One of the latest books to get published via the comiXology Originals imprint, YOUTH looks and reads a bit like a neon fever dream, like a music video (if those were still culturally relevant) filtered through superhero comic books. It bounces between its young protagonists — all of whom feel well-realized and authentic — giving us glimpses of their lives, their challenges, and their interests, paired with quick captions announcing the music playing around the characters.
Writer Curt Pires says there is a simple reason the book provides such a sharp glimpse into what it’s like to be young today — his own age.
“I’m younger than most people realize: 27 just about 28,” Pires told The Beat recently via email. “My brother’s a couple years younger than me, and so are a lot of the people I spend time with. So I didn’t feel like I had to really capture much — I was just writing what I knew and the people around me. Which is not to say things are crazy here like in certain parts of the book. Some of that’s fiction, some of it’s from memories. I pulled from my past – a more wild time in my life, my teens and early twenties to tell this sort of story.”
The playlist within the book goes a long way to building the tone as well. It’s a subtle thing, almost (but not quite) blink-and-you’ll-miss-it. The songs playing in the background in big moments — a character intro, an escape from a bad situation, a party charged with hormones and romance — popping up via captions.
It’s a subtle thing, but incorporating these songs into the pages at exact moments adds to the vibrant and immersive feel of the book, especially as compared to more common means of pairing music with comics, such as putting a playlist at the end or a link to Spotify page online. Pires says he picked all the music himself, too, hoping to recreate the feeling you get when a piece of music kicks in during a TV show or a film.
“I approached it as sort of scoring the book, so I wanted the songs to match the feeling/vibe of the scenes,” Pires aid. “I think it adds additional depth and feeling to the scenes. We’ve seen in film/television the power of music and audio to create emotional beats, so I wanted to try it in the comic format. Ideally people will be able to play the songs on their phone or computer while reading.”
The last quality of Youth that really jumps off the page is perhaps the cohesion between the creative team, and a large part of that is that the team has previously worked together, most recently on the meta-skewing superhero comic with Image, Olympia. In addition to Pires, the creative team includes artist Alex Diotto, colorist Dee Cunniffe, and letterer Micah Meyers.
For his part, Pires says the hope is that this series (for which there are plans that extend far beyond the initial four issues coming out weekly right now) will mark just one in a long string of fruitful collaborations for this creative team.
“I feel like we all just keep getting better and better and this book just shows it,” Pires said. “Without sounding egotistical I feel a bit like Alex is my Sean Phillips or something. I always just want to have books going with him. Same for Dee. And Micah.”
Youth #1 and Youth #2 are available on comXiology now, with Youth #3 and #4 due out weekly from here.