Sina Grace is a busy, busy, writer whose dreams and ideas for comics pour out of his head with an ease that can take you by surprise. After speaking his piece about his time at Marvel writing and championing his Iceman series, Grace is moving on to new things at other publishers to show off what else he has to offer an industry that’s still very much in need of fresh perspectives.
When I spoke with Grace about his upcoming work at Boom Studios a few weeks back at San Diego Comic-Con, we got into why the idea of Los Angeles being such a profoundly lonely place has caught on, and why people still want more Power Rangers films even if the most recent one didn’t perform all that well. Regardless of the franchise, whether they’re films or comics, Grace insisted, the thing that keeps people coming back almost always ends up being the quality and the value they find in the work.
Pulliam-Moore: I feel like LA’s reputation for being a lonely place comes from a lot of the transplants, which makes me wonder what inspires a native Angelino to write a comic about being lonely in LA?
Sina Grace: It’s not lost on me that LA’s a lonely city. Even though I’ve always grown up in apartment complexes around other people, and feel I’ve always had tribes, whether it’s my biological family or the chosen family of friends I have around me, the loneliness of the city isn’t lost on me. I see it everywhere. Even though I don’t experience it the same way, I’m endlessly fascinated by it and the fact that it’s something that so many people feel.
Pulliam-Moore: When someone says, “Ugh, everyone’s so fake in LA,” there’s a certain degree of performance going on there about Stereotypical LA People™, but there can also some substance to the stereotype at times. What do you think people are tapping into when they express feelings like that and about the loneliness they feel in LA?
Grace: So I think this is the weird thing about Los Angeles that other cities aren’t quite as guilty of: Everyone’s so nice to your face and everyone speaks as if they’re going to follow through on these plans. “We have to get coffee, we have to meet up.” Everyone keeps these kinds of relationships going because it’s an industry that’s hinged on entertainment where someone can have more importance to you later on, so they try to maintain these peripheral, but positive connections with one another. I actually think it’s a very friendly place. I don’t think people are mean. I just think... that there can be a discord between what someone says and what they mean.
Pulliam-Moore: There’s a lot of riffing on that dissonance between the things folks say and what they mean in Ghosted in LA, but it tends to centre on the things people say, andthink, really, about themselves, especially with Daphne.
Grace: 100 per cent, yeah.
Pulliam-Moore: The first issue established how much Daphne does for other people, to the point where she doesn’t really know who she is. When she’s by herself in that scene by the pool, she says she knows who she is, but there’s a subtextual question mark there. In your mind, who is Daphne?
Grace: Honestly? Daphne Walters is my complete opposite. I’ve always known what I wanted — I knew that I wanted to make comic books since I was in grade school. Spoiler alert it, worked out. Daphne doesn’t have that. Going forward, one of the major subplots for the series is that she doesn’t even know what her major in college is going to be. For me, as a writer, there’s a narrative reason for that.
I think in Western culture and Western storytelling, there’s always this sense of destiny or a clearly-defined path for a hero, but I think there are much more valuable stories to be told about someone who has to find it, make it, mess up, try again and then they really have to keep doing that. Daphne’s privileged and she has the ability to make herself into whatever she wants to, and juxtaposing her with an apartment building full of ghosts who don’t have that mortal luxury is where I want the richness in Ghosted In LA’s story comes from.
Pulliam-Moore: Going forward, what aspects of LA’s past and culture are we and Daphne are going to be able to experience because of her relationship with the ghosts?
Grace: The ghosts of Mycroft Manor all died at different points in time, but all in LA, which I think is interesting. Something I’m not going to put on myself as a storyteller is, like, this idea that I have to be exhaustive and responsible with every historic detail, but what I am aware of is that when people talk about Los Angeles, often they’re talking about Hollywood, specifically, that La La Land, near Silverlake, hyper-privileged viewpoint.
The ghosts really helped me play around the Hollywood of it all. Not playing around with it, but literally focusing on other things about LA. Los Angeles has this huge, untapped history that existed before and outside of Hollywood, but the industry likes to make so many narratives about itself, those are what we end up thinking about.
Pulliam-Moore: Let’s pivot a little and talk about Power Rangers. What’s your personal connection to the series? What was your big anchor point?
Grace: I was huge fan from the beginning of Mighty Morphin’. I’d done some stuff with the comic book, but I had never been given an opportunity as great as this one to help Ryan [Parrott] co-write Go Go [Power Rangers].
Go Go is actually a book that I responded to the most because I just...I love people. I love the interpersonal stuff. I love looking at that part of their lives and then contextualising it with just like a modern lens. And you know and then obviously like I should say where I tapped out as an original fan was probably around. Turbo? That was when I was like “OK, guys. I need a break.” But it’s been awesome to come back and get caught up on the franchise to see how this entire universe as changed.
Pulliam-Moore: As someone who’s deeply familiar with the franchise, nothing ever really changes in Power Rangers. Things are good, then they’re bad, then they’re back to being good, and that’s, you know, very much a part of comics storytelling in particular.
Grace: Very true.
Pulliam-Moore: Your arc picks up after Shattered Grid, which was huge just in terms of how it really tried to shift the entire Ranger mythos in a new direction. How did you approach following up what’s happened to the Rangers while also telling a story that doesn’t feel as if it’s just going to end up resetting or minimising the events that preceded your arc?
Grace: I think it’s already evident in issue #21, that just came out, sort of how we are able to play with the repercussions of Shattered Grid and the canon. Something you don’t get a lot of with the Power Rangers canon is the psychological component and that’s what the value-add of Go Go is to me.
There are going to be ripples, we’ll say, to Shattered Grid, and you’re going to get more of that as every issue comes out. But that being said, I think there’s a lot to play with him, a lot to mine from on an emotional level that will really kind of speak to what we’re bringing to the mythology.
Pulliam-Moore: Going forward, what do you think a future Power Rangers film would need to be more successful than the last?
Grace: It’ll need a great cast with good chemistry, impeccable outfits, and dope Zord fights. I thought this most recent movie had great ingredients, but the recipe was just bad.
Pulliam-Moore: How so?
Grace: I think it should have had three more servings of fights in the costumes, two teaspoons of humour, stuff like that. I think a lot of that was there. I thought the cast was actually really great together. I just thought the way everything was utilised was not my version of Power Rangers.
Something else I want to add, we were talking about the way Power Rangers can feel cyclical at times. But something I was talking to Ryan about was how great it would be to be able to see the Zords in battle before they get into formation, because that’s something you just don’t see much of. That’s what I love about Go Go, being able to see an artist absolutely slay these battles in imaginative ways they never really did in the show.
Pulliam-Moore: We’ve gotta talk Iceman, Marvel and that Tumblr post.
Grace: [laughing] Sure.
Pulliam-Moore: There were a lot of things about the post that rang true to folks who read comics that aren’t focused on straight, white guys. The kinds of comics you hear about once or twice, but it’s obvious there isn’t much marketing or a solid publicity push behind them.
What is it that you think makes publishers inclined to assume that readers aren’t able to read the tea leaves so to speak about you know, the behind the scenes drama that leads to things not working out?
Grace: I feel like I said what I said, and that’s a question for them. I can’t speak to why they make the decisions they make. I can only speak to how I was affected by it. I think it would be very exciting to hear them answer.
But ultimately it comes down to a company deciding to really support a book all the way or not at all.
I think that’s why a movie like Black Panther succeeded. Because every aspect of it was met with great consideration and great thought and also with everyone you could sense that they were empowering the right people to make this decision all the way down to, like, the hair design. It’s not the same thing, but with a book like Iceman, there was one guy trying to do everything, and also trying to explain why the book was valuable to a publisher that had a million other things going on.
I’ve been thinking a lot about something Trevor Noah said about Scarlett Johansson’s remarks about what roles she should be able to play. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but he was talking about how these stories need to be told and roles need to be inhabited by these communities that find themselves placed into a marginalised position. Again I’m not saying it well because he said it, but he used the word “inclusion” in a way that didn’t feel pandering. And that’s what I’m trying to say: that there just needs to be a sense of inclusion that isn’t pandering.
I think I said it in the Tumblr piece — if you’re going to invite us to the table, invite us to the table. Treat us like humans, and have a conversation with us. I think even if Marvel had been like “you’re only here to do this,” that would have been better than “do this, and if things go well, maybe you’ll get a chance to do that, buddy,” you know? I guess I’m still sort of finding the words and that’s why I’m kind of like, the next move’s on Marvel.
The second issue of Ghosted in LA and Go Go Power Rangers #22 are set to be released next week, August 14.