Doug Wagner (Plastic, The Hard Place, Gun Candy) and Hoyt Silva (Last Stop, Mongrel) have teamed up for a new original graphic novel entitled, Yumi: Spy Fatale, Baddie Royale for 12-Gaugue Comics. The project just launched on Kickstarter with a variety of options for backers, and the book will go to press in March. The team took some time out of their busy schedules to answer all of our questions about their process in creating this unique and energetic new book.
Doug, Yumi is an ambitious story that travels the globe and blends a variety of genres and storytelling tropes. What kinds of rules did you set for yourself when writing the story to help find the right balance between all of these influences while maintaining the fast-paced momentum of the story?
Doug Wagner: The only rule Hoyt and I followed was “we must create something we would want to read.” We never had grand plans other than creating a book we would both enjoy. Yes, we definitely used spy tropes as a foundation, but we agreed to end the rules there. We wanted to create something that we could both read with a loved one that would make us laugh, cry, and leave us asking existential questions about our lives. Hoyt and I both love over-the-top action that somehow incorporates a heartfelt message of hope and potential. The Fifth Element, The Matrix, The Kingsman, Scott Pilgrim vs The World… stuff like that.
Hoyt, What was your favorite part about visually adapting the story of Doug Wagner’s Yumi script? What did you love about bringing this story to life?
Hoyt Silva: Working back and forth with Doug was like an intense creative game of tennis. He’d write a scene. I would read it, be stunned. Then, I would try to come up with the most interesting way I could to show that scene and kick it back Doug’s way. After seeing what I was thinking he’d get a chance to rework anything to tighten it up. That volley to and fro really pushed me to go over the top and that’s what I loved the most.
As a character, how is Yumi different from the famous spy characters who have come before her? What is it about her character that you are most proud of creating?
Wagner: Actually, she’s kind of like an anti-spy. She’s completely unaffiliated with any government or organization, she’s a genius level hacker, and she might be this era’s most dangerous ninja. Instead of the smooth, overly sophisticated, debonaire spy, Yumi is an unapologetic intellectual powerhouse packed with sass, truth, and heart.
I think the one trait I’m most proud of in Yumi is her self-acceptance. She embraces herself for who she is and that has released her in a way that allows her to live life without self-doubt or regret. She is who she is, she doesn’t hide it, and she isn’t ashamed of it.
Doug, Which supporting character or antagonist was your favorite to write in this story? What is it about this character that you really like?
Wagner: Without question, it’s Jules, the talking, self-aware, AI Lamborghini that Yumi “confiscates.” We didn’t really have much of a plan for the car starting out, but wow, once we started playing with what Hoyt and I wanted to see, Jules evolved into this juggernaut of a badass, ever-loyal sidekick that speaks with the voice of Cardi B. The more we played with her the more we fell in love. It’s the artificially intelligent car Hoyt and I both can only dream was our best friend. Yes, I’m envious of one of my characters.
Hoyt, What was the most challenging aspect of creating the visuals for Yumi? How did you overcome it?
SIlva: Those action scenes!!! They are some of the most ambitious attempts at coordinating anything like that I’ve ever done. I watched a lot of classic and contemporary action films in order to get a better idea of framing and pacing. Seeing things in motion gives me a better idea of what I should leave in or take out of my art when telling a story.
Doug, You’ve cited Ian Fleming’s literature as an influence on the spy culture represented in Yumi, and the graphic novel clearly draws inspiration from a wide array of other literary and pop culture genres. Which other authors and artists inspired you when creating the world of Yumi?
Wagner: Oh, wow. There were so, so many influences when it comes to Yumi. As I said earlier, Hoyt and I wanted to create this mashup of all our favorite stuff and see what happened. I wanted to incorporate all my favorite spy thrillers from the likes of Tom Clancy, Stella Remington, and Robert Ludlum. I wanted the roller coaster excitement of movies like The Kingsman, The Fifth Element, and The Matrix. And I wanted it all to be inspired by strong, independent, exceptionally talented, pop culture icons like Cardi B, Taylor Swift, Grimes, Blackpink, Lizzo, Billie Eilish, Alicia Keys, and Miley Cyrus. You know, women that have changed the world through sheer will.
Hoyt, The finished pages of Yumi are so bright and colorful. In which ways did you collaborate with colorist Kevin Lennertz on the final look of the book, and how did you set up your pages to allow for such creative coloring?
Silva: I’m a firm believer in trusting the people around you to handle their own when it comes to storytelling, or I wouldn’t really be working with them. Kevin is no different. When we first embarked on Yumi we sat down to have a conversation about the story and what Doug and I were going for. The only real input we gave was that he should go crazy. The more he could swing the colors to push the scenes and the vibe of Yumi’s personality, we were all for it, and trusted him to do so. Beyond that we spoke often as he colored the pages from scene to scene, but that was more me being awed by his choices and less of any serious input from myself. He brought something to the table that no one else on the team could’ve and the book is all the stronger for it.
Yumi can get pretty violent at times, but it is presented tastefully in such a way that it doesn’t seem jarring against the pop culture fun of the story. How did you achieve this balance?
SIlva: I owe that credit to our Editor, Lisako (Yamauchi). She was there seeing every page and scene develop making sure that we had the right mix of sugar and spice. For every one of my “OH MAN THIS WOULD BE AWESOME!” ideas for visuals, she had a “This is cute!” perspective. I think that additional flavor is what kept the look of the story in check.
The visuals of Yumi can vary drastically depending on which part of the story is being told. How did you decide on when to mix up your artistic style and how did those decisions help establish the world of Yumi?
That’s another one that goes to Lisako. We originally had a different version of those scenes where they were drawn in the same style as the rest of the graphic novel. She voiced that they weren’t quite hitting the right way. That maybe they should be more of a representation of her past experiences rather than what actually happened. I offered up that if Doug would rewrite them with that in mind I could try to draw them in a cuter style. Once we went that route it was obvious how much more it fell in line with the overall tone of Yumi’s world. Those scenes are just as over the top as the action scenes but in a completely different way and that dichotomy gives dimensionality to Yumi’s personality.
What is it about Yumi that makes it a good fit for Kickstarter? What kinds of opportunities did the Kickstarter platform provide that may not have been available in traditional media?
Wagner: Yumi started out as a labor of love for Hoyt and I. It was something we were doing for ourselves on the side and honestly had no publishing intentions in mind. We just wanted to create something fun. As it developed, we imagined it as possibly a webcomic, then a traditionally published comic book mini-series, and even a traditional graphic novel. But none of those seemed to quite fit what we wanted to do. We wanted a venue that allowed us to explore delivering this book with the same fun-loving, experimental approach we’d taken with the story. When it came down to it, Kickstarter felt like the right fit. We can offer the traditional softcover graphic novel, a overly spiffy hardcover, or (something we’re really excited about) a metal covered trade. To accomplish something like that following the traditional publishing path is impractical financially. Plus, we both love the Kickstarter community and the smaller niche feeling of it all.
Now that Yumi is making its way to the presses and into readers’ hands, can you tell us about any upcoming projects you will be working on next?
Wagner: I have a new dark comedy horror comic with Daniel Hillyard and Dave Stewart coming out from Image in June, the second issue of Thomas River with Brian Stelfreeze is well under way, and Hoyt and I have already started our next book together. It’s going to be a busy year.
Silva: I’ve got my Webtoon Mongrel written by Trey Walker ending it’s first season on Webtoon Canvas along with Doug and I working on our next story and a few other things.
Fans can back Yumi: Spy Fatale, Baddie Royale on Kickstarter through March 11th, 2021. The campaign offers a variety of unique rewards including variant covers, metal cover editions, and original sketch commissions by Hoyt Silva.