Writer Danny Lore Introduces Readers to Queen of Bad Dreams
Vault Comics’ Latest Sci-Fi Series Launches This WednesdayMain Art by Jordi Pérez & Dearbhla Kelly Comics Features Vault Comics
What would you do if your dreams could come to life? What if you didn’t have a say in the matter—and it wasn’t just the good dreams making their way into the world? Out April 24th from Vault Comics, Queen of Bad Dreams explores a world where the mysterious Morphean Annex is tasked with tracking down and dispatching rogue dreams, called figments, that are wreaking havoc in the waking world. An exploration of the power of dreams, and what leverage that provides to those in a position to exploit them, Queen of Bad Dreams is an engrossing sci-fi tale with captivating art from Jordi Pérez and colorist Dearbhla Kelly.
Paste Magazine spoke with Queen of Bad Dreams writer Danny Lore about what brought them to Vault, the power of dreaming and what readers can expect to see in this week’s Queen of Bad Dreams debut.
Paste Magazine: Okay! Let’s begin at the beginning: give us the elevator pitch for Queen of Bad Dreams.
Danny Lore: Queen of Bad Dreams can best be described as Paprika meets Blade Runner. In a world where “figments” from our dreams can become reality, it is up to Inspector Judges like Daher Wei to determine if they can stay in our world. Our story starts when she’s assigned to track a figment named Ava—and finds powerful people trying to interfere.
Paste: And how long have you been working on Queen of Bad Dreams?
Lore: Queen of Bad Dreams started as a short story concept a couple of years ago, actually, but it was within the past year that it evolved into what you’re seeing now.
Paste: Did much change in that process, going from a prose work to comics? What made you decide comics was the right medium for Daher and Ava’s stories?
Lore: The focus of the story was always taking the myth/trope of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and thinking about what happens when she’s fully divorced from the men around her. As a short story, this was a much quieter tale, a smaller case that reflected what would have been an Inspector Judge’s caseload.
But with a world like the one that Daher and Ava live in, there’s so much potential for bigger stories: Daher’s family, for example, and making sure Ava has a real voice—and the type of people that create barriers for both women. Plus, knowing that I’m writing for a team like Jordi Pérez and Dearbhla Kelly really alters how I’d approach a story, in the best ways. So the core and theme has remained the same, but it’s all expanded in really exciting directions.
Paste: Jordi and Dearbhla bring something really special to this—how did you link up with them, and how did you know that Vault was the right home for this?
Lore: I’ve known Dearbhla for ages; we’ve floated in the same internet circles for a long time. She’s so talented and thoughtful, that the second the opportunity arose for me to work with her, I basically would have done whatever it took to be on her team. I met Jordi through Vault, and the moment I saw his art, it was just exciting! Jordi consistently takes my breath away with the pages he shows me. I’ll loosely describe a room and he just takes it to an entirely different level—really changing how I approach scripting.
As for Vault, I’d met Adrian [Wassel, Vault Editor-in-Chief] on a non-Vault project, which allowed us to talk about our story philosophies, and editing approaches. I greatly admire the way that Vault highlights a diverse range of stories and creators, and so I took a chance, and asked Adrian to check out the story. The more we chatted, the more it was clear we were on the same page about where this story could go, and it was a perfect fit.
Paste: It feels like Vault is really dedicated to giving creators a lot of space and room to breathe and explore these very big themes in a way that’s very personal to them—what’s progressive is to bring everyone to the table and give them a chance to explore and see where it leads.
Lore: In my experience, the team at Vault really believes in their creators, and in the visions that their creators are trying to get across. And that’s been a very welcoming fact for me, as someone starting to dip into the comic world as a creator. It’s sometimes very scary (and difficult) to find that sweet spot between BIG THEMES and ENGAGING STORY, and what Adrian does very well as an editor is help you find where that is for you and your book. There are a lot of moments as a newer creator where you can waffle on the grandness of your book, and Vault is very much like, “there are big voices and big stories out there—how can we best bring them to the table and encourage them?”
Paste: In the first look at Queen of Bad Dreams you gave Paste earlier this year, you talked about this being a story about dreams, the good and the bad, and about who gets to dream what. Who does get to dream, in this world? What prompted the creation of the Morphean Annex?
Lore: So everyone “dreams” in the traditional sense in Queen of Bad Dreams. The emergence of the Morphean Annex was a response to the discovery of psychic abilities that allowed figments (people and objects) to “pop” from dreams accidentally. On a very literal sense, anyone is still capable of laying in bed and drifting off and dreaming of flying, or that awful “exams, but naked” nightmare, and that kind of thing.
However, the world of this book is just like ours in other ways. People have dreams, but those in power get to make decisions about their “relevance” or “importance.” It’s a world in which we know the dreams of those in power, because they get to enact them on our realities with money and politics and oppression. It’s also a world where a nonbinary character like West may have dreamed of their lives going in a different direction, and women like Daher and Ava have to fight for their dreams to even be acknowledged.
Paste: You mention the dreams of people in power, which would bring us very literally in the book to Ava—could you talk a little more about her? It feels like for Ava, this is also very much a story about who gets to exist where, and why. She’s a good dream, until very suddenly she isn’t.
Lore: So you will get more of Ava’s backstory soon, but she’s kind of what happens if a black woman became the intersection of 500 Days of Summer and Black Widow—or, rather, was intended to be that. She’s intensely capable and gifted in a lot of ways, but because of the way that dreams work, she’s never existed in a world where she has CHOICE before. She’s fighting not just for her dreams, but for the very right to HAVE them. She’s both running from the dreaming world and running to…well, she’s not sure yet, but even RUNNING is new to her. But unfortunately, the power of her dreamer doesn’t end when she enters our world—it is simply implemented in a new way.
Paste: This is very much Ava and Daher’s story, but we’re introduced to it through Viv, a community leader who runs a figment shelter and, coincidentally, is also Daher’s ex-wife. Why did you want to make Viv our point of entry into Daher’s experiences with Ava and the Chase family?
Lore: I think that it’s important that a character like Daher have a family. In a lot of noir-inspired pieces, the protagonist is an island, or people from the past are Bad News. In a story that’s so much about dreaming, and what people want, I needed Daher to have a connection to the world that’s not her job—and for me, that was through Viv. Viv, who isn’t wrapped up in the same Morphean Annex nonsense that Daher is, but knows Daher’s heart better than anyone else—including Daher.
Plus, when we know the kind of woman that held Daher’s heart for as long as they were together, I think we can begin to put together an idea of Daher’s dream world.
Paste: You mention the importance of Daher having relationships outside her work, but her relationships within the Morphean Annex feel very unique as well for this kind of story—particularly with West, who seems to genuinely like and respect her rather than being a begrudging partner. Can you talk a little more about that?
Lore: I love Daher and West’s relationship. West is the reason that Daher is in the Annex, and has served as her mentor over the years. As the story continues, you see that the two of them are a really good fit for one another—West has a very different POV than Daher in the Annex, and what one is good at, the other is aware that they need a bit of help with.
I wanted Daher to have someone in the Annex that they could go to for advice, but not like a child to a parent—but as a coworker she respects, as a fellow brown and queer person facing the likes of the Chases. This isn’t to say that they won’t get frustrated with each other, but I wasn’t looking to set up a relationship like True Detective season one, for example, where the frustration is the first thing we see. Daher and West have enough outside negativity to deal with.
Paste: Will we get to see more of West and that relationship as the story unfolds?
Lore: Absolutely! It was important for me to do two things: one, not create a world in which there are natural partners (West and Viv in different spheres) where they just vanish from the narrative, and two, not create a black nonbinary character that is there for a wave and a wink. West, and their relationship with Daher, stays important—and we may even find out a few things about West, as well!
Paste: You mentioned Blade Runner, and I want to go back to the art on that. The blend of Jordi’s really bold lines and Dearbhla’s very moody colors give the book a dreamy vibe that’s appropriate and very intriguing in a book about dreams coming to us, rather than the other way around. Is that intentional?
Lore: Both Jordi and Dearbhla are really brilliant. They work together really well, balancing the weird and the action in a way that makes it really easy to follow. I feel like Jordi really brings home that Blade Runner feel, while making you wonder what would happen if any of the characters just popped off the page, like figments from dreams. Dearbhla’s work makes the dreams dance across the page—I have NEVER gotten over what she did on that Scribble Monster in the first couple of pages, and she keeps that energy throughout the whole book. So yes! Intentional—but born entirely of their geniuses, and not mine!
Paste: What are you most excited for people to experience when they read the debut issue of Queen of Bad Dreams?
Lore: This is going to sound like a roundabout answer, but it’s true, so give me a moment. One of my favorite franchises is Nightmare Before Elm Street. Totally different tone and point, aside from being dream-related. What always made Freddy scary to me, though, wasn’t the moments they showed on the screen. It was after the movie, when the lights were off, and you would imagine—how would he get to you? What dream/nightmare would you have where he’d pop up? That’s what MADE the character for me.
In a similar way, I really hope that when people are reading Queen of Bad Dreams, they see this world, this world that’s as diverse as their real world, but Weirder and Wilder, and they start wondering what kind of figments would populate our world. What dreams of theirs are strong enough to take on a life of their own!