Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the launch of your comic book series, Miranda in the Maelstrom! For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about the series’ premise?
Dailen Ogden: Thank you! Miranda in the Maelstrom is a delightful, dimension-hopping miniseries about a young woman and her shark-corgi companion as they navigate a reality-ripping storm in search of family (and adventure along the way). An extra fun touch is that every time Miranda and Noodles enter a new dimension, we get a new artist and the style changes drastically! It's a very cool visual touch that makes the narrative feel just that much more real.
Riley Biehl: The titular Maelstrom is a supernatural storm that crosses over between dimensions, displacing beings and objects from alternate realities. Miranda and Noodles use the storm as a means of travel and adventure. At first, the two are in search of a new family and home after the loss of Miranda’s world, but the maelstrom tends to interfere with those plans. Miranda starts off a pretty overwhelmed young girl, but eventually becomes an intrepid explorer and fighter as the story unfolds.
BD: How would you describe your shared creative process in bringing this story to life from issue to issue, and what (or who) were some of your creative influences in terms of the characters and tone?
DO: Riley had the huge job of coordinating all of us artists and served as a very important touchstone for the rest of us to refer to, to keep us all headed in the same direction and on track! Jamie's panel in my issue (#2) was already finished by the time I got to the last page, and I had a ton of fun figuring out how to bring it in alongside my work in a way that felt like it was transitioning to a new place.
In terms of influences, the major one I always cite is Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. Obviously, Saga is an adult GN and thematically, much more brutal than Miranda. But Riley's scripts have such a whimsical sense of weirdness to them, combining elements we recognize into something entirely new, and that was the book I wanted to channel in my own issue.
Jamie Jones: I first heard about this project from Drew Moss (who is the artist on issue #4). He asked if I could do a Skottie Young loosey goosey inking style. I said, ‘Yes,” and Riley hit me up about the project the next day. So, I took a real top-down approach on character designs for this thing. Style over content. I tend to wear my influences on my sleeve, and those influences are mostly older comics, Eisner being the most obvious at first glance, and my tastes have only gotten older the more time I spend in this industry. The script was fully realized when I got it, so it was really fast to get going. And I think that shows. This issue feels immediate. Which was, at least from my end, the intent.
RB: There was a lot of emailing involved! Each issue ends with what we call “transition pages” that feature art from two different artists. Once someone finished their pages, they’d pass the final one off to me with a panel or two of their art and then I’d send it off to the next issue’s artist to fill in the rest of the page. Every time Miranda journeys to a new dimension, the art changes across these transition pages.
A lot of my inspiration comes from a mix of comics and cartoons. Miranda in the Maelstrom takes a bit from creators like Neil Gaiman and Skottie Young, and shows like Adventure Time mixed with multiverse comics like Marvel’s Exiles.
BD: At Fanbase Press this year, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Miranda’s story will connect with and impact readers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
DO: The more stories there are about strong young women, the better. Miranda is special to me because she is the kind of heroine whose strength is more varied and nuanced than just being "tough." She cries; she worries; she cracks jokes when she's nervous. She's an alien but that doesn't stop her from feeling very, very human. So often it feels like stories either relegate girls to a secondary role, or raise them onto a pedestal of infallibility, but Miranda does neither. I really love that, and I hope readers will, too.
RB: I’m hoping it connects with anyone that feels lonely and needs a sense of hope. A feeling that’s probably more relevant these days than when I first wrote the story. A need to belong drives Miranda throughout the series, but that pursuit often goes wrong forcing Miranda to make the best of her situation.
Even in better times, isolation and loneliness are something we all experience from time to time. I wanted to write a story where a character can’t get what she wants, but learns to appreciate what she does have and strives to improve her life no matter how difficult things may seem.
BD: What makes Action Lab the perfect home for Miranda in the Maelstrom?
DO: Action Lab is a great home for Miranda, because their whole vibe is just fun, you know? I wish I had a better way to describe it but really, everything down to their logo suggests they're here for a good time and genuinely love comics. I feel that Miranda is one of those books that specifically plays to the strengths of the medium, utilizing visual and storytelling elements that don't work almost anywhere else. That kind of out-of-the-box joy would fit in almost anywhere, but I'm very thankful that Action Lab snatched us up.
RB: Action Lab is open to variety and given the changing art styles and multiple worlds in our book, Action Lab allowed our team the freedom to do something different in each issue. Some publishers might have wanted the art to be more consistent in order to “fit a brand” but that was never a concern for us.
BD: Issue #2 of the series was recently released with the title, A Wolf in the Wasteland. Dailen, as the artist, colorist, and cover artist, and coming in on the second issue, what can you tell us about your process?
DO: Phew, that's a big question, haha! Miranda worked up in pretty much the same fashion as all of my other comic pages--I start with layouts, and then take those rough sketches and size them up to pencil on top of them. Once pencils are done, pages get inked, and then before I color them I send them off to be "flatted," which entails filling in all the different spaces in the drawing with random colors so that I can select them easily, later. (Shout out to my flatter, Drew Wills, who does an absolutely fantastic job at this!!) I will say that Miranda is notable because it's the first book I drew almost entirely on the iPad Pro, which has since become my favorite way to work!
BD: The upcoming issue #3 titled "Sail the Spinning Bottle" will feature your artwork, Jamie, from cover to interiors and colors, as well. What can you share with us about your experience working on it, and when can we anticipate its launch?
JJ: The turnaround for getting it done was pretty fast. And I think I wrapped up the issue like six months ago. This is the way getting books published goes sometimes. A real hurry up and wait kind of thing. At the start, Riley set me the fully written script and we went back and forth with some of the character designs. I would send him images at every step of the way, but for the most part Riley was pretty hands off. And as a cartoonist that was the best thing he could have done. Riley put together a team of artists that he could trust to make this comic work. And then he got out of our way. haha. It’s extremely rare not to be micromanaged. It was a pleasure to work on. On the art side, I wanted to capture an immediacy in the art and story, but keep it readable. The whole issue is broken down into pretty gridded panel layouts that I could work around in. And in the coloring, I like purples and pinks.
The book hits shelves on February 3rd.
BD: What are some of your standout moments from working on this series?
DO: It's hard to narrow it down! This entire book was such a joy to make. I think my favorite part was drawing the cover, actually. It was the last thing I did and it felt like such a cool, triumphant moment, to put the cherry on top of the whole issue. Plus, I got to render Noodles' little puppy forehead wrinkles, and that's just fun.
JJ: I’m a big fan of the cover. Which I think Riley had an idea for and I just ran with it. And I love the image of a ship in a bottle sailing through space.
RB: Getting to know everyone I worked with on the book was a sincere joy. It’s one thing to see your story brought to life by such talented artists, it’s another to feel like they’ve become your friends as well.
One particular highlight would be designing the Issue #1 cover. I drew up a laughable stick figure version of the cover to give everyone an idea of what I was thinking. They took my stick figures and made something beautiful. Our five main artists each contributed to the cover and I’m really happy with how well it sells the premise of the book. It really stands out on comic book store shelves.
BD: Are there any other upcoming projects on which you are working that you are able to share with our readers?
DO: Gosh, I'm working on a lot of stuff right now! Much of it is still on the early side, so I won't get too into it here, but I will say that I'm working with our stellar editor, Brittany Matter, on her own comic--Dead Dreams: The Lucid Chronicles! I'm the artist and colorist for Issue #1, and I'll be the colorist on the rest of the series--my specialty. I'm also currently working on rebooting my own comic, The Liminal, for relaunch Summer 2021! That one is for mature audiences (language, violence) so reader beware, but it's bound to be a fun and thrilling ride.
JJ: I am wrapping up the second book of my pulp action-adventure comic, THE BABOON, and plan to have a Kickstarter launching in March. Follow me @ArtofJamieJones to stay updated!
RB: We’ve got another three issues of Miranda after issue #3 hits stands on February 3rd. I’ve got scripts for future issues, but it will probably be awhile before those come to life. I’m also working on another two comics that I’m hoping to find collaborators for soon. Nothing to announce at the moment, but follow my Twitter @RileyDBiehl for future updates.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about Miranda in the Maelstrom?
DO: There's a few ways to do it, thankfully! First and foremost: Ask your local comic shop to order it! Especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, shops need all the love and support that they can get, and every sale supports a small business and their employees. Plus, you get a cool story to read. On top of that, you can find the entire creative team on social media, particularly Twitter, and we're always happy to say hello. I'm @DailenOgden and look for @RileyDBiehl, @BrittanyMatter, @TaylorEspo, and @WillsandDrew to round out the Issue #2 team.
JJ: Read the book. All your questions will be answered there! Haha
RB: If you love superhero comics and classic cartoons but want to see new and different characters in those stories, then Miranda in the Maelstrom is for you. Ordering the book from your local comic shop (or one online) is really the best thing you can do if you’re interested in our story. It’s also a great way to support local businesses during this time, so win-win!