Your New Crush: Fletcher, Stewart, And Tarr Talk ‘Motor Crush’
Motor Crush is the highly anticipated new Image ongoing from the team behind the wildly popular "Burnside" Batgirl run: Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, and Babs Tarr. The new comic, hitting stores this week, is not a superhero story, but rather an action sci-fi tale about futuristic motorcycle racing and the illegal dealings that underpin it.
The main character is Domino Swift, a racing star who also takes part in illegal street races to acquire the "Motor Crush" of the title, an illegal chemical that makes motorcycles go faster. ComicsAlliance spoke to the book's creators about their influences, their collaborative process, and whether Domino is even going to make it out of this race alive.
ComicsAlliance: Do you see Motor Crush as primarily a racing story or a crime story? Because if it’s a racing story, then we’re reading to see the protagonist win, but if it’s a crime story, the outcome is less certain. Or am I completely misguided in my thinking?
Brenden Fletcher: Neither. It’s something else entirely, resting in the guise of a racing story. Sorry to be so cryptic but if you stick with Motor Crush long enough you’ll see it shift into what’s it’s truly meant to be. That said, there will always be racing. And there will likely be crime.
CA: Something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before is the idea of “machine narcotics” --- basically that the motorcycles in this story do illegal drugs to go faster. As a concept alone, it’s a weird mix of gritty and completely ridiculous, which I enjoy. Where did that come from?
BF: The desire to do something wild that, if played in a certain way, would lead to fantastical visuals. My initial concept for Motor Crush was very inspired by FLCL, and was a little more off-the-wall than the final version we settled on as a group, but we’re still dealing with an “X” element in our story --- something so wild and unknown to our readership that nearly anything is possible when it appears on the page.
CA: What were your influences on the world of Motor Crush in general? We only glimpse it in the first issue, but there’s definitely some The Warriors and maybe a little Speed Racer going on.
Cameron Stewart: You're dead on the money with those two. The early chapters of Akira are also a huge touchstone for me. Eventually maybe the later chapters will be too…
BF: Speed Racer and Akira for sure. FLCL and Redline were also big influences on me.
CA: How do you deal with speed in a comic? Racing is so important to this book, that I’m curious how you pace that out for a medium built of still images.
CS: I try whenever possible to create action sequences with momentum and urgency; you're correct that it's a difficult thing to do with still images. I try to create a flow through the sequence by setting up actions in one panel that are completed in the next, to help propel the reader --- something I learned long ago from animation storyboarding.
It's also just a matter of composing the page so that there's a clean, smooth throughline for the eye, without any visual obstacle to trip up the reader. It's an invisible art but one that I've spent a long time practicing.
CA: Am I right in thinking that there’s a direct line, at least aesthetically, from the Jawbreakers in Batgirl to this book?
BF: Yes, insofar as both the Jawbreakers and Motor Crush were, in part, conceived to take advantage of what Babs draws so well --- badass ladies on motorbikes!
CA: One obvious difference between Batgirl and Motor Crush is that Babs is a co-writer now. How did that come about, and how does it change your collaborative process?
CS: Even on Batgirl, though Brenden and I were the writers, we would often consult Babs on what she wanted to draw, which ended up influencing how we wrote the scripts, so she really was part of that process even back then.
When we started talking about Motor Crush, Babs was very interested in being even more involved in the writing process, so rather than presenting her with a completed story, she has been involved from day one in breaking the story and helping shape the tone and feel. And she will often offer her opinion on the scripts once written, giving suggestions on how we can revise them to make them more engaging and interesting for her as a reader.
One of the things we’re doing in the credits page is to not bother with traditional credited roles --- since all three of us are deeply involved with the story and Babs and I collaborate equally on the artwork, it didn't feel right to label us individually as writer, artist, etc. So the three of us are credited as a single unit as “creators.” It may confuse some, but it's the only way to accurately represent how we produce the book.
CA: Domino Swift is a young queer black woman. I’m sure we’re all on the same page as far as the need for diverse characters in comics, but I’m wondering how you go about approaching a character whose experiences don’t necessarily reflect your own.
Babs Tarr: Domino’s blackness and queerness aren’t the focus of Motor Crush. We would be ill equipped to tell that story, for obvious reasons. When developing Motor Crush, we immediately knew it wasn’t integral to the story for the main character to be white and we thought what a great opportunity it was to contribute to a more diverse comic landscape.
BF: We’re definitely on the same page as far as the need for diverse characters in comics. We wanted to tell a fun action story that starred a female character. While her queer identity and black identity are not necessarily part of the plot, it was also not happenstance that she is queer and of color. It's something that a lot of under-served readers really want to see on the page, and though we are white straight creators, the onus should not solely rest on the shoulders of creators of colour to put that into action. That's unfair. It is the comics community as a whole that needs to take on the task to make comics accurately reflect all of our readers.
In terms of writing experiences we are not familiar with, we are making sure we are running things past friends and colleagues of color or queer identity to make sure we are approximating their lived experiences as [much as] possible. Our hope is that readers of color or queer readers find the character to be authentic and someone they can identify and empathize with.
CA: Obviously we don’t want to reveal too much here, but this first issue ends with a pretty serious cliffhanger. It makes me wonder how much this book is going to change from what we thought it was going to be in the first issue. Is it your intent to shock and surprise us with where Domino’s story takes her?
CS: We’ve had discussions about this very recently, about how unlike Marvel and DC books, which provide the illusion of narrative change, but ultimately serve an ongoing status quo dictated by corporate brand management, working on a story of our own means that literally anything can happen. Characters may die unexpectedly, the story can change direction drastically, we can keep the readers in a state of suspense and excitement.
Batman can never really die, but maybe Domino could? You’ll have to find out…
Motor Crush #1 goes on sale online and in stores this Wednesday, December 7.