By Martha Delgado
François Vigneault’s Titan, forthcoming Fall 2020 from Oni Press, is a science-fiction graphic novel that focuses on the relationship between main characters MNGR João Da Silva, a terran, and Phoebe Mackintosh, a titan. MNGR Da Silva arrives at Homestead Station located on the moon of Titan hoping to improve the mining colony’s output. He instead arrives to find high tensions between the terrans and titans. Titan explores social inequality through the titans, the giant and genetically-engineered workers at Homestead Station. To gain insight into the issues the titans face, Vigneault’s readers follow the story of Phoebe, a titan who left her fighting days behind and becomes MNGR Da Silva’s assigned union representative.
“I think that almost every little kid draws, and I was no exception,” Vigneault said. As a teen in the 1990s, he recalls that he became “obsessed with comics,” starting with popular titles like X-Men and then moving on to independent and alternative comics, such as the work of Jaime Hernandez. Vigneault would go on to write his honors thesis on Hernandez. From then, Vigneault continued to create his own stories and characters. Titan, originally conceived as final project for a class on comics and war Vigneault was taking at Reed College, explores political themes through the complexities of the titan and terran’s relationship on Homestead Station, which takes its name from the Homestead Strike of 1892.
Color is one of the features that makes Titan stand out. “I like working with a spot color in addition to black and white,” Vigneault explained. “It allows me to create something that is a bit richer, with more depth, without being as overwhelming as full color.” The French edition (Éditions Pow Pow, 2017) featured a purple palette meant to add “a sort of eerie, sci-fi vibe” to the novel, he said. The forthcoming English edition features the use of a red-pink palette. “I think it gives the book a sort of warm, romantic tone that contrasts with the sometimes dark content of the story,” Vigneault added.
“At its heart, Titan is the story of two people from very different worlds who find a connection with each other,” Vigneault explained. One of the ways this happens is through music, which shaped Titan by adding to the setting, inspiring the chapter titles, and bringing João and Phoebe together. “In my own personal experience, sharing music was often a way I connected with people from different walks of life, a bonding element in my friendships and relationships, and a point of entry into other cultures, so it made sense to me for that to be an aspect of the story,” Vigneault said.
Vigneault’s ΦBK membership was sponsored by his thesis advisor at Reed College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in English. The action moved him as Vigneault didn’t think he fit the usual image of a member as he graduated from college at the age of 35. “My background isn’t exactly what I would have imagined for a member of America’s most prestigious academic honor society,” he commented. “I am the child of immigrants on both sides. I grew up fairly poor, and I didn’t take a direct path to college. It was a really nice vote of confidence to find myself in this group.”
Vigneault highlighted the importance of the liberal arts and how his education at Reed College included subjects ranging from biology to law that impacted Titan’s final draft. “I know that a book like Titan would have been really different if I hadn’t gotten the chance to study English literature and the liberal arts in general,” Vigneault stated.
Titan has elements that will move readers and fans of different genres. Vigneault blends romance, action, and thriller into a science-fiction tale that explores the effects of colonialism from the perspective of both the colonizer and the colonized.
Martha Delgado earned her bachelor’s degree in creative writing from UC Riverside, where she was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa in May 2019. UC Riverside is home to the Iota of California chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.