By: Nicole D’Andria
A triple threat of “punk,” In Our Dreams Awake brings together dreampunk, steampunk, and cyberpunk. Co-creator John McGuire gives us a glimpse at the realities and dreams explored within this fantasy adventure comic book, which takes inspiration from the likes of Sandman, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Blade Runner, and A Nightmare on Elm Street.
Jason Byron lives a literal double life through his dreams. In one potential reality, magic reigns supreme while technology has been banned; Jason lives as a portrait painter and loves Laura. In another potential reality, crowded cities are filled by aliens with gills; Jason is the head of a cyberpunk gang and loves Fem’a Lin. But which of these supposed dreams is real? Rebellion abounds as In Our Dreams Awake asks this question and more as these two worlds begin to collide.
This four-issue mini-series was created and written by John McGuire (The Gilded Age) and Egg Embry (RPG Journalist). McGuire wrote the fantasy world section while Embry wrote the cyberpunk one. Each of the worlds also features different artwork along with different covers. Edgar Salazar (Iceman) illustrates the fantasy world with inks by Genaro Olavarrieta and letters by Embry. Rolands Kalniņš (Red Winter) illustrates the cyberpunk world with letters by Alexander Lugo (Co-Founder of 10 Worlds Studios). It’s truly a team effort as these two parties bring together two worlds within In Our Dreams Awake.
The project is seeking to raise $2,000 by April 29, 2022, at 11:00 AM EDT. Backers can get a digital ($5) and physical ($10) copy of In Our Dreams Awake #1 with several options for variant covers and other potential rewards. You can check out the full variety of reward tiers on their Kickstarter page.
But for a closer look at the reality of In Our Dreams Awake, I interviewed creator John McGuire about the mini-series below.
Me: You include in both the credits page of your comic and at the top of your press release the Henry David Thoreau quote “Our truest life is when we are in our dreams awake.” What does this quote mean to you personally as well as In Our Dreams Awake?
John McGuire (JM): There are so many people who are stuck in a life they aren’t always content with and they like to play the “What If” game with their lives. Thinking that if they only chose a different path their life would be infinitely better than their current one. But I like to believe that we are never completely stuck. That there can be a better life, but we have to find that thing, hobby, job, person, whatever to show us our true calling. That thing we might not even allow ourselves to know about while we go through our waking hours, but in our dreams… the truth can be revealed. And if you can find that truth and work your way toward it, then you will live your “truest life”.
With In Our Dreams Awake, we wanted to tell a story where the reader isn’t entirely sure which life might be the true life. That we have a character who is a bit lost in both versions of himself… doing the best he can to hold his life (lives) together with the people he loves. However, it is a struggle for him to do that because both his worlds are messy and dark. So he does the best he can, but he is yearning for that something more (even if he doesn’t know exactly what that may be).
Me: How would you describe Jason Byron and the two loves of his life?
JM: Jason is a man who isn’t completely happy in his current situation. He wants more from both his lives. And he wants more for both Laura and Fem’a Lin.
Laura loves Jason, but also sees that her husband still isn’t ready to put his more reckless behaviors behind them. Deep down she worries that his nightly activities may bring trouble down upon the both of them. She is ready to leave those fantasies of youth and begin a family.
Fem’a Lin loves her Jason as well. She sees him as someone who can not only remove her from this insane struggle between Jason’s Gang and her brother, Ma’Ahen Lin’s Crew, but also find a way to leave it all behind and start a new life somewhere out there in the stars.
Me: In Our Dreams Awake offers a variety of “punk” including dreampunk, steampunk, and cyberpunk. What aspects of each of these are reflected within your work?
JM: Fundamentally, the various “punk” genres incorporate a version of the world where there is some level of rebelling against a status quo. Sometimes this means it is the world itself that the characters must fight and other times it is about an oppressive government/system that is being undermined.
Jason is a character who is trapped in his respective dreams/worlds. Whether that means he is at war with alien gill creatures in a flooded city of the future or one where a group of magi has an oppressive rule over anything which might disrupt the balance of power. Jason rebels in a very quiet way in the more fantasy world with his keeping of the telescope, but underneath he wants to be more bold in his opposition. His future self is the exact opposite, taking the bold and brash approach to everything while desperately trying to find a way to just live a small life somewhere else.
Neither version is completely happy with their own choices, longing to find another path.
Me: The two dreams (or realities) featured in this first issue are illustrated by two different artists. What can you tell us about these artists and why each of their styles was picked for these specific dreams?
JM: When Egg Embry and I were coming up with the original concepts for In Our Dreams Awake, it became apparent the comic might work best by dividing the worlds among two different artists. There would be the obvious bit of immediately letting the reader know this was a new place, a new world. At the time we were initially scripting, Edgar Salazar and Genaro Olavarrieta came across our radar. Edgar’s pencils combined with Genaro’s inks just seemed tailor-made for the fantasy portion of our story. With Rolands Kalnins, it felt like a bit of fate. His stuff is obviously very different from Edgar’s, and really had a great look of the grime and gritty cyberpunk style world we were thinking of when considering the future world Jason would find himself in.
Me: If you had to choose between them, which of these two worlds would you live in and why?
JM: Probably the fantasy world, as I think I could find a way to keep my head down and get by in that world. With the future world, the world is flooding, the cities are sinking, and everyone is out for themselves. Seems an easy world to live a very short life!
Me: What is the number one reason why people should pledge money to your project?
JM: If they want to read a story that has been over a decade in the making. If they want to read a story about how the grass is not always greener on the other side. If they want to read a story about love and loss and how far someone will go to try and find that little speck of happiness that we all deserve (but don’t always get).
Me: What inspirational words do you have for aspiring comic book writers?
JM: I still am an aspiring comic book writer. Every new idea, every new script, every new Kickstarter brings with it the same fears and stresses of whether the story is good enough. Which is another way of wondering if I am good enough to be doing this.
You don’t have to compare yourself to others. There are people who might be way ahead or way behind, but what really matters is that I’m improving every day. So I remind myself that no matter what, just by writing that script, I’m leap years ahead of where I could be. And tomorrow, I’ll be a little further along than I was today.
Me: Promote yourself! What other projects are you working on that we can look forward to in the near future, comics or otherwise?
JM: Aside from the In Our Dreams Awake Kickstarter, I’m in the process of doing edits on a science fiction novel called S.O.U.L. Mate, which I hope to release sometime in the Fall. And assuming this Kickstarter goes well, I’d love to start in on issue five of my steampunk comic The Gilded Age.
Do you have a crowdfunding project? Want to be interviewed about it and have the project featured on “Kickstart/IndieGogo/GoFundMe/etc. the Week?” Then message me on my website. Also considering checking out the official Kickstart the Week: Interviews with Comic Book Kickstarter Creators Volume 1 on Kindle.
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