Cats. The internet loves them. People love cats just for looking grumpy or when they pretend to play a keyboard. What if there was a cat who could astral-project across the galaxy to look for distant alien worlds. Creators Carlos Giffoni and Juan Doe examine that very idea in their new series “Strayed” from Dark Horse Comics. “In the far future, a military-industrial complex reigns over all humanity and actively destroys distant alien worlds. The galaxy’s only hope can be found through an unlikely pair: an astral-projecting cat named Lou and his loving owner Kiara. Trading nine lives for the well-being of billions, their revolt is a battle for love, friendship, compassion, and the soul of humanity.”
To learn more about the series and answer all our cat related questions we spoke to the creators Juan and Carlos. The team discussed bringing to life the personality of a cat, what their future world looks like, the owner/animal relationship and more. As always a big thanks to the team for taking the time to talk with us. You can find our interview with Juan and Carlos below and to read the new series “Strayed” you can find it in comic shops and online this Wednesday August 21st.
“Strayed” may be one of the more unique concepts for a comic I have had the pleasure of reading. So for those unaware what is “Strayed?” What do you feel is the most unique and interesting element about the story is for you as creators?
Carlos Giffoni: The shortest description for “Strayed” is that it is about an astral traveling cat trying to save the galaxy. And of course, there is a military-industrial complex trying to abuse this astral projection power to colonize new planets. Beyond that, the most unique and interesting element that people reading advanced copies call out is how well we captured the close relationship between a human and their beloved pet. This relationship between Kiara and Lou is at the heart of Strayed; it will be tested many times and will have to be very strong for them to prevail.
Juan Doe: I think for me it’s the pure openness of the idea. It feels like the independent side of comics is the most exciting thing happening in the industry today. The iconic superhero characters will always have their place and dominance but we have enough room today to imagine new characters and new heroes that can exist outside of the old paradigm. As long as you’ve got a good story to tell, there are ample opportunities and publishers to take a chance and experiment a bit and I think Strayed fits perfectly in that regard.
In “real life” cats have very distinct personalities. How do you bring to life the personality of a cat on to the comic page? Is there a challenge creating dialog and gestures for not only an animal but an animal that has the ability to have a verbal relationship with humans?
CG: I had my cats around me when I was writing the majority of “Strayed,” so I looked at their behavior for inspiration every step of the way. I don’t think it was any more difficult than trying to bring a person to life in a comic. You need to nail the personality down, their behaviors, the way they think. In a way, because a cat that communicates with a translation device its a novel concept, I think it is easier to accept Lou’s personality as a completely new experience. Not all of us get to interact with speaking cats every day.
JG: Visually, cats are in a category all on their own. I could draw cats all day and never get bored. Putting that together with a quality narrative and some of the literary devices that Carlos has employed and you can get a good range for a cat’s personality. Also, being that Carlos and I have both had cats, we probably had a natural inclination to visualize their personalities and relationships with people.
I am always really interested in stories set in a “near” future setting and the creators take on what that might look like. What does your future in “Strayed” look like?Continued below
CG: It’s pretty bleak. Very much based on our history as a people and our current despicable political situation world-wide. In “Strayed,” humans have conquered the ability to travel to distant planets, but they are still vying for personal gains and have no problem disrespecting other life. They continue to dehumanize others when it’s convenient for their plans. I hope we can all learn from the past and be better, but history does repeat itself.
There are many exceptions, of course. Beautiful kind people that want to change things, and cats mostly beautiful cats, so let’s hope that the few kind souls around can overcome those currently in power.
JG: With Carlos and I both being big fans of sci-fi it wasn’t so difficult to imagine what some of those settings in the near future could look like. Carlos always had a clear vision for describing those scenes while letting me push the visuals without sacrificing clarity. With that, I think we built out a very plausible construct for how these systems could be visualized.
Will we see the use of other animals in the series as either protagonist or antagonist in relation to Lou?
CG: Not in this part of the story. But if sales go well enough that we get to do more arcs, that is absolutely pawsible.
Astral projection has been portrayed a lot of different ways in comics and media. If Doctor Strange has not astral projected by the second issue of a series he is in I am out. What is your understanding and portrayal of astral projection like in the world of “Strayed?”
CG: Writing those parts and seeing how Juan illustrated them was one of the best parts of working on this book. I had a lot of fun imagining how Lou would fly at insane speeds through space, race meteors, see beautiful nebulas and black holes, and enter new planets through astral portals. We played around with a few unique ideas around what would be possible for Lou to do in the astral plane, but I don’t want to spoil anything, you’ll have to see it!
JG: Carlos was excellent in describing the astral projecting scenes. I just had to take those descriptions and add my visual flares to it, hopefully we were successful in portraying those scenes as they were a lot of fun to create.
I’ve always been impressed with the look of Juan’s art. It is very unique to him especially in the colors and movement. As a creative team did you have a look and tone you were hoping to achieve with this series? What do you think is something the other has brought to this series that is vital to making it a true Carlos and Juan project?
CG: Once Juan was confirmed for the book, I catered my writing to his style. I gave him a lot of freedom and kept asking him to draw Lou flying through space and doing things in astral form as much as I could squeeze in the story. I knew he was going to kill it. We talked for two hours on the phone shortly after he agreed and we aligned on a vision to hit, every page needed to stand on its own as a piece of art.
Having Juan as an artist gave me the freedom to let my imagination go as wild as needed without worrying about the execution being less than amazing. The level of communication and collaboration we hit on this book is unlike any artistic partnership I have done before. It truly is very much a Carlos and Juan exclusive production, and I don’t think anyone else could give you this story.
JG: At this point it’s safe to say that Carlos and I are cosmic bandmates. Making music together with the word and the image. We zoned in on that pretty quickly and the process of making Strayed was truly a satisfying experience. I think once I came on board, Carlos was probably honing in on how I work when writing the scenes. He was great in that he gave me tremendous leeway and freedom and encouraged me to do my thing. Which is always a great thing to hear, many times I have no idea how something is going to look so when it’s open-ended I can take those creative risks without feeling like I’m messing something up.Continued below
As much as Lou is the star of the show, it is just as much a Kiara story. What makes her a character that readers will invest themselves in as much as Lou? How do you bring that real pet/pet owner relationship to life on the page?
CG: Kiara is very much in a difficult situation. She loves and cares for Lou and wants to protect him, but she is being manipulated into using him for nefarious purposes that affect whole civilizations. If Kiara doesn’t comply, the military is threatening to eliminate both of them. Initially, she decides to hide what she suspects is going on for Lou’s sake, taking on the burden and responsibility of what they are doing. Slowly, you will see it weight more and more on her, getting heavier as the story goes on, and she finds out more about what the military is doing. “Strayed” is also the story of Kiara Rodriguez, and her struggles to find a way to overcome the situation and make up for the damage her and Lou have done.
JG: I think if you’re a pet owner or have had pets in the past, you know that a relationship between an owner and a pet is very unique. Kiara is just as important as Lou and it isn’t necessarily a story solely about an astral projecting cat but about an owner who wants to do everything in her power to help humanity as well as protecting her cat.
Do you guys have cats? If so how is your cat doing? If not, why not? What’s your deal?
CG: I have two cats. They are currently doing great, waiting for me to finish typing this interview, so I go upstairs and feed them. My deal is that I love them.
JG: I don’t have a cat at the moment but I grew up with cats in my household and my parents and siblings all have cats so I get to be the cat uncle whenever I visit them.
I have not so subtly touched on it in the tone of my questions but a lot of people love cats and find them funny. That aside I really enjoyed the first issue and it is about much more than a cat who can astral project. What do you hope readers take away from this first issue and the series as a whole?
JG: I hope readers will understand very quickly that this is a passion project for both of us. We put everything we had into carving out a story worthy of people’s time. It is unique, beautiful and it has something to say. We’re extremely proud of this story and I hope it’s evident when you’re reading it.
CG: That is true. I am looking forward to people seeing Lou on the cover and think this is something comedic because of the concept of an astral traveling cat. I want to be there every time someone opens up issue one and it hits them that this is a much more complex and serious story dealing with themes that affect us every day, both as individuals and as a human race. I can’t wait.
Please send me pictures of your cats reading “Strayed” to firstname.lastname@example.org or @carlosgiffoni on twitter.