Corey Lewis Celebrates ‘Metroid’ With New ‘Arem’ One-Shot [Interview]
Between Sharknife, Seedless and a host of other comics, artist Corey Lewis has expressed his love for a multitude of his favorite music, anime, manga, tokusatsu shows and -- perhaps especially -- video games. This coming weekend at Emerald City Comicon 2014, Lewis will take his affection for a specific gaming icon to the next level with the release of Arem, a one-shot comic that serves as something of a loveletter to the Metroid series of video games starring the cosmic armored bounty hunter Samus Aran. Read our interview with Lewis to get the full skinny on his new fan jam, plus a first-look at its opening pages, after the cut.
ComicsAlliance: Tell me all about Arem. What is it and when/where can people find it?
Corey Lewis: It's a one-shot comic story inspired by the video game Metroid about an armored space adventurer exploring a planet and taking pictures of the planet's exotic creatures and getting into mischief.
It'll be available at my table (X-06) at the Emerald City Comicon. Afterward, I'll probably have it available online, in print and digital editions.
CA: When did you first develop an affection for Metroid?
CL: I remember my friends playing Super Metroid when I was younger, and I was actually pretty afraid of the game. It's all stark and dark and has epic brooding music. Still, the main character, Samus, and the explorative nature of the game really drew me to it. I loved that Samus was this badass robot, but on the inside it's a girl. At the time that was really revolutionary. Still is.
CA: How long have you been working on Arem? Has the project changed at all between now and when you originally set out to start it?
CL: I got the idea that I wanted to make a comic that was just someone exploring space -- and my mind immediately went to Metroid. I've had a lot of fun drawing the character in the past, so I was like, "I wanna make that a comic." But my own way. I started drawing pages about two months ago. I recently got a Cintiq digital drawing tablet, so this project was a new experience working in that format. I got into a groove with this project, with a kind of spontaneous digital style that I'm really into.
The core of the project never really changed, I just wanted it to be about an adventurer exploring and documenting a new planet and it's creatures. I did come up with a lot of the scenarios and moments that happen in the comic as I was making it though, since it didn't really have a script, just an outline.
CA: There haven't been many official Metroid comics or manga, but have you dug into any of the official Samus stories? In Valiant's early 1990s Captain N: The Game Master stories, she's somewhat of on target... except for the fact that she's hopelessly in love with the main character, Kevin, which is WEIRD.
CL: I haven't really seen any other Metroid comics or media besides the games. I enjoy Samus the most when she's on her own, doing her own off-the-grid adventuring. Whenever they try to give her a more meaty story, or have her interact with other human characters, I'm less interested.
However, when I was in kung-fu when I was like 16 people called me "Captain N" coz I liked video games a lot. "PAUSE!!!!!"
CA: The art of Arem plays around with kind of recontextualizing Samus -- she's got social media feeds in her armor's heads-up displays, for example -- but in ways that don't detract from her character. What was the appeal of popping a little bit of our world into her world?
CL: Yeah, well that's kinda the thing! Arem is a seperate character from Samus. Technically my own character, despite her being based from the game Metroid. I like to think of Arem the comic as like a "cover song" or a remix.... Or even a hip hop-style song made up of pre-established samples. You know how bands do that, and it's totally cool and legit? I feel like comics do that, too.
So when it came to further drawing from, but differentiating from Samus, I thought the idea of her being more of a space documentarian instead of a warrior would be cool. There are elements of that in the Metroid game series, too.
When it came to how she would document stuff, integrating modern day social media like Instagram into the mix was a natural fit for the story and the character.
CA: Your work is often filled with personal references to bands and music you love. What music have you been listening to while working on Arem?
CL: There's definitely a few bands and specific songs that cultivate the vibe of Arem. LCD Sound System's "Someone Great", M83's "This Bright Flash", Anamanaguchi's "Endless Fantasy" album... Arem herself listens to Sleigh Bells in the comic, and they're commonly in my rotation.
I also just found this band The Bots that is like this new-type punk band of 2 kids rocking out. They rule. Check out their song "Northern Lights".
CA: What does your mental ranking of all of the Metroid games look like? Which ones are your favorites and which ones are less beloved?
CL: Despite loving the vibe and main character of Metroid, I've only played a few of the games. I've liked them all, though. My absolute favorite is Metroid Prime from Gamecube. Prime is extra miraculous to me, as I usually totally hate first-person video games. First-person games never "immerse" me in the game experience more, and they usually tend to be pretty mindless. Metroid Prime, however, is the opposite of that. The first-person angle is used astonishingly well, and adds to the feeling of true exploration. That game is a masterpiece.
CA: You do a lot of your work digitally these days. What do you like about working digitally vs. on paper?
CL: I like that digital is limitless. There's no paper size or ink to run out of or pre-established pen sizes to limit yourself to. I also love sketching a lot of my works in various colors, so digital lends itself really well to that. My comics making style relies kinda heavily on spontenaiety, and digital facilitates that a lot better than sketching, erasing, re-sketching, etc.
I miss busting out huge originals to flip through, sometimes... That's why I try to print out my pages as I'm working on them.
I still draw "traditionally" a lot, but yeah, my output has increased about 200% since going digital.
CA: You've worked on official licensed comics and done many of your own projects. What's special to you about fan comics? What do they offer the creator and reader that the official channels can't?
CL: I've thought about this a lot while working on Arem. It's like, when you make fan art, you're working on something that you have pre-established excitement for, excitement that you share with a lot of other people about a story beloved by many. There's some groundwork already laid out for you, and you're familiar with it because it's why you're a fan in the first place.
In a way, working on a fan project like this brings things out in me that I'd never think of or try otherwise. Or it helps refine narrative ideas you like, but haven't mastered yet. In a way, even "original" ideas are all just cleverly disguised fan projects. These days I feel like the line between that is blurring, and more artists are making careers out of straight-up fan projects. Of course, that's a slippery slope-- that's why I like to piece my "fan" properties together to form something mostly original, like a hip hop sample.
CA: What's next for you after Arem?
CL: I'm making a self-published anthology called Sun Bakery that is a collection of artwork and short stories. It was Kickstarted last year and it's taken me a while to finally finish it, but it's just about done. I've got a crapload of pages for Sharknife 3, and new content for a re-release of PENG!, my kickball comic.
My next "serious" project... I want to finally do a monthly issue series. Miniseries, to be exact. So far in my career I've only made "graphic novels", which take a lot of time and can be a huge pain. I have yet to feel the true western comic artist experience of releasing a monthly title for a period of time. I have a project ready for this, some pages drawn, and I think it's pretty awesome. But I should not talk about it yet! I get in trouble when I announce things too early.