Interview: Wyatt Kennedy and Luigi Formisano Sink Their Teeth Into "Nights" #1

Find out how the stars aligned for Wyatt Kennedy and Luigi Formisano to create their upcoming Image Comics series "Nights" in this in-depth interview.

Nights Interview Cover
Image: Image Comics
By: Javier ReyesMay 9, 2024, 7:10 AM

“Nights” is a new comic that I have been obsessed with ever since I got to review an early copy of it. I was pulled in immediately by its wonderfully weird world and charming cast of supernatural misfits. Naturally, I wanted to know more about “Nights” and the creativity behind such a beautifully made debut issue.

Lucky for me, creators and all-around awesome people Wyatt Kennedy and Luigi Formisano were happy to let me pick their brains about “Nights” and the story of how they made the incredibly promising new series. In this interview, we cover everything from their experiences working on creator-owned comics to the creative juices that flow throughout the streets of Santo Pedro, the fascinating city where “Nights” takes place. We talk comics, movies, anime, fashion, and much more! So let’s get right to it!

Wyatt Kennedy and Luigi FormisanoImage: GONKBONK

Working on creator-owned comics:

What are some of your earliest memories/experiences related to comics? What was it that made you realize you wanted to pursue a career in comics?

Wyatt Kennedy: I mean, this is gonna sound cliche, but it was honestly reading Amazing Spider-Man # 1. As a kid, I didn’t really have access to a comic book store, so finding one anywhere was a blessing. I was at a Dollar Tree with my Mom and Sister, and I was in the aisle with, like, the crappy coloring books and stuff and I saw they reprinted Amazing Spider-Man # 1 and I asked my Mom for it, and the rest is history. To be honest, I never really envisioned a career in comics. As an off-putting child, I wanted to be a movie director, and then as an off-putting teenager about to graduate high school, I lowered my expectations to think could become a successful screenwriter. By the time I started applying myself to pursue that dream though, the film industry was changing into something I didn’t recognize and it felt like this lengthy goalpost was pushed a million more miles backward. I ended up meeting cartoonist Brandon Graham, who’s since become a mentor and great friend to me. He liked my failed television pilots but suggested I was boxed in by the limitations of budgets and thought I’d make a great comic writer, and so the curse has been passed onto me.

Luigi Formisano: One of my earliest memories is about reading old Disney comics back home in Italy. Still, I don’t remember the day I consciously decided to bring stories to life as a living. I kind of always knew. It’s the only thing I’ve always wanted to do.

Was doing creator-owned/indie comics always what you envisioned for yourselves? Or did you grow up with dreams of doing work for Marvel, DC, or other well-known properties?

WK: The concept of “creator-owned” or “indie” was such a foreign concept to me up until the 2010s. I definitely always wanted to write a handful of superhero movies, specifically Spider-Man and Jonah Hex, but as far as dreaming of writing like Batman or the X-Men, it just never spoke to me. It always felt too intimidating.

LF: Of course growing up my taste changed, and I started reading Marvel, which was the most appealing reality to be part of - however, in the last few years I’ve realised how much an editorial reality has to offer, and how good it is to be a part of it.

How would you describe the sense of fulfillment you get from working on creator-owned comics?

WK: To be perfectly honest, it’s a dual-edged sword. The industry and the market are fickle. There is no guarantee something’s going to be a hit, so you just kind of sit back and hope for the best. If the series lives and makes it to the end, you did it on your terms and with your best people and that’s the best fulfillment. If the series dies or gets canceled because of sales, it’ll be easy to blame a lot of outside factors, including yourself. I think it’s something that comes in waves in hindsight like you’ll eventually realize how special the time was that you spent making your baby. Or maybe not, who the fuck knows!

LF: As I've told Wyatt several times, everything still feels unreal [laughs]. I'm unbelievably grateful for the opportunity and the trust Eric Stephenson gave us.

On the flip side, what have been the most difficult parts about doing creator-owned work?

WK: Having to work with a numbskull like Luigi, who I constantly have to whip and berate to get anything done. He’s my personal footstool, even when he’s not drawing. No, but seriously, I’d say the most difficult part is just making sure all your ducks are in a row to go to print. The lead-up to an issue is mostly relaxed, but the minute you’re going to print soon, holy shit. It’s like running a 5K marathon with a cinderblock in your ass.

LF: Having worked on a handful of other publishers' IP, the flip side of a creator-owned book is that it's on you to figure out how stuff works (characters; world; the whole universe), visually and plot-wise, no one will help you make sense of your shenanigans. But if you are creative enough, and are surrounded by an exceptionally talented team, making a creator-owned comic book is far more rewarding.

Prologue from Nights #1Image: Wyatt Kennedy & Luigi Formisano

About Nights:

Can you tell the story of how you two first started collaborating? Having read Bolero recently, I was pleasantly surprised to see Luigi as the artist for the really fun Author’s Notes at the end of each issue.

WK: Well, like Motown Records owner Barry Gordy, I was looking for cheap talent. No, it’s a lot less glamourous. I’d found Luigi’s Instagram and was just immediately taken by his work, and BOLERO was getting closer to being greenlit and I was like “Okay, I’m basically in the industry, I can start reaching out to other people I wanna work with.” I was quickly taken aback by just how much chemistry Luigi and I had from just talking about stuff we love.

Considering a teaser for Nights appears already within Bolero, how long has the comic been in the works between you two? What was the creative spark that started the whole project?

WK: Shit, I mean for me this has been in the works since 2017, but as a comic, I’d say since about late 2020? We initially started talking about this sci-fi book that we’d still like to do one day (god permitting) but one night I found an early script for NIGHTS and I pitched it to him and he was like “Okay, fuck the sci-fi book, this is the one we NEED to do right now."

Can you share the elevator pitch you gave to Image? Did things go as smoothly as you hoped?

WK: It’s like, such an unspectacular story [laughs]. So the idea was mostly there, but the pitch was a lot gentler, more of a character study on the cast, a lot less over-the-top supernatural antics or even the comedy and non-sequiturs. I wrote this whole lengthy pitch document with some early art from Luigi and Eric Stephenson said yes within like, half an hour? Like I said, it’s so underwhelming!

Nights is planned to be 31 issues long, which is a sizeable run in comics by any measure. Can you describe what it has been like to map out and develop such a huge story in the making?

WK: I work like a lot of my personal heroes (Phil Lord, Miyazaki, etc.) in that I have a pretty general idea, but it evolves so much over the course of development and usually for the better. I definitively know how the series ends and how we’re gonna get there, and we have a ton of issue ideas that move the story, characters, and special one-offs where we’re gonna mess around with the format and presentation, but I’m one of those people who’s just never satisfied and you’ve gotta rip it out of my hands to actually get it to Luigi sometimes. He loves it.

Preview of Nights #2Image: Wyatt Kennedy & Luigi Formisano

What are some of the creative inspirations you’ve looked towards during the development of Nights? The nods to Studio Ghibli and Evangelion have been fun to see throughout the book.

WK: I’m glad you’re catching those! (even if they’re as subtle as a brick.) I’d say the biggest influencers are the things I grew up with that left a notable impression on my young, dumb, squishy brain. Tenchi Muyo, FLCL, Dazed and Confused, and early Odd Future music. It’s just all kind of in a blender, but there’s a lot of contemporary stuff too that’s just for me, like Freddy Freaker. I just think he’s neat.

LF: Hayao Miyazaki's films are a big inspiration for sure, we know we wanted to give Nights the same feeling of nostalgia and lost youth you'd find in his works. Personally, I also loved giving Santo Pedro a spooky vibe inspired by "Soul Eater" and of course Tim Burton's movies.

The work by colorist Francesco Segala and letterer M.L. Mirabella adds so much charm to Nights’ already charming aesthetic. How did you choose them to round out the book’s art team?

WK: Something I’d been warned by numerous folks in the industry was how difficult it was to find a colorist, and a letterer, let alone good ones! We went through like three potential colorists, and none of them quite fit what we wanted. Francesco was just a lucky find on Twitter, and then when I found out he’d known Luigi, I felt confident he could give it the look Luigi’s art deserved and also take into account the specific tones we wanted to portray and he’s only exceeded them. He’s a brilliant guy and his collaborator Gloria is equally as impressive. Letizia is for me, in a lot of ways, the hero of the book. I feel like my dialogue has all these frustrating rhythms and breaks, and Letizia is always dialing them to perfection with font, size, and space. She takes my ramblings, makes them cohesive, and then ties them up in such a fantastic presentation.

At the end of #1, you announce the Shirt of the Month Club where readers can order sweet t-shirts that coincide with the story of Nights. How did you come up with the campaign? It’s such a great concept and something I’ve never seen done in comics.

WK: Honestly, I ripped the idea off from The Venture Brothers [laughs]. Back when it aired new episodes and I was in high school, after the episode came out they had their own T-Shirt club, and being a very small young teen with zero money, I always felt bummed I couldn’t get one. You know, I think the allure of exclusivity is really potent. Like, you make something fucking cool, and you tell people “Hey isn’t this cool? Well, it’s gonna be gone forever after this.” Do you wanna be the person who missed out? It makes things special, but I’m also someone who firmly believes in endings, so when we say these shirts will never come back, we mean it. Plus the shirts are just fucking cool, and the people doing them are brilliant artists who we only directed to say “Make it look fashionable even if someone’s never heard of the book” because I feel like a lot of comic-related clothing is some of the cringiest stuff I’ve ever seen. I’m a little bit of a fashion snob.

Preview of Nights #3Image: Wyatt Kennedy & Luigi Formisano

Fun stuff: 

From the top of your heads, can you name your top 3-5 movies, anime, comics/manga, and video games? You can go beyond 5 if you want to!

WK: Movies? Hmm, well right now I’d say Moonlight, Kung Fu Hustle, and maybe 3 Days of the Condor? Ask me in a week, it’ll be different (besides Moonlight). Anime would be FLCL, Birdy the Mighty’s OVA, and Outlaw Star. Comics/Manga, I’d say Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou which I think is just…breathtakingly brilliant, Alita: Battle Angel’s original run, and J. Michael Straczynski’s early Spider-Man run (pre-Mike Deodato/Civil War stuff). I’m not much of a gamer, my wife and editor on the book Alana is and I enjoy watching her, but probably Nier Automata, Metal Gear Solid 3, and Psychonauts 2.

LF: Gosh that's a tough one! Movies-wise, definitely "The City of Lost Children," "An American Werewolf in London," "The Devil's Backbone," and "Kubo and the Two Strings." In terms of comics, I'd say Azaceta's "Outcast" and Bergara's "Coda." I know Wyatt mentioned our favourite Spider-Man run, so I'll say Mark Waid, Paolo Rivera, and Chris Samnee's run on Daredevil, Naoki Urasawa's "Asadora!". Anime, I'd say "FLCL," "Made in Abyss," and "Heavenly Delusion." I don't play video games as much as I used to, but I really enjoyed "Sea of Stars."

What have you been reading/watching/playing lately that you recommend people to check out?

WK: I’d really love it if more people read Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou as I mentioned above. My wife and I watch a new movie every night, so recently we FINALLY saw Barbie, which was excellent, and I showed her In Bruges, and we just wrapped up watching My Adventures with Superman, which is so fucking good, and How To: With John Wilson.

LF: I'm in the middle of my annual Terry Gilliam marathon, so I'd recommend anything by his big British brain.

Who are your personal favorite artists/writers/creators you think people should be looking out for?

WK: You know, since NIGHTS really chugged production into high gear and I’m not a very online person, my eye for creators has slowed down a lot. I love Marco Ferrari’s work, and we’re doing something together for Humanoids. I’d love to work with The Pepper (@pepperacae on Instagram) and Alessandra Cioni (@alessandra_cioni on Instagram). For those with an open mind, NSFW artist InCase is making some of the best online comics available, especially their series Alfie. Right now I’m working with Anand Ramcheron on a book that I think is gonna be fucking beautiful, and I’m writing a horror mini-series with my wife with art by Ale Canzenalla (both of them are doing shirts for the club, and they’re fucking amazing).

LF: Folks should definitely be on the lookout for:

They are all incredible artists.

How would you tell readers to prepare for a month-long vacation trip to Santo Pedro? What are some of the essentials people need when visiting/ living in such a crazy place?

WK: Sunscreen, comfortable shoes, and a loved one.

LF: Definitely your best goth outfit, a black parasol, and your scorpion pet.

Preview of Nights #4Image: Wyatt Kennedy & Luigi Formisano

Be sure to have Nights #1 on your pull lists when it hits stores on October 11, 2023!

TAGGED: Image Comics