On Friday, March 2, 2018, I had the pleasure to interview the creators of Lifeformed: Cleo Makes Contact during Emerald City Comic Con! Writer Matt Mair Lowery and artist Cassie Anderson stood dutifully behind their table showcasing their work throughout the convention — when they weren’t busy on the SyFy stage for a live stream, that is! I was thrilled to catch them for a few minutes!
Matt and Cassie both traveled from Portland to attend the convention. They discussed how they got into the comic book scene, what drew them to the sci-fi genre and what we can expect from Cleo’s adventure in the upcoming Lifeformed sequel!
How did you each get into writing and illustrating comics, respectively?
Matt: I’ve been writing most of my life, but I didn’t really get anything out there into the world. So, I was figuring I should try to take the time to get that going and the at the time I was reading a lot of comics with my daughters. And there wasn’t anything in the sort of like, sci-fi, action-adventure genre, um, that I grew up loving and that… I felt was suited to them and had, like a girl protagonist and that kind of stuff. Yeah. So I just kind of got the story idea and worked on it for a while. It went through different iterations, but I landed on something and then just decided I would try making a book, and studied up on it and that was pretty much it.
And it worked out well for you!
M: It worked out well! And then I found Cassie’s work online, and we met up and connected and…yeah, it just kind of went from there.
And, Cassie, have you always been wanting to illustrate comics?
Cassie: No! I’ve always been drawing and always been drawing my own stories, telling stories through art. And originally, in high school, I thought I wanted to go into animation. But then I realized that’s a lot of work that I don’t want to do. So, then I thought about storyboarding because it’s kind of breaking down the beats of the story. And then, through that, just kind of found comics and…yeah! I don’t know, I just kind of fell in love with the medium.
Matt was mentioning how he wanted to create Cleo’s character because there weren’t many female protagonists in the sci-fi genre, especially in he younger age group. Did that resonate with you when he pitched the idea to you?
C: Oh yeah, totally! Um, I think Cleo’s character was one of the things that drew me to the story the most because she’s so sassy and fun. And in a genre that you don’t see for younger readers as much, it’s just cool.
The writing seems to be pretty gritty at times, but the artwork is a lot more cartoonish and contrasts that a little bit. Was that intentional, or was it just something that kind of happened? It seems to work really well.
M: Yeah, I think for me, on my side of it, it was like…I didn’t come at it with a style necessarily in mind. And if I did, it was probably a little…less cartoony. But when I saw it done in her style and, like, the way it really brought the emotion in and stuff, I was…I think at the same time realizing that so much of the story was Cleo’s emotional arc versus the action. And so, when I saw that, I was like “it needs to be this, this really communicates what we’re going for.” It felt like it elevated it to something else and not just another action comic.
Cassie, do you feel the same way about that?
C: Yeah, yeah I think so. I didn’t intentionally, like, think about the contrast necessarily, but I think I remember telling him at some point “I don’t really wanna draw a lot of gore or anything, so…” Except for that one scene at the beginning where the dad dies…that was necessary though!
Can you tell us anything about what is going to happen next in Cleo’s adventure?
C: Well, we’re doing a second book! I think the next book is going to be a lot more emotional bent in her journey as she kind of figures things out…goes through grieving her father and figuring out how to fit into this new alien world. I think we explore some kind of interesting aspects of her character and of this new world in this story – which should be exciting to draw!
M: Yeah, I think now that we’ve got, kinda the groundwork laid, we can get into more detail. And like Cassie was saying, spend more time in the emotional space. And…yeah, basically they’ve moved to a new place. They’re in Portland now, versus Seattle, and she’s sort of set up a comfortable existence for herself in the invasion. They kind of go out and do their alien ambushes and stuff and come back to party and have all their snacks…that sort of stuff. And so, basically, she’s got that set up and she’s going to make some mistakes. Some stuff’s gonna happen that’s going to endanger that new sort of status quo that she’s set up.
It’s mostly written, and Cassie’s started doing the thumbnails for it, so it feels pretty good so far.
And when will that be available again?
M: That’ll be September of next year.
M: And we are doing a Patreon where you can follow along with the creation of the new book! And we’ll do a bunch of behind-the-scenes on the first book, so that should be pretty fun.
If you haven’t already checked out Lifeformed: Cleo Makes Contact, there’s not excuse to put it off now. A young female protagonist in a sci-fi graphic novel featuring alien ass-kicking is too much to pass up! Anderson and Mair Lowery have set up a Patreon where members can access exclusive content for the first novel as well as updates for the sequel. Be sure to check it out, and remember to let us at TGON know what you think!