From the mind of writer Tara Alexander sprang 1001, a just-north-of-modern-day take on “Arabian Nights.” Unparalleled artist Nelson Evergreen and letterer extraordinaire Jason Arthur joined her to create this new tale of tales. Let’s hear from the charming Mrs. Alexander…
Q: How did you arrive at this new incarnation of Scheherazade and her adventures in storytelling?
I think what keeps fairy tales and fables so relevant is the reader’s ability to relate to and admire their heroes. Scheherazade is such a great character. When I was debating what story to choose to adapt, hers kept drawing me back. For me, bringing “One Thousand and One Nights” into a future setting was about focusing on her and the many positive qualities she possesses–selflessness, bravery, intelligence, and creativity. I wanted to keep the future world of 1001 just beyond the present and make Sherri very classic in appearance so that those admirable characteristics wouldn’t be trumped by over-the-top settings and scenarios.
Q: 1001 is your first work in comics. What inspired you to pursue this medium?
I never read comics when I was growing up, so I was way late to the party. My husband was actually the first one to get me interested in them by showing me how cool they could be. I’m so grateful for that! And, really, what’s better than combining words and images? I believe the potential in this medium is so great. When used at their fullest, I don’t think anyone can argue against the power that comics employ.
Q:Tell us a bit about how you approached writing the story.
I had to imagine the whole story played out like scenes from a movie before I put anything down on paper, even the pitch. I played with the characters and their interactions until it felt right. Only then was I comfortable enough to dive in. I did the page breakdown by making sure I hit key moments or beats in the overall story, and then I started scripting. The easiest way to describe it was that I froze the best images from what I saw as a moving story to find the panels I definitely wanted to include. Then, I broke out my sketch book and did my own rough pages. I found it easier to do panel descriptions this way. I still have these, but I doubt anyone but me could make much sense out of them! The dialogue came right out of basically hearing the characters speak for themselves. With some tweaking, 1001 was finished on my end and Neil got to take it and make it more beautiful than I ever imagined it would be. I’ll sing his praises every chance I get. It was like he was inside my head, only his version is much much prettier. Ha! His work is absolutely gorgeous, and his total charm and pleasantness made it such a joy to work with him. I can’t thank him enough for making 1001 what it is.
Q: Do you think we’ll be seeing more comics from Tara Alexander down the line?
I hope so! I’m working on a story now that I’m really excited about. The main character, like Sherri, is strong and full of interesting potential. When real life and mommy-hood let me steal some free time, I like to play around in that world and see what happens. I hope to see it done soon. Anyone want to collaborate? Haha!
Q: Apart from Sherri’s, are there any stories in Once Upon a Time Machine you think you’d love to read?
All of them. I’ve never seen anything from this book that I didn’t think was outstanding. The best part of this whole process has been connecting with the folks involved. Over the last couple years, we’ve made wonderful friends with several of the creators in this book, so I’m really pumped to see all their work. Of course I’m very excited to see Vasilissa the Beautiful all finished up. Sean Thornton is a fantastic artist, and I hear that the writer, Tom Alexander, is a real stud. Jim Giar is an amazingly talented, super-awesome dude, so his story with Saajan Patel, The Shepherd and the Weaver Girl, is also really high on that list.
Q: Got any websites, books, or friends you’d like to plug?
You can find me here: facebook.com/1taraalexander
Nelson Evergreen, here: nelson-evergreen.com and nelson-evergreen.blogspot.com
Mr. Alexander: facebook.com/pages/Tom-Alexander/143141212386917
Jim Giar: facebook.com/pages/Chelzo-Studios-The-art-of-Jim-Giar/210171045668502 and chelzostudios.com
Fred Duran: facebook.com/fredthecomicwriter
Charles Fetherolf: giantearthpress.tumblr.com
The lovely Lora Innes’ webcomic: thedreamercomic.com
and finally, Locust Moon Comics: facebook.com/locustmoon.comics