A comic artist with experience at DC Comics is writing and drawing his first original story, a new comic called AXCEND tackling heavy concepts flavored with video games for Image Comics, out on Oct. 7.
“The great thing with Image is that there’s really no limitations… in the end it’s going to be my call,” said writer/artist Shane Davis via Skype interview.
Davis’ name can be found on previous releases such as volumes 1 and 2 of the graphic novel series Superman: Earth One as well as the digital-first anthology series Legends of the Dark Knight, which he uncharacteristically wrote a story for. Now, he is putting together AXCEND with his wife Michelle Delecki, an inker, and colorist Morry Hollowell for Image Comics.
Image is far from new to pulling creators from mainstream superhero comics to unleash original, creator-owned ideas under their publication umbrella with their biggest stars being folks like Scott Snyder, known for his Batman work, and Matt Fraction, known for a variety of work at Marvel including Invincible Iron Man and Hawkeye.
AXCEND is about a high school student named Eric Morn, a kid who constantly struggles to cope with the death of his twin brother.
“I like broken characters a lot,” said Davis. “To me, [AXCEND] is about consequences to actions. In trying to do the best thing, our protagonist will probably do the worst thing.”
He uses video games for escapism, but his story gets more exciting whenever he gets sucked into a video game that eventually bleeds into the real-world. Because of this mish-mash, Morn is tasked with using his new-found, gaming-inspired abilities, along with two other teens, to stop an apocalyptic threat, even though they’re just kids.
Davis hopes to use this plot point as a way to delve into themes of globalization.
“I feel like I come from a generation (Davis is in his late 30s) that constantly grew up and lived in an idea of nuclear threat,” said Davis.
Another theme he wishes to explore, which seems to be the predominant one, is the conflict that comes out of a young, under-developed person being given a lot of disproportionate power and responsibility.
“To me that’s very interesting, it’s very scary, it’s very energetic, a lot of things can go wrong, a lot of things can go right, and then what if you hand that out to three people? Three to me is a magic number because you put two people in a room they’ll get along, you put three people in a room, somebody will out one of the three and two will team up against the one,” said Davis.
There has been a long-standing debate over the connection between the playing of violent video games and real-life violence, especially in regards to kids and teens. For Davis, a lover and fervent player of video games, there has to be some kind of connection.
“I feel like, more and more with school violence and shootings and so on, there becomes this weird area of a rhythm of more and more violent video games,” said Davis.
He continued to explain that through pondering this, he can imagine a young school shooter’s mentality to be something like the mentality one takes the role of in a game like Grand Theft Auto, in which a player empowers him or herself by getting away with not just petty crimes but also more serious crimes like murder and theft.
“Let’s face it: the average game player nowadays probably knows more about aiming and shooting than gamers ten or twenty years ago,” said Davis. “That’s just part of the reality behind that.”
Academic studies have been performed focusing on the effect of violent video games on youthful players.
Dr. Brad J Bushman and others published results from experiments that found that kids playing violent video games are more likely to have less self-control and be more aggressive and deceitful than kids playing non-violent video games, according to this article from Psychology Today.
However, a psychologist named Christopher Ferguson along with others published research in the Journal of Communication that criticized the methodology of past studies and points out a lack of substantial statistical connection in regards to the implications of such results, according to this article from The Independent.
“I don’t want to give people the wrong impression. I think it will become clearer when people read the book and see what I mean,” said Davis.
Delecki has found working on the interiors of AXCEND a joy, she said via Skype interview. She doesn’t feel like she necessarily adds anything to the book with her ink work.
“I try to keep the true voice of Shane’s pencils,” Delecki said.
Having only worked on cover art before, in terms of comic book work, Delecki has a certain approach to interior art. She and Shane have discussed it in the past.
“[Shane and I have said in private conversation] if we did something together, as a team, we should make sure that the guts look like the covers,” said Delecki. “When was the last time you’ve seen a book that has guts that looks as good as the cover?”
She’s been enjoying the process, a process that includes friendly critique all over that makes the book better overall. Hollowell seconds that pleasure in working on AXCEND, saying that he thinks Shane has a lot of great ideas, via phone interview.
“I’m excited to see where he goes with this,” said Hollowell.
For him, what’s most exciting is Shane’s art work.
“It’s strong and dynamic. It’s got a little bit of a 90s look to it, which I like,” said Hollowell.
There’s really nothing but excitement buzzing from the creative team for this new series from the popular publisher.
“I don’t think I could ever tackle [the subjects in AXCEND] in anything I’ve ever done before just because of the nature of corporate comics,” said Davis.