New Image Comics series Skyward arrives with not only a unique high concept — a world in which gravity has been greatly depleted, meaning much of normal life is conducting while floating in midair — but also an unexpected creative team. Joe Henderson is a first-time comic book writer, and Lee Garbett is one of the more prolific superhero artists of the past decade, with credits including Batgirl and Loki: Agent of Asgard.
Yet it’s their shared connection with a certain charming devil that helped make this pairing happen: Henderson, a TV writer who’s worked on White Collar, Almost Human and more, is the current showrunner of Fox’s Lucifer, based on the DC/Vertigo character. Garbett illustrated DC’s recent Lucifer comic book series, which was launched to coincide with the success of the TV show. Though they have never actually worked together prior to Skyward, a social media connection between the two provided enough of a spark to make the freshly debuted creator-owned series a reality.
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CBR spoke with both Henderson and Garbett about Skyward, which stars Willa Fowler, a young courier who has only known life in a gravity-deficient world, having been born after “G-day” — the day the laws of physics changed. Henderson and Garbett spoke about the origins of their collaboration, building a world mostly sans gravity, their approach to bringing authenticity to diverse characters and the different types of stories they’re looking to tell in the 15-issue run of Skyward.
CBR: Joe, Lee, I know that you both have a shared history with the character Lucifer, but I’m curious — how did this pairing come about, specifically to make Skyward a reality?
Joe Henderson: It’s funny, the tagline for the book is a bit odd: “From the writer and artist of Lucifer! Er, kind of. Because one’s from the TV show, one’s from the comic, and they’ve never worked together before.” Super catchy, right?
I’ve been a longtime fan of Lee’s since Loki: Agent of Asgard. On that book, he did exactly the kind of thing I needed for Skyward — taking big, crazy ideas and imbuing them with humanity. We’d tweeted back and forth a little bit due to the Lucifer connection. So, when I went looking for an artist, I sent him a DM asking if he could recommend anyone. Secretly, I was hoping he’d want to do it. But come on. What were the chances?
Lee Garbett: Haha. Yeah, that was a pretty cool day. “The showrunner of TV’s Lucifer has DM’d me!?!” As I read it I hoped the angle was that I’d be interested, too but I was equally aware Joe may have genuinely wanted me to recommend somebody else.
But tough! I’d read it first, fell in love instantly and refused to let anyone else near it. I’m not a believer in fate but this was as near as it gets. It struck such a chord with me. It couldn’t have felt more natural a fit than if we’d collaborated on it from the outset.
Joe, this is your first comic book writing credit, but obviously you’ve spent time in the world as the showrunner of a DC-based TV show, and, of course, a comic book fan. Has writing comics always been a goal for you? What was the transition from TV to comics like?
Henderson: It has — I’m a longtime reader and have a frighteningly encyclopedic knowledge of late ’80s, early ’90s Marvel comics. (Ask me anything about Darkhawk. I know everything. God help me). My current reading list is a pretty even mix of Marvel, DC and creator-owned.
Writing a comic has been a dream goal. So, when it finally happened, I didn’t want to be one of those writers who comes in and thinks he already knows how to write a comic. It’s such a different medium, and the first thing I wanted to do is respect that. Mike Costa, who is on the Lucifer staff, really helped me learn the ropes early on. And I studied all the scripts I could find online to really learn the craft.
The biggest difference I found was that, in TV, I can write a scene without really knowing what it’s going to look like. I know what the characters will do and say, but I like to leave the rest up to the director. With comics, you need to choose each moment within the panel, but still leave room for the artist to surprise you. I think it’s really strengthened my writing in general to step outside my comfort zone a bit.
In either medium, the most important thing is the character you’re going on the journey with. And I absolutely love Willa Fowler, our protagonist. She’s the perfect character to take us through this low-G world — fearless, infectiously buoyant, almost a reflection on the world itself. And that’s mostly due to how Lee brings her to life in every panel.
Lee, this is your first creator-owned comic — after many years in the work-for-hire realm, how has this experience been different for you?
Garbett: Yes, this is my first, full-on foray into the creator-owned world. I really enjoy the work-for-hire projects and getting to play with the characters I’ve grown up loving, and still love to this day, but I’d always wanted to get something out there that I had a stake in and that I could help build from the start. It just seemed a sensible move — as long as it was the right project. A few opportunities have presented themselves along the way, but it was Joe and Skyward that really had me feeling confident enough to turn down some very cool work-for-hire offers and to jump in with both feet.
When it came to actually starting, I wasn’t too worried. I’m pretty disciplined when it comes to schedule, so I knew I wouldn’t need a day-to-day editor, chasing me down for pages. I knew I could structure the book as I would any work-for-hire gig and turn in work on a regular basis. That’s proved to be the case, and I’m drawing issue #7 as issue #1 is about to come out, so we’re in very good shape. There’ll be no waiting on issues with this book.