Image is loaded with great properties and titles but D.J. Kirkbride and Nikos Koutsis are adding something different to store shelves with Errand Boys #1! The title features a futuristic Blade Runner-esque world containing a friendship between two unlikely characters. The Beat sat down with creators Kirkbride and Koutsis to sound-off about the book before the series’ October 3 release date.
Alexander Jones: What is an Errand Boy, and how did the concept for the series first start to take shape?
D.J. Kirkbride: “Errand Boy” is a kind of derogatory term for a future job known as an “Errand Runner.” They’re usually younger folks without many options who just need to make ends meet. They work for companies like the Bearrands, Inc., the one our lead characters work for, and get assigned sometimes mundane, often dangerous, usually illegal tasks. The truth is that often they’re just stealing stuff from rich people for other rich people. It’s a pretty hard-knock life.
Jones: What were some of the inspirations behind the world of the series?
Kirkbride: All the non-Jedi bits of Star Wars, that lived-in, kind of junky sci-fi universe filled with scoundrels and no-goods who maybe secretly have hearts of gold is a big inspiration. I like that feel combined with the sometimes funny yet melancholy family dynamics of Wes Anderson movies, along with David Eggers’ classic debut book A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. It’s all of that in a blender with a lot of the feelings of my own life experience, all twisted up and changed around so that it’s not autobiographical, but, man, I get kind of emotional while writing it.
Jones: It seems like the core of the issue is the profound relationship between Tawnk and Jace.
Kirkbride: Absolutely. This is a family comedy drama about estranged brothers thrown into an ill fitting almost father/son kind of relationship due to a random tragedy, just with a backdrop of crazy science fiction trappings and lots of action and fun. Unlike most of my other comics, the plotting is more episodic in ERRAND BOYS, and the focus is on these two and their dynamic.
Jones: Can you tease how Tawnk and Jace’s relationship develops over the course of the series?
Kirkbride: It’s complicated, sometimes contentious, and, deep down, caring. Their relationship changes profoundly in the five issues of this series as they get to know each other and accept their new stations in life. Both of them grow up some, but it’s not without many, many hiccups and far too many near-death experiences, especially since Tawnk is only thirteen. A life of adventure is dangerous, folks!
Jones: Was it difficult to craft a visual aesthetic for the title that didn’t feel derivative?
Nikos Koutsis: The ERRAND BOYS universe, Old and New EBB, and outer space are places I’ve already visited in the past, through other artists’ cameras or pens. Their visual descriptions occupy my unconsciousness and there’s where I mix up everything and come up with my own interpretations of those places. It’s like visiting a pristine Alderaan and a Blade Runner’s dystopian Los Angeles at the same time, a place full of Skrull-Krylan-like breeds, or Tatooine-esque passersby! All those places and their inhabitants I have created are a tribute to those sci-fi/horror/adventure movies, which made me daydream when I was a kiddo and my school teacher was failing to do a good job!
Jones: Nikos’ imaginative and fluid artwork is a strong addition to the work, can you talk about crafting the artwork?
Koutsis: This story is about “Errand Runners”, and those characters hardly have the time to catch a breath! This mentioned, it all has to be portrayed in an extremely kinetic way! I was fortunate enough to have some traditional character animation training in the past and this proved to be a very helpful experience in helping me pace sequences demanding full time action/chases!
Jones: Was it difficult to come up with some of the designs for the story?
Koutsis: I could instantly see Jace as a Han Solo type (though one who never had much protein in his meals), unshaved with a sleazy soul patch and a loser’s look in his eyes, kneepads and sports shoes which go with a lot of running and falling… His boss, Bear, a Blob-Jabba-slug breed and Jace’s ex, Max, a character who could be a Legion of Super-Heroes member… Not to mention Jace’s vehicle, the BEGO… could be called Millennium BEGO, kind of!
Tawnk was different! He had to be. He’s the character who makes all the difference to me in the story. The one that showed up out of nowhere and changes Jace’s life forever! Tawnk is a kid with peace and goodness in his heart, he is pure, so I gave him blue colors. He has great stamina and agility, so I pictured him as an African/Indian/Mayan teenager hunter, who has feathers coming out from his skin (inspired by all those wonderful tribal uniforms). I hope people will like him as much as I do!
Jones: Errand Boys captures some emotional material. Is any of the work in the series inspired by your own lives?
Kirkbride: It absolutely is for me, but, like I said, it’s not directly from my life. When I write anything, even big, action-packed, weird, fun, and funny science fiction adventure comics, there’s always a core of my life in there, either something I’ve experienced or that has been in the back of my mind or kept me up at night. People who know me will see a lot of it, but for most readers, my hope is they just dive into the action shenanigans and grow to really care about our characters.
Koutsis: This series is very much about family members trying to get along! I guess, most of us have to deal with these kind of issues, more or less, in our family lives. We don’t always succeed and this hurts sometimes and then it’s never too late until it is permanently too late, so there’s always hope. Jace and Tawnk have a lot to deal with, and I can definitely relate to this!
Jones: Jace seems to have emotional baggage he hasn’t yet addressed. Will we see this play out in future installments of the series?
Kirkbride: You bet it’ll play out in future installments. Jace and Tawnk both learn about each other and themselves while running from various monsters and creatures and cops and criminals who either want to eat them or put them in jail while they just try to make enough money to get by and survive. There’s some character development and growth amidst the running and scrapping.
Jones: How big is the world of Errand Boys?
Kirkbride: It’s pretty dang infinite. We see several worlds and many aliens, but this series just scratches the surface. The fun of this kind of sci-fi-fantasy is that pretty much anything goes. As a writer, one of the most fun aspects for me has been quickly discovering that nothing I write, no matter how crazy, will stump Nikos. His imagination is amazing, and it really broadens the scope of every scene.
Jones: What are some of the aspects of the relationship between Max and Jace readers can see develop over the course of the comic?
Kirkbride: Max has a very rich life outside of Jace. While we will see her throughout the series, the focus is on Jace and his brother Tawnk. We did have a lot of fun with a Max-centric backup story in issue 1 drawn by Nikos’s friend Manos Lagouvardos, and, honestly, she could star in her own series. Her adventures would be way more professional, less amateur-hour than Jace’s tend to be, frankly.
Jones: How long did it take to craft the world of Errand Boys?
Koutsis: Technically none! While doing warm-up thumbnails and laying out the pages, setting up my cameras and ruling perspective lines, I was going with my guts and letting ALL the info stored in my unconscious come out and see the light of day right away. Each time I had to stop and give birth to a new character of importance I would design him/her on the spot and then move forward. It’s much like trusting “The Force” to squeeze the most out of your intelligence rather than making multiple efforts, searching for a best option! This keeps my work fluid and fresh!
Kirkbride: Nikos’s imagination seriously blows my mind. His work on this book is visually stunning, and I find new secrets and bits of business every time I look at a panel. His art jumps off the page and really energizes the comic.
Jones: What kind of elements does Max add to the story? Do you think she brings out a more responsible side of Jace’s character?
Kirkbride: Not to spoil too much of issue 1, but she does have an influence on Jace in both her presence and in her absence, but not in the way you might be expecting. Jace is definitely behind in the “adulting” area, and he needs all the help he can get. Everyone, from Max to Tawnk to Bear will play a part in his growth, but, ultimately, it’s up to Jace himself. He has a lot of work to do.
Jones: Where is the nearest Souvlaki Special location? Is the establishment a franchise?
Kirkbride: That’s a good question! It was one of those moments where I wrote something like “run-down diner,” and then Nikos imagined some amazing little hot air balloon food cart and even gave it its fun name and awesome logo.
Koutsis: Well, Souvlaki is a very famous Greek delicacy, one you must taste at least once in your life, if you haven’t already! A futuristic hot air balloon food cart floating over a Blade Runner Los Angeles seemed to be the right installation!
Jones: Is there anything about the issue I missed?
Kirkbride: I’d like to say that, while we’ve focused on a lot of the character drama and relationships, which is the core of this series, there’s a whole lot of action! That constant movement was something I wanted to have, but it really came to life and was amplified when Nikos joined the team. Once I saw his dynamic action and character acting and staging along with his and Mike Toris’s colors, I knew I could cut loose. Our letterer, Frank Cvetkovic, ties the story and art together expertly, and editors Adam P. Knave and El Anderson help keep us all in line while the legendary Erik Larsen chimed in with sage-like advice from time to time and is clearly a mentor to Nikos– we have a great team here, and I’m so happy to be a part of this fun, action packed comic book!
Errand Boys #1 is on sale October 3!