Romeo And Juliet, Moebius, Steampunk & More: David Hine On New Sci-Fi Series Sonata

by Olly MacNamee

I’ve not heard much from David Hine since his amazing contemporary rural horror Lip Hook last year, but then I heard about Sonata earlier this year. Well, this Wednesday, the 12th of June sees issue #1 reach comic book stores from Image Comics and co-creator/artist Brian Haberlin. Seemed like a good time to catch ups with David and quiz him about this new sci-fi fantasy series, the influences behind this story – everything from Shakespeare to Dan Dare – world building, and more. Grab a drink, sit back and take it all in.

Olly MacNamee: In your new series Sonata, you introduce readers to a new, lush world upon which colonists from different worlds who are already fighting over this new planet’s natural resources. Who are the key players, other than the eponymous hero, Sonata, we should be looking out for in this book?

David Hine: There’s a Romeo and Juliet element to this story so look out for Sonata’s opposite number in the rival tribe, the Tayans, who are more warlike than the peace-loving Rans. Brian Haberlin named him Pau. Sonata’s name evokes music, Pau conjures up the sound of a fist hitting a jaw. Each of our lead characters has an absent mother and a clueless father and as the story progresses, the parental relationships become very important. The Lumani include Treen, Mekhon, Hampsun and Belami. If you’re a Dan Dare fan you will spot the significance of those names.

My personal favourite character doesn’t appear until issue 3. Korbys is like Ben Gunn in Treasure Island – abandoned in the wilderness for years, he’s gone crazy living on the local funghi and has a couple of imaginary friends, a lizard called Mr Slinky and a disembodied floating head called Maia.

OM: It’s an interesting concept. Rather than focus on the post-apocalyptic world that these folks have left behind, you chose to focus on the flourishing societies of Perdita, as this new planet is known. A planet that feels very wet and wild from the stunning artwork of Brian Haberlin. How did you come up with this story? 

DH: The concept is very much Brian’s. I’ve been working for over a year now as Brian’s writing partner, developing at least a half-dozen projects, of which Sonata is the first to see print. All the core concepts are Brian’s. With this one he wanted to create a story that had elements of steampunk and the kind of fantasy worlds that Jean Giraud illustrated under his Moebius nom de plume.

OM: There are three major tribes on this planet, aren’t there? All with their own very distinctive beliefs and values too. While Sonata’s community is a matriarchal one that’s at one with nature, their opposite numbers, the Tayans, are more rapacious when it comes to natural resources. And, that’s not mentioning the third, more alien looking tribe, the Lumani. How much work do you put into world building when approaching a project like this? How much input does Brian Haberlin have too?

DH: The way Brian and I work is very organic. He will send me sketches of characters and locations and I build them into the narrative. We speak a couple of times a week to talk over plot points and plans for the way the stories are developing. It’s a very collaborative approach.

Before I came on board, Brian already had designs for the main characters, including the Lumani, the native people who could be noble savages or something far more sinister. The Sleeping Giants were the most visually impressive. They are the key to what is happening on the planet. The legends are that these are the gods of both Rans and Tayans but they have spent centuries comatose and when they do wake they behave like crazy, belligerent children.

There are epic concepts with the sweeping landscapes, monstrous local fauna and the Sleeping Giants themselves but also some small personal stories. Sonata begins as a straightforward battle to control the resources of Perdita but it becomes immediately obvious that there are lots of hidden elements. Nothing is really what it seems and I’m looking forward to playing around with people’s expectations for the characters. If you’ve followed my work you’ll know that I don’t do straight good guys/bad guys.

OM: Any influences behind this brave new world of dinosaurs and sleeping giants? 

DH: I know that Moebius is one of Brian’s biggest influences, visually and maybe movies like Brazil and Blade Runner. For me there are elements of TV shows from the 60s like Land of the Giants, Jules Verne’s novels, Lost in Space, Time Tunnel, and of course anything steampunk. I’ve recently been reading a lot of Robert Silverberg and that has probably fed in, too.

OM: With the cast introduced and somewhat established by the end of this first issue, what can we expect from this book going forward? Sonata is clearly a strong-headed individual who looks like she’d get into trouble easily.

DH: We’re creating grounded characters in a world where pretty much anything can happen. Sonata is indeed the kind of person who is always going to step into whatever trouble is around. She acts first and thinks about the wisdom of her actions when it’s far too late. I like to think of Sonata and Pau as wayward children, but while I as a parent would be worried about my children’s career choices or what kind of dodgy bars and night clubs they are hanging out in, these two are getting into scrapes that are not just life-threatening but ultimately will affect the future of entire planets. So there will be mundane decisions about whether or not to eat a freshly-fried giant slug and then cosmic-scale issues of world-destroying weapons and communing with gods.

OM: Thanks, David, And, all the best with Sonata #1, out this week.

DH: Cheers, Olly and thanks for the interest.

Sonata #1 is out June 12th dream Image Comics/Shadowline.

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