Exclusive Interview: Creators Scott Bryan Wilson and Liana Kangas Talk Their New IDW Originals Series, ‘TRVE KVLT’

What happens when a hapless thief who seems to have his big score all set winds up stealing from the wrong people? That’s the set up for IDW’s TRVE KVLT, written by Scott Bryan Wilson (Batman: Gotham Nights) with art by Liana Kangas (Star Wars Adventures) and colors by Gab Contreras. Here’s the synopsis:

Marty Tarantella has been flipping burgers for 15 years. He has no kids, no hobbies, no love interests, and, essentially, no life. But what he does have is a plan to change everything. Years of watching the daily rhythms of the neighboring stores has given Marty the idea for a perfect heist, but when he accidentally steals a supernatural weapon from a cult full of violent lunatics, the resulting Satanic panic will be way above his minimum-wage pay grade. 

TRVE KVLT is out August 17th, and in advance, I was lucky enough to get some time over email with creators Scott Bryan Wilson and Liana Kangas to talk about their new book!

BBP: Hi Scott and Liana – congrats on your new book, TRVE KVLT! Let’s start with the easy stuff – how did you two start working together?

Scott Bryan Wilson (SBW): Thanks! We’ve been working on it for three years now so we’re excited that it’s finally getting a wide release as part of the launch of the IDW Originals line. Liana and I met at a small New Jersey con, kept in touch, and did a two-page story for the Good Fight anthology. We were looking for something else to work on when Liana mentioned she always wanted to draw a heist book. Lo and behold, I’d been working on a pitch for a fast-food heist book, at that time called Trve Kvlt Black. We cut the title to two words, started making the mayhem, and never looked back.

Liana Kangas (LK): Haha what he said!

BBP: Scott, your script really captures the genuine malaise of working at a job where not much changes, but also the feeling of confidence one feels when they know exactly what they’re doing at a gig. I have to ask, how much of this insight is based on your own past jobs? 

SBW: Thanks! One hundred percent of that is based on personal experience. When I was sixteen, I was working fast food. I wasn’t really writing yet, but I remember very specifically telling myself, Commit all this to memory. This is insane. Just remember everything. So that’s what I tried to do. A lot of the stuff about frustrations with incompetent management come from my work experiences much later in life, but it all fit and hopefully helped bring to life the grimness/insanity/hilarity of this fictional workplace.

BBP: Liana, what was it like reading Scott’s scripts for the series? Was there much discussion about plot points, and how you’d be bringing things to life on the page?

LK: One of my favorite things about Scott’s scripts is that they don’t read like a typical comics script—they read more like the visual direction of film or prose. The best part of our collaboration is that we can chat on the phone and run over layouts together before I even draw the book. I think over the years I understand Scott’s vision a lot clearer so it’s even more fun to bring my own spin to it.

SBW: We have a tremendous collaboration and my scripts are never directives—everything is up for discussion and change and Liana knows she is free to question everything. That collaboration is a foundation for creating this world with all its nuances.

LK: Scott makes collaborating very easy, he’s always willing to provide layouts or other things to make the entire “making a comic” experience even more harmonious and fun.

BBP: Another question for both of you – I’d like to hear about the creation of one specific page, and it’s the three-panel page where Alison talks about the upselling of fries and apple pie. Scott, you absolutely nail the aggravation I think we all can feel as a customer. If we want fries, we’ll ask for fries, right? Tell me about writing that page – the inspiration, how easy/hard it was to come up with, and also, how did it appear on the page when it went to Liana? 

SBW: We spent more time on that whole interview sequence—I think it’s four pages—than anything else in the issue. There’s a lot going on there, with Alison earnestly answering Marty’s questions, while Marty—her interviewer—is panicking internally about what he thinks she may have seen him do prior to the interview, while we’re also telling a third story using the action that is happening in the background. Liana’s angles on every one of those panels is masterful. Alison is probably my favourite character to write in the series, because she doesn’t stop talking, never seems to understand what’s happening around her, and she’s so lovable. So for her dialogue, I always try to write what someone who is deadly serious about working fast food would think—her work is important to her. But as with every character in TRVE KVLT, she has a little more depth than appears at first—as we see later in the series. Issue two also has a twist on this “three stories at once” approach.

BBP: Meanwhile, Liana, in theory, this isn’t a page of action, but you give it in three panels some real life, and the sense of motion and Alison’s belief in what she’s saying is so clear from her hands, that slight smile in the second panel, the shift of her eyes in the third. Can you talk to me about working on that page, and what you enjoyed about it or found challenging as an artist if anything?

LK: One of my favourite things about the comics medium and storytelling format is the ability to include as many details as possible in a static delivery but execute it as a moving scene (hence, panning the view left to right in this particular scenario). Acting is my favorite part of comics to draw, and the delivery of the lettering and script are so tied to it that when I look at comics as a reader myself is what makes a comic memorable to me. It was important to me that Alison have some slice of personality to show during her overly wordy answers during her interview process—one, because she’s mostly debuted by the end of issue so I want people to have an opinion of her before the next issue, but also two, because we’re technically seeing Marty’s perception and view of her, so she is portrayed just as extremely sincere and passionate about her work at Burger Lord, like he would be—so it showcases her abundantly ridiculous enthusiasm for being “a part of the team” terminology we often hear larger corporations use to encourage reliability and build a dedicated employee base. 

BBP: Finally – what can we look forward to as TRVE KVLT continues, and what else are you each working on? Oh, and by the way, EXCELLENT Queensryche reference. Is there a better prog metal concept album than Operation: Mindcrime? Maybe Dream Theater’s Scenes from a Memory. I digress.

SBW: Yeah Operation: Mindcrime is probably the best—it just never gets old. I like it more than the Dream Theater—it’s less wanky, with better bass playing and vocals. A more current masterpiece of the genre would be Unleash the Archers’ Apex. But I also digress! (But keep your eye out for more references to power metal throughout TRVE KVLT.)

As for what readers can expect? The rest of TRVE KVLT is full of action, hostile interrogations, undercover infiltration, parking lot makeout sessions, hotwiring cars, philosophizing on the nature of fast food, plus Satan. So, you know, something for everybody.

LK: Just when you think you’ll have seen it all in TRVE KVLT, trust me, buy the next issue because there will likely be something you didn’t expect.

You can find a ton of my new variant covers, such as for Scott Snyder and Hayden Sherman’s DARK SPACES: WILDFIRE by IDW, my series of covers for Vault’s END AFTER END debuting soon, a variant for DEADLIEST BOUQUET out by Image Comics, and my newest STAR TREK PICARD STARGAZER cover—all in July and August! 

And of course, don’t forget to pick up TRVE KVLT!

SBW: Yeah and while we’re self-promoting, the trade paperback of the PENNYWORTH series I wrote for DC is out at the end of July, and my issue of SAVAGE TALES from Dynamite is out on July 6. Also from Dynamite, my ALTERED CARBON: ONE LIFE ONE DEATH graphic novel is in stores now. Plus TRVE KVLT!

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