Spotlight

Crash and Burn – A Space Opera

Finn Lucullan is an agender writer, illustrator and speaker from Canada. Their desire for more diverse narratives led them from traditional painting into comics and digital media – They’re not fussy about medium, they just want to tell stories. Lately they’ve been getting into ttrpg development and plenty of character art commissions. They are the creator of Crash and Burn.

Synopsis: In the not-so-distant future, tensions between humanity and the ornos — a genderless race of bird-like aliens — are running high. When the H.S.V. Concord, a ship bearing both the ornos’ imperial heir apparent and a group of human peace keepers, disappears in uncharted space, it seems inevitable that the two species will go to war.

But, unknown to those in charge, a small group has survived the crash of the Concord. Led by Cora, one of the human survivors, the group must figure out how to get along, and how to get home… before both their worlds, as they know them, come to an end.

Did you go to school for either art or writing? If so, what school?
I studied painting for a year in post secondary, and I learned two things: How to give and receive useful critique, and that I didn’t want to be there.

What is the main genre of your comic? What appeals to you about that genre?
Sci-fi – we call it a queer space opera. Sci-fi can contain nice combination of pessimism (all the ways our society is getting it wrong) and hopefulness (and where we might go from there). Plus, who doesn’t like aliens?

Are there any other genres that apply to your comic?
Fantasy, adventure, LGBTQ (if we’re considering that a genre)

What was your inspiration for the story?
Truthfully, a group of friends and I had been immersed in sci-fi webcomics and video games and were complaining to each other about the ways they fell short – why is everyone white? Why is it that the world is so complex, so imaginative, but can’t imagine anyone being gay? Why would every single alien species, regardless of their biology, perfectly replicate human genders and gender norms?

We started tossing ideas around about what we wanted to keep from those stories – the imagination, the exploration, the adventure – and what we were tired of. We had an abundance of vignettes and not much of a plot; it wasn’t until writer Kate Larking took over that it really started to come together into one coherent story.

Do you have any favorite artists or writers who influenced your style?
I can never say how much a creator I like has changed my style – I’m sure I have influences I’m not even aware of – but I’ll list a few favourites.

Loika (@loika on twitter) has an incredible way with light. I also love Maren (@rennerei), Aïda de Ridder, and Fiona Staples, for art.

For writing, my main inspiration is from video games – Bioware has been a big influence (good and bad), and so has the writing in indie titles like those by SuperGiant Games (Bastion, Pyre, Transistor), Brianna Lei (Butterfly Soup) and more recently, ZA/UM (Disco Elysium).

How long does it take you to complete one page?
Between 4-8 hours from storyboard to finished page, depending on complexity.

What is your process like for creating comic pages from start to finish? What tools do you use?
Kate and I have a master plot outline that we reference before each chapter. We go over it together to update anything that needs updating, condense things that need condensing, and sometimes throw in new ideas we hadn’t thought up when we drafted it 6 years ago. Then Kate writes the script in google docs and we tweak it together.

I print it and draw tiny thumbnails and sketches in the margins (they get really messy). I edit a bit as I go, mostly for pacing, paneling, and dialogue/tone.

Once that’s finished, I draw the thumbnails to scale on a wacom tablet in a free program called MyPaint – it’s got a really simple UI, which I like, but no editing ability. I paint the lineless art directly on top of the storyboards, then transfer it to photoshop for cropping and lettering.

Is your comic a finished work? If not, how long do you think you think it’s going to be when it’s complete? Is there a definitive ending or will you just keep going for as long as possible?
It’s ongoing, but we know the ending – it’ll be around 18 chapters when it’s finished. I think there’s something nice about allowing stories to have an ending, in a media landscape so saturated with sequels and 40-season long shows.

How long did it take you to plan the comic before even beginning to physically create it?
A long time! I mentioned earlier this wasn’t originally intended as a serious thing – my friends and I had been sharing ideas around 2012-2013 without thinking they’d go anywhere.

Kate and I started publishing online in 2014, and in print in 2015.

What was the biggest hurdle you faced during the course of making of your comic? If you could go back in time to the point where you just started making it and give yourself a pep talk, what would you say?
Kate and I both hold full time jobs and have busy lives in general. For the first few years we were posting a page a week, and our first two paperback volumes came out within a year of each other. It was a punishing schedule, to be honest.

We’ve since moved to posting pages biweekly, which is a lot more manageable. I might tell my past self to do that sooner.

What is your favorite part about working on your comic?
The reactions! They’re sometimes heartwarming – I’ve been approached by people who really didn’t think they’d ever see themselves reflected as protagonists and who you could tell really needed it. And sometimes hilarious – the memes on our discord channel give me life.

What is the most difficult part about working on your comic? How do you overcome it?
I’d still say it’s work/life balance – especially when it comes to trying to stay relevant on social media. Discord has been good for that – a quick chat app is much easier to share small updates with people than Instagram, where you need something more substantial (and image-based) to post.

Artistically, I seem to use this as a way to force myself to practice drawing things I haven’t before, so it’s always a challenge, but that’s on purpose. It’s a good way to learn.

Do you have a favorite character to write for? If so, why? Tell us more about them!
They’re all fun in different ways – it may be a cop-out answer, but I mean it!

I will say a character who has grown on me: I used to have a hard time finding Ketier’s voice in the main cast, as xe’s a delicate, wilting sort of person. But the further the story reaches into royal sabotage and xeir awful relationship with xeir parent, the monarch, the more xe interests me. Xe’s paralyzed by fear and has been raised to be helpless, but xe also has a responsibility to others that xe must rise to.

Which character gives you the most difficulty to write for?
Chokma, maybe. Xe’s the embodiment of “actions speak louder than words,” and I think xe does have an as-of-yet unseen depth. But as xe gets less screen time, it’s a challenge to convey that.

Do you have a favorite character to draw?
Same as writing, I think they’re all fun in different ways! I wouldn’t design a character for a comic this long if I didn’t like to draw them. Chised looks the softest, so I’ll say Chised.

Which character gives you the most difficulty to draw?
Any character I draw the least often! It takes a lot of repetition to be able to draw someone quickly and consistently.

Where can we find you?
Read the comic at cb-comic.com! If you like it, chat with me and other fans on our Discord at discord.gg/sFwgdwh

You can find my other work at lucullanart.com and find me on twitter @khialest.

Anything else you want the people to know about yourself or your comic?
Crash and Burn is available as print issues and paperbacks, with two albums of original music – each character and big event in the first two volumes has their own song. I’m also working to develop a ttrpg set in the Crash and Burn universe! I post updates related to that on Patreon, and on the patreon-only section of our Discord channel.