Launching this month is a project that perhaps has been a long time in the making, with three creators from different backgrounds sharing the same passion. Deep Engines is a new approach to the fantasy genre and comics as we were given a taste of a few months ago. We were able to wrestle the creators and lead artists away from the world that they created and learn a bit more about them, their inspirations, and hopes as this monumental project launches.
Black Nerd Problems: You have written a variety of characters, some of them identifying on the LGBQTIA spectrum like Bold Riley. You’ve also had experience as a writer for comics in the acclaimed Smut Peddler anthologies. In regards to Raw House, Deep Engine’s offering for mature readers about the elaborate way of life in a well-respected brothel, what’s new that you bring to the table for those that know your work? And for those that are unfamiliar to your work, what do you hope they think?
Leia Weathington: What’s exciting for me about the entire project is I’ll be able to write with much more depth. Bold Riley was written in a really specific, monomythic way so I didn’t have the freedom to get up close with the characterization and the minutia of the world to maintain the consistency of an old heroic epic. Deep Engines is the opposite. I’ll get to really indulge in relationships and interactions between characters at length.
Raw House in particular gives us the ability to explore gender and sexuality in a number of ways. What’s taboo in one race’s society might be expected or simply mundane to another. What does being transgender mean for someone coming from a culture that has some fucked up ideas about bodily integrity? What does sex work look like in a world where it’s not only legal but a required part of religious service for one of the dominant faiths? I’m able to get into detail in long format that I haven’t had a chance to yet.
Raw House gets to explore that. It’s also filthy, dirty pornography with a cast of characters that I hope will touch readers in their hearts and their pants.
BNP: As the writer on this enormous project, what characters are you most excited to “bring to life”?
Weathington: Hilo Tamarand and Ellette Veldmark were two of the first characters I created for Deep Engines. Conley is illustrating The Goss, their introductory story, and I love the way she’s drawn them as kids. Those two have a pretty wild ride ahead of them. Hilo especially.
I have to say, writing Jack’s character Arimba Kovelinde has filled me with absolute delight at every turn. Have you ever seen a picture of a wet cat? That’s him. He comes off as such a sour, snooty, martyred guy that peeling those self-defensive layers off of him as the story goes on has been really fun.
It’s also been fun torturing a burned-out, middle-aged writer who got a nasty wake up call in life and now has to deal with a shitty teen protege and an editor giving him real criticism for the first time in a decade. He hates it, and he doesn’t understand why he’s being punished with all of this annoyance.
BNP: Lastly, What do you hope that readers take away from Deep Engines?
Weathington: I hope readers have fun! There are some emotionally difficult places for us to go in Deep Engines but I always want readers to feel like they can sink into this world and have fun learning about the characters and their lives. We want people to feel like this could be a real place, like they could see themselves in it.
— Deep Engines (@DeepEngines) February 26, 2016
Black Nerd Problems: You’re an illustrator but one that also has a background in games. What video games helped influence your vision of the world and characters in the Deep Engines universe? What games are you playing now?
Conley Presler: As much as I love games, a lot of my personal inspiration for the characters and world of Deep Engines comes more from animation, books, and long time interests in things like history, costume design, and weird animals that most people don’t like. That said, of course everything that I enjoy becomes inspiration! I play a lot of different game genres, but I’m most drawn to games with interesting visual direction and strong characters. Interesting characters are absolutely what most draw me in to a story, which I think shows in my own art and creative endeavors, and I certainly hope will come through in Deep Engines.
Right now I’ve been very busy preparing for the site launch, but I’m halfway through Firewatch, which has been lovely. I’m almost done with The Witness, which I refuse to finish until I have bested every puzzle, and will therefore probably never finish. Whenever the new Mass Effect comes out though, basically everything else in my life will have to go on pause (sorry Leia and Jack, I promise to get lots of pages done first).
BNP: I see a lot of ladies in your body of work, which is awesome. It appears that you’re a big fan of Rey from the new installment of Star Wars and also Korra and Asami. I’m fans of all of those women as well and think all three are great examples of complexly written women who kick ass. With characters like that in mind, what do you hope to bring to all the many womenfolk that you’ll draw in your Deep Engines stories?
Presler: I am a huge fan of complex, interesting women in media, and a desire for a broader representation of character types was a major influence in my decision to get involved in games. I love imperfect characters, and I think that showing flaws and weaknesses can be just as important and interesting as showing a woman who can kick ass. I think a lot of people get caught up in the difficulty of “writing women,” instead of just focusing on writing an interesting person. Using Korra as an example, while she is extremely powerful, she’s also overconfident, irritable, and makes some incredibly stupid decisions. While there have totally been times I’ve yelled at the TV in frustration while watching, I think it’s that combination, not her superpowers, that make her interesting. I’m very, very excited about drawing The Goss for Deep Engines, which is a story about two girls with perspectives and personalities that are often very different from my own. They don’t always make the best decisions, or say the right thing, but I think that they’re exciting characters who are fun to watch. I’ve come to really love them a lot, and I hope other people do too!
BNP: If you can answer without spoilers, what characters have been your favorite so far to place unto the page? Lastly, what do you hope that readers take away from Deep Engines as a whole?
Presler: Since I’m drawing The Goss, its main characters Hilo and Ellette are definitely number one in my heart. I do also have a big soft spot for Red Eye, who was super fun to design, and you will meet in the first story arc. I hope that people will be invested in the universe that we’ve made, be creatively inspired, and most of all I hope that they’ll fall in love with the inhabitants of the world in the same way I have.
Meet the creators: Conley Presler is an artist with a background in games and art production. @conleydraws pic.twitter.com/nBT4hI7C0C — Deep Engines (@DeepEngines) February 24, 2016
Black Nerd Problems: Upon seeing just a few pieces of your concept art, I’m blown away and curious to where you gain such inspiration to make such pieces. Just where do you to find the inspiration? Is there a method to your madness?
Jack Cole: Anything that inspires that sort of gut thrill that comes from seeing or experiencing something that’s fascinating, or stunning, or charming I find a place to tuck away in my soul in hopes to retrieve it later to feel it again, or to create something that will hopefully inspire the same emotion in someone else. So my ideas end up being the accumulation of little pieces of things from all over. For a more specific example though I take a lot of inspiration from art that is decades and centuries old, especially if the original creators have long passed away because you can take pieces of that material and breathe new life into it by shedding the cliches of the past and extrapolating on those qualities that give those works their resonance and power. It also helps to prevent creating work that is derivative of your contemporaries.
BNP: When you think of the word “fantasy” what comes to mind as a creator and an artist?
Cole: I think of fantasy as a story with otherworldly and magical events that takes place within a closed universe. For me that last part about the closed universe is important to define it from surrealism, fairy tales, and myth which also deal with otherworldly and magical events. Those three can take place within a fantasy universe, but ultimately they function on their own terms and need to be open to a certain degree of transcendence, in which both the events recounted and the underlying intentions and ideas are essential to understanding and interacting with the story. Whereas with fantasy the story just has to play by the rules it set out for itself, and can be as fun and as face value as it wants, or as deep as it feels like going.
BNP: You’re the artist on deck for the gorgeous art of Epicurean’s Exile, one of Deep Engines’ first offerings. It features a main character by the name of Arimba Kovlinde, the fallen from grace food critic who is attempting to be great once again. Is he modeled after a particular person? What was the process of creating him like for you?
Cole: Shortly after I joined the project I started making some concept art to visualize the world Deep Engines takes place in. I wanted to have a character I could imagine following around to various locations, and picking out interesting places to bring to life. Arimba was this character and I imagined him as the Anthony Bourdain of the rifts, because I like Bourdain’s particular blend of seeking out interesting places and people, and the way food takes him to more casual places rather than making the rounds at only the big attractions like a travel guide would. Solando, the young woman who accompanies him, was created at the same time Arimba was to act as an equivalent to the camera man, as she draws all the places and things they see, then sends these drawings off to be made into publishable etchings. When I showed Leia all the concept drawings I made she immediately honed in on these two characters, and took off writing their own storyline.
BNP: Lastly, what do you hope that readers take away from Deep Engines?
Cole: I hope readers will find Deep Engines immersive and will be able to immediately imagine themselves in this universe. One of my favorite things about fantasy are worlds that feel lived in and you could imagine living in, and that sprawl far beyond the page or the panel that contains them. What’s exciting working on a collaborative project is everybody brings with them ideas and things that they love and want to see done, and interconnecting these things creates something compelling that’s beyond what just one person can create on their own. So I really hope that will show in Deep Engines and that readers will come away satisfied from whatever emotional investment they put into it.
— Deep Engines (@DeepEngines) February 13, 2016
Deep Engines officially launches this week and supporting its Patreon with pledges translates to enabling the creators to keep their website running and updated regularly, pay contributors, and craft a fantasy world for readers to immerse themselves in. One goal for the Deep Engines website is to host these comics and storytelling at no cost to readers, with the exception of, Raw House which will be a subscription portion of the site hosting fine pornographic comics featuring familiar faces from the Deep Engines cast. Follow the official Deep Engines Twitter account to stay up to date on the latest news and updates and most definitely stay tuned to see the site in all its glory when it launches this week.