Yishan Li and Monty Nero have created Frenemies, a sci-fi comic updating the best of classic films like Star Wars, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Raiders of the Lost Ark with strong LGBTQ and straight characters from around the world. The Kickstarter for the project launches next week – it’s a lot of fun, and we think many downthetubes readers will really enjoy it, having read the preview.
Frenemies is an epic four part story from ace writer Monty Nero (Death Sentence, Hollow Monsters, X-Men, Hulk) and superstar artist Yishan Li (Hellboy, Blue Beetle, Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Gaze in wonder as seven heroes traverse the galaxy, unearthing mysterious artefacts from alien tombs, pursued by the most dangerous creatures!
We caught up with Monty Nero and gave him the downthetubes mind probe about the project…
downthetubes: So what’s Frenemies: The Lost Planet about?
Monty Nero: It’s about seven rivals hunting for a legendary which once dominated our solar system, the site of incredible knowledge which could save our world – or destroy it. It’s a sci-fi fantasy, with some sparkling quickfire dialogue.
downthetubes: How did you and Yishan team up?
Monty Nero: We met at a comic con a few years ago and we got on so well that I wrote this sci-fi script for her when I got home. We’ve just been waiting for the right moment to do it. She’s been very busy working for Top Cow, Dark Horse, and on Hellboy of course. This really plays to her strengths and she’s done an amazing job. I couldn’t imagine a better artist.
downthetubes: What are those strengths, do you think?
Monty Nero: Character work and storytelling. She’s brilliant with character design and emotions and that’s exactly what this needed. It all rests on the interplay between seven rival characters who have to stick together even though they’d rather not. You can see at a glance how fresh and cool the characters look. They all meet at a cosplay competition which makes it visually very eye-catching, and of course as they travel through the cosmos their predicament just gets wilder.
downthetubes: So why do they have to stick together?
Monty Nero: The alien prophecy, the knowledge and power that comes from finding The Lost Planet, can only be gained by these seven together. Each character changes as they get closer to their goal, becoming more alien and powerful. They’re always in a state of flux, and alliances and friendships keep shifting. You’re constantly uncovering revelations about all them as they traverse the cosmos
downthetubes: Was it hard giving each character them their time in the sun?
Monty Nero: Not at all – it’s in the tradition of great team books. It’s all very natural, they all have different areas of knowledge and skills and points of view: LGBTQ, straight, liberal, conservative, shy, extrovert.Introvert. They’re all working at a University as Phd students or professors, and it’s only natural to find disparate views and backgrounds in that scenario.
Carlton starts off taking the lead, but it’s soon obvious that Minerva has more to offer once they’re blasting through the galaxy. She’s a lesbian punk adventurer used to danger and the paranormal. But then something happens that forces Hunter to the fore. He’s more right wing and entrepreneurial.
I don’t want to give too much of the plot away… I love team books but it annoys me how bland and samey the characters often are. This is structured like a conflict engine – it’s the gift that keeps giving in terms of generating fresh story and brilliant dialogue.
downthetubes: It seems to have an air of Saga about it, would that be fair?
Monty Nero: Yeah a little… It’s maybe closest to Saga and Umbrella Academy, with maybe a bit of Hellboy or The X-Files, too. Although most of the influences are cinematic. I wanted to evoke Star Wars, and Raiders of the Lost Ark, and 2001 and Close Encounters. The spirit of adventure and awe at the unknown.
The trick was figuring out how to do it in a completely fresh way. When you’re in deep space, solving riddles in Zero G to beat alien traps that rely on the cooperation of seven completely original characters, it makes the narrative feel new. And of course we have five LGBTQ characters from around the world, rather than just the straight white heroes we were given back then.
downthetubes: When is Frenemies: The Lost Planet launching?
Monty Nero: 28th May at 9.30 BST. A lot of the rewards are limited numbers, because it’s hard for Yishan and me to get together and both sign them, living on opposite sides of the world.
downthetubes: Monty Nero, thanks as ever for your time and the very best of luck with the campaign!
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The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.