Finding your place in high school is tough, and being the new kid senior year is even worse, unless you find a best friend and bandmate to help you achieve your rock star dreams. Writer/artist Fabian Lelay (Jade Street Protection Services) explores real-world teenagers, music, and finding yourself in Black Mask Studio’s five-part series We Are The Danger. With colors by Claudia Aguirre (Kim & Kim), letters by Taylor Esposito of Ghost Glyph Studios (Red Hood and the Outlaws), and edited by Stephanie Cooke, the story provides a refreshing change from typical comics filled with superpowers, undead, and gritty crime. I chatted with Lelay about the series and why he chose to write this tale.

Deanna Destito: What led to the creation of We Are The Danger?

Fabian Lelay: We Are The Danger was originally conceived as an idea for a licensed property that I was hoping to overhaul but when it didn’t ultimately pan out, I couldn’t get it out of my head. I knew I wanted to still tell this story. I drew from my experiences as a band manager back in the Philippines and infused all of that into the characters and the music.

Destito: How many issues are out so far and how many are planned?

Lelay: We have three issues out on the stands so far. It’s going to be a five-issue run, but the ending is left open with the potential for more down the line.

Destito: Many reviews say that this book is a welcome change from what is out there, meaning no superheroes, crime fighting, zombies, etc. Why are books like this so important?

Lelay: I feel that the over-saturation of the market with superheroes, zombies, sci-fi, and etc. creates a bit of fatigue. Fresh takes on more “down-to-earth” stories let us breathe and reflect on ourselves more. The realism and relatability keeps us hopeful and inspired to live life as if it is a wonderful story we are writing. In this industry, we tend to forget that human life can also tell an amazing story that people should definitely see.

Destito: How does your writing and art style fit in with our world? Do you like to include yourself in your work or do you prefer to stay detached and leave out the personal stuff?

Lelay: It goes without saying, writers’ views and personalities bleed into the stories they conceive. My stories are no different. A lot of people point out the fact that the lead in the book is Filipina, and the reason why is it’s a culture that I know from first-hand experience but never see largely and positively represented in any medium. I think it’s important for writers and artists to have more personal attachments in their material. It gives the reader a better sense of the creator behind the story, and we as a community are exposed to different cultures and lifestyles that we may not have been exposed to otherwise.

Destito: How did you get into comics?

Lelay: Art has always been a huge part of my life. Ever since I was in kindergarten, I fell in love with art. I drew every day and it was something I knew that I wanted to pursue ever since. However, my trajectory wasn’t always headed to comics. I studied Fashion Design in the Philippines in the hopes of being a menswear designer. But when I got back to New York in 2011, the market was so oversaturated and insanely competitive that I fell out of love for it. After doing some soul searching and reading Deadly Class for the first time, I noticed that superhero comics (I was not really a fan) weren’t the only stories out there anymore. The indie comic book scene had a lot more to offer and I decided that it was a good time to go back to my roots of character art and storytelling. I’ve been back in comics for a while now, largely developing my own stories, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Destito: What is your favorite part of the process?

Lelay: Creating comics is an insane process, but it’s also a lot of fun. Building worlds and creating the characters bring me the most joy. Creating new people to interact within a world you’ve created makes for an amusing time as a storyteller. However, like I said, it is an insane process. Schedules and deadlines often take you away from the real world and put a lot of creators on a long path of solitude. Granted, with the modern marvels of technology, we can interact with people through the internet but it does sacrifice meaningful connections in the world.

Destito: Who or what influences you creatively?

Lelay: I get my influences from a lot of things: music, movies, TV, games… it’s a long list. One thing that I’m finding exceptionally inspirational at the moment is Critical Role. The improv and dedication to detail as well as what the actors and the DM bring to the table are nothing short of inspiring. Most of us can appreciate great storytelling regardless of the medium and Critical Role has that while also being incredibly entertaining.

Destito: What is your dream book or creative team?

Lelay: This is really a hard question to answer. Dream books…I could name titles of projects I want to finally get published but if I were to name a property? I’d love to try my hand at Gotham Academy for sure. Dream team, I’d love to work with Brenden Fletcher. His stories have an energy I’d love to illustrate, with someone amazing like maybe Jordie Bellaire on colors. I don’t even have to explain, she’s one of the best out there. And Taylor Esposito on letters, as always.

Destito: Advice for someone who wants to create comics professionally?

Lelay: Try to have fun with it – it’s rough at first and throughout, but let’s face it: everything is. As long as you can keep it fun, you can stay in love with the craft and show your passion on the pages.

Destito: Any other upcoming projects you can tell us about?

Lelay: I’m currently working on a YA title with Stephanie Cooke as my co-writer. Can’t say much except if you liked Revolutionary Girl Utena and A Knight’s Tale, then the book is for you. If anything, follow me at @rocketsandpens on Twitter for updates on that as well as updates for We Are The Danger.

Issue #4 of We Are The Danger is available on December 5. Head to your local comic shop or to to catch up on the first three issues of the series.