When I first discovered Malachi Ward’s work on the fantastic blog, Tennis vs The Apocalypse, little did I realize that his repetiore went far beyond undead-themed sporting events. In truth, Malachi’s true talents lie much deeper in exploring the vast unknown of space and all of the sci-fi tropes that come with it. Hailing from South Pasadena, CA, Malachi’s worked has been featured by Top Shelf 2.0, numerous blogs, and received some of the finest quality self-published treatment I’ve seen in some time. I was able to catch up with the artist between preparing for an art show this March and his next book, Expansion Part Two.
Tell us a bit about yourself, Malachi. What’s your career been like up until now?
I self published my first comic in October of 2009, so I’m just starting out. I studied drawing and painting in school, but towards the end turned to comics. Aside from that I’m in a band called The Denouement. We’re working on an album that will be out later this year.
Very cool. So what were some of your earliest inspirations as a comic artist?
As a kid I modeled my life after Calvin and Hobbes. I made a number of comic strips that were blatant rip offs of [them]. I also liked Spider-Man comics and super hero comics in general. I think that I was also heavily influenced by cartoons and movies. I was obsessed with the Back To The Future trilogy, and cartoon shows like Exo-Squad and Gargoyles. I also watched a lot of Star Trek The Next Generation as a kid.
What’s your process like when creating a comic? Does it begin with some character sketches, sequential breakdowns, story notes, or a combination of these things?
I really like history and science, and consume a lot of information in both areas. My ideas usually grow out of something I’ll read about. I also watch lots of movies and T.V. and – I’m a little embarrassed to admit this – critically take it apart. Some of my ideas come from trying to make something I didn’t like better. Not in any specific way, but if there is something with an interesting premise that falls flat I find it strangely inspiring.
From there I’ll write out some rough plot ideas, then an outline. The next step is to thumbnail the comic, figuring out the dialogue and basic composition. I usually revise those a few times, and then get impatient and start to draw the actual pages.
Haha, I do that a lot with films I see as well. A lot of your work deals with the concept of time travel, astronauts, and aliens. What is it about science fiction that you think appeals most to you?
Science fiction has always been a part of my life, so to some extent I think it’s just how I process storytelling. Like I said earlier, I’m fascinated by science and history, and science fiction seems to grow naturally from that interest – in the limits of humanity, in our place in existence – I’m fascinated by origins and endings, and in how they might unfold slowly and in an unexpected way. Hopefully it isn’t just a science fiction story because of an aesthetic, but because the themes and ideas of the story are best explored in the genre.
Let’s talk about one of the books you’ve done, Expansion: Part One. Can you describe what that book is about?
The title refers to the expansion of the universe, which factors into the story and how the protagonists find themselves in an extremely foreign landscape, not so much physically, but morally. The title also connects to a lot of the themes of the story, but I start to feel silly when I talk about that kind of thing.
By all means, please continue.
Well, in some ways Expansion is also an ironic name, but a lot of that plays out in the third part, and I don’t want to get too “spoilery.” There is an emotional expansion that happens to the characters as the story progresses, [though].
Who are the main characters/key players of the story?
There are three main characters: Diane Briggs and Charles Turner are military officers fleeing an enemy. They meet Basilia Clark, who is the charismatic leader of a religious group. The story is built around the character’s idealogical differences.
And what does A.T.R. stand for? What significance does its existence have in the story?
The A.T.R. stands for Abnormal Temporal Region. It’s distortion of time is related to the size of the universe. It’s just the first in a series of occurrences that behave in an unexpected way. Part of Expansion is definitely about how unpredictable our circumstances can be.
Turner comes off as a bit of a prick, but seems to be acting mostly out of fear. What are some of the fundamental differences between his character and Briggs?
In spite of fear and anxiety Turner has a lot of courage, he’s a good soldier, and sticks to his view of right and wrong – but he’s pretty abrasive. Briggs seems to be a bit more philosophical, more aware of social mores, but also easily influenced, at least in comparison to Turner. They both, however, change drastically before the story ends.
How did you and Matt Sheean first decide to join forces?
Matt and I met in college and bonded over our love of comics and science fiction. We’ve been throwing around ideas for collaboration ever since we met six or so years ago, but it wasn’t until now that we actually did something about it. It started as just a fun thing to do – to see what Matt’s pencils would look like if I inked them. We usually do everything ourselves, from the story to the artwork to the printing, so we thought it would be fun to mimic the super-hero method of making comics by splitting up responsibilities. We were pleased with the results and it quickly grew into a full fledged comic.
You’ve got a sequel to Expansion planned this year, what are some things we can expect from Part Two?
Part One was mostly setting up the plot, so in Part Two we start to really get into the conflict. We also get to know Basilia and her people better. It all builds to the third part, where everything contracts.
How many parts have you and Sheean planned for overall?
Just three parts. It should all be finished by the end of the year!
Aside from Expansion, what else have you been working on recently?
I’ve got an art show opening March 4th at a very cool comics shop in Los Angeles called Secret Headquarters. Expansion Part Two will be done in April, and then I’ll have some short comics in a number of anthologies that should be coming out over the course of the year.
In one word, what “fuels” your illustration?
Mmm… “wonder?” That makes me feel pretentious… I’ll say “jellybeans”.
All Artwork © Copyright Malachi Ward
Expansion Part One © Copyright Malachi Ward and Mat Sheean
Rondal Scott III is an illustrator and graphic designer who tackles each day with Red Bull-induced enthusiasm and is a self-professed Twitter addict. He’s illustrated several independent children’s books and in 2009 his obsession with horror movies and pop culture inspired him to establish the Strange Kids Club, a virtual clubhouse for geeky, pop culture nostalgia.