Thursday, January 6, 2011

One Page at a Time interview...Derrek Lennox

It seems only fitting to start this series of interviews with Derrek Lennox, the creator and publisher of The Crystal Fractal Universe. This interview was conducted via email in December 2010.

DC: I was mostly a DC kid when I was growing up. I loved Superman, Batman, Firestorm, Teen Titans and Captain Carrot. I fondly remember heading down to the corner store and checking out the spinner rack two or three times a week. How about you Derrek...what's your "comic book fan" secret origin?

Derrek Lennox: I remember my first “real” comic was Uncanny X-Men 112 where the X-Men had just been kidnapped by Magneto and pulled to his secret lair in the Antarctic. I bought this comic at the summer resort I used to go to with my parents. Before that, I had only really read Casper, Richie Rich comics and the odd Superman. Boy was my life changed. I got the chance to buy a few more comics – a Teen Titans story featuring Titans East and Titans West, and a Justice League 96-pager – but it wasn’t for another year when I picked up X-Men 124 and 125 when I was hooked for life to comics.

DC: Comic books may be unique in that a lot of readers have a desire to create stories as well. I still have the crudely drawn comics I made that were inspired from those 1980s DCs that I loved so much. How about did the shift from "reader and fan" to "creator" happen?

DL: I am not exactly sure when - but I had created my first mini-comic not much after reading X-Men 125... It featured a crossover between the X-Men and the Teen Titans (with Elongated Man thrown in for good measure). It was undeniably terrible, but it was a first step. I think I was 7 at the time.

Much later - in high school - I created a lot of the characters that appear in Project Epsilon (Vante predominantly) and then in university where Entropy was first envisioned. The rosters for both teams have changed over the years - and the current versions include characters created by Shawn Smith (Project Epsilon) and Jeff Haas (Entropy).

In university, I created other characters for comic strips published by the university newspapers, and a few for another independent company.

DC: So, it seems like the Crystal Fractal Universe was created in stages, and interestingly, it appears that Dr. Twilight wasn't originally the central part of this shared universe. Can you walk me the process that you used to interconnect all of your ideas? And I suppose the ultimate question here is...did the characters come first, or did you begin with the plot idea about the realm of dream and the time-lost wanderers?

DL: Several of the team books were indeed developed first. There were also a number of other single heroes and teams created along the way - but I was missing an anchor concept.

Black Rain - one of the characters that we will be introducing in Entropy was to do that, but as the story of Entropy and Black Rain was fleshed out for the "5 readers in university" it made more sense to keep his background separate.

Sometime in the first few years of university, I came up with the notion of an event to cross into another realm, and that became - eventually - the realm of dreams. The first character of those that eventually become “the core and the nine" was Francois the Redeemer - who readers got a glance of in CFU 0.0 and who will play a significant role in upcoming stories.

Doctor Twilight evolved as a design from then.

DC: What are some of the logistical issues with creating such a big, sweeping story...and how did you solve them?

DL: Designing a world is fantastic – and something that I have always enjoyed doing –whether on my own or in collaboration. The issue is usually not in creation, but once it is created, developing a story that tells just the right amount of information not to derail or bore the reader. The other issue is in getting it out in the marketplace. There have to be readers even before they have the option to be bored. Will they support a large involved story? Will they want to read a story with many moving parts? That often depends more on the readers than on the story.

DC: In the early stages of creating the CFU, did you have any other writers or creators around to bounce around ideas with, or was it all you?

DL: In the early stages there were some friends – like Sam Chan who helped developed some of the original characters for Entropy in an early iteration. And then there was Ken Ouellette (who has developed his career in computer animation and special effects working on films including Disney’s The Wild, and the X-Men movies) who also helped with another iteration of Entropy. It was because of these past iterations – even though they stayed mostly on the drawing board or cutting room floor – that when we finally get to meet Domenico Poisson we learn that he has tried his mission many times before with many past versions of the team, without success. More creators helped out when I became more serious about fleshing it out – some with content and some as sounding boards. These creators include Jeff Haas, Shawn Smith, and John Kennedy. With specific story elements, more and more were fleshed out further with Howard Wong, Jon Byrans and Dino Caruso. Artists have also played a part – usually with costume design. These artists have included Sam Agro, Robert Hand, the team of SF360, Thony Sillas, Lawrence Lam, Alisson Borges, and JianYi.

DC: I love continuity-heavy stories like LOST, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, 100 BULLETS, Y: THE LAST MAN, etc...I often wonder how much of a roadmap the creators made for themselves before the beginning. From your perspective, is it possible to completely plan out something so massive? Or do you simply have to leave room for creative deviations that may occur along the way? And (here's the big one) do you know how the story of the Crystal Fractal Universe will eventually end?

DL: It depends on what you are trying to do. I find it is better to have a direction, but allow room to play in the execution of the details. At the end of the day, it is all about how engaging the story is – does it keep the reader interested, excited, “addicted to come back for more”? Do I have an ending in mind for the CFU? Absolutely. The overarching story bible was designed to get there. Will there be changes along the way? Absolutely as well.

Check back next week for the conclusion of this interview...

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