I Only Trust People With Weird Haircuts: Miss Lasko-Gross And Kevin Colden On The World Of ‘The Sweetness’ [Interview]
Z2 Comics' upcoming series The Sweetness is a twisted and often disturbing tale of a intergalactic drug smuggling, centered on two tough and unconventional women who are trying to make a living pushing their mysterious product to alien customers.
The series was born from the minds of the wife-and-husband team of writer Miss Lasko-Gross, creator of A Mess of Everything, and artist Kevin Colden, creator of Fishtown. We chatted with the duo about the characters and universe of The Sweetness. Z2 Comics also provided us with an exclusive preview of the first issue, which you can check out below.
ComicsAlliance: This is your first series working together, I’m curious as to the collaboration process that went into The Sweetness. Was it something one of you had as an idea and you brought it to the other, or did it spring up out wanting to work together?
Miss Lasko-Gross: The Sweetness started with a bitter piece of gossip at a pitch meeting. I was offhandedly telling my publisher (Josh Frankel) about a couple of characters I created years ago that a well known comic industry heel took credit for. Instead of offering up sympathy, Josh asked to hear more about these badass women I lost.
Thinking about the stories I would have told (with more freedom and less constraint) got me so worked-up that by the end of the meeting a new incarnation was rapidly expanding in my mind. A ruder, tackier universe of drug smuggling and questionable space settlement.
I met my husband Kevin many years after the “Heel experience,” and since then we've brutally/lovingly critiqued each others art and writing. In fact, only after facing the crucible of blunt spousal scrutiny are our projects ever loosed onto the world. So when Kev told me, after reading issue one of The Sweetness, that he had to draw it, there was no question of should we collaborate. If he was willing, I couldn't hope for a better artist.
Kevin Colden: The Sweetness is all from Miss's brain. She had already brought it to Z2, and had asked me to read over the pitch and discuss ideas for it, which is something we both always do for each other. I had so much fun helping her with it that I wanted to draw it, and we figured it would be a stronger book if we could keep it in the family hive mind.
As you can imagine, we have a much closer relationship than the average writer-artist team, so there's a lot that doesn't need to be spoken. I know the pacing of her humor, and she knows that I'm not going to screw it up most of the time. As far as working together, we've tried to do it in the past, and never got anything off the ground, but this time, the timing was completely right and everything fell into place.
CA: How much time do you spend working on the book in the same room, or is it easier to work on it separately?
KC: I'm working on it pretty much every day right now, so I'll just yell across the room if I need clarification, or if I'm changing something. Usually I find it easier to work in a vacuum, but that's because it takes so long to get feedback. This way, I'll have a stack of pages sitting on the board, and Miss will look at them and chuckle, or tell me that something looks bad, so I can just take care of it quickly. It's like Golden Age comic mill-type stuff.
We also brought on board Frank Reynoso, who I share a studio with, to color, and our letterer Deron Bennett lives nearby. Which is a very deliberate choice on our part: keep it local, so we can see each others' faces once in a while.
MLG: I can't overstate how much faster the creative process goes when you can poke your face around the corner and say “the vomit splatter should be on her, too.”
CA: Bachmaan is the de facto protagonist of the book, at least in the first issue, but is also the bad guy, at least from what we’ve seen. Is it difficult to cast someone some unlikable in a lead role, and was his haircut a deliberate choice to let the reader know not to trust him?
KC: Personally, I only trust people with weird haircuts. But I wouldn't trust Bachmann. I also wouldn't get too attached to him.
MLG: I had intended to kill Bachmaan off immediately, until I saw the character sketches. I think that awesomely terrible hair bought him a lot of extra storyline.
CA: While we follow Bachmaan for most of the first issue, it’s Nelly who gets the narration boxes. Will we see more of her in a lead role going forward?
MLG: Yes. What I wanted to play with in the first issue was subverting the expectation that “tall white guy” will be the entry point into this world. Bachmaan is the hero of his own twisted mind but this story is Nelly's.
KC: Our first arc is very much an origin story, so we'll definitely see a lot more of Nelly and her relationship with Scout. She's a deep character and will only get more interesting as the series progresses.
CA: Rounding out the team aboard the ship is Scout, who is more free-spirited and easy-going than pretty much everyone in the book. As the drama heats up, is she going to have that carefree attitude tested?
KC: I'm not sure Scout is capable of anything other than being what she is. She rises to the occasion when she has to, for sure, but her worldview is yang to Nelly's yin and is key to the dynamic of the story going forward. We all need a Scout in our life, and I wouldn't ask her to change for anything.
MLG: Scout lives for pleasure within an impenetrable bubble of goofiness. When pushed to her physical and psychological limits, she can usually find her own ridiculous way through. It takes a lot to interrupt her pathological joie de vivre.
CA: The world of The Sweetness seems quite vast, and we’ve only seen a fraction of it. Do you have a series bible or something similar about the history of this world and how it differs from our own?
KC: In some ways, this world is similar to our own, but unlike most science fiction or science fantasy, it's not Utopian or Dystopian. It's just Topian. For instance, here's our intergalactic shipping service, and the ships still look like crappy, rusty delivery trucks. Nobody's like, “Where's the f---'s my jetpack?” They're more like, “Oh great, I'm flying past the moon and have to patch my space ship window with duct tape.”
No matter how advanced we get technologically, we still have to deal with the same entropy and dumb real life annoyances and idiocies. We can fly a ship made of cardboard and rubber bands to Pluto, but we still can't solve sexism or racism.
MLG: I didn't want to weigh the Sweetness down with an overly baroque codex. Instead we jump right into a seemingly insignificant moment in the not too distant future, where extraterrestrial settlement and commerce are in their infancy. There are parallels to the westward expansion of colonial North America, however, here pioneer interests are checked by an equivalent alien civilization.
With every new setting and piece of underwhelming Tech, I ask myself whether its existence is plausible in this reality. For example, robot waiters would be a logical way for bars (like the Scale House) to cut labor costs but IBS would not “waste” money impressing their couriers with sleek modern ships or “luxurious” basic safety features.
CA: Every single person we meet in The Sweetness looks like an individual; there’s such a range of body types and facial features. Was it a conscious choice to the world look so lived in and unique, or is that just more fun as an artist?
KC: Both. As far the characters, I hate books where everyone looks the same. When I walk out of my house, I see people of every shape and color, so I just want to put something of my world down on paper. This is a book mainly about two women, and I just leaned into my tendency to avoid the old art school tricks of “drawing pretty women”. F--- that. This is storytelling, not pornography.
I find actual living, breathing human people attractive, and the women in this story have frown lines and make scrunchy gas faces because that's who they are. Also, there are no cosmetics in space. Scientific fact.
The look of the world of The Sweetness is just a function of my animal brain; whenever I can, I like to just put my pencil on the page and draw whatever comes out. But the idea of it looking plausible is deliberate; we always wanted to make this look like it could happen tomorrow, or even ten years ago. Like everything is made out of left-over ventilation ducts and Atari parts.
CA: What can we expect to see in future issues?
KC: More terrible space ships, more face-punching, aliens, naked people, crash-landings, space-Nazis, inadequate technology, and a Scout-monster.
MLG: All true.
The Sweetness #1 goes on sale in June, published by Z2 Comics. Miss Lasko Gross will be appearing at the MoCCA Arts Festival in New York this weekend, Apriil 2-3.