a vastness and makes the characters even more accessible.
CA: How did you decide the design, look and feel of the story?
LKW: In design and look, I want the book to be appealing to all types of fans. I don’t want anyone to look at the imagery and think, “That’s not for me. That’s only for guys, or only for girls. That’s only for superhero fans, or manga fans, or indie fans.” We want everyone to feel welcome to the story. As far as developing this look, I’ll need to sound arty for a minute. I tend to like working in dualities; making work that’s both gross and pretty, hard and soft, dark and colorful. I wanted the same thing from the feel of the story as well. We make sure to always balance the more serious moments with levity, and break tension with fresh air.
CA: You were recently nominees for the Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity --- how important was that to you all? Was offering representation something you had specifically in mind whilst creating the comic?
LF: It was an incredible honor and continues to be. I wouldn’t say we were creating specifically with diversity in mind but with a profound desire to be true to the vision. Since the creators are female and thus under-represented in mainstream comics we were naturally presenting a diverse perspective.
KSM: The fact that this award even exists is amazing to me. Diversity has become somewhat of a buzzword recently and has been tossed around pretty loosely, but I feel that what it speaks to is something very sacred. It is the inclusion and acknowledgment of everyone. To have been recognized for forging the way in that pursuit is a monumental honor and I know we all feel that way. All we wanted to do was a tell a story that we believed in, and to have it stand out and inspire others is what I believe to be every creator’s dream come true.
LKW: I’m not sure I can overstate how important and humbling it feels to have been nominated for this award. We were new to the comic scene and had a single issue to show for our efforts when word came from a committee full of industry professionals that we were among the finalists. To know that we had struck a chord with fans and the industry was phenomenal. But that’s just the part about us.
To speak to the larger nature of the award and diversity in comics, the idea of offering representation wasn’t specific. We knew we wanted to tell an honest story featuring honest characters. By nature, a good story is an inclusive one. It was amazing to know that we were representative of a growing number of unique voices telling stories through this medium.
CA: What was the genesis of HexComix as a whole? How did it come together?
LF: Once the team came together and the creative synergy was so apparent and productive, we took the step and incorporated as HexComix in August of 2014. We were serious from the beginning that if we were going to invest our efforts and energies in this that we were going full tilt boogie. We felt it was essential to not keep the fans waiting too long between releases and established a 6-8 week production turnaround for the issues.
Our webstore came online in October and along with creating the comic book we started expanding with related merchandise. We also committed to the Comic-Con circuit, thinking it would be the best way to share our enthusiasm for the work and reach out and connect with people. That has made all the difference. The fans and friends we’ve made over the past year are the best part by far.
CA: What stage are you at with the project at this point? How much have you already completed?
LF: After a little over a year in business we’ve completed all 6 issues of Volume One. We’ve sold thousands of comics world wide via our website and Comixology and attended nine cons. We have just launched our first Kickstarter campaign to assist in the printing of the Volume One Trade and the printing of the next six issues of Hex11 Volume Two. Up until this point we have been completely self-funded.
CA: If you achieve your goal, what’s your estimated delivery on the final comic?
LF: The Volume One Trade will be available in print by January 2016. Production of the individual issues of Volume Two has already begun and Issue #7 will debut July 2016 at San Diego Comic-Con. Subsequent Volume Two issues will be released on roughly a 6-8 week schedule. All six issues of Hex11 Volume One are currently available on our website and through Comixology --- and there's a free download of issue #1 if you want to give the series a try before you pledge!
HexComix will run on Kickstarter until Thursday 3 December 2015, seeking a target of $35,000. To find out more, check out the Kickstarter here.