Star Bright and the Looking Glass (978-1-60706-600-2, $19.99, November release) is the solo debut of Jonathan Luna, and marks quite a departure from the writer/artist’s previous work. Luna's previous graphic novels – Ultra, Girls, and The Sword – were co-created with brother Joshua, and respectively covered the superhero, horror, and mythical/urban fantasy genres in unique and mature manners.
His latest book is an illustrated all-ages novel, a new format for Luna, who explains that after completing The Sword he wanted to take time off and re-examine his art. This sabbatical led to Star Bright and the Looking Glass, the story of a young girl who lives in a forest with her friends Owl, Frog, and Capybara. One day, Star Bright finds a strange object in the forest – a mirror. Upon seeing her reflection, Star Bright finds herself caught in an evil sorceress’ plot, and her friends must band together to save her.
BookShelf spoke with Luna about Star Bright, his new approach to this book, and his decision to branch out into solo work. (Click on each image for a larger view)
What drew you to comics, and when did you know you wanted to make them?
I started reading comics when I was around six years old. I was reading stuff like Mad and Cracked magazine and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I had started drawing before that, in preschool. Then I got into Uncanny X-Men, which brought superheroes into my life. In sixth grade, we had an assignment to illustrate what we wanted to be when we grew up, spelling it out with the tools of the trade. Mine said "comic artist."
What made you decide to take time off after completing The Sword?
From 2004-2010, I worked on Ultra, Girls, and The Sword, doing plot, pencils, inks, and colors, and was pretty much on-time. It was exhausting. Toward the end, I saw a talk from Stefan Sagmeister about taking a year off after around six or seven years. I took two years off. [Laughs] It was great to take a step back, look at what I had done, and absorb art, the world, and new experiences. I did a lot of photography, life drawing, some film, and learned how to paint. I've gone into quite a different direction. That said, I'm not done with comics and the way I've done them.
What made you decide to work on this by yourself?
After three series, Josh and I thought it was a great time to work on some personal projects—to do some things we had always wanted to do. Josh is primarily an artist and he wanted to draw, and I wanted the challenge of writing something myself.
Why did you decide to make this an illustrated prose book, and not a comic book?
Yeah. This is a surprise to even myself. As a teen, I made a lot of fantasy-based illustrations. Ethereal, surreal stuff, which is pretty hot right now, too. And all that kind of art out there inspired me to do more of it. Initially, I was planning on doing just an art book. But I thought it would’ve been too hard of a turn and I missed the story element I was used to working with, so I decided to use prose along with illustrations.
You've done more mature stories before. What made you decide to try an all ages book?
I tend to lean towards making, and enjoy, mature stories. But Star Bright and the Looking Glass is a story about friendship and vanity. I simply didn't see it as a mature story.
In the book, Star Bright's friends are a toad, owl, and capybara. How did you come up with these animals? Did you have others in mind at one point, or did you always know it would be them?
I don't want to ruin anything, but the choices of the animals serve the story. And I'm very happy with the choices. They're very endearing animals. And I had learned of the capybara just last year, so I hope readers enjoy him if they've never heard of them either.
There were a handful of other animals I could have used, but they wouldn't have served the story as well. For example, I considered using a spider, but it would've been really difficult to see it in the art.
You've said in an interview that you tried a lot of new art techniques for this book. Will you continue making books in this style, or try even newer art styles?
The biggest change is the use of watercolor. I started off with oil—I like it, but I didn't want to lose line. I tried acrylic, and same thing. So watercolor worked for me. It was really challenging to work with a medium that wasn’t as forgiving as digital, but I can definitely see myself continuing to use any kind of paint for covers or maybe interiors for comics. There are also other styles I might experiment with as well.
Are you planning on doing more solo works?
I'm not completely solid on what my next project is at the moment, but I do have more solo projects in mind.