Comic - Frenemies: The Lost Planet

Steve Taylor-Bryant read the 12-page preview issue of Monty Nero's new comics series Frenemies and then had a chat with the man himself...

When a comic, or anything for that matter, is pitched to you as Star Wars meets Raiders of the Lost Ark you are going to read it. It needs no further marketing, not for me, I’m excited for anything pitched like this, a salesman’s dream. But then you add in that said aforementioned comic that needs no marketing is written by none other than Monty Nero, he of Death Sentence fame, and I’m literally throwing my children’s inheritance at my computer screen. Once I’ve tidied up the money, because apparently that’s not how Kickstarters work, I sat and took a look at the 12 page preview I’d been sent. I won’t be doing an in-depth review based on 12 pages, I don’t know enough to be able to do that, but I can tell you that, as an appetite whetter (that’s a word right?) [yes it is - Ed], it’s up there with the best, mainly because I’ve now correctly financed the comic through Kickstarter and that's before I even see any Star Wars/ Indiana Jones type action.

The 12 page preview introduces the characters without concentrating on all of them, giving the back story to events, and well that’s about it. It does it, though, with Nero’s trademark wit and use of swears in a funny way; “frankly it’s as funny as it is disturbing, like watching your grandma blow a clown” is never not going to be funny. Then you look at the incredible artwork by Yishan Li, who I’m ashamed to admit I’d never heard of before this comic, and you get the foundation of very good science fiction comic with all the beautiful art you could ever need with typical warped Nero sensibilities.

The 12 page preview was more than enough to get me to part with actual money and any fan of Monty Nero is bound to do the same but there’s a whole audience out there, that maybe don’t know Nero from Death Sentence or didn’t like the book (seek immediate help!), who might also find this tale of multinational strong LGBTQ characters mixed with the wonderful pop culture of our youths worthy of their time. I think that this is going to be Nero’s most inclusive comic book which will appeal to maybe a broader range of fans than his previous work. And I hope it does because the guy is an incredible writer that always seems to coerce brilliant artists to work with him.

Steve managed to beg some time in Monty Nero's busy schedule to chat to him about the new comics series...

Frenemies is completely different to the type of comic I’m used to getting from Monty Nero. How did this project come about, how did you meet Yishan Li and what pulled you towards collaborating together?

Good question. We met at a con a few years ago. We were tabling next to each other and we got on well and then went out with our respective partners drinking and dancing that night. It was a great night she’s an awesome laugh. I wrote a script for her when I got home, working up an idea I’d had for a while about seven rivals competing to find a Lost Planet. I knew she’d be perfect for it, but she was so busy with work I didn’t want to trouble her with it. So it just sat on my hard drive until just before Xmas when she got in touch to ask if I had anything she could draw. So I was able to say “why yes!! I wrote a script just for you right after we met! Here it is” The universe clearly knows it’s time for Frenemies to exist.

It looks like Frenemies will be packed with characters all demanding their time in the sun. What challenges do you guys, as a creative team, have trying to find the great balance you seem to have achieved here between so many characters?

The interplay between the seven different characters is the genesis of the whole comic. I heard them all in my head making each other laugh and fighting and then had to come up with a great way to keep them all together. That’s why they’re racing to find a mysterious lost planet that may save or destroy the world. They have to stick together in order to fulfil the alien prophesy they’ve discovered.

The preview issue I read is full of great dialogue and humour, the ‘grandma blowing a clown’ line stuck with me even though I was just scanning the pages. Where does this humour come from? Is there one member of the team that is funnier than the other or is it more of an ensemble cast?

Um they’re all wildly entertaining Hunter and Minerva are probably the most entertaining at first glance. He’s a kind of militantly right wing entrepreneurial bimbo, and she’s a vividly eccentric liberal professor of art and lesbian punk adventurer. They really spark off each other - it’s like fireworks night!

Where do the ideas come from for each element of the story? There’s things from pop culture we love and adore here but with what feels like a fresh take. How do you go about being new and eye-catching with well worn scenes?

It’s really hard. It took me ages to figure out. Basically I wanted to evoke Raiders of the Lost Ark without ripping off Raiders of the Lost Ark. The spirit of adventure and the character. But it’s so cliched, the whole tomb raiding thing, we’ve seen it all before. Whether it’s a woman or a man it just becomes Indiana Jones, which we all love but which we’ve all seen. Eventually I figured out if you do it in space, solving riddles in Zero G to solve incredible alien traps that rely on the cooperation of seven completely new people, it makes the vibe completely fresh. So if you like Star Wars, Close Encounters, 2001, and Raiders I’ve got good news. We’ve found a way to do them all in a thrilling new way.

What can readers expect from further issues? Is it just going to be the four issues or is there scope for a continuation?

It’s a four issue graphic novel length story to start off with. It has an ending but this is designed to run for decades. It’s a Ferrari of a narrative engine. We’ve built the car and now it’s time to race.

[Thanks to Monty for making Steve even more excitable about the Frenemies comic series by mentioning cars! The official link to the Kickstarter is here because pound coins will break your laptop screen when thrown - Ed]

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