Artist and illustrator Raya Golden has an extensive travel resume. Originally from Manhattan, Golden wound up in Montana for high school, and then San Francisco for art school at the Academy of Art University.
"The main reason I went there is because, unlike a lot of art colleges, it's required that the teachers be working artists," Golden says. "I was so in love with the program and teachers."
Art was in her blood. Her mother worked as an editor for fantasy publishing mega-brand Tor Books and, Golden says, she grew enamored with the covers she'd find on projects laying around the house. She also says she was a comic book fan as far back as she can recall, sneaking peeks at her mother's copy of Watchmen, falling in love with Tank Girl—as we all do at one point or another—and sinking her teeth into the work of Jhonen Vasquez of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and Invader Zim fame. But while she toiled at art school learning the ropes of illustration and book cover design, the industry shrank rapidly in conjunction with the rise of Photoshop.
"Between when I got [into college] in 2002 and graduated, as my nose was to the grindstone, I didn't realize book covers were being replaced," she explains. "Jobs kind of dried up."
Fast forward to 2010, and Golden wound up taking a job with Santa Fe's favorite citizen, George RR Martin, as his art director. This means she's done things like design the logo for the Jean Cocteau Cinema, Martin's art house theater, and she says he trusts her eye completely. She's worked for Martin since then, but in 2015, he approached her with an unproduced pilot script for a television show about cops and aliens he'd written called Starport. He wanted it adapted into a graphic novel. "I didn't think saying no was an option," Golden says with a laugh.
She finally finished the project (it took her roughly three years from start to finish) thanks in part to Albuquerque-based colorist Rachel Hilley, and its world premiere is set for Santa Fe's Big Adventure Comics as part of a special signing and speaking engagement with Golden.
So what's it about? At its most simplistic, Starport is the story of Chicago police working in the shadow of Earth becoming the newest member of an intergalactic collective of planets. Hardboiled cops, futuristic weapons and anti-alien extremists abound—but everything threatens to come to a head when an assassination plot is uncovered.
"I have these taglines I've been telling people," Golden says, half-jokingly. "Like, 'It's NYPD Blue but in Chicago and with space monsters,' or 'If Futurama ate Law & Order and had a food baby, it'd be Starport.'"
Essentially, and without trying to lean too much into likening it to other properties, Golden says Martin was going for a Hill Street Blues meets Babylon 5 kinda thing back in '94, which allowed her to take some of the more serious aspects of Starport—including elements from cop shows that have evolved to become stale—and alter them for her adaptation.
"I wanted to make sure it stayed true to his original idea, so 85 percent of the dialogue is the same, but I sort of changed how it's viewed or pulled certain things into the future," Golden tells SFR. "For example, I had to change this part where cops can't figure out a VCR … but keep to his original cadence—it's kind of serious gumshoe, hardcore, but I took these things that in the last 20 years have become tropes and made them tongue-in-cheek."
She hopes this might lead to other graphic novel projects, perhaps even Starport 2. But for now, she's taking things in stride and enjoying the relief of completing the massive book.
"I'm nervous to see how the world is going to like it," she says, "but I'm not so proud as to tell people what they should like. I'll just wait and see."
Raya Golden: Starport Talk and Signing
5 pm Wednesday March 6. Free.
Big Adventure Comics,
418 Montezuma Ave.,