Home Culture Comic Interviews ‘Minutes to Midnight’: A Discussion with Trevor Fernandes-Lenkiewicz About The Future of...

‘Minutes to Midnight’: A Discussion with Trevor Fernandes-Lenkiewicz About The Future of Comics

An artistic anthology written by Trevor Fernandes-Lenkiewicz, we spoke with him about the future of the comics industry.


Another comic series from Trevor Fernandes-Lenkiewicz, Minutes to Midnight is the young writer’s hot new comic Kickstarter Campaign. A short story anthology featuring some brooding tales and thought-provoking mysteries, the project features four shorts written by Fernandes-Lenkiewicz entitled ‘Time Fleeting, War Immortal’,  ‘Bear Market Businessman’, ‘Marvelous Misadventures of Melancholy Man’, and ‘Reflections and Other Little Devils’

Minutes to Midnight features artwork from Samuel Iwunze, Steph C., Marcio Freire, and Ryan Best, with letters by Jerome Gagnon and Micah Myers. Having read the first short in Minutes to Midnight, Reflections and Other Little Devils there is a lot to like regarding the detective noir setup and perceptive undertones of this anthology. Toted as ‘The most ambitious work of his career’, The Workprint spoke with Fernandes-Lenkiewicz in our exclusive interview, which you can check out below. 

The following Interview was shortened for clarity.


Let’s start with your humble beginnings. How did you start your journey into comics and where has it taken you to date?

It was a pretty peculiar one. I didn’t get into reading comics until I was in my later teenage years, and by the time I got to college, I didn’t really have many friends that were into them. I started doing YouTube reviews and interviews and eventually, as those scaled up, I found it necessary to learn the technical language surrounding comics and the craft, something I thought was missing from the review space. People were giving more or less opinion and I wanted to be able to talk about the craft and the execution. 

Eventually, I wound up getting press passes to a Marvel fanfare panel for New York Comic-Con in 2019. I stood up to ask a question to Marvel’s editor-in-chief C.B. Cebulski and Chris Claremont, the godfather of the X-Men. When I was walking out, CB had approached me and asked me if I had ever thought about working in comics. At the time being a molecular and cellular biology student, the answer was very much no.

It never seemed reasonable until the moment that Marvel’s editor-in-chief had asked me that and gave me his business card. He referred me to apply and I ended up interviewing in March of 2020, the week that hand sanitizer and toilet paper was selling out. I got a call back and then about a week later, we went on lockdown and all of that kind of fell by the wayside because of the pandemic.

So I cried about it for six months as a depressing, angsty 22 year old. Eventually it came to a point where I was like, all right, like I can put up or shut up. Like, we don’t know when the pandemic’s gonna end. I don’t know if that opportunity’s gonna be there for me. So in October of 2020 I ran the Kickstarter from my first comic, Area 51: The Helix Project issue one, and then by January of 2021, that first book came out. And it’s been quite the journey ever since.


We’re seeing layoffs everywhere. Physical comics sales has slowed over Manga. What’s your take on the industry changes?  Where do you see it all heading?

I really don’t know. I mean, I have ideals of where I would like it to go. You know, becoming more and more creator centric as opposed to property centric would be a hope of mine. But I don’t necessarily see that being the case. I think there are a couple things to look out for though, and I’m interested to see if it catches on. One of them being the founding of DSTLRY.

I’m interested to see if that’ll take off. The idea that their leading creators will have a percentage of ownership in the company. I wonder if that will make any element of a splash. There’s an interesting little tidbit though, where they’re kind of trying to imply that they’re gonna make NFTs without admitting that they’re making NFTs. I don’t know if the element of the collectible digital comic will be a thing, and if it is, I think it’ll be temporary. 

DSTLRY is sort of a modernization of the original idea behind image. I wonder if it’s just too little, too late, or if there will actually be a sort of movement surrounding creator ownership, not only in the intellectual property, but in the publishing entity itself. Only time will tell, right? 

I think comics are so unpredictable because no larger entities in the industry want to stick by them. They’re sort of avant-garde decisions made to see whether or not they stick. Companies look for immediate validation, and when they don’t get it, they pivot. It does a lot of their ideas a disservice because even if it doesn’t work out immediately, it doesn’t mean that you can’t. I wondered what would happen if these companies that are making these big splashes were to just kind of naturally let those ideas evolve as opposed to being so willing to change trajectories.


If you’re a big corporation, like a Marvel or a DC, you’re always looking at bottom line numbers and pivoting strategy accordingly to what’s hot and making money right now. That’s a problem when it comes to creative fields. Don’t you think so? 

Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s the reason Marvel was able to build a cinematic universe and begin to watch it crumble even before DC could even start one. It’s because they stuck to an idea. We could argue that they’ve oversaturated themselves right now but they’ve also had an undeniable amount of success. And so I think that partly is because comics is a niche entertainment business with a lot less capital invested on the ground floor.

I brought this up in interviews before. Karen Berger letting Neil Gaiman publish Sandman was a risk. Yeah. What happened by the end of the Sandman run? It was outselling DC’s major properties. Why is that? Because it was persistent quality and word of mouth began to flourish and that would not have happened under really today’s market.


What’s your take on AI for art and writing?

Here’s the thing, man. I think if it were controlled, it could be used as a tool. I think with anything, you will have people who try to abuse it and try to rely on it too much. The work shows and unfortunately, I don’t think most comic book criticism is at a level right now where the average person is gonna be able to look at an AI comic, wherein somebody has covered their tracks as best as they can, and be able to determine what the issue is. 

That is problematic because, you know, basically the laws of the land never really quite catch up with what technology is capable of. I do think that there could be potential benefits to the use of AI. Most photo editing softwares already use AI for background removal, for spot removal, for things like that. I think for artists it could be interesting to develop sort of little concepts for other palette or for sort of shape and form composition for cover pieces. I think as a writer, you know, it could prove valuable to come up with prompts to test somebody’s ability to play in different spaces. 

But you know, like I said, unfortunately people abuse it and then try to take credit. I also think it promotes a lot of lazy, wannabe creatives who don’t really have the gumption or the talent to do anything of their own accord. They put a couple of words into AI engines and feel like they, you know, are part of the creative community, and I don’t necessarily think that’s the case. It promotes a certain laziness that I definitely can’t condone on both the writing and editing side.

For anybody that really knows comics, you, you look at the attempts to make via AI comics, and they do come off as sort of soulless static Shells of what a comic should be. But the unfortunate thing is, is that most consumers don’t really have the eye to be able to discern that, you know?


Alright, let’s get to the heart of Minutes to Midnight. Tell me about ‘Reflections and Little Devils’, this larger-than-life investigation that takes a trippy NSFW turn. Where did this come from? 

What you read was actually one third of of that overall story. Reflections and Other Little Devils is a 22 page story. Large enough to be its own single issue. That one is me reteaming up with Samuel Iwunze, who took over the last two issues of the Helix Project. In this piece, he’s also coloring his own work instead of just penciling and inking. It’ll also be lettered by Jerome Gagnon. A really talented French Canadian graphic designer and letterer. 

The story is a grim and moody mystery about detective Carlos Mansebo, an aging and grizzled detective, as he investigates a strings of suicides linked to addresses from a stretch of properties involved in a failed eminent domain seizure attempt. It takes place in my hometown of New London, Connecticut and plays off of a little bit of our our town’s history. 

Carlos’s discoveries and drug laden flashbacks end up leading him into the gullet of an almost saw-like murder case that puts his long dead drug-addled marriage into question. His journey ends up sort of spiraling into a sharp edge of perception and addiction. It’s ultimately the way in which our understanding of our reflections end up impacting the way we look at ourselves and, by default, the world around us. 


That’s incredible. What can you tell us about the the other stories?

The next story in the collection is The Marvelous Misadventures of the Melancholy Man. I was delighted to pair up with the incredibly talented Steph C., who is a Mexican comic and film artist whose style is just incredibly emotive. This story is the only one that’s planned to be continued in the future. A supernatural coming of age story about an empathic boy who can turn others woes into gold, this boy has to find balance in a life where touching someone can mean healing their mind at the cost of his own, or even, ruin somebody else’s in order to preserve his.

This first story forces him to face down the a moral pendulum early in his childhood. What’s fun about it is how it ends up leading him to meet an acquaintance, a longtime figure in the comic book industry that fans will immediately recognize. 

Ultimately this story will continue to grow and evolve as Midas comes of age as sort of metatextual exploration of self-sacrifice and self-preservation. The Marvelous misadventures of the Melancholy Man was created for people that feel like they are giving up a piece of themselves in order to help other people. This story is very sort of Daoist in principle about learning to find balance in innate empathy you have without letting it tear you down inside. Also, the story is lettered by the super ubiquitous Micah Myers, who you’ll find all throughout the indie scene.


Time Fleeting War Immortal

So the next story is Time Fleeting War Immortal. This is a Dante Aligheri-like historical fantasy following two nearly immortal soldiers as they reconvene throughout every great battle in human history in order to settle a conflict that spans from before time was measured to the end of all existence as we know it. Ultimately, this is a timeless story about the changing landscape of war and how adversity is often conditioned. The fact that two immortals can coexist in a good versus evil battle throughout all of history then really stopped being about that and more about their relationship. 

Because ideals change. These characters kind of switch ideological sides pretty much every time you pick up with them. It’s just this idea that most of the time, none of it really matters. There is a sort of tragedy in the fact that these characters don’t see that they’re using these ideals as an engine for brutality and cruelty. I think that is more interesting to me than who is on what side? Sides really don’t matter. It’s this idea they can wander into the storm of war and know that they will find each other at its epicenter. 


Bear Market Businessman

The last story in the collection is probably the most personal, raw thing I’ve ever written. It’s called the Bear Market Businessman. It’s a simple interpersonal story that takes place several centuries in the future in this extremely loud and neon adorned New York City as it weighs down upon the richest man of the world. He’s got to figure out the key to survival. The choice to live. 

Beautifully drawn and colored by Ryan Best, whose art is just very emotive and very vital. He uses these very soft and flexible lines. Bold but not overbearing. I think people will come to find a lot of personality in that, that title, which makes him perfect for that story. Because again, it is very much leaning on the acting of the characters and the expressionism.


So let me ask you, you what, what gave you the idea to deal a short story anthology for minutes to midnight? 

I’ve, kind of had an idea for a while throughout writing the Helix Project. In the beginning, I was always really scared that I wasn’t the idea guy. I thought that I was technical application guy and that ideas would take a lot of development. Then I found that to be absolutely untrue.

As I was writing the Helix Project, all these random ideas sort of popped into my head and whether it was the basis for a story or just a visual, I would write them down in these documents. I also really thought about how I would be looked at walking outta my first series. It’s very non-traditional for a new creator to jump right into a six issue project as compared to submitting for anthologies and getting these little short stories. 

I was afraid of being pigeonholed and being typecast as somebody who does the sci-fi alien conspiracy thing. This was me being able to look the industry in the mouth and say, creatively I can function on, on different levels. You know, like the equivalent of being a, a three-tier scorer in basketball. I feel like I can get a bucket no matter where I am on the court.

I was writing the Helix Project during the pandemic and most of which was, you know, sort of bogged down by these echo chambers. People so caught up with being fed nothing but content that agrees with their perspective. Coming to an age and realizing that everything you hear about how adults act and behave was a lie. Adults are just big children with more responsibility.

A lot of their lesser traits are just pardoned, and therefore, we live in a world where people are so much more comfortable living in their echo chambers and being fed the same thing over and over and over again. I think it’s damning not only for them, but for sort of spaces that they keep. And so I wanted to tell a story about perspective. I wanted to have complicated characters that weren’t easy to boil down into sort of black and white absolutes. 


Finally, as always, If someone could take away something from this anthology. A message for this project you wanted to convey. What is it?

The only thing monolithic thinking does is bring you down. Be prepared to grow and change. Otherwise you will be left behind.

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