Writer’s Commentary: Katana Collins Discusses ‘Cherish’ #1 From Dynamite Comics
by Olly MacNamee
Cherish #1 is a new series from Dynamite erotic-novelist Katana Collins, who has given us an exclusive writer’s commentary that really goes into great detail. In fact, I’d say she covers pretty much everything you’d want a Writer’s Commentary to include! Thanks, Katana!
[+++ WARNING: Possible SPOILERS ahead! Buy and read the book, then return here for some awesome commentary! +++]
Hey all! Cherish #1 is finally here! I’d love to go through and fill you in on some of the inspirations, inside jokes, easter eggs, etc. But it’s full of spoilers! So read the issue first!
COVERS and CONCEPT:
I’m sure you all know, but this character and the overall idea for her story wasn’t my creation. I was actually brought on pretty late in the process! There was already an artist chosen (the lovely and talented Gabriel Caitanos). There was also already a couple of covers finished by Marc Silvestri and Brett Booth. A few of the variant cover artists had already been chosen. There was even an outline for the series and a more detailed description of some ideas for issue one.
When I came on, the team was really receptive to my ideas to shift some of the characters around, change motivations, the introductions, incorporate flashbacks and even toss a little romance into the mix…. Because, I mean, c’mon. Have you MET me?
I fell in love with ALL the variant covers I was shown and I couldn’t believe the heavy hitters we had drawing these. We already mentioned Silvestri and Booth, but add into that mix Eric Canete and Soo Lee? I was in love.
Fun Fact #1: I had no idea her hair was green while in the Cherish costume! It wasn’t in any of the materials first sent to me and none of the character design or art had been colored yet! So when I first saw the colored cover, well into the process, I was like… Oh. Ohhhhhh! Okay, this is fun!
Fun Fact #2: The character of Rose had been drawn and designed, but there wasn’t any clear indication of who she is or how she fit into the story yet. It was really fun to play around with that character (which you’ll see a lot more in future issues as well).
Page one of issue one is always a challenge! There’s so much you need to accomplish in one little page. You need to set the scene, introduce the characters, and create action and intrigue.
So here, I felt two of the most important people to tee up were Valerie and Cherish. And I wanted there to be enough questions to keep readers turning the page.
-We set up that they’re at an engagement party…
-But, uh-oh, come panel 2, we see that Cherish’s soon-to-be mother-in-law isn’t quite the joyful woman we saw giving that toast in Panel 1. Also, Cherish’s fiancé is missing.
Some people use music to set the tone and ambiance while they write. For me, I like finding quotes to inspire my themes. I don’t always include them in the story, but for this series, I felt it really worked.
Ahhhh, the reveal of Connor!
Though I don’t have a ton to say about this page, it’s a pivotal reveal. It’s the first time we see Connor and he shows us that Amelia/Cherish isn’t who she says she is.
PAGES 3, 4, and 5
As often as I can, I like to start (and end, I suppose) issues with either action or intrigue. So, I knew that I wanted a large action sequence within the first five pages of this book. And I knew that I wanted Connor to be mortally wounded.
FUN FACT: While I am very much a plotter when I write—I like to know where my story is going and how it’s going to end—I sometimes take a different direction and choose to intentionally not choose an absolute ending. I find when there’s a thriller/mystery angle to a story, it helps if even me as a writer doesn’t know exactly who-dunnit/who’s going to die. Case in point, when I wrote this scene, I wasn’t sure if Connor was going to survive or not. I had a general plan for either scenario, but I wasn’t sure what the story would need yet.
I also like to create a “What if” sheet while I’m writing. It’s just a random document where I put bullet points of ‘what if” ideas one after the other. So for example, in this book, some of my ‘what if’ ideas were:
What if Connor dies?
What if Rose is an ally?
What if Connor knew Cherish’s identity all along?
If you haven’t realized by now in my writing with Cherish and Harley Quinn (and even for those five of you who read my collaborative graphic novel Café Racer back in the day), I LOVE flashbacks. I just love them, haha.
So every issue, there will be flashbacks to show why Cherish is who she is today, while also giving us an actual glimpse into who her father was.
And I loved that with Cherish’s return to the states as an adult, she truly returns to the scene of the crime… the exact apartment she and her father moved to. And the apartment where her father was murdered.
This is our first glimpse of Chaya! Cherish’s friend, nanny, and the guardian who took over after her father died. And even though it’s a small thing, this page truly illustrates what a team Cherish and Chaya are. They work in tandem and do so flawlessly. Cherish bumps the paperwork over, distracting Rachel, the realtor, while Chaya swoops in to take the thumbdrive from Rachel’s computer.
Another little piece you’ll see in most of my writing (even my romance novels… or rather, maybe especially my romance novels) is several homages to coffee and tea! I’m a big fan of warm beverages and I’ve always believed that simple scenes of having tea/coffee/ can reveal in little ways who a character truly is.
We also learn that Rachel is officially doing some dirty dealings with her real estate business. This took some annoying research for me as a writer to figure out what Rachel should have been doing illegally! It was a hard balance to find that was bad enough and would work in tandem to benefit Unicon. I talked to a couple of realtor friends of mine (one of whom is named Rachel! Hi Rachel! Hi Cassandra!).
In chatting with these friends, that’s how I came up with this fraudulent activity that she was doing on behalf of Unicon, as well as (as you discover later in the issue), working with the Russian mob to rent out docks for illegal distribution.
Who doesn’t love a gorgeous splashy shot of a badass woman overlooking the city?!?! I mean, really. There’s not much more to add here. I just knew the pacing of this book was intense and we needed at least one page that allowed for some breathing room!
Here’s a little fun fact… I’m NOT a sci-fi girl. I don’t really read the genre much. I don’t watch many sci-fi movies. There’s a small handful of properties that I DO love (such as Futurama, Guardians of the Galaxy, etc.). But when it comes down to it, I’m more of a fantasy fan than sci-fi. So when it came to writing the technology and weapons in this issue, I leaned heavily on my editor, Joe, and also bounced ideas off of my husband (who LOVES sci-fi!). I think my literal script for panel 4 of this page was: The walls are lined with sci-fi gadgets and weapons.
That was it! Ha! Poor Gabriel… it was totally up to him to create what those gadgets and weapons looked like.
Fun Fact… I HATE coming up with character names… maybe even more than I hate coming up with sci-fi weapons! (Just kidding, coming up with sci-fi tech is actually fun and helps me stretch my creative brain a bit.) But coming up with names?! I find it SO hard and not fun at all.
Because I hate it so much, I accidentally use people’s names I know A LOT. It’s rarely intentional. You may not even be a person I know well, but maybe I met once briefly. Then when it comes time to name a character, my brain goes back through its files and draws out a name that I THINK I’m making up, but actually is someone I met once.
It’s happened before. Many times. Case in point? I’m pretty sure I knew a Laura Baker in college. Or at least a girl who was named something similar to that. She might have been Laura Belker. Or Lauren Baker. But it’s close…
I do that a lot. So you’ve been warned. If you meet me and tell me your name, there’s a good chance it’ll end up in one of my books.
This page shows more of Cherish getting her key card, equipped with the highest clearance that gives her all the access she may need to the building. But right at the end of this page, she hears people coming. Not just any people, but Rachel the realtor, Warner, her soon-to-be new boss, and Valerie… The president of Unicon, whom she suspects is responsible for killing her father.
PAGE 13 &14
Cherish makes a run for it, but not before she hears Valerie mention that there’s a Wednesday 2:00 PM meeting. Unfortunately for Cherish, a guard notices that Valerie’s door is ajar. She escapes by leaping out the window, pressing a button that unleashes a nanotech hang glider.
Fun Fact: That cool idea for a hang glider was part of the original outline and story ideas sent to me before I begin writing.
I told you that I loved flashbacks, right? Well, here we are again. This page focuses on what little Cherish remembers of the night her father was murdered.
It’s late, Cherish wakes up and comes down the hall, peeking around the corner. She sees her father talking to someone in a heated discussion. But all she sees of the man and remembers is the carved bird on his meerschaum pipe, and the smell of his tobacco.
With any trauma, especially when experienced as a child, the memory is fuzzy for her. And as this mystery man pulls the trigger several times, one of those bullets grazes her cheek, leaving a scar that’s both literal and figurative.
At the end of this page, Cherish jolts awake from her dream… or rather, her nightmare.
Originally, I had wanted the smoke from the cigar to be surrounding cherish all through those last three panels on the previous page. So that when she woke up on this page, we would see that the smoke in the current timeline was actually the steam from the coffee Chaya was holding.
Now, of course, sometimes things just don’t work out quite the way you envision them when you’re writing… especially if you’re not an artist! And sometimes the art comes out even better than you had imagined when writing. As we learned in the process of these two pages, the extra smoke would have likely just muddied up the art. And while the concept was cool, it definitely wasn’t needed for the story.
I love a good quippy back and forth dialogue! It’s hard to get it in to comics a lot, namely because space is so limited. And when you have a dense story such as this, it’s tricky to waste precious real estate on dialogue that doesn’t accelerate the story forward. However, as a storyteller, establishing the relationships of the characters is equally important to the plot. It’s a total balancing act that many of us try to hit just right.
I think this page strikes that balance really well! We see Chaya and Cherish being a little snarky with each other, choosing what color suit Cherish will wear to her first day of work.
“Black or Gray?” Chaya asks.
“Black. Like my heart,” Cherish answers.
And finally, Chaya retorts, “And your coffee.”
It shows how well they know each other. It shows their humor. And it’s absolutely the kind of conversation that two sisters might have one morning before work.
Even though they’re not sisters by blood, these two women are family in every sense of the word.
Cherish is being shown around the office on her first day of work. There is mention of the “incident” that happened the night before. She’s told that none of the executives will be in today, including her new boss, but for today all she has to do is answer the phones.
In the very next panel the phone rings, but does Cherish answer it? Absolutely not. She lifts the phone, then hangs it right back up.
Instead, she slips into Valerie Nolan’s office to snoop around…. and is very quickly caught by Connor Nolan, the man we saw stabbed in the first scene.
Thinking on her feet, Cherish remembers the meeting that Valerie mentioned last night for tomorrow… Wednesday at 2:00 PM. Only Connor has no idea what she’s talking about. There IS no meeting tomorrow!
Thus begins their meet cute!
At an impasse, they check to see who’s right, and lo and behold, there IS a meeting on Wednesday! Cherished learns on this page that Conner is Valerie’s son. And we established some flirty banter back and forth with them.
PAGE 19 & 20
These next four pages are probably my favorite scene in this issue! You’ll see a nanotech bug on this page and I found an article from CNBC that covered that these nanotech explosive insects are truly being developed as weapons around the world. According to the article, they could also be programmed to inject toxins into people, contaminate food or water, or could even become self-replicating.
When I read this article, as terrifying as the prospect was, I knew I had to include that in the book…
But why stop at a nanotech bug? Why can’t Cherish have a nanotech bird who also does her bidding?
Is it even really a comic book if you don’t have at least ONE mysterious shadowed figure in it!?!?
This character (which, by the way, his name is Garrett!) becomes a very important character to the story and to Cherish’s life!
And he makes the surprising choice to activate the nanobug explosive, thus killing Rachel and stripping Cherish of her chance for, not only revenge, but also to get much needed answers to the questions surrounding her father’s murder.
I can’t wait for you to see all the exciting things that happen in issue 2!
Cherish #1 is out now from Dynamite Comics