Steven Cummings: Foraging through the futureA comics interview article by: Patrick Wedge
Currently launching on Kickstarter is a new graphic novel Forager , an all-ages adventure by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, taking an all-too-human family on an interstellar cruise ship vacation that gets rocky when their daughter begins hearing the call of an extraterrestrial voice promising their imminent arrival. In order to capture the journey, the team turned to talented artist Steven Cummings to provide the visuals.
Steven’s work history has been very diverse with past projects such as Deadshot, Legends of the Dark Knight, Ame-Comi Girls, New Excalibur and more. Living in Japan, his more recent work has been in the manga market, but the American market will get to see his artwork again in Forager.
We had the chance to catch up with Steven to talk about how got involved in the project, what he has been working on, and how this kind of story allowed him to play with his artwork.
Patrick Wedge for Comics Bulletin: Steven, let’s start out by what you lead to you get involved with Forager?
Cummings: I had been talking to Justin about the possibility of combining forces to fight crime, I mean, do a book together, and Justin told me about the idea behind what would become Forager. I liked the basic premise of Sci-fi without the tropes of alien invasions and space ship battles and Kirk-shoulder rolls and couldn’t wait to start sketching on the story.
CB: Did you find working with Jimmy and Justin on the project easier or more challenging than previous collaborations with them?
Cummings: No, they were just as easy to work with now as when I worked with Justin on Batman and Jimmy on Deadshot. The best part about working with them was that they gave me quick and clear feedback/comments on art and storytelling. That really makes the job of an artist vastly easier, especially when you consider the time differences between me and them.
CB: Given that Forager is set in the future and in space, does living in a country like Japan, which is more technologically advanced than most areas, provide any inspiration to your artwork and design?
Cummings: I find a lot inspiration in the clean lines of modern Japanese architecture along with the way buildings tend to be constructed to go with the terrain instead of being forced upon wherever they are being built. I think a lot of that made it into what I was designing, be it either the ships or the world of the future. Oh course we live in a part of Japan that isn’t all high tech. It’s kind of the dividing line between where the high-tech parts of Tokyo meets the country with rice fields and small mountains. It would be fun to get to draw something based around that too next time!
CB: How did you approach the book when you started working on it? Were you a more plot it as it goes, thumbnail out the whole book or just follow the script?
Cummings: For the most part I just followed the script although there were a few spots where I went back to Justin and suggested changes to the page layout. He was always open to hear what I suggested and that kind of openness really helps the artist stay excited about the project as the page count grows.
CB: Since you have a family, how do the story and the potential apply to your life? Were you able to draw upon that connection and integrate that into your artwork?
Cummings: My kids were a form of inspiration for Ellie and some of her behavior in the first half of the book. I had my son in mind when she was in scenes where her physical “acting” was key to the panel progression. But at the same time, neither of my kids has started t talking on behalf of alien races, so the inspiration I got from them only got me so far!
CB: Given some of the other projects you’ve worked on in the past, did the label of “all-ages” make you change your approach to some of the action areas or was it an easy transition?
Cummings: Definitely! With an all ages theme in mind we did away with the heavy T&A that you might see in a superhero book or in modern manga. I also tried to avoid too much use of heavy blacks and keep the line art simple.
CB: What projects are you currently working on?
Cummings: I just finished an issue of a Doujjinshi (an independent book in Japanese) that I do here in Japan. It is called Oblivion Planet and I sell it through the specialty Doujinshi stores and at the various comic markets like Comitia, International Manga Festival, and Comiket. I am also developing some ideas to start pitching to US publishers in the near future, but for the most part it is just Illustration work in Japan and comic books in the states with the occasional cover thrown in.
CB: What do you hope people take out of Forager if they support the Kickstarter project?
Cummings: I hope that people can realize that not all Sci-Fi has to be about end of the world doom and gloom, but can be about people just dealing with the curve balls life throws at them.
CB: Finally, if the fans support it enough, would you ever consider working on another Kickstarter with Jimmy and Justin?
Absolutely!!! I can start drawing tomorrow!!!