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Long before we worked together, I respected Kevin Melrose’s instincts on picking creators to watch. So when he advised the Robot 6 audience to read Victor Santos‘ webcomic Polar, I was intrigued. That interest only grew when Jim Gibbons (one of the best editors working in comics) told me Dark Horse was collecting Polar’s first season in Polar: Came from the Cold (which ROBOT 6 previewed in late September); I knew I wanted to interview the Bilbao, Spain-based artist.
In addition to discussing the 160-page Polar hardcover, set for release on Dec. 11, we also touched upon the upcoming Furious, a Dark Horse miniseries with his Mice Templar collaborator Bryan J.L. Glass, set to launch on Jan. 29. (For additional Furious information, please read Albert Ching’s September interview with Glass.)
Tim O’Shea: You are very clear at your website in terms of the influences that inform Polar: Came from the Cold. “The story uses a minimalistic and direct style inspired by movies like Le Samurai (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1967), Tokyo Drifter (Seijun Suzuki, 1965) or Point Blank (John Boorman, 1967) and novels like The Killer Inside Me (Jim Thompson, 1952) or The Eiger Sanction (Trevanian, 1979). Polar is also a tribute to artists like Jim Steranko, Jose Muñoz, Alberto Breccia, Alex Toth and Frank Miller.” I would love to discuss each and every element of those sentences, but I will just focus on two elements. How did you first find out about films like Le Samurai? When did you read your first Steranko story, and what was it?
Victor Santos: The first Steranko book I read was the Outland adaptation. I was studying fine arts, and I hadn’t really had a great deal of exposure to U.S. comics. I’d read a lot of superheroes books in my childhood, but the manga explosion of the ’80 and ’90s caught me just in my teenage years. Actually, it was during my university years when I discovered the great U.S. artists like Eisner, Ditko, Crumb, Toth, Caniff and dozens more (thanks to friends I met there, never the professors). I discovered an old Spanish edition of Outland in a street market. Wow, that stuff blew me away! The big panels contrasting the little panels, as well as that “heavy black lighting” … This edition was a big, European album size, so the double-page spreads are gigantic. I began to research. These were very intense years for me; I was absorbing all the American history of comics at the same time.
Seriously, it’s beautiful and bleak, telling the story of “the world’s most deadly spy” Black Kaiser, who’s ripped out of retirement by an assassination attempt that places him “on a collision course with a stab-happy torture expert and a seductive but deadly redhead. His mission only ends if he dies or kills everyone out to get him, and he’s not in the habit of dying.”
Arriving Dec. 11, the 160-page comic has been rescripted for print. You can get a taste of Polar, and some of the new dialogue, below.