Interview: Carlos Giffoni on Dark Horse’s Strayed

Strayed #1 Juan Doe cover

Strayed #1 Juan Doe cover

Carlos Giffoni is a musician, video game producer, and now comic book writer with Strayed from Dark Horse. Along with artist Juan Doe, he introduces you to Lou the cat, his owner, and the incredible science fiction world they inhabit. Giffoni recently shared more details about the series with Westfield’s Roger Ash.

Westfield: Where did the idea for Strayed come from?

Carlos Giffoni: I was reading about the remote viewing program the US government ran for over 15 years where they were trying to create astral spies. It didn’t work out, and it finally got defunded in the ’90s. There are a lot of declassified documents available that talk on detail about the operation. I then looked at my cat, and the core of the idea was born.

I am a big fan of anything Sci-Fi from books like Dune and Asimov’s Foundation series, to video games like the original Mass Effect trilogy to comics like Fear Agent, Y: The Last Man, Transmetropolitan, and Saga. I think a lot about space and what might exist in distant stars, so when it came time to write my own comic book the setting was pretty evident to me, a future where human civilization can reach beyond our solar system, while also being close to moral collapse.

When it comes to the central theme of the story, I wrote about something that I am very familiar with, the close bond between a loving pet and their owner.

Those are the essential elements behind Strayed.

Westfield: What can you say about your collaboration with artist Juan Doe?

Giffoni: I was using his art as one of the primary references while searching for an artist, and he is one of my favorite creators, his style and the energy that jumps out of each page he draws is perfect for Strayed. I tried a few artists at first that didn’t quite work out, so I reached out to Juan out of frustration thinking there was no way I was going to be able to get him for my first book. He loved the idea and the script I sent him, and the timing was right as he was finishing another project. After a two-hour phone conversation where I covered where the story was going and why I believed in it, he was on board.

Working with Juan has been amazing. He is a great collaborator who has poured his soul visually into this project and has also been a mentor to me, as he has been involved in comics for a lot longer than I have. We have become great friends while working on Strayed and talk all the time.

Westfield: You throw the reader right into the story, but there’s obviously a lot going on behind the scenes. How much planning and world building did you do for the story?

Giffoni: There is a ‘World Document’ where I keep details about each character and a number of the locations with links to visual references, about twenty pages or so. I also spent a lot of time outlining the whole story, going back and changing things multiple times as the characters revealed more of their world to me. I probably wrote issue one from scratch at least six times before things felt right, each time my understanding of the world became clearer. At this point, this is a world that I have been mentally living in and building for two years.

Strayed #1 Dustin Nguyen cover

Strayed #1 Dustin Nguyen cover

Westfield: Who are the main characters readers will meet?

Giffoni: Without spoiling the story:

Lou- A rescued cat who has the ability to astral travel to distant places in the universe. He is loving, thoughtful, and determined to use his powers for good.

Kiara Rodriguez: A genius young scientist who is also Lou’s loving owner. She created a brain-wave-reading device able to translate Lou’s brain activity into words.

Robert Williams: A Major in charge of the military operation which is utilizing Lou and Kiara for secret purposes while keeping them captive in a remote space station.

Premier Oscar Peely: The leader at the top of the military organization ruling humanity. He is determined to transcend humanity into something glorious while remaining at the helm forever.

Alix: A mysterious alien intelligence that appears to want to help Lou.

Westfield: The relationship between Lou and Kiara seems very natural. Are you a cat owner yourself?

Giffoni: I am. I have two cats, Lou Reed and Viktor Fulgencio. They are loving and complex creatures who have helped me get through difficult times. I love them like family.

Westfield: Any closing comments?

Giffoni: I want to call out the two other creative collaborators in this book. Matt Krotzer, who is doing design and lettering and has created a visual language for the book that fits and complements Juan’s art perfectly. And Chas! Pangburn, editor with a lot more experience in comics than I have who was able to make sure I didn’t push the story into an endless abyss many times. They were both vital in the creation of this book.

I hope everyone enjoys Strayed. I poured everything I could into this story, and I am excited for readers to experience what we created.


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