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Stephen Byrne on building the sci-fi world of 'Joy Operations' with Brian Michael Bendis
Dark Horse

Comic Books

Stephen Byrne on building the sci-fi world of ‘Joy Operations’ with Brian Michael Bendis

The epic sci-fi tale debuts in November.

Jinxworld, the creator-owned imprint of one Brian Michael Bendis, is officially moving from DC Comics to Dark Horse Comics. And with that monumental shift, we also learned of another new series: Joy Operations. Due out November 24, it’s been described as “a fiercely ambitious, science-fiction odyssey,” with art from the talented Stephen Byrne (Serenity, Green Arrow).

The story is rad as heck, blending a futuristic world that’s only 50 years into our future and focusing on a woman named Joy, who is an EN·VOI. She works for a trust in a world controlled by these mega conglomerates, and while the idea of a company town is a real-life thing, it’s being tackled in a fresh new way within this series.

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With over a month before launch, I spoke to Byrne about the story itself. We also dug into the development process, what we might expect, and much more.

Joy Operations

Courtesy of Dark Horse Comics.

AIPT: I’d like to start by asking how this project got underway?

Stephen Byrne: I had connected with Brian through working on Wonder Twins for his Wonder Comics imprint. I think I reached out to Brian to let him know I’d love to work with him sometime. I didn’t really expect anything to come of it.

I then did an issue of Legion of Superheroes with him and was delighted with that. Later on, I think he heard through the DC grapevine that I was looking for a new project and we got talking about some possible things we could work on. Ultimately those conversations led to Joy Operations.

AIPT: From the pitch or idea, to the first issues being finalized how far were you and writer Brian Michael Bendis from the original mark?

SB: It’s hard to remember specifically how things changed or evolved, but definitely the central core concept is exactly as it was when Brian first pitched it to me.

AIPT: How much goes into creating an entirely new sci-fi world?

SB: We were lucky enough to have some time to conceptualize before we officially started making issues, so we were able to throw back and forth various concepts for a month or two and see what stuck.

My initial primary focus was designing Joy herself. We tried lots of different things. Once her look and persona was solidified, it was easier to expand out and think about the world around her and how she fit into it.

Joy Operations #1

Courtesy of Dark Horse Comics.

AIPT: Do you ever find yourself designing down a path that might feel too familiar to other sci-fi worlds?

SB: We’re all swimming in a soup of influences and things we love. For this project, it’s set in the not too distant future, so I tried to approach designing things in a logical way. What is the technology we have now and how might that evolve? So it’s somewhat grounded in our reality, but with some extraordinary technological leaps forward.

AIPT: Having read the first issue, I have to say your work shines in so many ways. Starting with facial expressions, what goes into crafting a “moment” where a character may be feeling so many emotions?

SB: Thanks so much. I think the facial expressions and emotions are really crucial in telling the story, particularly for Joy. Without giving too much away, she has a lot going on internally, so I was trying to make sure we were showing that. I’ll often use photo reference to get ideas for how to accurately show subtle or extreme facial expressions.

AIPT: There is some exceptional action in this first issue, how detailed is Bendis’ script when it comes to action and how much are the final pages reflective of that scripting?

SB: Bendis writes detailed scripts and he thinks about scenes from many angles, but he’s also very open to my interpretation/version of a scene. I think the action scenes in particular are a mash-up of his ideas filtered through my brain and something unique comes out the other side.

AIPT: As the pencil/lines and color artist, do you ever find the color can dictate a change in the lines?

SB: The boundary between lines and colors is blurry for me. I sort of think of the image as a whole, so I have an idea of what I’m going to do with color when I’m doing the line art.

AIPT: Were you a fan of Jinxworld before starting this project? What are your reflections on being the co-creator on the next big chapter for the imprint?

SB: Yes I’ve always been a fan of Brian’s work. His writing was one of my earliest experiences of reading comics and opened my mind up to their potential. It is surreal and exciting to be collaborating with him on this project.

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