On Making ‘Space Bastards’: A Conversation with Eric Peterson and Joe Aubrey

Writers Eric Peterson and Joe Aubrey share their journey from idea to publication, what it’s like working with artists like Darick Robertson, and why nothing beats that feeling of getting your creation out there.

 

Published by the French publisher Humanoids, Space Bastards is what you get if you took something like The Boys but placed it in Futurama. Where the postal delivery services in the future are fueled by violence and corporate greed. Co-created by Darick Robertson, whose work on Happy! and Amazon’s The Boys has trailblazed a path of: “Wow, did they go there?” statements across comics and TV, Space Bastards is a journey of non-stop action and shockingly good entertainment. 

The trade for Space Bastards: Volume 2 is available via Humanoids as of today and covers issues 7-9 along with some special one-offs, though is not to be confused with the Director’s Cut special editions of Space Bastards Volume 2 available on SpaceBastards.com

Below, Eric and Joe share with us their backstories along with their intense journey of what it’s been like making Space Bastards. You can listen to the full interview in the podcast below.

For anyone unfamiliar with the comic… What is Space Bastards? 

ERIC: “It’s the story about an intergalactic postal service where in the future, it’s very difficult to get packages between planets, and so postmaster general Roy Sharpton comes up with the new rules that change the industry. Kind of like Lyft or Uber, but violent. Whoever delivers the package gets cash. Postal workers can use any means necessary to steal the package or deliver it themselves. The more times a package exchanges hands, the more you hear ‘parcel transferred’, the more fees are collected from the customer… so the bigger the courier payout.

This originally only attracts ex-convicts and folks used to getting shot at but where we enter the story is when Space Bastards starts to attract anyone disenfranchised. People tired of the 9-5 or unhappy in life who want to be masters of their own domain.”

So when did your creative partnership begin and what do each of you bring to the series? 

ERIC: “I had an aspiring TV and filmmaking background working with a lot of friends to get stuff done. Joe was just super attentive and a partner interested in what I was doing. Eventually, we made these Space Bastards movies but the problem with filmmaking is that every explosion costs money. There’s only so far you can take it with no budget, whereas in comic books, you can do whatever you want. We really thought a comic book would make sense in terms of the next step.”

Wait. Did you actually have actual explosions in the early makings of Space Bastards?

ERIC: “I was pasting after-effects for not-so-great movies that I eventually erased. But if you have our Humanoids issue 1, on the very back there is a QR code you can scan, and it shows some of that stuff.”

JOE: “I remember once when shooting in an elevator, we had a scene that required a smoke machine and live wires where we almost electrocuted Eric’s balls.” 

ERIC: “That was the last Space Bastards things we ever shot. It’s funny, we were trying to do a shot where people walk out of a smoke-filled elevator but what we didn’t realize was that the elevator’s default setting was: Doors close. Then move. So all of a sudden, the wire sticking out of the thing starts dragging all of the lighting equipment. The door opens, as Joe yanks the wire out of the smoke machine before it breaks the elevator, which would have been a big issue. I run up to him asking him if he was okay right when the livewire sparked next to… my genitals.” 

This comic started out as a Kickstarter project. How long was that in the making and how long did it take from idea to publication?

JOE: “The original release was in 2013-2014. We had the issue 1 script and the outline for the first year then had Gabo make for us a prototype. We sent it to Diamond and a few publishers though ultimately decided to kickstart that and use the capital to make the rest of the series. 

The Kickstarter was successful, but Gabo became engaged with other projects, and that’s when we swung for the fences and got Darick.”

When you got Darick onboard how important was he to the process? 

ERIC: “Integral in terms of the visual look of the universe all-around but also as a sounding board. We write Space Bastards primarily with ourselves as the audience. I’m trying to make Joe laugh. Joe’s trying to make me laugh. But one of Darick’s earliest and most surprising contributions was in giving us feedback. Telling us what could be tighter in terms of pacing. A lot of those ideas were critical and really helped informed the direction.”

Looking back, would you guys do anything differently?

ERIC: “Everything other than the story itself. We’re proud of the work but launching a comic book is pretty hard. Space Bastards has an esteemed collection of artists, and it takes a lot of money to get that thing up and make the hardcovers that are super high quality. We had to learn as we go. Then, of course, the book was released during the Covid years. This changed how we marketed it as up until recently, there were no conventions.” 

You took bounty hunting in Space Westerns and replaced it with the idea of courier executions and postal delivery. Can you tell us how instrumental this plot device was in the tension building?

JOE: “Eric had thought about this universe since he was really young. He always wanted to have this universe of Han Solos and shady characters in a sci-fi setting doing something. The idea of the postal service and moving packages was necessary because we needed something that needed to be transported. We needed a time limit. We needed stakes. We needed characters as it became evident this was more-and-more of an ensemble. So we needed them to be in danger all the time and the movement of packages across space felt like the right idea. 

It took a while to refine those rules. This was pre-uber and you know, I think in another universe, Eric and I would have created Lyft or Uber and we would be really wealthy right now. But instead, we made a comic book about a gig economy that really didn’t exist when we started.”

This question is for Eric. You went to film school. Can you convince our listeners why they should never go to film school? Or better yet, why they should blow all their hard-working delivery money… on film school?

ERIC: “I went to a community college. I couldn’t afford to go to UCLA or USC, so I went to Scottsdale community college. The cool thing about Scottsdale or SCC, besides that Bill Hader went here, is that it’s super vocational. You shoot a film on 16mm and edit it within the first 6 weeks of being there. Very much the get-up-and-do-it type of teaching. 

Then, I got hired as an editor and then producer of a local TV show. Stressful as hell, having to raise revenue, but it’s kind of the same thing you do with creative enterprises. It was all vocational training where you have to do things quickly. Not the answer you’re looking for, but in my case, it worked out and was totally worth the experience.”

This question is for Joe. I’m a former psychological caseworker. You’re a board-certified psychiatrist. Knowing all the dirty in-betweens and legal paperwork, do you find any struggles in keeping these worlds separate?

JOE: “I really enjoy my job but it’s very different. It’s nice to have a creative endeavor on the side as no one really listens to me all day. I’m figuring out what to do, prescribe things, provide guidance, answer questions, and serve in an educational role all day, but nobody’s really interested in what I’m thinking about or my opinion. There’s also a limit to the type of humor I can use in a clinical setting. I’m a sole practitioner so I’m not in there with colleagues, I’m with people I’m treating so you have to maintain that boundary and certain decorum. 

So I’ve enjoyed the comic with Eric and the audience. With the characters, I can push things to the extreme. It’s great to have a creative outlet and I think anybody who’s in any kind of science or service industry, would really benefit to have a creative outlet with writing. When you deal with people this much it helps in a therapeutic way for me and gives me a good balance I wouldn’t have otherwise.”

Pivoting to art. For both of you: What’s the difference in your scripting styles, and do you script differently with Darick than you would with Clint Langley or Simon Bisley?

ERIC: “Yeah completely. I think that’s one of the more unique things we do is that we’ll have the outlines for all the issues figured out and then try to figure out which artist is best for which type of story. Full-script. Then a lettering script after all the art is done. The thing we do is, I’ll read nothing but books featuring the artist we are working with so that sequentially when we script, panel-to-panel, I’m thinking in terms of their visual language. Then Joe comes in and helps me clean up the dialogue and shifts any of the fighting or plot points.”

JOE: “I think Eric’s familiarity with the 2000 AD artists was critical. We kept Darick for the main story arc, but then we get into these other stories you can glimpse at in these Humanoids releases that are interspersed more frequently in the hardcovers we sell where we use these other artists to sort of explore singular characters or situations. We have the general idea of the story but Eric is really the tailor. He’s the guy who takes the suit and makes it fit the artist we’re using and it makes the issues distinctive from what Darick has done but it also stamps that particular character and enhances their personalities. So that when you get back to the Darick arc, you feel like you’ve lived with these characters a little bit.”

What has it been like working with Humanoids in terms of art and production?

ERIC: “They’re wonderful. It’s been a treat working with our editors and they’ve been supportive. With us launching last year, it was a tough year, but the response was far beyond what I was expecting in terms of reviews. Especially with a year with minimal conventions.”

JOE: “We came in finished with almost 500 pages worth of stuff before getting together with Humanoids. A large parcel of completed work which they could’ve ripped to shreds or said, this isn’t the way we wanted it to go, but they actually read through it and they were receptive and complimentary and good to us. It was a crazy thing to do. Working for that long with so many different artists churning out stuff that no one’s really read except for us, and then, just handing it to Humanoids. Thankfully, they got what we were pitching and it’s been a great partnership.”

What is the difference between the Directors Cut trade paperbacks on Spacebastards.com versus the ones being released via Humanoids? 

ERIC: “Really, the thing is, since we have an ensemble cast, we have a lot of flashbacks and chronological events to cover. What we choose to do with Humanoids is to do the fastest direction of suspense and everything else through the single issues and trade paperback orders. At the same time, we have these direct cut hardcovers that actually tell the full score of these stories and provide a little bit more extra content.

For example, in the Humanoids edition, the Chuck story happens in issue 6, which is Simon Bisley’s first story in that line. In the hardcover, it’s in issue 3. We show you that right after the story it ties into. It’s the more expansive reading order where you take a moment so that you can understand things.” 

JOE: “The special editions are huge. 13 by 9 inches. Large door-sized hardcover. 130 pages.” 

ERIC: “If you need to kill somebody with a copy of Space Bastards it is the best version to do that.”

You guys wrote a lot of the series already. How many issues do you have planned?

ERIC: “As many as readers permit. We outline things in terms of like TV seasons. The four hardcovers, which volumes 3 and 4 are on their way, cover season one for us. To be honest that’s kind of the logical stopping point if finance doesn’t permit it. But then, depending on the number of hardcovers we sell, allows us to make further years. 

Every dime was taken from the Space Bastards merch, especially the hardcovers on spacebastards.com, that directly goes into funding year two. We love our artists but it is expensive producing this stuff. Honestly, if we could figure out a really good model to move enough of these hardcovers out there, it would result in us writing it. I’d write this until the day I die as it’s a super fun process. It’s great working with these artists and with Joe, but we’re trying to be smart about it. We do have an ending written though so it’s not flying by the seat of our pants.” 

Fans of the series are curious (okay… just me) are we shipping Layla and Proton together?

JOE: “I thought so. I wanted a moment between them, and I remember talking to Eric about it, that I think we need a moment between the characters but Eric flatly shut it down saying: she would not be interested in him! And he said it so definitely… we were at a bar in San Diego, a few drinks in, and he was like: there is no way she would be interested in him. There’d be no fuckin’ way she’d do that and like… he was right. It would’ve made me happy but it wouldn’t be true to the character. That’s made me think differently about her and Proton. I think deep down in Eric’s lizard brain and my subconscious, we have a different path for her.” 

ERIC: “My personal take on it is like, I take it there is some sort of attraction due to the intimacy of the situations they end up in. But she has so many big mountains to climb.”

JOE: “She’s got business. She has another agenda. You were right.” 

ERIC: “I can’t say the same for Davey. I can’t say he looks at that the same way but yeah… Depending on where you are in the story.”

Do you have any words of advice for people like myself who are seeking to kickstart their own dream comic book projects? 

ERIC: “Don’t. Just give up. Just kidding. So, way back when, I got to run into Steve Dillon and Garth Ennis through a mutual friend my first time in NY and we got to hang out until 8 in the morning. I wasn’t really asking him about Space Bastards at the time but I knew I wanted to do this kind of story. I wanted to have it cost a little more money to produce. 

Steve was telling me all these horror stories about how he had this anthology, which was where Tank Girl is from, and all this crazy stuff about all these fires that had to be put out. So I asked him: “You’re saying I shouldn’t invest money and do this?” and he said, “No you absolutely need to. The bottom line is no matter how difficult it is, or whether it’s a financial success or self-sustaining or not, there’s just nothing like it. There’s nothing like getting those stories out there under a certain condition after working them on a long time trying to make them the best that they can be. There’s just nothing that replicates that.” 

JOE: Yeah don’t give up. The main thing is to make something and complete it. If you can complete it and get someone to read it and you’re happy with it, that it makes you happy or makes you smile and you think about it and you spend more time thinking about it than you do at your job or whatever else, than you got it. You can’t give up on it. Put it on Kickstarter, make it digital, and try to get ads or a Patreon or whatever you can to get people to read it.”  

I ask this for every guest on the podcast. What is the biggest thing you’d like fans to take away from the series?

JOE: “That there’s a place for this type of dark humor. You can have unsavory characters who aren’t necessarily politically correct but it’s fun and it’s not harmful. I’d like for readers to take away a desire to see more as we think there are a thousand more stories that we can tell in this universe. I want people to get the same kind of exhilaration we do, like what you said about it feeling like a video game. We want people to feel that and laugh and be surprised. We just want people to be entertained.”

Finally, where can people help support the creation of more Space Bastards?

ERIC: “SpaceBastards.com and you can find our links to social media there on the site along with lots of merchandise and those deluxe hardcovers as well which is the director’s cut way of experiencing Space Bastards.”

JOE: “We’ve got some individual issues including the issue 1 prototype that Gabo drew for sale. You buy a patch, a button, or a book, anything helps. We already paid our artists in advance and everyone who worked on these books has been paid. Any money we make now goes to paying them again and making more.”  

Christian Angeles
Christian Angeles
Christian Angeles is a screenwriter who likes sharing stories and getting to meet people. He also listens to words on the page via audible and tries to write in ways that make people feel things. All on a laptop. Sometimes from an app on his phone.

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