Advance Comics has followed the Midas Monkee Yohance universe since our earliest days. The unrivaled blend of Science Fiction, Space Opera and Afro-futurism bought us some of the most breathtaking and epic comics that we read in 2017.
Midas Monkee mastermind Paul Louise-Julie returns in February with Byala: Secrets of the Deep, one of 2 new titles highlighting the female heroes of his space saga. Byala’s adventures take us to the endless oceans of the aquatic planet of Carib as the never ending war against the secret and sinister Elder Empire wages on.
When a chance discovery unearths something long thought to be fiction Byala’s destiny, if not the whole galaxy’s, is changed irrevocably.
Paul took a break from his hectic schedule to share a 5 page preview of the first volume of Byala with us and also answer a few questions about his plans for Midas Monkee in 2018.
Advance Comics: Byala introduces a new female lead character to the existing Yohance Universe. Tell us about her and her role in the Yohance universe you’ve established so far.
Paule Louise-Julie: Byala is soldier in the Kreol Imperial Army, her story takes place on the aquatic planet of Carib. Even though this is technically in the same universe as Yohance, the series takes place entirely on this world. The war with the Jamaican Kingdom has engulfed most of her adult life and her frustration lies with being a low-level patrol officer. She dreams of going on the front lines.
AC: You’ve said upfront that Byala and her aquatic home planet draws on a more stronger Caribbean influence than your other work. Who sort of look and feel are you hoping to evoke through this?
PLJ: Well this project is very close to me because it’s the first project where I’m directly pulling from my own ancestral Caribbean culture. As such, I was careful to approach it with the same detail and accuracy as Yohance. Despite being pushed well into the realm of fantasy and space Opera, I was careful that every kingdom or empire on Carib was an accurate homage to the source culture. This poured over into the artistic style as well which meant bright colors, picturesque tropical views and swashbuckling action.
AC: As a Naval Officer Byala seems to be a natural contrast to the roguish adventurer Yohance. How intentional was that?
PLJ: Very. I wanted to do something completely different this time. Yohance is incredibly selfish and actively tries to distance himself from duty and his own people. Byala is the polar opposite. Despite being a low-level patrol officer, she feels sidelined from the war effort and longs to prove herself. She loves her people and puts others before her own safety.
AC: Each of the worlds and races in the Yohance universe has an individual identity derived from your strong sense of design. How important is this world building to the stories you’re telling?
PLJ: Incredibly important. So much so that I always build the world first and then weave a story within that world. To me, fantasy relies heavily on the immersion into that world. If something doesn’t feel textured or layered, then it doesn’t feel genuine. When that happens, you’re no longer invested in the characters or the plot. But also, I’ve seen so many attempts to portray African cultures in the realm of fantasy and they almost always disappoint. I hold myself to a high standard. If it doesn’t fill me with the same awe as Star Wars or the Lord of the Rings, it’s not worth putting out.
AC: I am always amazed by the breathtaking colours in your work, from violent and rich reds to serene and tranquil blues and greens. How important is colour to you as a storytelling tool?
PLJ: Thanks! Color is my most important tool to trigger emotion. It’s the most primal mood-setter for humans because it’s one of the first things we notice as children.When you read one of my scenes, the color tells you everything you need to know.
AC: What tools do you use from a technical perspective to build a colour palette?
PLJ: Honestly, my eye. I usually have a clear mental image of what I’m trying to accomplish. Sometimes, however I experiment with gradient overlays and different blend modes until a scene’s lighting feels right.
AC: How do you combine African and African influenced art, culture and history with your own experience in sculpture and the visual arts as part of your creative process?
PLJ: Quite organically actually. I break down the core aesthetic elements of the culture I’m sourcing and put them aside. Then, I figure out what the story needs from a design standpoint. From there, it’s a matter of connecting the elements that can overlap and building a design from that.
AC: The villains of Byala’s story looking to the sinister evil elder Empire who have seem to working behind the scenes in all the Yohance stories. When will we finally find out what they’re up to?
PLJ: The Annakil actually don’t show up in this series. It takes place exclusively on Carib where all the island kingdoms and empires are at war. This one’s special to me because it’s very Game of Thrones in that no side is good or evil. You have people with different agendas and they interact with each other.
AC: You’ve also slated Rains of Dara for 2018. Is this another piece of the unfolding saga?
PLJ: The unfolding universe, yes. Rains of Dara is an epic homage to the Heavy Metal pulp fantasy of the 80s that I grew up with. The colors are wild, the story is wilder and it’s a barbaric thriller from start to finish.
AC: Are they all self-contained stories or is there a plan to bring all these characters together in the future?
PLJ: For the moment all the stories are self contained. But they do exist in the same galaxy so there’s most definitely a plan to bring them all together at some point.
AC: It’s been just under a year since you launched the Yohance and the Ekangeni crystal at last year’s Midas Monkee expo. Has your vision for these characters and this universe changed since then?
PLJ: Interestingly enough, not really. However, I never could have predicted was how much the universe I planned out would expand into several new franchises. The characters stay the same but the stories around them have drastically gotten bigger.
AC: The bold cinematic visuals of these books also demand to be translated into something for the small or big screen. Are there any future plans to adapt these stories into other media?
PLJ: Absolutely! We’re currently in the process of getting a Yohance short film off the ground which will in turn get us funding for a feature film. At that point we have an entire slate of projects lined, we’re really excited.