When you open The Misplaced, you are at first captivated by surreal mixed media art featuring rich somber tones and haunting imagery. As you begin to read Chris Callahan’s tale, you are immediately immersed in the supernatural world he has created and curious about the mythology surrounding it.
After a fatal shipwreck, James finds himself wandering the afterlife in search of his beloved wife Anna. He is tired of the day in and day out of his current state, which propels him to leave paradise to find her lost soul. In his journey, James will discover a dark secret that threatens the very fabric of the universe.
The four-part miniseries from Source Point Press is Callahan’s debut in the comic book world. Previously a television graphic designer, the artist is also the winner of the Aspen Comics Talent Hunt. The creator chatted with The Beat about the series and how he used his signature art style of photo collage, 3D models, and painting to bring the comic to life.
Deanna Destito: The premise of the story is unique and intriguing. What inspired it?
Chris Callahan: The way it turned out, I did pretty much everything backward. I had been working on a bunch of work-for-hire jobs where I didn’t have creative control, so as a mental reset between shows I’d paint/collage/throw together random imagery. After I posted some pieces online, I started getting comments asking what the story was about. The artwork was all thematically linked by death and the afterlife, so it seemed like a natural progression to come up with a story to explain them.
Destito: The visuals for the book are gorgeous and create the perfect atmosphere for the narrative. Can you talk about your process of using mixed media in your art and why you chose this route?
Callahan: Thank you! I mainly chose that style because that’s what I’m most comfortable with from my work in graphic design. When I read a design brief from a client or plan a comic page, my mind thinks of it as a problem to solve. How can I make this logo or piece of artwork communicate the idea in a unique way? When designing a title sequence for a show, the answer could be 3D animation, scripting a font, taking photo textures…every job presents a unique challenge.
For Misplaced, once I had a script finished the problem really was, how do I communicate this atmosphere in an unexpected way? In the first double-page spread James builds a ship and reimagines the final few moments he spends with his wife on Earth. I used photographic textures mixed with other digitally painted elements. The main hull of the ship is a 3D model. The aim of using more than one method to render the scene was really to present this paradise in an uneasy unfamiliar way.
On a personal level doing Misplaced has been the most fun I’ve ever had, because I got to use all those fun tools in the toolbox. It’s not a style that works for everything, but for this one hopefully readers will enjoy it.
Destito: Spirituality and the afterlife are obviously huge components in the The Misplaced. Did you base any of this on your own beliefs or is this a completely original design specific to this tale?
Callahan: It’s a design specific to this tale, intended as a more generic representation of the universe and the afterlife than any specific religious belief. But as the main characters of this arc are Victorian Era Europeans, many Christian archetypes are present. For example, James struggles with the Heaven he seems to find himself in, specifically the monotonous aspect of eternity and the fact he can receive anything he wants…which in his mind feels valueless and unearned.
Destito: Have you thought about creating future stories in this universe you’ve created?
Callahan: Absolutely. There’s certainly more that can be told…though, don’t worry, this arc does tell a complete story. I’d love to play with what would happen if other characters were dropped into this Universe, specifically ones who don’t believe in a paradise after death. How would their addition affect the characters and the problems currently occurring?
Destito: How has it been working with Source Point Press to get this series off the ground?
Callahan: Fantastic. It’s not a book that could find a home at a lot of companies, especially with a writer/artist lacking any real sales track record. But when I signed the contract, Travis McIntire (Editor-In-Chief) said to me, “It’s weird, but I think it will do really well with us.” Pre-sale numbers for issue one came in a couple weeks ago, and my happiest moment so far on the project has been proving him right.
Destito: Any other upcoming projects you can share with us or tease?
Callahan: Nothing I can share right now, but I am currently circulating a proposal for my next project and would love to come back and tell you all about it in a couple months!