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20XX #1
Image Comics
Written by Lauren Keely & Jonathan Luna
Illustrated by Jonathan Luna
$3.99 – only $2.99 during its first week!
From JONATHAN LUNA (ALEX + ADA, GIRLS, THE SWORD) and LAUREN KEELY, in her writing debut, comes an all-new ongoing series!
This sci-fi thriller for mature readers imagines a not-so-distant future-a world of norms and syms, divided by fear. Syms, a small percentage of the population with telekinetic abilities, form gangs to survive. But division only breeds more division, and Mer and Nuon experience this firsthand as they become entangled in the often dramatic, sometimes violent, but always complex social landscape of sym gang rivalries in Anchorage, Alaska.

Why It’s Cool:
“What happens when change is forced on us? Not just any change mind you, but something major, life altering, world altering change, the kind that’s completely beyond your control? How do you cope, and beyond just coping, how do you move forward? Now imagine that this change involves telekinetic powers, gang violence, and a world that would rather you didn’t exist at all.  Set in a near future that feels pulled from 2019, this is the world of 20XX and just a sampling of the questions that Keely and Luna are dealing with. And if the last page of issue one is any indication of where the series is headed, things are going to get messy for everyone involved.“
-Edward Uvanni, Comics Omnivore Director

Q&A with Lauren Keely and Jonathan Luna

Tell us a little bit about 20XX. How did everything come together?

Jonathan Luna: Just before ETERNAL EMPIRE ended in July 2018, Lauren and I decided to work together on a series. Like other creator-owned series I’ve done with others, we’re plotting the story together, she’s leading on the script, and I’m doing the art and lettering. But for the first time, I’ll be doing black and white story pages. There’s a few reasons for this. One–and I’m not done with color forever–but in spending fifteen of my previous years writing, drawing, coloring, and lettering, I’ve been burning out a bit, and something needed to give. Two, I’ve always been very inspired by manga, and even more so lately. Last year, I even got the chance to go to Japan for the first time and visit a few manga stores and libraries. It was life-changing. Three, I’ve been wanting my drawings to be more organic and elaborate, which takes even more time. I don’t feel like I’m fully there yet, but I’m getting there.

For the story, Lauren and I had a general idea of what we wanted to do, but had many ideas that didn’t really fit together, so it took quite some time–a few months–to get the final result. We actually went through about three or four totally different concepts. 20XX is pretty much a combination of all of them.

Ever since my college years, I’ve wanted to do a futuristic story that involved gangs, romance, and drama. Now it also involves supernatural abilities. Over the past couple decades, what I had in my head might’ve been a bit generic or derivative of other works, and I think what Lauren and I have created feels more special and unique.

What are you reading/watching/listening to as inspiration for this work?

Lauren Keely:  I can’t say that I’m reading or watching anything for the purpose of inspiring this work, but I have drawn inspiration from previously consumed media. Anime like Tokyo Ghoul and Darker Than Black have been inspirational in terms of the dark and gritty contemporary fantasy/sci-fi feel I hope to convey and shows like Ozark and Breaking Bad have inspired the crime/gang dimension. But often, inspiration just comes to me without seeking it out–from my own life, from novels, audiobooks, movies and shows outside of our genre, and even social media posts I come across. That’s one of my favorite parts of being an artist. Anything in the world can inspire you.

JL: I read, watch, and listen to a lot of stuff–mostly movies–as much as I can afford to with my work schedule, but I don’t consume art to inspire me specifically. It might happen on a subconscious level, but not really a conscious one. I strive to create works as unique and fresh as possible, so I’m naturally resistant if I feel like I’m going anywhere near the territory of taking from another work. It might be to my detriment, actually. Because there is the philosophy that every great artist steals.

When you started this project who did you have in mind as an audience for this, and did it change by the time you finished?

JL: THE SWORD was the last series I worked on that had a mature rating. ALEX + ADA and ETERNAL EMPIRE were rated teen plus, and it was a conscious choice–we didn’t need to go further in material for those series–but over that time, I did miss working on material that was a bit more intense. I’m glad that 20XX will be as such. It’s intended for audiences over 18, and for those who enjoy sci-fi, action, crime, romance, and drama. None of these have changed over time.

Can you give us an idea of what readers can look forward to in this series, maybe a little down the line?

LK: Without spoiling anything, I’ll say that readers can look forward to drama, romance, powers and violence in this series. Expect the use of powers to run the gamut from beautiful, pleasurable, fun, and practical to torture and devastation.

What’s great in comics right now that you’re currently reading?

JL: I don’t think I’ve been reading anything current, I guess except for Fire Punch. I’ve been also reading Blame!, Mail, anything Satoshi Kon, and I’ve started rereading Blade of the Immortal. I still haven’t finished it, and now I’m going to.

LK:  I really want to read more comics/manga (I’m a big novel reader), but I have been enjoying Isola recently. I also started Blackbird and am intrigued enough to want to read more. In manga, I’ve been loving Noragami: Stray God, although it’s not a recent release.

What about 20XX makes you excited to write it?

LK: I love how character-focused 20XX is. Of course, I love the action and the abilities and coming up with unique and hopefully unexpected ways that characters can use those abilities to solve a problem (or make it worse). But my favorite part about writing 20XX is getting into the characters’ heads, especially when they surprise me and take me down unexpected paths in the story.

What has been your greatest artistic challenge in this series?

JL:  I’d say, transitioning from color comics to black and white. It’s definitely a different way of thinking and problem solving. And I’m also using screentones on top of that, which is still new to me. But black and white is what I’m passionate about right now. I feel like I’m growing as an artist, and I’m happy about that. I don’t regret changing things up one bit.

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