Crayta Comic — Season 2 is here!
Behind the scenes with Season 2 of the Crayta Comic
As Season 2 of the Crayta Comic lands on 27 September 2021, we speak to writer Dan Abnett (Marvel, DC, Warhammer, Judge Dredd), Principal Artist Gustaffo Vargas (Puno, Manu), and Editor Chris Swan (Publishing Director, Unit 2 Games) about their goals and inspirations for the next six issues. We also chat to one of our community members Becky Tyler (AKA EyeGazeGirl) about her role in helping us bring her comic alter-ego to life.
How excited are you all to be doing a second season of the Crayta comic?
Dan: Delighted. Season one was such a pleasure to work on, and now we have a chance to return, expand, and build on that world-building… and I get to work with these amazing creators again!
Gustaffo: Immensely excited. Working on the first season was pure joy, and being able to be part of the team again to bring to life the world Dan has created feels like being a kid in a toy store, pure fun.
Chris: We’re thrilled to be able to further explore the backstory of Crayta, and it’s been awesome that all of the wonderfully talented individuals from Season 1 were excited to be involved once again.
Chris, why have we decided to come back to the comic for another season, and what were Unit 2’s goals this time round? Were they different from the first time?
Chris: We were delighted with the way the first season turned out: the story that Dan weaved, and using the different artists in a way that was more than a gimmick was so much fun. But more importantly the Crayta backstory resonated with the community, who regularly use much of the comic’s lexicon. It therefore made a lot of sense to stride forward with Season 2, to let Dan take us further into the lore of Crayta, and to be even more ambitious with our changes between the artists.
The first season ended on a really dramatic note, so Dan how did you approach plotting the continuation of the story? Did you always have an idea of where it was heading or has it evolved since the first run came out?
Dan: Both, really. I had ideas about where the story could and should go, because there were some threads deliberately left dangling in season one. But it was also a chance to revisit it with fresh eyes and think of new and exciting directions. Some of the story ideas, and some of the execution ideas, came about simply because we were able to look at season one and be inspired by what had worked there. It was a matter of picking up the story ideas we’d left in reserve from season one, fleshing them out, and then delivering them using the momentum of all the new and exciting notions we were having.
Gustaffo, you were one of our main artists last time but you’ve stepped up to become our lead artist for season two, helping to define and evolve the look and feel of the world even more than before. Is there anything you’ve done differently this time round or anything in particular you wanted to achieve?
Gustaffo: Yes! I couldn’t be more grateful for this amazing opportunity. Last time I was in charge of all the concept and character design, the environment, the vehicles, the technology, it was as challenging as it was fun to create. This time I can revisit this amazing place, so the workflow is actually easier, making it grow stronger. And it leaves me more room to explore more of its boundaries and try new approaches in narrative, rhythm and panel design. Basically I’m pushing myself to mix all these elements to tell the story in the best possible way, to make the world that Dan has created feel alive and real.
Dan, what can you tell us, without spoilers, about what we can expect to happen to our main protagonists in season 2? What should we look out for?
Dan: This season is perhaps more “thriller”-ish. We focus on Crayta’s attempt to handle the problem of gAIa, inspired by the new philosophy that Nuna has brought. It’s them consolidating and working to a purpose now Nuna has given them some real insight. But it’s also about them protecting themselves, because Mediation has stepped up its efforts to find them and stop them. It gets very tense! There are some true villains. Oh, and dinosaurs!
Crayta the game is built on the concept of collaboration, so we carried that sense over to the comic in season 1 too by working with a variety of artists to create different styles for the different in-game virtual worlds illustrated, and we’ve done something similar for season 2. Gustaffo, what can you tell us about that approach this time, why we took it, what it achieves, and what’s different about it compared to most other comics?
Gustaffo: One of the most fascinating elements about Crayta is how collaborative the comic is. Last season it worked really well. This time the team has the massive talents of Emma Vieceli, Paulina Ganucheau and Neil Roberts. Each one of them brings a very different, vibrant uniqueness to the story, and it works so great because Dan has given each of us very specific and distinctive sequences, where standing out from each other works for the best. Dan has structured the comic in such a way that we share pages and sometimes sequences together, making the result look like a stunning choreography that flows together like a song!
Crayta the game is also all about community, and we pride ourselves in involving all our players and creators as much as we can. Chris, what can you tell us about the decision to include one of our long-standing community members Becky Tyler (AKA EyeGazeGirl) as a character in this season?
Chris: Inclusivity is something that’s very dear to all of our hearts at U2G (which is part of the reason for having more than just one artist involved). Becky does so much herself to highlight the difference that being inclusive can make to peoples’ lives, that when Richard Smithies (Exec Producer) suggested we base a character on her, we all leapt at the opportunity. And thankfully Becky also loved the idea, and we had a great time designing her character, wheelchair, and environment between us.
Once Becky agreed to get involved, how did you both approach the tone, storyline and look of her IRL and virtual representations in the comic? What can you tell us about the considerations and how you worked together to bring her to life?
Dan: Becky’s enthusiasm to get involved fired us up. It made us really think about the contrasts of the real and virtual worlds, and also challenged our ableist assumptions… such as the idea that virtual environments and AI could “fix” everything.
These weren’t issues that needed to be ‘fixed’ in any way: it was about personal expression, creativity and freedom. Becky, for example, didn’t want to be wheelchair-free in her avatar form. She wanted to be herself. I realised I had a great deal to learn, and that too many of my assumptions — well-intentioned but really not at all well educated — were wrong.
Whatever else this season is, I will always appreciate it as a vital, enlightening and long-overdue learning experience.
Gustaffo: I couldn’t agree more with Dan. Becky’s enthusiasm is very inspiring, she taught us a great deal about our assumptions and how we think of ourselves. Her notes on how some of my designs didn’t work well because they lacked practicality was enlightening, she made us have a glimpse of the world through her eyes. It was a very educational and humbling experience.
What are you all most proud of so far in this second season and what are you most looking forward to seeing how people react to?
Dan: the development of the characters and themes… and I can’t wait to see how people react to the “real/virtual” switches we achieve by deliberately exploiting the contrasting art styles. We did that a little in season one, but inspired by that we have made a real, effective story-telling feature of it in season two. The art workload was originally split between several artists to make it manageable… and in season one, I tried to make a design feature of those differences. But in season two, it’s more like a song sung by different voices, each taking a different, overlapping part to make the song work in a way one voice could not.
Gustaffo: As Dan said, the sum of the elements. The characters and the world where they stand. Crayta is a proper page turner, each time I have my first reading of one of Dan’s scripts, it’s a rollercoaster of emotions and events, and it always leaves me wondering about what will happen in the next issue! So, the team is making the best effort to bring that energy to the pages. Dan is the symphony director, and he lays everything out so that we can play the best out of our instruments, to deliver a beautiful and powerful symphony.
Chris: Yes, we’ve definitely raised the bar on ourselves by switching between artists within individual pages this season, and I’m hoping people enjoy those contrasting styles being put so closely together. I think Dan has also upped the tempo on the scripts for these issues too, and I can’t wait to hear how much of a page-turner we’ve created!
Describe season 2 in three words…
Dan: Gripping. Dynamic. Ideas. (Which you can read as a sentence. Or three descriptors. Or both!)
Gustaffo: Gets even better!
Chris: Intrigue, Action, Intensity!
We couldn’t let the opportunity pass to get Becky Tyler’s take on her starring role in this season, so we got in touch with her to find out what the creative experience was like from her perspective.
Tell us a little about your previous involvement with Crayta.
I was approached by Kirsty [Kirsty McNaught — our long-term accessibility consultant] to help test out an EyeGaze interface for Crayta on Google Stadia around April 2020 during the first lockdown. I started with basic mode as the advanced mode at that stage did not work with the EyeGaze controller input. I found it easy to use and before long I was creating my own games and enjoying the functionality of Crayta which allowed me to be very creative.
The first proper game that I made was called Aliens Moving and I entered it into the Summer Game Jam in August 2020 and amazingly it won! This made me very happy because it raised funds for the charity SpecialEffect which is a charity very close to my heart. They adapt computer games for disabled players like me, and I have done a lot of work with them in the past, most notably helping develop and test an EyeGaze interface to Minecraft. It was from this project that I got to know and work with Kirsty, who knew that I would love Crayta too!
Now I am working on a bigger game called Yogventures for my favourite YouTubers, the Yogscast. There are loads of good tutorial videos on YouTube and a supportive community on Discord, so there’s lots of help for anyone getting started with making their own games.
What was your initial reaction at being approached to appear in the Crayta comic, written by the writer of Guardians of the Galaxy?!
I was very excited when I was approached to appear in the Crayta Comic, it is an amazing opportunity to see my character used in this way!
How did you find the process of designing your character Becca’s different appearances and environments, and what was it like to work with Gustaffo, Dan and Chris?
The process of designing my character Becca and her appearances and environments was very interesting. I love art and I do some paintings myself using EyeGaze, so it was awesome to see how a professional designer and illustrator works. It was great to work with Gustaffo, Dan and Chris, they were very nice to me, and patient waiting for my inputs.
What was the most important thing that you wanted us to consider in terms of how your character was represented in the comic?
The most important thing to me was the way that Becca communicated with other characters in the comic. It is not easy being nonverbal, and people often misjudge me because of my lack of speech, so it was important to me that Becca could communicate well through her technology and that she was respected and listened to by the other characters and not looked down upon because of her disability.
What are you most pleased with in terms of how Becca turned out?
That’s a difficult question because I can’t pick any one thing in particular, as I love everything about how Becca has turned out!
How close is she to you in real life, and is there anything she has that you wish you had in the real world?
Becca is quite close to me in real life, she certainly looks a lot like me and has the same attitude and loves her technology and gaming. I love her wheelchair a lot, and I actually asked my physiotherapist to find one for me like it!! I would also love to be able to communicate by using my thoughts one day, it think it would be a lot quicker than having to stare at letter and word grids with my eyes.