An Interview With Mike Phillips About ‘The Tessellation’ Kickstarter

by Benjamin Hall

Mike Phillips is one of the producers of the documentaries She Makes Comics (2014) and The Image Revolution (2014). He is also editor-in-chief of Sequart Organization; Which is a non-profit website that provides scholarly examinations of comics and pop culture. Mike is also the co-creator of some comics such as Necropolitan (2017-2019), and his latest The Tessellation (2021-Present). I will note that I have done writing and editing work for Sequart Organization at various times in the past. So Mike and I know each other from that. However, this interview is purely happening on Comicon due to his merits, and nobody at Comicon gains from this Kickstarter.

The Tessalation #1 (2021) cover by artist Hernan Gonzalez, colorist Javi Laparra, and letterer Julian Darius

Benjamin Hall: What is the premise of The Tessellation?

Mike Phillips: It’s a series that’ll revolve around the string-theory idea of infinite realities, that any choice you’ve ever made and the opposite choice you didn’t make both happened. All of the quintillions upon quintillions of choices you could have made exist in their own realities. Plus, a shadowy organization has figured out how to travel between the realities and is selling expensive trips to them. In “elevator pitch” terms, it’s Sliding Doors meets The Game. I want to focus not only on the mundane choices we make, like the hundreds of split-second decisions that occur every time we get behind the wheel (and what those decisions can lead to), but I also want to focus on bombastic ideas, like “What does war between alternate realities look like?”

And it’s worth mentioning that the first two issues will be messing with the typical comics format; there are four stories per issue, and all four stories will be told in rows, with each story on the page at the same time. In other words, you could just read the top row only, throughout the entire issue, and then go back to the beginning and read the second row, throughout. (And sometimes the rows interact.) Think of it as the most unique anthology you’ve ever read.

BH: How different is it in tone from your other comic Necropolitan?

MP: The main difference is that Necropolitan is much more fantastical. I mean, “every awful person in history Game of Thrones‘ing it in Hell” is way out there, compared to The Tessellation. I know it might sound silly to say, but I want this new series to feel as realistic as possible. That’s literally the premise; all possibilities are real and happening somewhere in the multiverse.

Necropolitan #2 Cover art by artist/letterer Steven Legge

BH: What type of audience are you targeting for this series, specifically genre-wise, age range, and type of comic reader? For example: Do you think casual comic readers can understand the narrative?

MP: The genre will vary from story to story. The first issue leans heavily on domestic drama, with a slice of international intrigue in the background. The second issue will be much more of a variety, including political drama and post-nuclear survival. The best part of this series is that, with a multiverse to play in, any genre (as long as it’s based in realism) is on the table. If I want to tell a romantic story set in 2024, post-secession Wyoming, after Donald Trump has settled into his role as the King of this new country and is in the midst of “creating jobs” to help build his “Beautiful, Super-Duper Rectangle of Protection” border wall to keep the “dreaded” Left-Wing Mob out, I can. As far as the age range for The Tessellation, it’s at least PG-13, but I’m leaning more towards R. And I think that it’s for comics readers who like to ponder moral questions, and who like to work for their entertainment a little.

BH: How long do you plan on it to be?

MP: As much as I’d love to do this infinite-realities story infinitely, I’m sure that both funds and this aging husk won’t last forever, so let’s say 30 issues. I think that range will give me plenty of space to fully flesh out the beginning, middle, and end that I have in mind.

BH: Who else is on the creative team?

MP: My brother from another mother (artist) Hernan Gonzalez drew/inked it. He’s a dream-come-true collaborator. He read the script and immediately told me that he’ll do whatever it takes to make The Tessellation a success, and he wasn’t kidding. To have that kind of buy-in from a collaborator is amazing. I love this man. He took my baby and made it his baby too. It’s been such a wonderful experience.

On colors is the fantastic (colorist) Javi Laparra. This guy is so nice and accommodating. Zero ego and open to anything. I feel like I hooked up with a dream team. I honestly had an imposter-syndrome pang of fear when I got the first colored pages back; I thought, “Oh god, I hope the story is somewhere near as good as the art.”

The lettering and book design are by my Sequart and Necropolitan partner-in-crime (letterer/designer) Julian Darius. He’s been my comics mentor since I met him in ’04. (So you can blame him if this story stinks.) And the very funny and very Canadian (letterer) Steve Legge will also have some lettering duties.

The Tessellation #1 (2021) page 8 by artist Hernan Gonzalez.

BH:When is the Kickstarter launch date and funding goal?

MP: The launch will be early February, and we’re asking for $2,250. Any money we net will go to finishing #1 and starting the pencils/inks for #2.

BH: What are some of the rewards people who pledge to the Kickstarter can get?

MP: We’re still working out the logistics, but at this point I really want to offer a physical copy of the issue, and I think it’s gonna happen. A cool early-bird reward will be the entire Martian Lit comics library at a deep discount price. And we’re gonna get Hernan in on the action with original art. Donors at this level will “invent” three alternate-reality versions of themselves, and Hernan will draw it as a triptych. For instance, you could tell Hernan, “I’ve always wanted to be an astronaut, or a marine biologist, or a baseball player,” and Hernan will draw you as all three in a landscape-style, three-panel, alternate-realities triptych.

Thanks to Mike for this interview. The Kickstarter campaign for The Tessellation #1 is currently going on. It can be found here.

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