Yesterday we spoke to the Syndrome creative team of R.J. Ryan and David Marquez about the unhappy family at the center of The Joyners in 3D, their upcoming book from Archaia.
Today we shift focus to that tantalizing 3D aspect. Tonally, this family drama might seem an unlikely candidate for something as bombastic as 3D, but that should only instill further confidence that this book about innovators is an innovation in itself. I’ve read the script for this project and I can tell you first hand, this effect is far from a gimmick and isn’t the cash-grabby after-thought employed at the multiplex every other week. It’s all ingrained within the story, each instance of enhanced depth or projection meticulously conceived.
I’ll go ahead and say it. Forget everything you thought you knew about 3D, especially in comics.
Let’s allow Ryan and Marquez explain. Oh, and if you’ve got some red/blue 3D glasses handy, put ‘em on an enjoy the preview images!
iFanboy: When people hear words like “bleak family drama” they don’t, ya know, ever associate that with 3D. Do you enjoy that dichotomy? Is it scary?
R.J. Ryan: I’m pretty inspired by what’s beein going on in cinema, not just with a profitable pop culture phenom like JACKASS 3D but with the work being done on THE GREAT GATSBY which is out next summer — everybody knows that the Gatsby story doesn’t really end well, but the movie they’re making (that they have been working on roughly in the same long timeline as our book) is kind of the canary in the coal mine for this kind of thing. Also I have shown the book to wise and successful artists who I know (and who I know to give unvarnished criticism) and they have responded to our take — so has Dave. So yes I’m scared but I am also confident that, getting into things, people will get it. God I hope so.
iFanboy: Do you remember your earliest experiences with 3D storytelling? Do any implementations of the ever-evolving technology stand out to you as particularly strong, or maybe misguided? In comics or other media?
RJR: Paul, nobody has asked us that before. Thank you. I’m pretty sure the first 3D comic I read was the actual first 3D comic, Joe Kubert’s 1952 Mighty Mouse one-shot, the reprint of which was in heavy rotation in the very first comics I owned as a little 6 year old kid. In my life as a comic book reader, I’ve tried to pick up every 3D book I could find and once this thing got greenlit, I went and got everything I couldn’t find. My faves are a little eccentric, but maybe people can track them down. [Tom Yeates'] 3D comic book adaptation of the Michael Jackson theme park short film “Captain Eo” is better than the movie. You can practically see Jacko’s fingerprints all over it and that dude used to go to the same comic book shop as me in Santa Monica, Hi-Dee-Ho comics, surgical mask and all. He was a devoted fan of the medium and that’s really the only piece of comics he had a hand in making. There are cool pages online. I love a bunch of the obscure 3D romance and western comics from the fifties boom, and more recently, Ray Zone’s conversion of Travis Charest’s X-Men/WildC.A.T.S. is a book Dave and I have talked about until we’re blue in the face and we even directly pay tribute to it on one a page in THE JOYNERS IN 3D. Jim Lee, Travis and Ray (R.I.P.) deserved awards for that baby. It’s perfect 3D comics.David Marquez: Charest! In 3D! WildC.A.T.s/X-Men THE GOLDEN AGE! I love that comic! I read it for the first time in 2D and was amazed, like we all were, at Charest’s style metamorphosing right before my eyes. But what really blew me away was when I came across the 3D conversion done by Ray Zone. Beautiful, stellar, eye-popping stuff that made a HUGE impression on me. We should also pay respect to Ray Zone’s work on Moore and O’Neil’s Black Dossier. It’s not for everybody but it was absolutely an ambitious 3D chapter in a book full of risk-taking storytelling. It was a very worthy effort. But on a technical level, and a thematic one as well, we’re trying to be the best and most ambitious example of 3D comics ever, and we’re lucky to have an editor like Stephen Christy and a publisher like Archaia who support that agenda.
RJR: We should also mention Joe Kubert’s old 3D Tor stories as a huge influence. They are beautiful, and show Joe really tweaking his approach to 3D and refining as he goes. He was the best at this because he invented it. What about turkeys? DC Comics have dipped their feet into 3D a few times with some odd results. There’s an entire Batman graphic novel by John Byrne that Ray Zone converted but it was a massive technical misfire, because it literally was Ray’s first stab at converting — and he was doing it with the biggest writer/artist of the time who is not exactly known for his politeness or flexibility. The result is pages and pages of 3D that simply do not work. At all. And even the cover of the book is a first class design train-wreck. DC published this and I, as a kid, bought it with my allowance and hated it. I went back and found some pages and they’re still bad. Please pass the word to Geoff Johns that while I have zero interest in ever writing for DC, I am happy to look at their assets on this book free of charge and advise on a new conversion. It’s a fun book that is really uncomfortable to read because of a sloppy approach to the transfer. But Ray was just getting started.
DM: In movies, I loved the 3D in the recent Amazing Spider-Man film. It’s a trip to go see that movie when you’re right in the middle of 1) drawing Spider-Man monthly for Brian Bendis and 2) making what you hope will be a very well-received piece of 3D art. So it might have hit me a little stronger than most.
RJR: I love the work in Avatar and Jackass 3D – which were both shot natively and are the two of the most profitable pure-3D movies for that reason, I’d argue. Captain America: The FIrst Avenger has a conversion that was supervised by Joe Johnston, who is just in his own class when it comes to visual design, effects and action. For a post-converted film, the 3D worked quite nicely. The Werner Herzog doc Cave of Forgotten Dreams is not bad either. With Prometheus, which was Ridley Scott’s first native 3D movie, I was a little let down with the visuals (let’s not get into a talk about the story here) but the 3D does improve in the third act, to my eye. Didn’t he keep saying he was gonna do every movie in 3D after this, but then went off and made The Counsellor? I want to see him tweak and refine his approach the next time he stereoscopes.
iFanboy: This was always going to be a 3D project. Why? When planning and scripting something like this, is that a whole other consideration for each page?
RJRHQ: I have three people to thank for this being in 3D. The seed for this came during the making of SYNDROME in 2009, as my dear friend Dimitry Elyashkevich, one of the producers and the primary director of photography for the “Jackass” franchise, told me Paramount had finally given the greenlight to Jackass 3D after a ton of false starts and some real questions about wether or not this was even doable. Dimitry, who also runs the Adult Swim show Loiter Squad and is one of the creators of WildBoyz is an utterly fearless dude (check out his instagram account: meechface for proof) and he was completely open with me every single dayof production on that movie, showing me how he was learning this medium as he went. It was inspiring to see a guy, one of the most successful guys I know, take a risk and jump out of his comfort zone. At the same time, Spike Jonze, an artist who is a huge inspiration to me, was getting things moving on the 3D side of Where the Wild Things Are and because Dimitry has worked in partnership so long with Spike, I got a lot of questions answered about that film too. But it wasn’t until I screened the earliest Jackass 3D footage with Dimitry and Spike in San Diego in 2010 that I said to myself, “I have to figure out how to do a 3D book with Dave,” just because I saw these guys getting emotional reactions and transcending the gimmick and the spectacle of their 3D.
Secondly, Stephen Christy, our editor and the editor at Archaia, has to be applauded for saying yes to the book but also demanding that we prove ourselves in pre-production by subjecting us to a battery of tests. He always loved the story and Dave’s line art, but we had to convince him that 3D was the right path and over a series of months, he really drilled Dave and myself to up our technical game. That’s another completely fearless guy, a dear friend, and a total comics visionary. He’s a guy who is transforming this business for the better, and my closest creative collaborator apart from Dave.
Thirdly, mega-thanks to Dave’s primary creative partner at Marvel, Brian Bendis. Over the last year and a half, their collaboration has grown into something special and distinct, and we’re now seeing it carry from All-New Ultimate Comics Spider-Man (one of the best and most socially important mainstream comics in years) to the All New X-Men book. It’s been wonderful to see Dave stop being referred to as Sara Picelli’s “relief hitter” and come into his own at the publisher, and we owe that to Brian, who has the clout to take creative risks with his books that you normally can’t in corporate comics. Dave has drawn more pages for Brian than for any other writer except me, and their chemistry is incredible and makes me get up out of my chair and cheer. But it’s also a strong reminder that on THE JOYNERS IN 3D, I have to seriously up my game and NOT make this feel for one second like a Diet Coke version of Bendis (or Jon Hickman, who Dave has also worked with). To bring fans in from the Marvel mainstream who discovered Dave’s work in Brian’s books, my writing has to really go in a wildly different direction than Brian’s — and he’s a writer for whom I have infinite respect. The man hasdefined mainstream American comics for nearly 15 years, and I’m not interested in competing with that, or the great books he and Dave have been burning out at Marvel. I’m a hardcore fan of the Bendis oeuvre but I’m dead meat if I come off like a copycat! It was a major wake-up call to see them click as well as they did — plus it’s been great for pre-orders of THE JOYNERS IN 3D!
DM: Josh has a radically different voice than Brian, and you get that sense from the first page. He’s not doing any of this to get the attention of the Big Two and is wholly committed to make comics in the creator-owned realm, so he doesn’t hold back, as I’m sure you’ve seen, Paul. They’re both incredible to work with but there’s nobody I can imagine doing a 3D comic with but Josh. Even on a technical level it’s been an uphill battle and Josh’s eye for art (he got me my first comics gig ever) and intensely motivated approach has kept this project vital for two years running. It hasn’t been an easy production but with Josh, it’s always satisfying because of his unlimited inventiveness and intensity. He pushes me like nobody else.
Regarding the 3D specifically, from the get-go I knew this project with Josh was going to be in 3D. I’ll confess to a certain degree of hesitance at the outset, but that lasted literally minutes before the potential of the idea took hold. It’s a wildly ambitious, risky thing going off on a tangent from one’s established brand, but there is well established precedent for mainstream artists using creator-owned books as an opportunity to explore their craft and medium. For me, JI3D is an opportunity to really push myself out of my comfort zone, aesthetically and technically.
iFanboy: When working in 3D, does that element call for sacrifices in any other areas?
RJR: The book uses a color printing process, but when you put on the glasses you see a very crisp, clean “black & white” 3D image, with volume and depth. You can do 3D in color but it really doesn’t look that great to my eye, and as good a seller as the Crossed 3D graphic novel was, the copious amounts of blood in that book created a strobe effect that I found annoying. Dave has such a subtle, clean approach to all this, and it works great.
DM: Agreed. Losing color is definitely the biggest cost of doing business in 3D. I’m excited to see if, especially as comics become increasingly digital-first, new technologies allow for a cleaner 3D viewing experience. But for JI3D, we’re writing a love letter to traditional old-school 3D comics, and using the anaglyph “red/blue” 3D really does limit us to black and white for greatest effect. But, necessity being the mother of invention, this limitation has allowed us to develop a really unique look and voice for the book.
iFanboy: Can you speak to the particular 3D techniques employed in Joyners in 3D? Why this method over other alternatives?
RJR: I guess the easiest way to explain it is that we’re using self-developed 21st century tools to achieve an evolved version of the very oldest school 3D comics. It’s a unique approach that we have all poured countless hours into, and we are still balls-deep in a lot of the technicals of delivering something flawless but also pretty original, simply on a technical level. I know all the production secrets and trust me nobody has executed 3D quite the way we have.
DM: For this book, we weren’t so much interested in inventing an entirely new way of doing the business of 3D, but rather refining and updating the techniques that have long been established to make the most ambitious and technically accomplished 3D graphic novel possible.
There were talks early on about who we’d like to bring in to do the 3D conversion, but I fairly quickly made the decision to do all of the 3D myself. It struck me that, while 3D conversionists have done incredible, beautiful work, there was so much potential for 3D if left in the hands of the original artist. Assuming the artist was up for the challenge.
Tackling the 3D process, learning the ins-and-outs of the technique, was an incredibly attractive prospect for me, personally. I have a ravenous curiosity; I LOVE to learn and to be challenged intellectually. Before breaking into comics I was a test-prep tutor for graduate exams – MCAT, LSAT, GRE – and had originally planned to go into academia. New ideas and obstacles are like crack to me.
And the 3D has been a VERY challenging (and ongoing) learning process. Every page I work on is drawn with 3D as a part of the equation, compositionally and technically. Since I work almost exclusively digitally, I’m able to build the pages from the ground up in a way that caters specifically to the 3D conversion process I’ve developed. And it’s a process that evolves just as any artist’s style or technique evolves. While the basics of the technique stay the same, each page presents unique problems that force me to stretch and bend to make the most of the skills and techniques at my disposal. That’s what I’ve loved most, creatively, about working on this book. I crave new tools, new toys, for making art, and 3D has been the LEGO DEATHSTAR of new creative toys.