The announcement of Sea of Stars was an exciting and odd surprise. I’m excited any time Jason Aaron writes a new series, and I was very happy to see Dennis Hallum return to the world of creator-owned comics. But I never expected them to make a series together. As Hallum notes in our interview, they have very different approaches to writing and tell very different stories.
Nevertheless, their collaboration, along with the art of Stephen Green and Rico Renzi, resulted in the very impressive Sea of Stars. I was really happy to speak with Hallum and fascinating to learn his co-writing process with Aaron, trying to reach the YA audience with the series, and much more. Keep reading to take in a really fun interview about the making and marketing of Sea of Stars.
All art in this post by Stephen Green & Rico Renzi
How did Sea of Stars come together?
Jason and I have been friends for years and we’ve always liked each other’s work. We talked about collaborating on something, but our ideas never worked because our brains approach stories very differently. We would pitch each other ideas but could never get on the same page.
A few years ago at Kansas City Comic Con I met Stephen Green, who said he didn’t have his next project yet. I went to Jason and said this is the artist for our collaboration. He asked, “What collaboration? We haven’t figured one something yet.” But that created a deadline we had to hit in order to be able to work with Stephen.
Jason had an idea for a weird Kirby-asque adventure about a little boy swimming through an ocean of space. I really wanted to do a story about the difference between how children and parents see things, and had the concept of an ice road trucker trying to find his lost kid in Arctic weather.
We somehow managed to smash those two ideas together into one story, taking the father and son perspectives from mine and the Kirby space adventure from Jason’s. We figured out that Jason would tell Kadyn’s adventure while I’d write Gil’s search for his son.
You can really feel the different flavors of writing. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of that kind of collaboration.
We didn’t decide it that right off the bat, but it became obvious during the plotting stage. Especially with the second issue, you can see that after the characters separate their stories become so different that they’d benefit from the writing method we landed on.
The first issue is mostly Jason. The second issue is the opposite, I write 90% of it. After that it’s split about 50/50.
It sounds like a lot of fun to write.
Yeah, it’s like a jam session. Whoever writes their portion of a script last has to consider the other character’s perspective and how to write its counterpart.
We just plotted out the second arc and figured out how to turn that concept on its head.
Steven and Rico’s depiction of space is just breathtaking. Did you and Jason discuss with them what you wanted space to look like before they drew those opening pages?
Sort of. The whole nautical theme was there from the beginning. But Steven is a madman and his monster designs from the Mignolaverse titles were part of why we wanted to work with him. A lot of the design is the nautical concept filtered through Stephen’s imagination.
My favorite thing about Stephen and Rico’s take is how it looks like space as illustrated by someone before humans knew what space looks like. Rico’s colors really make it pop. It doesn’t look like anything on the shelf, or like any depiction of space we’ve ever seen.
It’s such a striking way to begin the book, that juxtaposition between the mundane happenings on the ship and the beauty of space. I can’t imagine it any other way now.
How is telling a nautical adventure set in space is different from a typical space adventure?
It allows us to make up the rules as we go along, especially during Kadyn’s journey. You’re not dealing with the realities of surviving in space, or antigravity, or a lack of oxygen. Those things exist, but we can play more fast and loose with the danger of them. Gil’s story is quite a bit more grounded, because everything is terrifying to him.
It’s a kind of dirty word in publishing but the two perspectives make the series feels truly all-ages. Are you hoping to attract the YA market with Sea of Stars?
Yeah. We talked a lot about how to do so since Gil’s story is much more adult.
I’ve always described the book as Finding Nemo meets The Road, and obviously The Road isn’t YA. We’re trying to walk that line as much as possible. There’s never a lot of cursing or nudity in the book, but we still want Gil’s story to feel effectively terrifying.
Are you planning on doing anything special to target that market, such as publishing digest-sized volumes?
Discussions are ongoing, but I would love to do something like that. I think Sea of Stars lends itself to a direction that would work for that audience.
It’s been a while since you’ve made creator-owned comics, right?
Oh yeah. My last creator-owned book was The Answer with Mike Norton, which I wrote around 2010.
All of my creator-owned work was written before I got my first Marvel work, so I’ve had a very strange career path. It’s really exciting to work on something that’s fully mine again.
What makes now the right time to return to creator-owned?
Honestly, I’m not that prolific. I can only write so many books a month, so it was a matter of finding time between work for publishers like Marvel, Boom, and Valiant.
I’m always developing projects, though, this is just the first that came to fruition. I’ve gotten the bug with the release of Sea of Stars. I’m very excited to push some of my other projects forward because this has been a lot of fun.
I hope you enjoyed the interview! I certainly enjoyed my part in it. Go follow Dennis on Twitter @HopelessDent and check out the first two issues of Sea of Stars at your local comic book shop!
Matt Chats is an interview series featuring discussions with a creator or player in comics, diving deep into industry, process, and creative topics. Find its author, Matt O’Keefe, on Twitter and Tumblr. Email him with questions, comments, complaints, or whatever else is on your mind at firstname.lastname@example.org.