Back in January 2013 I stumbled upon a brand new franchise, Jinnrise, from the wonderful folks at Jabal Entertainment and IDW Publishing. Recently I was able to speak with series creator Sohaib Awan, and here’s what he had to say about the past, present and future of this fantastical comic book.
UTF: My first question is: now that we have a world with freed genies living along side humans, where do you see that going?
Sohaib Awan: Well, I don’t want to give away too much but suffice to say that it opens up a lot of possibilities for us. There are so many different ways we can go, but I will say this, we are not going to stay on Earth. The Kilbrani forces, SPOILER ALERT, were decimated at the end of Issue #10 but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Whenever there is a major battle as they say, sometimes you win but you have to always look ahead to see if you’ve won the war. Definitely our forces, the humans and the Jinn realize that they are going to have to take their arms and their forces to the stars. This battle has been won, but the battle for the universe is just beginning.
The Kibrani suffered a pretty severe defeat especially with what happened to the Kibr. Actually we hinted in the series that that is more of a ceremonial title. Even though this iteration was killed. Let’s just say that there will be another one in the very near future.
UTF: So it’s like a royal family-type of deal?
Sohaib Awan: Exactly. Again, I wasn’t going to say anything, but I am revealing a little bit too much; but again another hint, just because there is a ceremonial title of the Kibr it doesn’t necessarily mean that a Kibrani has to be in that role. That’s all I’ll say.
Even though we’re going to be leaving the Earth in the next volume, there is a lot more that is going to be happening at home-side as well. There’s your taste of things to come.
UTF: Next up I want to talk Andrew Marcus and his friends. They’ve obviously been through a lot, do you have any specific moments with these characters that you consider to be a highlight from this first volume?
Sohaib Awan: Well, I think for me issue #10 really summed up the growth for Andrew. I wanted his story to go through the complete narrative arc of someone who was so myopic in his youth to someone who realized that his experiences were not the only ones that he should have or that they alone should inform his decisions. For me that was very, very important to sort of get into his psyche and demonstrate or illustrate to the readers that Andrew had indeed come full circle.
It’s funny. Not to go off on a sports tangent, but with everything that’s happening or has happened with Donald Sterling and the Clippers; it’s almost as if this kind of conversation is timely. I am not saying that Andrew is a racist by any stretch of the imagination. Again, going back to the sports world again, if you read Mark Cuban’s comments, I am not saying I agree or disagree with him, but he did mention the fact that every single person has certain prejudices in their makeup. Part of growing as a person, as a human being, is recognizing those prejudices and getting beyond them.
For me, issue #10 really, really hammered that point home. I thought that was really important because it was Andrew’s story.
UTF: A lot of the narratives in this first volume dealt strongly with the idea of faith and trust. How important is that aspect for these characters?
Sohaib Awan: I think again anything you do in life requires a certain leap of faith. I always go back to Inception which is one of my favorite films of all time. There is a scene where Leonardo DiCaprio is talking to Ken Watanabe at the end, or at the beginning, whichever way you want to look at it. Basically Leonardo says there has to be a leap of faith whenever you take any type of action.
One of the most important points in the entire run of the series was the fact that basically you can get as much information as you can. You can base your decisions on a certain number of experiences or what have you. but at the end of the day, there is always that little bit of uncertainty. That’s where that leap of faith comes into play.
I really wanted to make certain that that was introduced in this series. But it’s going to be something that’ll be a consistent theme as we move forward.
UTF: As you went along with this run, did you feel that you missed any narrative opportunities?
Sohaib Awan: Definitely. I think it is sort of par for the course with respect to comics in general. One of the things I learned, is that you really have a limited number of opportunities to tell the stories you want to tell because you have to fall within the parameters of the medium.
I spoke to David Liss about this and he said that this was one of the toughest series he’s ever had to write for because he had to juggle such a large cast. I think we really wanted to focus on the plot and world. If I had to say the characters that I really felt could have been, I guess dealt with a little bit more, I think Haya is at the top. I really, really love that character and in the collected trade paperback we’ll have a back story for her.
It’s written by the amazing Tom Taylor. In this we actually learn a lot about who she is and where she comes from. One interesting point though, the way she’s illustrated in that story is not the way she is illustrated in the monthly comic. There is a definite reason for that. And it ties into where Jinnrise potentially will be going in the future.
That’s where transmedia comes into play. Our goal and my goal is to have other iterations of Jinnrise. That’s what I’ve actually been working on for the last couple of months. I can’t really go into too much detail but suffice to say, the Haya in that story is a hint of things to come.
UTF: Because this is a visual medium you’ve dealt with a few artists on the series, do you have any favorite moments with them? Any particular pages or panels that really stuck out to you?
Sohaib Awan: Yeah I think that Andrew Huerta is just one of the best talents in the industry, bar none. This series really allowed him to step into the spotlight and he told me day after day that he was trying to bring his best work to it.
With every issue he pushed the envelope, not just with respect to the detail and the narrative flow, but also with some visual experimentation. For me, I think that Jinnrise owes a lot to him because he’s done a great job presenting this very dense world in a way that I think true art aficionados could really appreciate.
As far as favorite pages or the panels I really think that the two that I loved most are in the last issue. There’s one scene, with all the different Jinn busting out, I think that one is jaw dropping. The other one is a panel with Jabal finally freed and you can see his feet. Andrew also gave me the original artwork from the issue in which Adarra was released. I love that introduction and I think he nailed it.
There’s no doubt for me that I think he’s going to be a name to keep track of. We do have plans to do more work together, not just with respect to Jinnrise. A couple of these are pretty wild but I can tell you that they’re going to be a lot of fun and each one is unlike anything that has been seen in recent years.
I just want to say, Andrew, thank you my friend. Great job and I can’t wait to keep working with you. And Marvel and DC you better not try to get him because he’s taken.
UTF: Let’s move on and talk Jabal Entertainment. I just want to see how that’s going in 2014?
Sohaib Awan: It’s looking really, really good so far. I’m excited about another series that we semi-introduced. I want to call it an introduction really because it was an issue #0 that was released at the Middle East Film and Comic Con in Dubai. It’s called Blades of Hope, the series is a celebration of women through martial arts. It is written by Paige Hartman and what I really love about that series, it’s completely different from Jinnrise.
We have a team of six women from different parts of the world who have each mastered a particular style of martial arts. We really did a lot of research and had knowledgeable people make certain that everything was very, very accurate. Basically we follow their story as they’re thrown together by circumstance. They form a “team” in an almost homage to Enter the Dragon.
It’s actually written by a woman for women, as a story that’s not centered on characters that are celebrated because of their physical attributes. I feel that so many female characters in the industry are popular or are promoted because of the way they look versus what’s on the inside. For me it’s exciting because the response has been strong across the board. Not just with respect to people who typically read comics like myself or you, Harrison, but so many people outside the medium.
What we’re doing with the series is we are going to be taking it to places that are not typically venues where comics are introduced. We’re going to be visiting martial arts festivals. Again, what I really love about this, is that it’s a celebration of women by women for women. It’s not written in a way that panders or is exclusive, it’s something I would definitely dig.
We also have a wonderful artist on there who’s not a stranger to you, Paolo Pantalena. He’s worked on Jirni for Aspen MLT and is doing some pretty amazing stuff for us.
UTF: That’s awesome.
Sohaib Awan: We had a wonderful cover from Elizabeth Torque who did a couple of the covers for Jinnrise. Actually she did my favorite cover for that franchise, issue #8 plus all of the visual work on that Haya back story. And Paolo [Pantalena] is knocking it out of the park.
It’s something that I’m really excited about because I think this is going to introduce comics to a whole other audience that’s been pretty much ignored for a long time.
UTF: That is definitely great. You’re right that the majority of female characters in comic books even the more strong-willed ones are usually over-sexualized.
Sohaib Awan: Definitely.
UTF: Just look at when DC Comics launched their New 52.
Sohaib Awan: I think I know where you’re going.
UTF: Everyone freaked out because Wonder Woman had pants. Mind you in the that iteration, the illustrations by Cliff Chiang showed her as a thicker heroine that looked like a believable warrior.
Sohaib Awan: It’s funny. I don’t know what the editorial decisions were with respect to that, but what better example than Power Girl. She has this new costume when she first started in the relaunch and now we’re back to the old one again.
UTF: I think fan reaction was just so negative on that initial redesign that they had to go back to their roots. Even though some fanboys and fangirls might look on and wonder about the over exposure of certain attributes.
Sohaib Awan: We’re trying to avoid stuff like that. I think Blades of Hope recognizes that female readers are looking for something more. Look at the Hunger Games. It’s not really geared towards women, but the character is written by a women and so many female readers love Katniss because they can relate to her. And I think that there’s definitely a resonance there and we’re hoping to accomplish one tenth of that with Blades of Hope.
UTF: One final question. Do you have anything to say to the comic book fans that threw their hard-earned cash into the Jinnrise bowl as they wait for the next step in the series? Any recommended titles to keep them busy?
Sohaib Awan: I will tell you this as far as recommendations, anything that Scott Snyder writes, I’ll read. He is my favorite writer in comics today and I think The Wake has been really fascinating. That’s one series and one writer I definitely have been following with great interest.
As far as the readers who have picked up Jinnrise, I just want to thank them so much for their support. It is challenging in this industry to tell a story that’s not typically seen or presented by a lot of the major publishers. I think that it’s a testament to what IDW Publishing was willing to do.
I set out with the goal in mind of telling a story that was sort of a global myth in the spirit of Star Wars. I don’t know if I accomplished that. But I am happy with the way the series ended up. I think one thing that I am really, really, very, very thankful for is the fact that I think we established a world with a lot of interesting characters that other writers and creators can take on.
There is so many different ways we could go. I think there is so much we could do with it. I just want to say thanks to everyone for their support and if you haven’t picked up Jinnrise, I highly encourage you to. Because I think it’s something very different.
As far as the transmedia efforts are concerned, I can’t really go into the details, but I will tell you this; 2015 and 2016 as far as Jinnrise is concerned are going to be very, very big. If you get on the train now, it will definitely go your way.
I also want to thank you for your support Harrison. I’m glad that we were able to entertain you given the fact that you review around twenty comics a week, that fact alone makes me feel good.
I want to take the time to thank Mr. Sohaib Awan for chatting with me. It was a great pleasure to dive into Jinnrise and let me just say 2015 won’t come quickly enough!
So what did you think of the interview my fellow fanboys and fangirls?
Sound off with your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!