Regular readers of Indyfest Magazine might recall that back in issue #79, Chuck Amadori, Aghori Shaivite, and I chatted about Empress, a series on which Chuck and Aghori collaborate. Chuck is the founder of Isle Square Comics and writes all of their current titles. This month, he’s back with us to discuss another ongoing title of his—Tether.
IM: Welcome back, Chuck! What have you been up to since we spoke last?
CA: Creatively, I’ve been managing my current plate of titles. I’ve also been doing a lot of freelance lettering and writing. Also, I have been increasing my comic-con appearances; most recently, I appeared at the Niagara Falls Comic Con (Canada).
Here’s a quick truncated note-style status report on my projects.
Pale Dark: Ruvel is currently doing the line art for Issue 5. Issue 3 is now available via online retailers including IndyPlanet, DriveThru, Amazon and, as of June 17, Comixology. Issue 4 is in the coloring phase. At the end of 2014, I was surprised to learn that Pale Dark was selected as one of the best indie titles of 2014 by ComicBastards.com
Tether: I’ll get to that later in this interview 😉
Empress: The first arc is complete and available in single issues or in a collected trade (issues 1–4). Issue 4 is awaiting its ComiXology release date, but is, of course, available at the previously mentioned retailers. Currently, Issue 5 is almost done with the coloring phase. This issue begins the Brian Barr (aka Aghori Shaivite)-written arc. Also, Vicky Pittman takes over on colors.
Snake and Bang Bang Lucita: These two western titles that I collaborate on with colorist Nimesh Morarji are on temporary hiatus… but they will return soon. In fact, you may see Lucita #2 drop sooner, rather than later. The first arc is complete in script form for both titles, and I have already started scripting the epic crossover series Viperous Vixens.
Protector Vixi: Slowly progressing. This is the awesome all-ages title I collaborate on with artist Marcelo Salaza. The first arc is scripted, with the door open for further fun adventures for kids of all ages.
IM: Last time, you mentioned Tether in passing. Now it’s time to elaborate. So first off, what’s the elevator pitch?
CA: Tether tells the story of the Imperium, the last city of a once booming planet (now mostly barren). The Imperium has been built on an orbiting meteor, which is tethered to a mountain. The series features a multi-layered story, rich with characters like Alina and Zarran, young slaves whose struggles and triumphs parallel one another.
The opening arc of the series will cover Alina and Zarran’s escape from captivity, as well as introduce the power-hungry Emperor Trovaar and some of the different types of Genetaclones. The look of Tether has elements of Ancient Rome mashed up with very advanced technology. What Game of Thrones is to fantasy is what I envision Tether to be for sci-fi.
IM: Very often, books and other media carry taglines like, “Fans of X won’t want to pass this one up!” What other titles would you think that Tether’s target audience would be into?
IM: Who are the other members of the creative team?
CA: As of issue 3, the new permanent creative team has Edson Alves on lines and Matheus Bronca on colors. Edson brings his adept layout skills to the project. Issue 1 features the lines of Alex Reis who helped establish a lot of the look, while issue 2 features Ruvel Abril and Marcelo Salaza splitting line art duties since Alex was busy working on Snake (one of the Isle Squared & NimProd Comics collaborations). I didn’t want the Tether story to be on hold for too long, so those two awesome guys stepped up to help me out until I found a permanent artist. Nimesh Morarji colored the first two issues… but lucky for him, his work on Tether helped him get a rush of contract/commission work. Too many paid commissions to continue on the series in fact. And deservedly so… Nimesh is the type of colorist who brings his style and keen artistic judgment to any comic project. Every color, every shadow, every highlight… Nimesh has a clear vision that adds so much character to the lines. I really feel lucky that we were able to find Matheus, another fantastic colorist, who outdoes himself with every single new page to fill Nimesh’s big shoes.
IM: How did you meet up?
CA: I met Nimesh on Deviant Art. While he was coloring a previous incarnation of Protector Vixi for me, I asked if he needed any writing services… As we talked more, we realized we were on the same page in terms of what we thought the Western genre needed for a revamp. Soon I was writing three Westerns for him to color (the third being Xibalba). And so, this is how the Isle Squared and NimProd collaboration came to fruition. Edson, Alex, and Matheus, I met through artist Marcelo Salaza, who manages Pencil Blue Studios comics, out of Brazil. Edson previously worked on the book Bang Bang Lucita, which Nimesh and I collaborated on. Matheus colored the first arc of Empress. After leaving that title, he took over the colors on Tether and one of my other titles that Nimesh also colored previously, Pale Dark.
IM: Who are the main characters in Tether? What makes them tick? What pushes them onward?
CA: There really isn’t one central character. Although so far, in the first couple issues, the book has focused mostly on Alina and Zarran. Alina has been enslaved and forced to fight in the arena as a gladiator. She catches the eye of mad scientist Dr Murrell and is then subjected to some torturous experimentation. There is so much more I can say, but I want to avoid spoilers here. Zarran is also a slave, but instead of being forced to fight in the arena, he spends his days dreaming of escaping the hard labor of the mines. He’s actually a rejected model of Overseer (one of the castes of Genetaclones), so he doesn’t really have anywhere to fit in. Alina is a human who is enhanced by science, while Zarran is a clone created by science who gets enhanced by nature. Other characters include the masked Emperor Trovaar, the femme fatale Dr. Cybin, Primus Plask, Raver, Ritter, Trino, Saami and Velang.
IM: I can’t help but notice that your Twitter handle appears to be named after one of your characters! What is it about Zarran that you identify with?
CA: Well… the name Zarran goes way way back to my years in the military, when I first got the writing bug. I started a project where I named the main character Zarran. This was about the same time that the internet was first exploding. So when it came time to set up my first email account, I chose the name of the character Zarran as part of my email address. So that has stuck with me through the years.
IM: Tether #1 opens with a scene that immediately brings to mind the circuses of Ancient Rome. To what extent would you say that Roman culture and society inform the world of Tether?
CA: I did a lot of research on ancient civilizations, like Rome, Egypt, etc. So a lot of the culture shares similarity with Rome, especially the hedonistic nature of the upper class. Since Tether takes place on an unknown (non-Earth) planet in an unknown time, I was inspired to sprinkle some of the look from our past. I really want this story to show the extremes to which this world has decayed… and the fact that this decayed morality, as well as the decayed planet, are the humans’ own fault.
IM: Are there other influences that inspired your world-building?
CA: TETHER has been around since 2005, except it used to be called Crimson City and existed in a very different incarnation. I was collaborating with digital artist Adam Bloch on turning Crimson City into an animated series of shorts… but we got busy with other things and soon moved on. Eight years later, after I finished writing Pale Dark, I decided that I wanted to finally bring Crimson City to life. One of the first changes I made was to the title… now called Tether. With a new found sense of inspiration, I finished scripting the first six issues within a week. I showed Adam where I had taken the story and we planned to collaborate once again, with him doing the art, but he had prior commitments. So, that’s when I recruited Alex to do the Issue 1 art. As far as the look of the world… I wanted it to feel like there is a lot going on in the world… stuff that the reader will learn about in future issues, as they learn more back-story and secret motivations. This world feels lived in and there are signs that this was once a thriving planet. There is a clear line between the lives of the poor and the lives of the elite.
IM: Were there any areas that you needed to research prior to writing this series?
CA: I researched about the Roman Legion rank systems and measurements. The design of the city was originally going to be just a plain old elevated city, but we researched other ways a city could exist off of the land surface. Also, because I fill in so much back story and use flashbacks a lot in some issues, I mapped out a lot of this world’s history prior to scripting.
IM: Any elements that were particularly challenging to write/translate onto the printed page?
CA: Handling the hedonistic lifestyle of the Emperor is sometimes tough. These characters have a moral set different from us… they will do shocking and confounding things. Also, I’m looking forward to when Alina gets out of captivity and can wear some real clothes. I never intended her image to catch on so much with her in the rags. That was only to show how little they regarded the slaves. Don’t worry, I promise she’ll be in her proper outfit by the second arc, if not sooner.
IM: Over the course of the series, where do you see yourself taking the characters?
CA: There will be a lot of growth for Alina and Zarran as they learn more of the world and build new alliances… and more characters will be introduced. We’ll get some back-story sprinkled throughout. I even have an issue scripted that gives the origins of the planet’s condition and why Emperor Trovaar wears his mask.
IM: What can readers expect? (Beyond the unexpected, of course!)
CA: Expect a sci-fi epic that will simultaneously invigorate and infuriate readers.
IM: How have you been handling the marketing and promotion end?
CA: I’m all over social media promoting this title, along with the other Isle Squared titles. I also have done a couple comic-cons. When I started writing this title, I really really wanted it to be picked up by a bigger publisher. Though I continue to dream it, I’m content just telling the story. Though it still remains a goal of mine to be published with Image, Dark Horse, Dynamite, or Avatar. Primarily, because I love the books those companies are putting out and I would be honored to be in their catalog. Whatever the case, we need readers like you. Without you reading this title and spreading the word, we’ll just be a grain of sand in the sandbox.
CA: We’re going to finish through Issue 6 (first arc), then take a couple months off… then get back to it. I’ll continue having new issues available on Comixology, IndyPlanet, DriveThru Comics and Amazon. Perhaps we’ll find our dream publisher and become even easier for readers to access in local comic shops.
IM: What’s on the horizon?
CA: Time will tell… but I sure hope it’s something fun.
IM: Is there anything else you’d like to share that we haven’t touched on yet?
CA: Thanks for reading Tether and please, help spread the word about this series.
IM: Finally, where can we get our hands on Tether and how can we keep up to date with you?
CA: Digital Versions:
OR contact me directly through Facebook and I can sell you a signed print copy direct. And these copies are from a better-quality printer than the IndyPlanet POD copies.
Learn more about our interviewer at: Ellen Fleischer
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