Interview: James Tynion IV on BOOM! Box’s The Backstagers

The Backstagers #1 Veronica Fish cover

The Backstagers #1 Veronica Fish cover


Writer James Tynion IV is best known for his work on various Batman titles as well as The Woods, Constantine: The Hellblazer, and more! Now he brings you the adventures of a high school stage crew in The Backstagers from BOOM! Box. Having been in theater in high school himself, Westfield’s Roger Ash was very interested in learning more about this book from James.

Westfield: The setting of the series is a high school drama department. Were you involved in theater in high school? If so, how much did you draw from your experiences?

James Tynion IV: I was absolutely a theater kid. I was practically raised by Stephen Sondheim and Jason Robert Brown. Honestly, it’s been consistently surprising how many former theater kids are running around in the comics industry! We’re everywhere! And more and more, I think theater programs are where the artsy kids of the world get their first taste of the special magic of being surrounded by creative people wanting to spend their lives expressing themselves through art. That moment tends to be particularly powerful for the people who don’t exactly fit in anywhere else, on the sports teams or debate clubs or what have you. That’s what I wanted to explore here, the sense of feeling outcast from the world around you and finding your first real friends on the outskirts of the social scene of a given high school.

Stage Crew was that for me. I had wanted to be on the stage, but I wasn’t ever really a good enough actor to pull it off. I felt like an outcast even among outcasts, and that’s when I found Crew, and it’s not an overstatement to say it changed my life. I was a chubby, geeky, bisexual weirdo who loved comic books and musical theater. I didn’t think there WAS a place for me in the world. But the crew kids, they didn’t care about my insecurities, they didn’t care about who I had a crush on, they were the weirdoes, too. And backstage, we could be weirdoes together. It was the first and most powerful sense of community I’ve felt in my life.

The cast of The Backstagers

The cast of The Backstagers


Westfield: You’re working with artist Rian Sygh on The Backstagers. What can you say about your collaboration?

Tynion IV: Rian Sygh is the only partner I ever imagined for this project. I met him a few years back, and the first time I saw his work, I knew I needed to develop a project with him. Our passions align perfectly for a book like this, from Shojo manga and anime, to cartoons like Steven Universe, when we started talking story, I knew there wasn’t anybody in the industry I’d rather have by my side to bring The Backstagers to life. I wish I could just show you all the art I’ve got here in my inbox, particularly now that we’ve teamed up with the phenomenal Walter Baiamonte on colors, and Veronica Fish on covers. This team is something truly special, and I think we’re making a book where the passion is going to bleed off every page.

Jory

Jory

 

Beckett

Beckett


Westfield: Who are the main characters we’ll meet in the series?

Tynion IV: We’ve got a great cast of teenage weirdoes at the heart of this book, and I really can’t wait for folks to meet them. Our protagonist of sorts is Jory, a young bisexual black kid who can’t keep his eyes off his sketchbook because if he does somebody might talk to him. He’s just transferred to a new all-boys school and doesn’t feel like there’s anywhere he might fit in. He’ll be our entryway into the magical backstage world of the book. When he meets the crew, he’ll come face to face with Hunter, our fearless and fabulous fix-it guy. The best construction man on the crew, with his pink sparkly drill always holstered and at the ready. He’ll meet Beckett, our mad scientist, a tightly wound transgender kid who runs the light board and can’t help but wire different machines together just to see what might happen. And then there’s Sasha, the oblivious and chaotic bundle of positive energy who seems to cause 90% of the Backstagers’ troubles, and Aziz, Sasha’s cynical counterpoint who is desperately trying to stop Sasha from causing more chaos for the group. They’re a good bunch of kids.

Aziz

Aziz

 

Hunter

Hunter


Westfield: What can readers look forward to in the book?

Tynion IV: I think it’s a pretty well-known assertion that there’s a special kind of magic to the stage, that it can transport an audience to another world, that it can make you see a teenager and know he’s a king, and a few chairs and know it’s a throne room. The Backstagers is going to dig into that magic. I remember when I first joined Stage Crew, and got the keys to a whole secret underbelly of my school. Entire corridors that no other students even knew were lurking on the other side of the walls. You’d open a door back there and never know what you might find. There was a real magic to the unknown world that we weirdoes could share and explore together. In this series, we’re taking those feelings and going WILD. The Backstage in our book is a magical impossible place, full of strange dangers and hallways that never lead to the same place twice. The stage is where you see a touch of the magic of the theater. Backstage is where that magic is born.

The map of the stage

The map of the stage


Westfield: How much world building did you do for the series; both for the school and the backstage worlds?

Tynion IV: The real-world side of the theater needed the most work, because we realized early on that I just assumed in writing the script that Rian could see the theater that I built this after, the one back in my High School in Milwaukee, WI. I drew a very, very terrible map, and Rian took that and made sense of it, giving us something tangible to work off of. The Backstage, though, we know its basic rules and secrets, but a lot of that is improvisational. As long as it follows the rules, and build toward the mysteries behind the book, the limit is our imagination!

The Backstagers #1 Bridget Underwood cover

The Backstagers #1 Bridget Underwood cover


Westfield: Any closing comments?

Tynion IV: This book is a real passion for both Rian and I. We were both outcasts and weirdoes just like our Backstagers. Queer boys in a world not exactly ready for us. And in comics, we had no outlet, no representation of us on the page as young kids desperately looking for ourselves. So finally, we’ve made the book that our younger selves would have needed more than anything. No matter who you are, I think you’ll find yourself in this book. The Backstagers is a book for weirdoes for all shapes and sizes. And it is absolutely a book for you.

The Backstagers

The Backstagers


Purchase

The Backstagers #1

 

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