Jonathan Tsuei and artist Eric Canete will soon be gracing the nerd world with their new comic from Image, RUNLOVEKILL. I had the honor of reading the first issue and can report that it is an innovative, futuristic, action packed story with some elements that I would dare to compare with Aeon Flux.
Recently, I had the opportunity to talk to writer Jonathan Tsuei about the comic, character development, and his future projects.
VALERIE: When did you decide that writing is your passion?
JONATHAN: I was that strange child who made all his toys talk to each other when I had play time. My G.I. Joe battles lasted for days. Different figures had dramatic deaths and vengeance would need to be enacted on their behalf. I was a really weird kid. I didn’t realize then what I was doing, but I was crafting stories. They were really terrible stories, but I loved it. I think when I was in my mid twenties, I remembered how much I missed storytelling. I’ve always been creative, but nothing really allowed me to express myself the way writing did.
What do you love most about being a writer?
Creating worlds is so exciting to me. I love it. I remember when Eric Canete and I first came up with the idea to do RUNLOVEKILL he asked me to give a synopsis of what I was thinking. I ended up writing this ridiculous series bible because that feeling you get when you’re creating something is liberating. That world is yours and no one can tell you otherwise.
The least is the act of writing itself. It’s quite difficult for me and very lonely at times. On the rare occasion that I hit a groove and pages just fly out of me, I don’t feel the chore of writing. That doesn’t happen all the time though.
Who are your favorite writers and why?
I don’t read as much as I would like to, but in comics I think it would be Warren Ellis. I don’t think I’ve ever read an Ellis book that I didn’t find entertaining. He can do these crazy, high-concept books or pretty standard superhero stories and do all of that really well. I wish I was as good as he is.
In TV/Film it would be Aaron Sorkin. I’m a huge West Wing nerd. Don’t ask me how many times I’ve watched that series, it’s ridiculous.
How did you come to the decision that comics would be the medium you expressed yourself through?
I fell in love with comics when I was in junior high I think. At that point in my life, Jim Lee’s X-Men was the greatest thing I’d ever seen. As I got older, I saw comics as a medium that’s really unlike any other. Film you have to watch at whatever pace the director presents the story. In novels, readers can move at their own pace, but the reader’s imagination is what feeds the imagery. Comics are different in that the reader can still move at their own pace, but the imagery is there already. A good artist can do things in comics that you can’t do anywhere else. I wanted to be a part of that world.
How did you connect with Eric Canete and Image comics?
Eric and I met at Alternative Press Expo (APE) close to ten years ago. I went up to his table and flipped through one of his sketchbooks and like a proper fanboy, asked him if he would do a sketch for me. After that we kept in touch, saw each other at cons and eventually became really good friends. When I told him that I wanted to write comics he suggested that we try to do something together. That turned into the very early iteration of RUNLOVEKILL. As far Image, Eric had some friends in the industry who had work published through them and they introduced us to Eric Stephenson. Stephenson liked what we were doing and agreed to publish our book.
What was the inspiration for RUNLOVEKILL?
I think RUNLOVEKILL is a mixture of all the things I loved growing up. Giant robots and Bubblegum Crisis. Action movies and fantastic worlds. All the stuff that weird kid used to love.
How did the main character, Rain, manifest in your imagination?
Rain is interesting in that she sort of came to be in a short story I wrote a long time ago. It was a short story about a young woman named Jenny who was locked up in a psych ward. Jenny suffered from hallucinations and Rain was the hallucination she saw when she acted out violently. The Rain we see in RUNLOVEKILL is essentially Jenny and Rain from that other story rolled into one character. Now that I think about it, both RUNLOVEKILL and that other story have a lot to do with life choices and the consequences we have to face throughout life. There’s a lot of me in Rain. Well, there’s a lot of the younger, more confused version of me in Rain.
Once the story for RUNLOVEKILL was completed, how did you and Eric decide on the particulars of the artwork? How did it help you shape your vision?
Eric is an amazing artist who has years of experience in both comics and animation. What that guy sees in his mind is better than anything I can ever imagine. So, for much of it I just got out of his way and let him design the hell out of things. To Eric’s credit, he has always taken my suggestions and ideas and improved on them. He’s never ignored my input. We have a very collaborative relationship, but for the visuals it’s Canete giving you Canete. The guy is a beast.
What were some of the difficulties, or, challenges you experienced while creating this comic?
Time! Holy crap! This story is almost as old as my friendship with Eric. We had a lot of false starts due to real life, work, you name it, getting in the way. Its original form was only supposed to be a 48 page one-shot. Now its eight issues. So there was a lot of work that had to go into fleshing out the story and making sure the pacing and story beats felt right. It’s been a challenge, but the good kind of challenge.
Where do you hope to see the success of RUNLOVEKILL a year from now?
I just want to get the book into as many hands as possible. I tell stories because I love it, but also because I want others to read them. I hope people either love it or they absolutely hate it. If the reader is indifferent, then I completely failed as a writer.
Can you provide any advice for those looking to write for independent comic book companies?
I’ll share what Grant Morrison shared with me years ago when I asked him for advice on breaking into comics. He told me that comics always needs new voices. If this is what you love, then never give up. Keep writing, keep submitting, make yourself heard. “A good writer needs three things. Talent, dedication, and… something else.” I love that quote. When he said that to me, we both just kind of laughed. I feel like that third thing is different for everyone who wants to do this. You have to have talent and dedication. That something else is what will define you and hopefully help you break in.
What can fans expect from you in the future?
More comics! I hope I’m able to continue to tell stories in this medium because I love it. I want to tell more big action, high concept stories, but I also hope I get to opportunity to do more stories that represent the Asian American community. I got a few of those stories that are dying to be told.
RUNLOVEKILL is not just a high quality story, but an experience. I could easily imagine this getting a cinematic adaptation because Jonathan and Eric are really on to something special. I am looking forward to reading more and learning about the story. I implore all comic book fans to pick up the first issue at your local comic shop on April 15. You will be missing out on great storytelling and fantastic art if you don’t pick this up.
Trust me, RUNLOVEKILL will not disappoint!