More than likely you haven’t heard of this book. It’s an Image Comics one-shot from Steven Sanders and Sam Humphries. Our Love Is Real tells the tale of a riot cop who’s life is changed forever when he finds himself caught in the middle of the Vegisexual Movement, and bizarre love triangle, and it all happens five years after the discovery of an AIDS vaccine…
Scott: Please tell me about your background in comic books before “Our Love Is Real”.
Steven Sanders: I enjoyed American comics until I was in middle school, when I discovered manga and focused on that. I was focusing on cover art until I met up with Matt Fraction, who I went to art school with but never actually met. We went on to make comics from there. Made FIVE FISTS OF SCIENCE with Matt, and went on to do S.W.O.R.D. for Marvel, and a bunch of other smaller projects for them.
Sam Humphries: Last year, I wrote short stories in the CBGB and Fraggle Rock anthologies. Previous to that, I worked in content development at MySpace, where one of my projects was MySpace Comic Books. In 2002, I worked for Gutsoon! Entertainment, a manga publisher.
Scott: What were some of your influences for Our Love Is Real ?
Steven Sanders: Hm. Manga/anime mechanical design, Shirow, Moebius, Chaykin.. I’m sure there’s a gazillion other things. I tend to keep an eye out for things I like in people’s art, or the world, and try and find a way to incorporate it into my drawing.
Sam Humphries: Man, I’ve been playing with Our Love Is Real for many years so it has probably soaked up influences from a hundred sources. I will single out Give Me Liberty, which I read and re-read constantly, and steal from shamelessly.
Scott: I think I read somewhere that you only printed 300 copies and that the book immediately sold out, why only 300 ?
Steven Sanders: Because Sam was self publishing this, (a brave man, Sam) and it had to come out of his pocket.
Sam Humphries: That’s all I could afford! Self-publishing is spendy.
Scott: Did you release in digital also ? If so, did this have anything to do with a limited print of only 300 ?
Steven Sanders: I believe so. We wanted people to have some kind of access to it, even if it wasn’t physical.
Sam Humphries: Yeah, going same-day digital was important. We couldn’t reach even a tiny fraction of comic book stores, so it was a great way to make it available everywhere.
Scott: This book touches on many different aspects of what some would see as bizarre or warped sex, when you brought Our Love Is Real to Image Comics, how did they feel about Vegesexuals, sex with crystals, growth hormones and the rest of the fun stuff that goes on in this great story ?
Steven Sanders: This probably reflects poorly on my character, but I didn’t feel much about it, in a “this is good/bad or right/wrong” way. It just was. Sam had done a terrific job of making a world where these behaviors weren’t set up to be judged by the reader, they were just a fact of life, and I bought into it completely. Add to that the great story that he wrote that hooked me immediately, and the ramifications of drawing a story about people who have sex with dogs didn’t even show up on my radar.
So, from an ethical or moral standpoint, I had no position. From an artistic standpoint, I thought he did some first-class world building. Sam likes to give me a lot of credit for the world of OUR LOVE IS REAL having a sense of grounded reality to it, but his script was the foundation or skeleton I built it all on. Without that, it would have been much the poorer.
Sam: They loved it. They didn’t want to change a thing. I hope they don’t regret it!
Scott: Did the story come out as you wanted, or were you asked to change anything by the publisher, and if so do you feel the changes hurt the story at all ?
Steven: Nah, as it was self published, we had full control. And to the best of my knowledge, editorial input from Image is next to non-existant as well. They give you full control.
Sam: The book was self-published, so by the time Image got involved, it was already “out there” in its original form. That said, they never once asked for or even hinted at making any changes. They explicitly said they were happy with it the way it is.
Scott: Was this book planned as a one-shot from the beginning ? I think I could see this as a series, it’s almost in the fashion of a Heavy Metal Magazine story to me.
Steven: Yeah, it was planned as a one shot from the start. We could have or would have liked to do more, but time and money got in the way. Maybe that will change in the future.
Sam: Yeah, it was intended as one-shot. First, one-shots are much cheaper when you are self-publishing. Second, I did not anticipate such a strong reaction to the book. I don’t think anyone could have predicted that a smutty sci-fi book would burn through 300 copies in nine hours. An ongoing series was unthinkable. I did a great job of completely underestimating the size of the market for this comic. That said, it’s wide open and I have a few ideas for continuing the book, if enough people buy the one shot!
Scott: What kind of research did you have to do to put this story together ? I mean we have all kinds of people out there doing strange and taboo things, did you look any of this stuff up, or was this story purely from the mind ?
Steven: I did a bit of research for some of the mechanical designs, (I read up on reaction-less drives for the drop ships that bring Jok and his fellow riot cops to the riots. As far as the rest, I’ve been on the internet long enough to have seen nearly every kind of depravity known to man, so I figured I was already schooled well enough in that department.
Sam: Only my Google history knows for sure. Let’s just say it’s a weird world, often much weirder than OUR LOVE IS REAL.
Scott: What kind of criticism have you gotten for Our Love Is Real ? Have you recieved any flack from people who don’t see this book as just a cool, fun story or has it all been mostly positive ?
Steven: I’d say it’s been about 95% positive. The other 5% consists of people who cannot get past the fact that the book contains characters who have sex with animals, and people who think that the book doesn’t live up to it’s hype. The latter is reasonable; there has been a lot of hype around this book, and it’s created some pretty big expectations to live up to.
Sam: It’s been overwhelmingly, and humbling-ly, positive. Some reviewers and commentators liked it less than others. But overall I expected a much more reactionary response to the book. Almost every review has been able to get past the provocative subject matter and make an honest evaluation on the work itself.
Scott: You have both worked on other books before Our Love Is Real, such as S.W.O.R.D. from Marvel Comics and Fraggle Rock from Archaia Studios, was it different working on your own title than it was working for someone elses ?
Steven: A bit? I really enjoy the process of world-building/concept design, and OUR LOVE IS REAL gave me the chance to create an entire world. I didn’t have quite that level of control with the Marvel properties, but it was still enjoyable, just in a different way. Honestly, anytime I can draw and get paid for it, I count myself fortunate. I could always be working in a cubical farm instead.
Sam: Sure. It was much easier getting approval for dog sex in Our Love Is Real than it would have been in Fraggle Rock…
Scott: What can we look forward to in the future, from the team of Humphries and Sanders ?
Steven: I have no idea. Hopefully something great? Sam is having a new book coming out called SACRIFICE that I’m excited about.
Sam: Nothing on the horizon for both of us, unfortunately. Steven was a hot commodity even before Our Love Is Real! But I hope we get to work together again real soon. Myself, I have a new book called SACRIFICE starting up next month, with artist Dalton Rose. It’s a six-issue limited series and the first issue is out December 14th. It’s about the Aztecs and Joy Division.
Scott: Any last words before we sign off ?
Steven: Buy more comics, exercise, eat right and call your mother more often. She spent 10 hours in labor with you and you can’t find time to call her once a week? Shame.
Sam: Stay weird, perverts.