Luke Arnold And Doc Wyatt Discuss The Essentials: “A Crazy, Mind-Bending Job”

The Essentials

The Essentials, a new graphic novel that hit Kickstarter yesterday, has a bunch of firsts behind it. It’s the first book from THE LAB PRESS. It’s Luke Arnold and Chris “Doc” Wyatt’s first graphic novel together. And it’s the first book ever from Black Sails star Luke Arnold.

“Once we dug into this concept, it just grew and grew,” Arnold told Comic Book Club over email. “We cut out worlds along the way, destroying entire civilizations just to get it down to this size. That was the hardest part: choosing which segments had to be moved aside to let the others shine.”

So what is the concept? Here’s the breakdown, via press release: “In ESSENTIALS, the world you see around you is not real. It’s a fabrication created for you, by you; built from your fears, your hopes, your miseries and your memories. This subjective reality will soon consume you completely and then all humanity will be lost. But don’t give up! Disgraced mathematician Harris Pax has teamed up with Buttons (an interdimensional being possessing his niece’s favorite toy) and they are here to set you free.

And that’s pretty wild, but wait until you see the art lineup: DaNi (Sandman The Dreaming)Glenn Fabry (Preacher), Jason Howard (Transformers), Vince Locke (A History of Violence), Brendan McCarthy (Spider-Man: Fever),  Andrea Mutti (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), M.K. Perker (Air) and a cover by Bill Sienkiewicz (New Mutants).

Not bad for a debut graphic novel. For more on the book, read on.

Comic Book Club: This is the debut book from THE LAB PRESS… What convinced you this was the right place to release your book – and what does it mean to be the first book out of the gate?

Luke Arnold: 
Honestly, this is The Lab’s book as much as ours. Being their first release, they were very hands-on in the development. They needed to be! Their early commitment to using multiple artists let us embrace that idea as we wrote it. And they encouraged audacity, wanting to make the most of the medium. Almost every artist was handed some kind of challenge – an idea that would not have been easy to imagine at first – and delivered pages that were more unique and stunning than we could have imagined. This book really is a celebration of creative collaboration from all departments.

Your first book being a 140-page graphic novel is pretty ambitious… What were the challenges you encountered? Or was it easy, breezy, smooth sailing?

Chris “Doc” Wyatt:
It’s our first graphic novel together as co-writers, but I’ve written comics before, and Luke’s written novels. Honestly, the 140 pages didn’t seem ambitious. We were asking for more and more pages to let the story breathe.

Yeah, once we dug into this concept, it just grew and grew. We cut out worlds along the way, destroying entire civilizations just to get it down to this size. That was the hardest part: choosing which segments had to be moved aside to let the others shine.

Similarly, the concept of the book is pretty much as high difficulty as they come: answering the impossible questions about the meaning of life. Why tackle this? And to get into spoilers, do you have any answers? Would love some answers on the whole “meaning of life” thing if possible.

Wyatt: It seems like a complicated and esoteric book when you put it like that, but honestly, at the end of the day, this book has a pretty straightforward and clean concept: After a cosmic doomsday event, the last few human survivors are each off in their own little bubbles of subjective reality, and our heroes are on a mission to pull them back out of those bubbles before they die in there.

Arnold: I always think the best topics to write about are the questions that keep you up at night. And no, I can’t guarantee that we have the answers, but it’s all about the asking, right? Well, maybe not quite. But in the absence of answers, art can at least give us the sense that our deepest fears and anxieties aren’t ours alone to bear.

You’ve got an incredible art team here. How much was assembling them like a montage in an Ocean’s 11 movie? And which one of them is the explosives expert?

HA! They all do demolition work! It was a crazy, mind-bending job to find, hire, and coordinate all these artists… but luckily it wasn’t our job. The Lab Press did the heavy lifting. We mostly just sent them lists of artists that we desperately wanted to work with, and said: “Make it happen.”

I still can’t believe it. For my first comic, every time we sent out a request it felt like a hail mary. Like ‘sure, see if that legend wants to work on our book. What’s the harm in asking?’ And then they did! And what’s amazing is how all these disparate styles fit so well together. Changing artists can sometimes knock you out of a story, but this art is all so beautiful and evocative that it makes the world of the story feel textured and expansive.

Buttons looks pretty terrifying, based on the cover. What can you tell me about him? Or it?

Arnold: These three toys are being inhabited by interdimensional beings intent on moving our world out their way so their collective consciousness can expand. Snuggles, the monster, is kind of the leader, and he becomes the main antagonist. He’s a big believer in no-corporeal existence, and the longer he’s forced to spend in our dimension, the more he resents mortality and everything that comes with it.Cog is the robot, and then there’s Buttons.

Wyatt: Buttons uses the pronouns she/her. In her normal state, she’s a non-corporeal being from a higher dimension, part of a collective consciousness. To interact on Earth she has to inhabit a material body as a host for her consciousness. At first, due to lack of available options, she inhabits a ragdoll toy with button-eyes. Later, when the doll is destroyed, she inhabits the rotting corpse of a dead woman. She’s one of the good guys.

What can folks expect from the Kickstarter?

This book is finished so we’re partnering with Kickstarter to get the book out to everyone around the world as soon as possible. There are a bunch of different versions with different covers, but there really are all premium books. The Lab has put so much care into the design and printing, so whichever one you get, it’s going to look and feel great.

Wyatt: The Lab Press was telling me that one of the rewards tiers will involve a backer getting a free ESSENTIALS tattoo, and that I’ll be obliged to be in the room when it’s being inked, but I’m not sure if that was real, or if they were just making fun of me.

Arnold: Oh, it’s real.

You can pledge The Essentials on Kickstarter right now!

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