After a 10-year run as one of Marvel's most celebrated artists, Chris Samnee is trading in superheroes for a raucous, dirty, tumbling adventure called Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters.
The book stars Jonna and her sister, Rainbow, who venture off into a planet that has mysteriously dried up in order to search for their missing father.
Created and co-written with Laura Samnee, Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters is colored by his frequent colorist partner Matthew Wilson, and lettered by Crank!. After years in development (and a debut delayed due to COVID-19), Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters #1 goes on sale March 3 from Oni Press.
Newsarama chatted with Chris and Laura Samnee about the series, the inspirations, the visuals, and how it all came together.
Newsarama: Chris, Laura, in your own words, how would you describe Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters?
Chris Samnee: It's the story of two sisters on a journey to find their missing father in a world where danger lurks around every corner.
It's an all-ages comic full of heart, action, and MONSTERS!
It's a catch-all for some of the things I've enjoyed being able to draw in comics (action, foliage, character acting, rubble) and all the things I've never really gotten a chance to do much of until now but have always loved (monster design, crazy landscapes, and leaning more into my natural cartooning influences/inclinations).
Nrama: It's such a quiet first issue, but we still get an idea of who Jonna and her sister Rainbow are, but tell us about the world around them.
Chris: At the beginning of the first issue we're introduced to an idyllic Earth-like world, full of life and a people not at all prepared for the monsters that will soon appear. Once the monsters show up, the world around Rainbow and Jonna changes into a barren, dangerous place where they must survive in order to find their father.
Nrama: How would you describe Rainbow and Jonna's relationship?
Laura Samnee: We have three daughters close in age, so we really drew from them to inform Rainbow and Jonna's relationship. We're lucky our daughters are really each other's best friends and biggest supporters so we wanted to create that same loving bond between Rainbow and Jonna.
Rainbow and Jonna definitely frustrate and irritate each other sometimes, but they're always there for each other. Siblings are so often portrayed as being antagonistic, we wanted to see the loving relationship our daughters share being represented in the book
Nrama: Obviously being partners in life and together for so long, what was the creative collaborative process like?
Laura: Well, initially, I was just helping Chris put the pitch together. He had been chipping away at this idea for quite some time and finally had the time to pitch it. As we started putting the pitch document together, I started adding my suggestions [laughs] and it just naturally evolved from there into co-writing the book together.
In the beginning, I would join Chris at his office for writing sessions, while my mom watched our kids. We would work out the beats for each issue page by page, as he drew really rough thumbnails. Then he would turn those thumbnails into layouts and we'd add the dialogue together.
Chris: Once COVID hit, I started working out of the house and we had our kids home with us 24/7 so we really had to adapt to find time to work together, uninterrupted. A lot of this book has been written over coffee on weekend mornings at the kitchen table or late at night, once the kids have gone to bed. We try to write together as much as possible, but sometimes I'll give it a pass then send it to Laura who will work on it then send it back.
Nrama: You have Matthew Wilson on colors, a guy you've worked with for over a decade, what is it about his coloring that you feel works so well with your line art and compositions?
Chris: I honestly have a hard time picturing my pages with anyone's colors other than Matt's at this point. We've developed a shorthand over the years where I already have a pretty good idea of how he'll tackle a page or scene before I send them off to him.
But what keeps this all so exciting, is that he consistently comes back with something better than what I had in my head. And his work on Jonna is no exception. Every issue is better than the last. I can't wait for everyone to see the stuff we've been up to!
Nrama: With a title like 'Unpossible Monsters', we're going to have some wild creatures out there, but nothing too scary. Where did you pull inspiration from for some of these designs? From just this first issue, it feels almost like a Moebius vibe.
Chris: I do love Moebius, though I don't know how much influence I can see in Jonna. There's a lot of Hanna-Barbera in there, mixed with a lot of various kaiju influences. I'm a real sucker for the designs in old Showa era Tokusatsu shows and movies like Gamera and Ultraman.
After a lifetime of reading comics and watching cartoons, I'm sure a lot of other stuff has found its way in there that I'm not even conscious of. Half the fun of designing these things is being surprised by what ends up on the page and what gets left in the sketchbook.
Nrama: Jonna was announced last year and then the world sort of stood still for a minute. When did y'all actually start working on this?
Chris: Oh gosh, honestly I've been chipping away at this since about 2014 although it has evolved a lot from that early idea. I didn't really have time to think about actually pitching the book until I started working on Fire Power with Robert Kirkman and my schedule had more flexibility than when I was doing monthly comics at Marvel.
Laura: If I'm remembering correctly, we had a home for Jonna at Oni around mid-2019, so we've been working on actually making it for about 18 months at this point.
Chris: I'd always wanted to do something creator-owned but those books, Hilo and Bone, actually WERE the unlikely inspiration. I didn't realize until reading those, and so many other terrific books with my kids, that a middle-grade book was the kind of book we wanted to make. I wanted this to be a book about a family that a family can read together.
Nrama: Were you thinking of an ongoing thing for this? Mini? Or something like a series almost in the vein of Courtney Crumrin where it's a series of OGNs?
Chris: Right now, we're working towards the end of the first arc, which is a full story.
Beyond that, I'm not sure what our plans will be. The last year has taught us not to plan too far into the future! We love these characters though and would love to tell more stories with them.
Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters #1 will be available on March 3 both in comic shops and on digital platforms. For the best digital reading experience, check out Newsarama's list of the best digital comics readers for Android and iOS devices.