We’ve got the exclusive cover reveal for the the wildly wonderful, soon-to-be released Steven Universe guidebook. Plus, we take an in-depth look at the world of the Crystal Gems straight from Steven Universe creator Rebecca Sugar herself.
The full cover for Steven Universe: The Guide to the Crystal Gems is below, right after our brief email chat with Rebecca Sugar, former Adventure Time storyboard artist and writer and creator of Steven Universe. According to the Amazon, the guidebook is told from the point of main character Steven. Sugar and Steven breakdown everything you want to know about the Crystal Gems, including facts about the origins of Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl’s powers and secrets. But first we had a few questions for Sugar:
Since you are making a Steven Universe Guide Book, just how complicated is this world beyond the series? How much more is out there that we don’t know, can you tease a little? Any other characters secretly fused that we don’t know about? Care to tease anything new?
Rebecca Sugar: There is a lot to the world of the show that is still hidden! The show is all from Steven’s point of view, and there’s a lot going on on the Gem Homeworld that he doesn’t know about at all, and a lot of rules that exist there that the Gems we know don’t follow! Amethyst doesn’t know a lot of this either, since she was created on Earth. The Guide Book contains everything that Steven knows at the moment, plus a few logistics about his birth that might be a bit outside of what he’s been told. Steven’s going to learn a lot more soon on the show, about what each of the Crystal Gems are supposed to be… it’s very different than the way they’ve been living on Earth. It is very unusual for Gems like Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl to be living and working together the way they do, almost as unusual as it is for Steven to exist!
How do you balance the fantasy versus real life moments that you include in this show? Do you have to pull yourself back on a space ship and ask, what if we put this in the Donut Shop?
Rebecca Sugar: It’s always a balancing act with the sci-fi fantasy and the reality in the show! But we sort of have to do it for the sake of Steven, because he’s living as a Gem and as a human, and everyone around him wants him to have a balance there… Greg and the Gems want that for him. I think, when we’re writing, even when stories swing far into human settings or Gem settings, and into different genres, there always has to be something relatable for it to be interesting, so even when we do a story on a space ship, the thing that matters is that Ruby wants to find Sapphire, and Steven has to find the Gems, and Garnet has a point to make about her relationship.
I think the challenge with having these really different characters coexisting is to find stories that radically different people can relate to, I hope the show can bring really different people together in the way that we try to bring really different genres together by finding some core thing that resonates with a lot of people.
You mentioned in a past interview you are really inspired by video games for, what video games? How do you try and recreate past treasured video game songs in this series?
Rebecca Sugar: I’ve always been a massive fan of Legend of Zelda, Ocarina of Time! I love the songs in that game, that they’re so simple and iconic, I love the story, I love it aesthetically. I also really love The Neverhood and Skullmonkeys, I love the music in those games, and I love the world, it has this incredible fleshed out history and it’s gorgeous, it’s all claymation. Both those games had a huge impact on me in terms of music, and world building.
Real fast, rank all the songs in Steven Universe. JK I would never make you pick…but it’s “Cookie Cat,” right? But if you could throw out a few songs and the inspirations, I would be eternally grateful.
Rebecca Sugar: “Stronger than You” was really special for me, because I got a chance to talk to Estelle (voice of Garnet) about it when I was just getting started! It was really intimidating to write a song for Estelle, since she’s such an amazing singer/songwriter, so I really wanted her advice. She asked me what the song was about and I said, you’ve been split apart into two Gems and they get separated, but they find each other and form you again and then take on the Gem that split you, and you already know you’ll win because your relationship is stronger than ever, so it’s a fight song, and a love song, and a victory song all at the same time. She said that reminded her of the song “Gold” by Spandau Ballet, and of the theme from “Fame”!
So I listened to those a lot while I was working on it! I also got to work with Jeff Liu arranging it and making sense out of this rhythm I couldn’t quite figure out and it’s always wonderful working with Jeff, and Estelle put her spin on it when she sang it which was just amazing, then my composers, Aivi and Surasshu, knocked it out of the park. Every song is a really fun challenge but that one was my biggest endeavor to date I think and I had so much great help.
Steven Universe has really pushed gender norms and supported queer representation on television, was it always the plan to show real love and a loving nurturing “non traditional” family on this series, or did the characters just fall into place as you began working on it?
Rebecca Sugar: The show was always very much about family, because Steven is based on my younger brother Steven Sugar, and I really wanted to get at the unconditional love and support I get from him and try to give to him and that we get from our parents, so that’s always been the foundation of the show! I don’t believe that those themes are exclusive to traditional families or heteronormative characters, and I’m very uninterested in trading on genericisms, or talking about what is or isn’t “normal.” I think so much entertainment deals in those terms that almost everyone is left feeling abnormal if there’s anything specific about their life at all. I hope to represent people who have felt a lack of representation, but I hope to also show people who have felt represented that they can also relate to characters that are not heteronormative, and to families that are not traditional, maybe even more so than the more generic characters and families that they’ve been seeing on TV.
The gem fusion and reveal of Garnet in “Jail Break” can you talk a little bit about what that reveal meant for Garnet and Steven?
Rebecca Sugar: All of the Gems were holding off on letting Steven in on their harder-to-understand Gem attributes, like Amethyst’s origins in the Kindergarten… I think Garnet felt confident to show Steven Ruby and Sapphire pretty much after she saw him form Stevonnie with Connie, since he’s had his own first hand fusion experience (she’s been giving him fusion-specific advice since earlier than that though, she tells him he’ll be great at fusion back in “Giant Woman”) but it had to be special, hence the Birthday plan… she definitely didn’t want Steven to watch her get destroyed and meet her halves in prison cells. Steven does understand though, to some extent, what it means for Garnet to be Garnet and he’s seen first hand how much Ruby and Sapphire love each other, and he’s going to ask more about it and he’s going to learn more about it soon. Actually… the Gem he knows the least about at this point is Pearl.
Stevonnie the androgynous fusion of Steven and Connie was a big game changer character, did you expect the kind of reaction to Stevonnie received? What do you love about Stevonnie? Is Stevonnie agender or bigender…. or is gender is even a concern in Steven Universe?
Rebecca Sugar: Stevonnie is an experience! The living relationship between Steven and Connie. What I love about Stevonnie is that we are working with a metaphor that is so complex and so specific but also really, really relatable, in the form of a character. Stevonnie challenges gender norms as an individual, but also serves as a metaphor for all the terrifying firsts in a first relationship, and what it feels like to hit puberty and suddenly find yourself with the body of an adult, how quickly that happens, how it feels to have a new power over people, or to suddenly find yourself objectified, all for seemingly no reason since you’re still just you… and they are still just them, they’re Steven and Connie who you already know and relate to, and if you do you can feel, for this episode, what all of those feelings are like. And they feel it too and that stays with them. I knew that was bound to be interesting to people, for at least one of all those reasons!
What current cartoons helped pave the way for Steven Universe?
Rebecca Sugar: I learned a huge amount from working on Adventure Time, that was my first job in animation… Pen Ward and the crew on Adventure Time were hugely inspiring to me, they gave me the chance to storyboard and write and encouraged me to write a lot of music and put a lot of myself into that show, and I definitely wouldn’t be making Steven Universe the it is now if I hadn’t had that experience and learned from that team!
And here’s the FULL cover, glorious no?
Steven Universe The Guide to the Crystal Gems releases on October 6, 2015.