October 26, 2017

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Interview with Jorge Corona and Jacob Semahn (No. 1 With A Bullet by Jorge Corona, Jacob Semahn, Jen Hickman and Steve Wands)

No. 1 with a Bullet is the newest book from artist Jorge Corona (Feathers, We Are Robin) that sets itself up as an antithesis to the (mis)information age. With the "fake news" circulating the web and the recent increases in occurrences of online harassment, he and series Jacob Semahn have decided to hit back.

At the beginning of the series, its protagonist, Nash, lives her life online as much as anyone else - sharing her most intimate moments with her followers in the hope of making a dent in the onslaught of social media. However, she is about to discover the first stumbling block to the most burgeoning of fame: everyone knows exactly how to find you.

Panel Patter: Was there a single triggering moment that inspired the series’ cautionary tale for technology? If not, how did the project come together?

Jacob Semahn: I feel that it’s been a series of triggering events - whether that's Celebgate or Facebook/Twitter’s role in spreading misinformation in the recent U.S. Presidential election. Technology is moving at such a rapid pace that it’s beginning to show the sharp teeth behind that welcoming smile.

While the series does slant towards warning about the all-consuming nature of technology, there’s always the interactions between Nash and her girlfriend that lean the other way. Do you plan to land the series on either side of the fence?

Jacob Semahn: We wanted this book to show the realism of our current day-to-day. There will always be those you let in close to you. We’re not quite to the point of social media and our digital lives completely controlling the facets to our lives, but we’re certainly closer than we’ve ever been.

Jorge Corona: This decision affected the art side of the book as well. Even though the main theme had to do with technology, the human aspect needed to remain at the center of it. This meant that, visually, I didn't want the book to feel cold and synthetic. It ended up a more exaggerated style that felt hand drawn, almost a living sketch.


Have the two of you worked together on previous projects? Either way, what made this a story worth pairing up for?

Jacob Semahn: Yes. Jorge and I worked previously on Image Comics’ GONERS. Jorge and I have a great shorthand on our creativity as we think relatively in the same way when it comes to story and structure. Also, we’re really good friends to boot, so it makes it all the more fun and when it comes to indie anything… fun means everything.

What was the thinking behind the Direct Messages to our protagonist, Nash, on the credits page, arguably out of the realm of the usual place for storytelling?

Jacob Semahn: We were striving for exactly that. That background feel. When you’re circling the pack of celebrity, you get the outpouring of letters, offers, and messages. Background noise that most don’t even look at. Though, our main character Nash isn’t a super famous celebrity… she’s an assistant for one. So checking messages and communications is part of the job. We figured this would be a good way to introduce her No. 1 fan into the mix. 

Starting seemingly small and innocuous like all stalkers do until it builds into a terrifying crescendo as the days wear on.

The first few pages are disorientating with their quick-switches of perspective and clashing colour schemes. What made you want to begin the series in this way? Do you plan on continuing the series with this tone?

Jorge Corona: This first scene was very important to set the mood of the book. This does not mean that the whole book will look this way, rather than this breaking or distortion of reality will pair with later moments in the story where, as Nash's mind start cracking under the pressure and the horror of the events, the grasp of reality also starts crumbling down.


One component that I love about the art is the exaggerated body proportions and body language: Nash’s boss Jad Davies and his large shoulders, his wife’s a-little-bit-too-perfect hourglass figure commandeering the panel space from our protagonist. What aspects of the storytelling play into these decisions?

Jorge Corona: Even though it may seem contradictory, I feel like there's an easiest way to convey and relate to character's emotions when you allow the art to be more abstract and stylized. Another reason for the final look of the book is that the events depicted were meant to be real and disturbing; not trying to rely on over exposure to the nature of these, we wanted the world to be stylized and not realistic.

There’s brusqueness to the reactions between the characters that we see (e.g. Jad Davies, Travis Martindale and even Nash Huang herself to an extent). Is this a statement on the show-business industry or the effects of technology?

Jacob Semahn: I think it’s a bit of both. Show biz is quite to the point when it comes to overseeing a particular project. Sure there’s stabbings of backs, but for the most part being self-assured is the name of the faking-it-till-you-make-it game. Technology definitely hasn’t helped matters in the ways of communicating complex thoughts or feelings in a 140-characters.


The page structure switches between more standard layouts (e.g. 3x3, 5x1) to pages where the panel borders are crooked and we see small moments captured in tiny, unconnected panels. What is the thought process that goes into selecting these layouts?

Jorge Corona: This comes back to the distorted reality aspect we were mentioning earlier. Since some, if not most, of the moments in Nash's story boil down to her grasp of her surroundings, we wanted to use as many elements as we could to augment the storytelling of the book.

This is also why, Jen Hickman's colors come into play in such a big way. We weren't aiming to depict a “by the numbers” visual narrative, instead we wanted the reader to be emotionally immerse in the world that we created.

At the end of each issue, you have a platform that you’re calling “Here for the Comments”. Can you tell me a little bit about your aims for that going forwards?

Jacob Semahn: We wanted to build a platform for people who have gone through stalking, harassment, or doxxing to speak out. As two guys, we felt that as a story it rubbed us the wrong way to comment on something that we’ve never personally gone through. Sure, research, thought, and talking with close friends/professionals gave us a ton of insight…but the more we heard, the more we were grossed out by the very real threats/harassment that women have faced at certain points in their lives. 

This is all the while compounded by the recent news regarding Hollywood and its practices for decades. Jorge and I reached out to Casey Gilly and Sara Sanders… two well-respected advocates for women’s rights and top notch journalists in the community to moderate this space. Each month we highlight a professional to talk about their experiences or advise on the matter. We will also be opening up to the community by creating a letters page in future issues.

With the hope of building a supportive community out of the ashes of some of the worst parts of the internet, the first issue of No. 1 With A Bullet hits stores on 1st November 2017. With such a tremendous creative team behind it, this is a book that you'll want to grab as soon as you can. 

To tide you over in the meantime, take a sneak peak at the series trailer.