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City in the Sky

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Two months ago, Ryan Cody, who most comic readers know from his work on Viper’s four issue mini-series Villains, ventured onto the web with Coral City Aeronauts.

Cody talks about the main players of the series, how it was inspired by Steamboy, his fascination with aeronautics, and when we’ll see the project in print.

BROKEN FRONTIER: When did you come up with the basic idea of the project?

RYAN CODY: The original idea came to me probably a year and a half ago, I was just starting work on Villains and I knew I wanted to set up other projects so I could jump right into those after I finished. I was walking around one of the local thrift stores and spotted a book that was called The Aeronauts, and it was just a book showing various paintings and ideas from the past about Aeronauts and balloon cities.

I loved the imagery of it and the innocence it had, and I thought it would be a great environment to tell a story in. Many of the projects I want to work on, or have been developing are not all-ages friendly, and I felt terrible having to tell my children they could not read Villains, so I thought this would be a good project to do, for me as well as them. It is very much a personal project for me.

BF: Was your colorist, Marlena Hall, involved from the beginning?

RC: No, originally I had planned to do everything, not too unrealistic since I was only planning a page per week. I even went as far as to color up a promotional poster I had made and everything. It was almost immediately after that when I realized that I was beginning to work on other projects and take on other commitments, and I wanted this book to be on-time and consistent.

I had worked with Marlena in the past (on the back-up feature in Villains), and after seeing some of the newer work she had been doing in conjunction with her husband Ben at www.blueskycomics.com, I knew that she could bring a lot to the table as well as free me up to focus on other aspects of the story, including trying to make the art better with each page.

Together, and after some tweaking, I am very happy with our current look and I can't thank her enough for her help and dedication to the project, she's really coming into her own and I predict big things from her in the future.

BF: The industry last saw your work in print on Viper's Villains mini-series, the TPB of which was released last fall. What have you been up to since besides Coral City Aeronauts?

RC: Well the trade actually came out in the beginning of January, I was working on the final touches to it into November which caused it to ship a few weeks late. After that I began development on a few different books that have either stalled or on hold for the moment for various reasons, I worked up a couple pitches and spoke to a lot of writers.

So, while I was staying very busy, there is not a lot to show for it, which can be very typical. I always had a specific plan in place for Coral City, which would allow it to work around other projects I want to do.

Right now, I am putting together a group sketchbook with 4 other members of my SketchJAM blog (http://sketchjam.blogspot.com/ ), and I am also putting together a series of "camps" that I will be teaching in conjunction with various comic shops and libraries here in the Phoenix area, so I'm keeping busy but I'm also eager to lock a few projects down.

I also hope to be able to make another volume of Villains for the first part of next year also.

BF: Have you outlined a new story with Adam Cogan already?

RC: We have discussed it and have been discussing it since we even finished the first volume of Villains (Thick as Thieves). There were a lot of unanswered questions towards the end of that series and we set it up for an even bigger adventure to follow.

One thing I wanted to be sure to incorporate was some of the secondary characters we developed in conjunction with the back-up story in the first volume. I also want to really show what the Hardliner suit is capable of, we only hinted at it's abilities before.

I really want volume 2 to be a giant battle royal featuring all the heroes and Villains we set already have set up. This will happen; it's just a matter of finding the time for the whole creative team, Myself, Russ and Adam, to work it out.

BF: From the first few episodes, this seems to be the coming of age story of Simis Coral, who's lived his whole life on a flying boat. Is that correct?

RC: Yeah it is, I'm letting the readers really experience the world through Simis. Simis is a 13-year old boy who is the great-great grandson of the city's founder. He is very privileged in the fact that his family governs the city and always has, he has never had to want, all his needs have been cared for, but as he grows older he becomes uncomfortable in this role.

He knows that the reason the people took to the skies is because of the damage they caused on the ground, he understands that, but he also wonders why they abandoned the ground completely, and stay above the clouds and oceans. It is a very rare sight for them to see land, and everyone around him seems so content.

Simis has a thirst for adventure and living your entire lifetime on a self-contained flying balloon city, even one as large as his, does little to satisfy that urge. The story will focus on his search for answers, as well as provide me with an opportunity to really get on my soapbox a bit about environmental issues.

BF: So, in a way, one could say this is your comic-book version of Costner's Waterworld, except that it's set in the skies?

RC: Jesus, is that what it sounds like? I've never seen that film, now I'm both intrigued and distraught at the same time. I tried to stray from any overall influences in the storyline itself, but the look obviously owes a lot to movies like Steamboy and some of Miyazaki's films.

BF: Simis looks up to his grandfather, described as 'the last of the great aeronauts'. What happened to him, and the other aeronauts?

RC: Actually it was his great-grandfather that became the last Aeronaut. When the flying cities were first introduced as viable alternatives to living on land, the people that took to the skies had a very strong, common bond that is found in groups of settlers or explorers.

In this world there was no wireless communication or email, so The Aeronauts were established as couriers, to pass along news and correspondence between the many floating cities of the day. They were idolized by children and held very high standing in their communities.

The Aeronauts were brave souls who each had their own personal aeronautical unit that let them travel for days at a time without fuel, they truly were the frontline explorers of this brave new world. Each city had their own band of Aeronauts and the functions they served were countless and of utmost importance.

As time grew on, as societies became more independent, and technology was developed to communicate more effectively, the role of the Aeronaut diminished greatly. In a self contained society, with all of the needs being met locally, there was no need for trade or business with other cities.

Also, as ruling families gained importance, hostilities began to boil over with other cities until the point where communication was few and far between. So like many other forms of personal communication and transport, the Aeronauts were no longer needed and eventually they faded away until they were nothing more than fodder for stories and entertainment. There are still certain cities that share close ties with others, but the need for the Aeronauts is no more, or at least that's what the people believe.

BF: The pacing and layout of the story suggest it is designed for print. What made you decide to release the story on the web?

RC: My plan was for this series to be told in 60-80 page volumes. Affordable and digest sized, so that it could be enjoyed by both adults and kids. The internet provides free and immediate visibility and advertising while trying to generate a buzz about the book. I noticed that many books that go straight to trade usually have a 20-25 page preview made available to fans, I'm going the same route here.

The online pages will be a great introduction to the story and for the people who like it, hopefully it entices them to order when the time comes. I already have a sequel book in mind that will pitch Coral City against some of the other Balloon Cities in a coming conflict, as well as a young adult illustrated novel that will tell the story of the original Aeronauts.

BF: Are there any plans to collect Coral City Aeronauts in print?

RC: Like I mentioned earlier, that has always been the plan with this book, I have already had some discussions with a few publishers, and so we'll wait and see. I'm really looking for the right situation and for a publisher to understand what I would like to accomplish with this.

The idea of floating cities and these types of 1930's era adventure stories certainly aren't new or groundbreaking by any means, but I think it provides a great backdrop to what is essentially a story of making hard choices and fighting for what you believe in, even when the rest of the world is against you.

For more on Coral City Aeronauts, head to www.coralcity.blogspot.com

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