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Jason Douglas Talks PARALLEL

Parallel is a new comic publish by Source Point Press that will be available on April 29th.

It's the story of Landon who is experiencing a quarter-life crisis. The decision he made in his early 20's to abandon his dreams of music has resulted in a life mired in stagnation, depression, self-doubt, and a loveless marriage. When the voices start and the visions appear, Landon fears for his sanity but is nevertheless tempted and awoken to a unique possibility. A parallel version of himself is offering a chance to change it all. His fate was sealed, and now his destiny awaits! What price would you be willing to pay for a second chance?

I had the chance to interview the writer and creator of this new, so anticipated comic: Jason Douglas:

COMIC LOUNGE: Where did the idea for Parallel came from? What motivated you to take this idea and transform it into a comic?

JASON DOUGLAS: The book had two (and please pardon the shameless reference) parallel motivations.

I, like so many people out there, hit a “certain age” and began to feel a creeping anxiety and existential angst. They say time moves faster the older you get... and they are not wrong. Time was passing and there were things I wanted to do, dreams I wanted to pursue. I had a summer a little while back where I was taking a break from my yearly routine of writing a play for the drama club I run at school and decided I had a story to tell in the medium I had loved for so long.

At the same time I had been in contact with several former students of mine who were really struggling with the “quarter life crisis” malaise of waking up in your late 20’s and realizing you have let the optimism, energy, and dreams of your late teens-early 20’s slip away in favor of convenience, day to day comfort, and procrastination. They were truly living similar lives at the same point along their journeys as Landon in the story.

As I hinted at above, in my “VAST” (insert sarcasm here) spare time outside of being a husband, father, tutor, and full time public school educator , I was writing, putting on (and occasionally publishing) plays for middle school students. However, as much as I loved it, it was something I stumbled into. Comics were my first love and always the dream, just one that seemed unattainable for a LONG time until I became more confident as a writer and an idea like PARALLEL came along that I knew needed the beautiful elasticity of comic books as a medium to be told!

COMIC LOUNGE: Around the same idea, Parallel contains lots of physics and mathematics references or like you mention in the comic ‘’Fourth Grade Math’’. How did you decide to create a story revolving around those facts?

JASON: This one has a very simple answer! Before I moved to middle school a while back I was a 4th grade teacher for 13 years. I always found it fascinating to see a portion of each year’s kids really latch onto the concepts of math and geometry to make sense of their own lives.

COMIC LOUNGE: I was lucky enough to read Parallel before everyone else. I think it's interesting how you decided to portray Landon and his wife. I have a feeling some would say he is a coward controlled by his wife. But since you talk a lot about mental health in Parallel I think it’s important to know how would you personally describe Landon as a character? How do you want readers to approach the dynamic in his relationship with his wife?

JASON: I would strongly resist classifying Landon as a coward. It would be a bit reductive and dismissive to label all the people out there who live with regret (jobs, friends, relationships, lost dreams), which is what Landon had awoken to. I truly believe there are more people out there than not who can relate to the reality of making one or more big life decision not based on their hopes and dreams, but based on convenience, pushing things down the road, the attitude of “there is always tomorrow “, or, once you have let go, the crushing atrophy of it always being easier to do nothing than to so something.

Landon is like so many of us, his particulars just happen to be letting his musical dreams and aspirations fade and slip away, and staying in a relationship that has stagnated and possibly become toxic because it is always easier to stay than go.

COMIC LOUNGE: Without revealing too much of the story, Parallel could have gone really dark quickly. I was happy to experienced your point of view in this story. It felt rather optimistic for a story on mental health and lost dreams, you filled the story with hope. What made you chose to take this route rather than a darker, more horrific one?

JASON: Well, personally my default setting is very glass half empty and pessimistic, so having a balance of hope and despair, light and dark was important to me. That is where Adam Farris, my artistic partner in crime really shines in PARALLEL. His art is not only stunning but he has an uncanny ability to draw ambiguity. The voices and visions that haunt Landon throughout the book a very much up for interpretation. The story and the art give you the chance to decide if you are, yourself, a glass half empty or full type of person. I am excited that you read the story as a hopeful one (and frankly a tiny bit jealous) but I have gotten just as much feedback from early readers noting that the story was as dark, bleak, and heartbreaking as anything they had read as of late. One of my favorite aspects of this book as a whole is the freedom the reader is granted to internalize and interpret the story the way that works best for them.

COMIC LOUNGE: Starting a comic is a longer process that we might think. I remember hearing about Parallel for the first time last year. Can you tell us more about the process? How did you experienced witnessing your creation come to life?

JASON: It has been an absolute blast! This is my first time so EVERYTHING was new and amazing to experience. In some ways getting a comic from the idea stage to shelves (and the literally dozens of steps in between) is a long arduous process. Yet it is punctuated with the most incredible moments that left my jaw on the floor! Getting the thumbs up from Source Point Press that they wanted me to take the first half of my story, write the second half and then publish it, the sample art from Adam, the editing notes from Bob Salley that tightened up the story telling, the first pages of completed art as they came in, getting to watch Justin Birch letter a couple of pages, seeing the PDF of the competed book before it went to press... all of them are moments I will never forget. There are more to come too. I cannot even express how excited I am for my first signings and cons this spring!

COMIC LOUNGE: How did your love story with comics started? What or who made you fall in love with the medium?

JASON: I found comics a little later than some but still young enough (12 years old) to fall in love with Batman and the X-Men, and then Valiant Comics and Sandman. I took the typical (and for some obligatory) late teenage into my 20’s “break” from comics. I came back in the early 2000’s when Neil Gaiman came back to comics and wrote 1602 For Marvel. I then dove back in head first and with a gusto to make up for my nearly 9 year absence. Neil, Alan Moore, Garth Ennis, Eric Powell, Jeffery Brown, Seth, Jason, Mike Mignola, Jeff Lemire, Matt Kindt, Scott Snyder, Morrison, Willingham, Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Image, Fantagraphics, Top Shelf... I could go on and I love it all!

So, I am split personality when it comes to my comic consumption today. I collect keys from all ages of comic book history (though that can obviously be cost prohibitive), I also collect classic runs of titles, or covers, or creators (I recently completed a New Mutants run, and I am always on the hunt for Mignola, BWS, and Jae Lee covers), but mostly I follow the creators that I love, including my new friends at SPP!

COMIC LOUNGE: We all know that a good comic stands on a great team, with good energy and passion. How did you build your team? Was it hard to find an artist a letterer and a publisher to match your vision?

JASON: I have Travis (co-founder, president, and EIC) and Source Point Press to thank for all of that. Travis took a chance on me, hooked me up with Adam, put me under Bob’s wing, and brought in Justin as well. He introduced me to the peerless Kasey Pierce who is the hardest working woman in comics and did me the great honor of writing a mind blowing forward to PARALLEL. And then there is Josh Werner who is ushering me through the ins and outs of the promotion and business end of things with admirable patience (I am very new at EVERYTHING)!

I got lucky with Source Point. Early in the process, when I had the first 32 pages of the book written I found myself facing the daunting and unwelcoming world of online submissions. Before I let that very closed and discouraging situation derail my dream before it even started, I took a leap, put together a package and went to Motor City Comic Con, walked up to the first publisher I saw (it didn’t hurt that my eye was drawn to the best booth at the con) was entranced by the SPP magic, chatted with Travis, and got extremely lucky that not only are they amazing people and publishers, they were the perfect for for PARALLEL.

COMIC LOUNGE: Do you have any advice for aspiring comic creators? What's the most important thing to do/think of for a writer who wants to start his own comic based on your personal experience?

JASON: I have a piece of advice that I am borrowing from Neil Gaiman and one of my own.

Neil has always said that the best way to write a novel, or a screenplay, or a comic is to write a novel, or a screenplay, or a comic. It is as simple as doing it. I can’t promise you how it will turn out, but I do know that if you don’t sit down and write something then you will not write anything.

Something that I personally have discovered from my first experience is that ignorance and lack of experience is not necessarily a hinderance. In fact it can be a wonderful asset. Not knowing how hard the whole process is , not having that frame of reference, frees you up to be bold and take risks and leaps (creatively and in putting your creation out into the world) that you might be too afraid to if you had “known better”. Just go for it!

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