We recently promoted the Kickstarter campaign for 12 Gauge Comics Yumi: Hero Fatale, Baddie Royale. It’s an action packed, female powered saga with more than a nod to Ian Fleming’s iconic super spy James Bond. I was so impressed with book after having an opportunity to read the review copy that I knew we needed to talk to the creators behind the title. So for this installment of Talking Comics, we welcome writer and co-creator of Yumi, Doug Wagner.
The Beginning: When is it Writing?
GVN: Thanks for some time, Doug. Let’s start at the beginning. When did you take an interest in writing and who were your inspirations at that time?
DW: Whenever this question comes up in conversation, I’m always fascinated to take that walk back and analyze when I actually started writing. See at a very young age, say around 5, I was actively creating stories daily. I’d come up with characters and a cast for me to play with, create entire worlds to explore, and sometimes even write them down. Even at that age, I was strangely drawn to typewriters. I loved them!
The funny part is I didn’t realize I was writing until I was 17. The notion of being a writer didn’t occur to me until Cully Hamner and I met in high school. Yes, that Cully Hamner. Back then, he and I would sit around talking comics, analyzing stories, and dissecting all of it. One day, we decided to make up our own characters. We created origins for them all and even went so far as to jot down the first several story arcs. Sadly (because I’m a slow thinker), it took me about a month until it dawned on me that we were writing. From that day forward, writing comic books was all I ever wanted to do.
My influences back then were Alan Dean Foster, Anne McCaffrey, Dennis O’Neil, and probably my biggest influence, Chris Claremont. Claremont’s work on the X-Men actually changed my life when I was younger. I’d even go so far as to say it saved my life.
GVN: Wow! That may be a topic we revisit the next time we connect. In the meantime, you have compiled an impressive resume so far with 12 Gauge Comics. When it comes to creating new titles, do they come up with a concept for you to do or do you have the freedom to develop your own?
DW: With 12-Gauge, it’s always been a mix. Sometimes Keven Gardner (12-Gauge President) comes up with ideas and pitches them to me, and sometimes I come up with ideas and pitch them to him. We both have similar tastes, but the most important thing to us is developing the best book we can. For instance, The Ride was created by Keven and I working together to create something. Gun Candy spawned from that book but was a collaboration of Brian Stelfreeze and I pitching the idea to Keven. 25 To Life was brought to 12-Gauge by Eriq La Salle, and I was hired to write that. Plastic, The Hard Place, and Yumi were lovechildren from myself and the co-creators of each book, and we pitched those to Keven.
The funny thing about YUMI is Hoyt and I had no plans on pitching it to Keven. We were just creating away with no publishing plan in mind. For funsies, Hoyt and I put together a little ashcan to hand out at a show. Keven picked it up, read it, scowled at us like we’d stolen his last Mountain Dew, and growled, “What is this and why haven’t I seen it before?” The rest is history.
Yumi is Born
GVN: Well thanks to Keven then. Your latest title is Yumi, Spy Fatale, Baddie Royal. When I read it, I was so enthralled with the amazing spin of the whole Bond genre. A story where a womanizing British agent comes face to face with many of the people he has seduced on his missions. All of them believing that their relationship was real…and they were the only one. And all of them as bad ass as they want to be and ticked off to find out otherwise. Except for Yumi who still believes she is Richard’s one true love and will do anything to save him. How did this story come about? The homage to the Ian Fleming Bond series is evident and so much fun. Even a guard was named Connery. Brilliant stuff and so many quick hitting quips.
DW: Hoyt was the one that came up with the initial premise. He had talked to our editor Lisako the same day about James Bond and all of its tropes. He called all overly excited and wondered if we could flip the idea and tell the typical spy story from another perspective. That’s all it took to get our brains churning. After that first call, Hoyt and I spent the next several days throwing ideas back and forth. Initially, we decided we didn’t even want to worry about how, where, or when this would get published. We simply wanted to just do it without worrying about those pesky page rates and deadlines. It was a true labor of love with only one rule – create something Hoyt, Doug, and especially Lisako would enjoy reading.
I’m so happy to see you getting some of our easter eggs. We couldn’t help ourselves. We wanted to pay the proper homage to the foundation of everything we were doing. I mean, Yumi doesn’t exist without Ian Fleming and James Bond.
Yumi’s Battle Soundtracks
GVN: It was a fun premise. Some were right out in the open and some were more subtle. Well done. So lets talk music. Yumi selects a constant variety of mood music for her incursions. Her battle soundtracks per say. How did you decide to use this device and which music she selected? It’s a fun part of what makes Yumi…well…Yumi.
DW: The music was just a happy accident that came about on page one and it carried on from there. As I was writing that first page, I started thinking what I might do to MI-6 if I could hack their systems. I know I’m warped, but I couldn’t help but laugh at the thought of playing my favorite song through every speaker in the place. That is funny, right? Of course, Yumi and I don’t have the same favorite song, so I had to take a deep dive online. I spent around 30 hours searching for the right up and comers to fit Yumi’s playlist. The artists had to be female, and the lyrics had to be about the inner strength that can only come from being a woman.
GVN: That WAS funny. Especially when one of the guards liked the music. So you couldn’t do a Bond homage without villains. And while all of the fights Yumi had with each of Richard’s conquests were action filled and well done, my favorite villain in the story was her Papa. A kind of mix between a classic Bond Villain and Dr. Evil from Austin Powers. I loved his plan to bring back the 80’s. (Secret desire on your part?). When he started defending AirWolf, I almost spit out the soft drink I was drinking. Did you have a character model in mind for Papa? Who was he based on?
DW: As sick as this is going to sound, I based him on my wife. Although she’s younger than I am, she doesn’t work well with technology. To be honest, I’m not sure technology doesn’t have it out for her. One day when I was working on YUMI, she busted in office (as she tends to do) and got all nostalgic about how video games used to have one joystick and one button, and oh, how she loved those days. She rants about this at least once a year to me. Papa’s maniacal plan was born from that statement. When it came to Airwolf, I was torn between that and the A-Team, and since I hate dashes in dialogue, Airwolf won the day.
GVN: Wise choice…but I think you still got in an A-Team reference later. So that fanbase is satisfied. Now let’s talk about your artistic partner in crime. You are working with Hoyt Silva on Yumi. His art is so stylish and action packed while at the same time so whimsical. How has this collaboration been? Had you worked with Hoyt before?
DW: This was Hoyt and my first collaboration, and I had a blast. Admittedly, I tend to be drawn to artist that have a slant to their work that I haven’t seen before. Hoyt has that in spades. The more he and I talked about what types of stories we wanted to do the more I realized he and I HAD to do something together. He’s been an amazing collaborator and friend. He’s one of those creatives that cares more about creating a great story than about his ego so working with him as been an absolute joy.
GVN: Speaking of whimsical, the flashback scenes between Yumi and Richard were such a change of pace. What was the significance of their distinctive style? I pondered if they were a way of visualizing Yuma’s almost childlike innocence where her relationship with Richard was concerned? Of course I’m probably practicing psychology without a license again.
DW: This was mostly Hoyt’s idea. He and I agreed early on that we prefer when flashbacks look dramatically different when reading a book. We both agree that a reader should be able to flip through a book and find flashbacks easily and without having to read captions or the like. Hoyt pitched a few different options, but we both landed on that more Manga look. It was just too perfect for Yumi. We thought this look was exactly how Yumi perceived herself in her head.
The Voice of Yumi and Jules
GVN: It really worked. Thank you so much for your time, Doug. For a final question, as is my norm, I go toward the hypothetical. Yumi, Spy Fatale, Baddie Royale is well received. So much so that an animated adaptation is in the works. Who could you see voicing Yumi and her automotive sidekick Jules? As an added bonus, you are allowed to write yourself into the story. What kind of character could you see Doug Wagner as?
DW: Ha! I’d watch that show. My picks for Yumi would be Awkwafina or Ellen Wong. I think they could both bring the sass and attitude you’d need to give Yumi that little something special we don’t normally see in female leads. Jules is too easy. Hoyt and I created her with Cardi B in mind. EEEOOOWWW!! In regard to creating a character for myself, I’d write myself in as one of the Navy SEALs that supports Siph at the end of act II. I love this idea of depicting the most masculine of American men being those that stand by their fellow human beings regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, age, disability, sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation, and they’re proud to do so.
GVN: Well said. Thanks again Doug and we look forward to following Yumi, and all your future works.
DW: It was truly my pleasure. Thank you for giving us a chance to spread the word.
12 Gauge Comics Yumi: Hero Fatale, Baddie Royale is now in Kickstarter. You can find it here. It really is a clever book and well worth your time, especially if you like bad ass women. I know I do. Look for our interview with Artist Hoyt Silva, coming soon to Geek Vibes Nation.
Senior Writer at GeekVibesNation – I am a 50 something child of the 70’s who admits to being a Star Trek/Star Wars/Comic Book junkie who once dove head first over a cliff (Ok, it was a small hill) to try to rescue his Fantastic Four comic from a watery grave. I am married to a lovely woman who is as crazy as I am and the proud parent of a 17 year old boy with autism. My wife and son are my real heroes.