EXCLUSIVE: GNE’s Kristin spoke to writer Jacob Murray, and artist Alice Li Barnes about their Source Point Press mini-series, Eighth Immortal, and we get an exclusive look at The Eighth Immortal #4, the finale to this thought provoking mini-series.
The Eighth Immortal tackles many adult elements, but don’t be swayed away from the series as it is done in a way that pushes the narrative and explores some of these themes in a way that you would expect someone like Curipan, who has lived thousands of years to teeter the line of easily giving in to impulses of this nature as something that doesn’t warrant a second thought, and at the same time yearning for a connection in a way that most of us seek to connect in our lives. The story further pushes the reader into a thought-provoking exploration of meaning as the creators tell us, they hope that the series’ mystery unfolds enough for you to explore the meaning of what you experience in the Eight Immortal and leaves you entertaining the many experiences, as you piece together the fantasy world they have built for us readers. Lastly, as mentioned in our interview below, the series, although presenting a villain in physical form, delves much deeper into the true monster that creeps amongst these panels, showing us that, sometimes, the most monstrous things do not come in ways you expect. Please enjoy, and as always Geek Responsibly.
Kristin: Thank you for joining me, Jacob & Alice. To start things off, why don’t you share a little about yourself.
Alice: Okay, so, I studied art in college. And when I graduated, I first started out in, game concept art. And after doing that, for a while, I kind of felt like, I wanted to do something where, like, the artwork affected the end product a lot more. So I decided to just start drawing comics, since that was something I’ve always wanted to do, and then for like, a couple of years, I just like to do some short comics. and was like, was kind of practicing and getting used to drawing sequential art. Then once I completely stopped working at, like my previous game artist job. I did a lot of conventions. So I would sell at Comic and anime conventions, mainly. Then, at one of those conventions, that was where I met Jacob, and then we started talking about doing the eighth and modal at that point.
Kristin: Okay, that’s really cool.
Alice: Jacob can take it from here…
Jacob: In general, primarily, working sitcom television, not, as an associate director, do a lot of other things. And so I’ve always written in some capacity. And I took a lot of screenwriting courses in college and wanted to be a film writer and TV writer, and I was doing that on my own making short films, writing stuff for myself mostly. And then while I was working as a PA, in the Big Bang Theory, I started hockey blogging, just as kind of a fun outlet, and some more productive way of spending my time on forms. And that became quite successful. Our hockey blog ended up getting, you know, a couple of 1000 hits a day. And you know, for, you know, hockey is not a popular sport, and certainly not one. Really, really proud.
Jacob: Because the first kind of thing that I went, Oh, I’m like, writing not just for myself. We’re actually reading this and it’s fun. And so I was doing that in my free time. And then, kind of around two, I’d started that in 2007, or eight, maybe 2009, somewhere in there. And around 2015 I got I was getting bored of it. And I’d still been writing films and scripts, and at some point, I decided to try writing a comic book, which I’d never done before. It just felt like a really good marrying of the visual elements of my day job working in television and working with cameras, and writing, and the one critique I always got with my screenwriting was stopped directing on the page Jacob, and stop directing. As Allison’s learned to her chagrin, I really liked to direct on the page. it felt like a natural, natural marrying of those two things for me and so I tried writing a comic for the first time in 2015, which was actually the first drafts of eighth immortal and around that same time, as I said, I had stopped doing the hockey blog. I had made friends with some people at Sideshow Collectibles, actually kind of through. I’m also a weird nerdy Toy Collector. And so through that, and then I won’t tell the story through Big Bang Theory, I ended up meeting some of these people and became friends, Facebook friends, all that and one day My friend grace who works at sideshow was in charge of their blog and without a call said I need someone to, to write, to write some blog posts for me, can anyone do it and I guess I just stopped the hockey blog, and I was itching for a little bit of outlet. So I volunteered and ended up writing blogs for sideshow for a while. Then I was at Comic-Con that year later that year, in 2015, was the first year that they debuted their quarter the deadline and they had this big display. It’s a statue line. And so they had this big like this little like a hallway. I’m making motions with my arms, as you can see to his private.
Kristin: I’ll do my best to imagine…
Jacob: Haha yea, for Christ’s sake. And I just really loved it. And so I was talking to Gracie about it, and I asked her what the hell is this? She says, Oh, it’s you know, it’s a statue line, but it’s also we’re also telling stories with it, it’s an original property and, and we’re also working on some comics, and I said comics? And she said, yeah. And I said, Well, you know, I just started writing comics, and I really, I’m really enjoying it. Who do I talk to to work on that? She said, Well, you talk to my boss, Tom, Tom Gilliland. And so I kind of pestered her until she, you know, got me a meeting with Tom and first. At first, they wanted me to do some blogs for the court of the dead since that’s what I’ve been doing. Then I handed down some of my scripts that I’ve been working on, and they gave me the end, I just said how much I wanted to work on this property and comics. So they gave me the opportunity to pitch them some comic stories. I did and they agreed to do a couple of short ones, and that just kind of snowballed. I loved working with Tom, we had a really good rapport, from there, we just the story kept building and building until it ended up being this 100 Plus page graphic novel that we put out in came out in early 2019 called Shadows of the Underworld, and that was my first published comic.
Jacob: So while I was doing that, I went, Oh, you know what, maybe I can really do this on my own too, and I have these other scripts I’ve been working on I have this eight the moral property that I’ve been wanting to make which time was called something different than those around that time that I started searching for an artist and I found Alice like she said, at Long Beach Comic-Con. At some point, I’ll get to say the rest is history.
Kristin: Well, that’s really awesome. I know that sometimes it’s hard to network and branch out and try to find the right people. But clearly, you guys were meant to find each other to make this comic book together. So that’s awesome.
Kristin: So what what were the the main influences for the story?
Jacob: You know, it was lame as it is the main original influence was just the dream I had, with this woman shrouded in a black cloak reciting this prayer to me, and I woke up and was like, who the fuck was that woman and so, the next few months trying to tease out what it was, and you know, I can’t honestly remember what the next step was, But I know I took a lot of influences. I’m a big fan of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. What she does I love how she in that theories and then the witching hour, and that series of the book takes fantastical creatures witches and vampires and immortal beings, and she couches them in our own history. She’s not making the Lord of the Rings, fantasy land. She’s not making, you know, Aragorn or lion, witch, and the wardrobe. It’s like, no, she’s taking these fantastical creatures and working and weaving them into our own history. So I wanted to do something kind of like that, I really always loved that and so on. Yeah, from there, I decided that this woman was an immortal and came up with these… As I’m sure you’ve noticed, there’s some NC17 rated material in the book.
Jacob: You know, I know a lot about sexual hangups and I was curious what that would do to a person if they had those hang-ups for thousands of years.
Kristin: Hey, I think that a lot of content is created based on dreams. So I don’t think that lame at all, that was pretty incredible. That you are able to come up with an entire story like this just based on a dream.
Jacob: No, I mean the feel of it is it’s not, you know, they everything starts is just a little germ, whether that’s a concept for or a story point or a character or just a scene or moment in your head, that, you know, then it just, it stays with you and begs you to figure out what, you know, the context of it.
Kristin: For sure.
Kristin: So, this question is for Alice. I see, like, a mix of the manga and kind of traditional comic book art, not just in the Eighth Immortal but also in some of your other artwork. How did you end up merging this kind of art style and deciding, you know, that’s the direction that you wanted to go?
Alice: I would say that my style is in general influenced by any media that I’m interested in. So yeah, like, I do consume a lot of anime and manga, but I do like a lot of just movies like horror movies, and, like, Western media in general, although I’m not very well versed in western comics at all. I just, I don’t know, I, I don’t think too much about the style until I guess I draw a bunch of stuff, and I kind of pick out what feels right for this story. Going into this, I just knew that I wanted, like, high contrast look like, spooky, and, I don’t know, I guess all I can say is, I don’t think too much about it.
Kristin: Hey, that’s an answer. Yeah. So considering like your, your anime and you know, horror movie kind of background influences? Is that what made you choose like the grayscale kind of art and then just like the pops of color?
Alice: Oh, I think that’s part of it, for sure. Although, when, when Jacob first approached me about working on a comic, he already was mentioning that approach.
Kristin: Part of the directing thing from earlier…
Alice: I guess it sounds weird for someone who does a lot of color illustrations, but I don’t love the color that much, Like a lot of pieces, I kind of work in grayscale first, and then I add color after. It feels really chaotic for me to go in with color, So I kind of like focusing on the gray scale, like forms and shading. Then the color is like it’s for the Asian world. Color is really a narrative tool because we’re using it to show important things that are happening visually but there’s usually a story element to it as well.
Kristin: Yeah, no, I definitely got that reading the comic I thought that was really clever. The color choices and placement.
Alice: Thank you.
Kristin: Yeah, I really enjoyed the black and white you don’t see it very often anymore. I like the black and white art style, which was very detailed, but also I like I said, I really enjoyed the color, just kind of put in there. But in an important way it wasn’t just, you know, we have to put some color in here somehow, I guess. It was actually, for a purpose. I enjoyed that.
Jacob: it was important to me when we first started this, you know, and Alice told me what she just told you that she didn’t love working with color and she’d want to do it in black and white. I said well, the one thing that’s really important to me is that they’re that their eyes are colored and that was just a narrative element from the very beginning. So from there, you know, just kind of snowballed a little bit, and I think I pushed a little bit, and Alice pushed back on this and we kind of have a happy medium where we were both comfortable with it. Because, you know, when we, when we decide to do this book together, I’ll admit, when I first wrote this, it didn’t occur to me to do it in, in a manga style. I didn’t have any style in mind, I was just writing a story.
Jacob: I was looking at a bunch of different artists and looking at work and no one’s work struck me as characters and as having the vibe that I felt from the book, which I always knew was a little bit darker. But, you know, but not gritty, you know? It was just as soon as I saw Alice’s artwork at her booth at Long Beach Comic Con, that just, I went, that’s it, that’s what this book looks like. And, you know, luckily, she agreed.
Kristin: That’s pretty incredible.
Jacob: You know, I don’t want to say we reverse engineered this. But you know, once that clicked in, and I went, oh, oh, my God, this book is kind of a manga. You know, but I also know that I’m not a manga writer and that this is for western comics, and that idea really excited me because I love anime, and I love the style. But I’m not a big manga reader, but I am a big Western comics reader, and we know that there’s a lot of people like me, who really appreciate the stories that come out of manga and really appreciate the artwork. But we, for a number of reasons, don’t read it, it’s not in our wheelhouse. It’s not what we’re used to or comfortable with. So I thought that this was a great opportunity to try and merge and find, find a happy medium, something that made readers of both manga and Western comics feel comfortable and at home. You know, I feel like we’ve done a good job of that.
Kristin: Yeah, I would definitely say you guys did a really good job with that. I can see the merging of both, and I mean, I’m the same way like I watch anime. I haven’t really read manga yet. Like, it’s not been something that I’m like, Oh, I really want to read that.
Jacob: Yeah, much, much the same, and it’s all to Alice’s credit. I mean, her work is the first thing anyone I give the book to, even people that, you know, know that I didn’t draw it. People, friends I’ve had forever that, know I’m a writer, and I’m expecting them to say something about the writing, all they want to talk to me about is the art because Alice has knocked it out of the park. But, you know, in regards to the color specifically, I know that my experience just strictly, you know, cynically from a marketing perspective is, you know, why do I pick up a new comic book, and most of the time, it’s not because of something I read about before, it’s because I see it on a shelf, and I pick it up and I flipped through it, and I like the artwork, and you know, I think for Western audiences, strictly black and white, Most people are just gonna put that book down and not give it a chance because I feel like I mean, I don’t know, there’s, I think there’s a lot of reasons we don’t need to get into, but it’s just…
Kristin: I agree with you
Jacob: You know, and I didn’t want to have that. And that’s why it’s important to me to have some color, and I think that’s why I push to have more than just the eyes. You know, the artists on the other book I did with Sideshow kind of had this, he took this book, and that book is fully running in color and it’s ridiculous what he did, but someone had mentioned to me that when you flip through it, like you just get a sense of the story, because he started in like blues, and then like, the next section was kind of all in purples, and then the next ones all in oranges, and, you know, just it made sense because each section was a different character’s perspective. So he just keyed in on that and, you know, toned each section differently and just kind of gives this cool appeal that when you flip through it, it jumps out at you know, it’s not chaotic and random. So you know, I think, I think we did a good job of, of infusing that in this book that if you pick it up and you flip through it’s as Alice said, there’s a point to each of the colors and they give you a narrative flow, even at the even Justin, in a feeling that it evokes from you, and that’s what I hope we did because that was I think the intention of it.
Kristin: No, I agree. As somebody that read it. I mean, there was a lot of emotion in the book, not just from the art but also from the writing so… I’m probably gonna butcher her name.
Kristin: She’s tasked with this like taking a gift away from humans, but also having lost something herself. She kind of seems to have a this-like bond with her victims. Did you expect there to be such an emotional impact from the beginning? Or was this something that unfolded as you continue to write issues or as you guys collaborated?
Jacob: No, that was pretty intentional from the very beginning. That’s the crux of her character that she’s someone who is desperately yearning to experience, she’s been walking this planet forever, hoping to come in contact with anything near as beautiful as what she encountered, when she became an immortal that this notion that she, you know, saw the face of God for a moment, and then is relegated to spend the rest of her life not being able to find it again, She’s the closest she can come to that is in this immortal blood and magic that flows through different people, but her tragedy is that she’s never allowed to watch it flourish. It’s kind of like this, you know, there’s this weird addiction element, I think to it, that it’s something that she desperately, desperately searches for, and even if she wasn’t tasked with it, she’d be searching for it anyway, and yet, her curse is that she has to snuff it out whenever she finds it. You know.
Kristin: Yeah, I felt like her story was beautifully tragic. But like, I really enjoyed watching her through the issues, kind of, I don’t know, I feel like she was finding maybe just a little bit more of her humanity. Especially when she found the child.
Jacob: yeah, you know, that’s what’s interesting to me about Immortals is that you know, you’re not gods, you know, even if you have powers you came from humans, and you are a human forever, and yet you’re not, and the further the more time you spend on this planet, the more you forget, you know, how to be human, and all these Immortals kind of grasp at it in different ways. I think that’s, you know, largely, you know, where the sexual element comes into because that’s kind of the most base way to keep in touch with something deeply human.
Kristin: Yeah. So, um, speaking of the sexual element, and then earlier, you had mentioned the NC 17 content. There are some mature themes in this series. Is that something that you, as creators worry that it might limit your audience?
Jacob: Yeah, you can take take take it, Alice.
Alice: Well, actually, I think it’s been it’s been scaled back a bit. For one thing, and I will say that we went as far as was necessary for the story and I don’t think if the audience likes other elements and themes of the story, I think it wouldn’t bother them. Like, that’s…
Kristin: no, of course.
Alice: That’s my view on it, I guess, I mean, our publisher source point hasn’t like, they didn’t really say anything about it. I think they were allowing us free rein on that.
Kristin: Okay, and it’s not a bad thing. I just mean, I feel like a lot of comic book creators tend to go the all-ages route.
Kristin: It was interesting to see kind of a comic that had more adult themes that were obviously intended for the adult reader.
Alice: Yeah, I think it helps make Curipan feel more relatable, and it’s, like, obviously, an adult woman, especially an immortal woman wouldn’t like if you censor any of that if it feels cheesy or not authentic?
Kristin: I agree. Yeah.
Jacob: I hope that like Alice said that it makes her relatable in a really strictly empathetic sense, you know? And that also, you know, that is, aside from it being risque or you know, titillating. You know It gives her a sense of womanhood and of her own power. It’s always been important to me that sexuality in media not just be something that objectifies women, but that empowers women. I don’t like that. So much sexuality is strictly focused in one direction. I will say through our writing, I would cross lines that I wasn’t sure whether there was a line there, and, you know, am I the right person to be writing this or saying this you know?
Alice: what I would say that there’s, there are different ways to portray sexuality, and there are ways in which it’s, you know, like, it’s gratuitous. You’re trying to excite the reader. I think we’re using it in a way to show basically how far Curipan went, and the other immortals as well, and it’s not really about the sex, it’s more the concept of it.
Jacob: Yeah, I wonder if you’re tapping into the same thing there I was that I was saying before, about, you know, in the narrative sense of the story, how she’s chasing after this, you know, having communed with God, and this, this beauty in the world, that she is, you know, forever chasing, I think there’s a very, there’s a very real parallel that we can acknowledge with regards to sex, that it’s something that, you know, most of us are out there chasing in one form or another. It’s something that’s highly important in a person’s life, and yet, it’s something that has this associated shame to it. to varying degrees, in varying cultures, and varying people, and it’s personal, and when it’s good, it can bring you to a place that makes you feel like there’s more to this life than, you know, just the doldrums of getting through your day. You know, at its best it is a spiritual experience. So, I would, I did want for there to be a parallel there. That that’s something that’s, like I said that we can’t i can’t relate to what it’s like to being immortal, but everyone can relate to what it’s like, you know, wanting to get some, I guess.
Kristin: Well, I think it’s more than just wanting to get some I think it’s also like that euphoria you feel.
Alice: You’re connected to something.
Kristin: I understand.
Jacob: Yeah and that you’re connected to something and that it’s something that requires other people really in a way like that euphoria doesn’t happen, you know without some connection with other people.
Kristin: So I just want to I have two more questions for you guys. What do you guys want the readers to take away from your comic?
Jacob: I want them to come away feeling like they’ve understood just enough of this mystery to feel satisfied, but that they that there’s so much more to it that they have to wonder and piece together themselves. I want it to be something that people can map their own morals onto. I never wanted it to be something clear and distinct that was trying to teach you anything or tell you a lesson. I just wanted it to be, you know, a set of experiences and tease into a fantastical world that, you know, that gets your own brain working and wants to, you know, my favorite thing in stories is when people apply their own thoughts and mysteries, ideas and concepts to a story because it’s not obvious. So, and that there’s an inherent tragedy to the experience of beauty that we can’t run away from, and the more we want to run away from it, the worse it gets, and so we have to move towards it.
Kristin: Great, Alice, do you have anything to add?
Alice: I would like the reader to really understand where the characters coming from, like, they feel all the ups and downs are Curipan’s life and her story. Also, I think, there is sort of a villain, but in a way that’s not the villain. I think I want the reader to see how maybe the most monstrous things that you encounter aren’t what you expect.
Kristin: I Like that. For the last question, We’ll start with Jacob what would you spend your life doing? If you were immortal?
Jacob: You think I would have thought about this. What would I spend my life doing if I was immortal?
Alice: Oh my gosh.
Jacob: It depends, do I still have a bad stomach and acid reflux?
Kristin: We’ll say No.
Jacob: I want to live a million different lives, I want to reimagine and reinvent myself continuously. I want to know what it’s like to go be a farmer in a desolate land, I want to know what it’s like to you know be a fisherman out at sea all the time, I’d want to know what it’s like to you know, to be a criminal, I’d want to know what it’s like to you know to run for office and be a politician I guess that’s the same as being a criminal.
Kristin: You want the experiences.
Jacob: I just want the experiences, I want to know that… it’s so weird to me that we all just get this one life and so much of it is not chosen for us, and how different is it for you know, everyone who you know who doesn’t see through our own eyes, so I want to try and take my perspective out of what was given to me as much as possible.
Kristin: That would be pretty incredible.What about you Alice?
Alice: I guess I would have more time to draw all the comic ideas I have. So it’s I don’t know it sounds a little sad because technically I’m just working more, I have more time so I just keep working, but I I guess I would have more babies so what Curipan wants, but it cannot have but I mean, I could have I could like literally create my own army. My kids could draw my comics! This is the plan.
Kristin: Well, is there anything else you guys want to add anything? Anything else you want to say about the Eighth Immortal? Besides, buy it and read it?
Jacob: Yeah, right.
Jacob: Yeah, I want to ask people to stick with us through the end that I think will surprise you. I don’t think anyone will be able to see where we take this.
Alice: Yeah, I think it only gets better.
Jacob: Yeah, I think we really you know, this is Alice and I’s first time working together, and we’re both fairly new to comics in general, so I see a progression of our storytelling chops and, our chops as a team as we get through the book, so I’d love people to stick with us on that journey.
Kristin: Thank you both so much for speaking with me on behalf of GNE. Look for the final issue of The Eighth Immortal at local comic book shops on April 28th, 2021. You can also find The Eighth Immortal by going directly to the Source Point Press website Here.