Axel-In-Charge: "Secret Wars" Jam Session Talking "A-Force," "Ultimate End" and More
Of the myriad artists working at Marvel in recent years, Valerio Schiti, who kicks off a two-issue stint this week on Avengers A.I., stands out as one of those deserving a great deal more attention. I’m hard pressed to define what most appeals to me in terms of his work, but Schiti’s knack for distinctive facial reactions ranks high on the list. It’s also an element he and I discuss in this interview (be sure to also peruse the preview of Avengers A.I. #5 on Comic Book Resources). I hope Schiti’s boundless enthusiasm for his craft, which is reflected in his work, comes across in this interview.
Tim O’Shea: The first issue of your two-issue stint (Avengers A.I. #5-6) leaps right into the deep end, as detailed in the solicitations, as Issue 5 tackles the “mind-bending origin of Alexis.” How excited were you when you learned you got to tackle that in your first issue?
Valerio Schiti: It’s great to have the chance to work on such a defining moment for a new character. We don’t know anything about Alexis yet, even if Sam [Humphries] and André [Araùjo] introduced her. We already know what she looks like, some of her abilities but we still don’t know who she really is, what’s her purpose. Usually a normal writer would use a flashback sequence to answer such questions, but Sam is not a “normal” writer. He decided to take advantage of the artificial nature of Alexis to reveal something new about her in an original way, which means that is also a visually original way! I had a great fun drawing this scene and Frank [D’Armata], with his amazing talent for colors, made it spectacular.
In interviews I typically stay away from the “how did you get started in comics” question, but periodically I’ll delve into a question about a book dedication, hopeful for an interesting answer. I was hopeful with good reason with this week’s interview with writer Sam Humphries about the new Dark Horse hardcover collection of Sacrifice, by Humphries and artist Dalton Rose. To learn the death of his father was the push Humphries needed to pursue writing comics was a moment that gave me pause.
In fact, the book itself — about Hector, who through an epileptic seizure departs from modern time and space, back to when the Aztec civilization was in its prime — stopped me in my tracks. Storytelling that maps a psychedelic journey in a coherent and fascinating manner is no easy feat, but Humphries and Rose have accomplished it. Dark Horse’s collection of the self-published series will be released Wednesday.
Tim O’Shea: On a most rudimentary level, let’s talk about the logo design for Sacrifice. Who designed it, [comics designer] Dylan Todd or Dalton Rose?
Sam Humphries: Dylan Todd. Sacrifice largely takes place in the past, but it’s not a stodgy period piece. I wanted the design to reflect a modern sensibility without ignoring the core of the story, which is the Aztec Empire. It was a difficult balance but Dylan killed it. He gave Sacrifice a “face” to people who had never seen the story.
As with any series launch, the recently announced Avengers AI #1 by Sam Humphries and Andrew Lima Araujo already has a variant cover in the pipeline, but it’s definitely one with a retro twist. Revealed on the Marvel Tumblr, Matthew Waite’s variant for the first issue goes back to the 8-bit era of video games, giving a look at Hank Pym, the Vision, Victor Mancha, a Doombot, new character Alexis and 616 newcomer Monica Chang fighting a team of Ultron robots as if it were an old-school, 8-bit Nintendo game.
WonderCon Anaheim 2013 kicked off yesterday at the Anaheim Convention Center, with badges for Friday selling out at some point during the day. Saturday and three-day badges already sold out, so it looks like just Sunday is left if you were hoping to attend but didn’t purchase your badge in advance.
There weren’t a lot of announcements coming out of the show yesterday, and in fact I’m not completely sure what could be considered “WonderCon news” and what was just, um, news, but here’s a round-up of stuff you may have missed from Friday:
• 2014 will bring a crossover between DC’s two Earths, according to Earth 2 writer James Robinson. “If I’m talking about a big event that’s happening in 2014, it’s all these characters meeting each other,” said Robinson, citing Crisis on Infinite Earths and the Justice Society during his spotlight panel in Anaheim. Robinson also said his goal was to make sure the writers involved in the event were invested in the story, and described himself as “the point guy” when it comes to the event, saying that Scott Snyder, Geoff Johns and Dan DiDio are also very involved. Earth 2 is also getting its own Batman, and the book will also feature the introductions of Starman (Ted Knight), Red Arrow (Earth 2’s version of Green Arrow), Hourman, Wildcat, Mister Miracle and Big Barda in the future.
Dark Horse has provided Robot 6 with a first look at the cover for its upcoming hardcover collection of Sacrifice by Sam Humphries and Dalton Rose, announced this afternoon at Emerald City Comicon in Seattle.
Debuting in December 2011, the self-published fantasy/adventure centers on a troubled Joy Division fan named Hector who’s plucked from the 21st century and thrown into the middle of an Aztec civil war. After a nearly year-long delay, the series returned in January with Issue 4; the final issue arrives March 20.
Humphries, who has gone on to write Marvel’s Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates and Uncanny X-Force, told Robot 6 in September that self-published projects like Sacrifice and Our Love Is Real “always on the table for me, when the time is right.”
Sam Humphries and Dalton Rose have provided ROBOT 6 with an exclusive sneak peek at Sacrifice #5, the penultimate issue of their fantasy/adventure, which goes on sale today in print and digital formats.
Debuting in December 2011, Sacrifice centers on a troubled Joy Division fan named Hector who’s plucked from the 21st century and thrown into the middle of an Aztec civil war. After a nearly year-long delay, the series returned last month with Issue 4; the final issue arrives March 20.
Publishing | Todd Allen analyzes the sales of DC Comics’ New 52 titles from their September 2011 launch to the past month. Sales of any series tend to drop off from one issue to the next — Allen compares it to radioactive decay — and when the numbers drop below 18,000 for a couple of titles, DC tends to cancel them in batches and start up new titles to replace them. That plus crossovers and strong sales of some flagship titles has kept the line fairly stable until recently, but as Allen notes, the replacement titles tend to crash and burn pretty quickly, and overall sales have dipped a bit. [Publishers Weekly]
History | David Brothers has a great column for Black History Month, featuring Krazy Kat, All-Negro Comics and other titles by black creators. [Comics Alliance]
Creators | Artist J.K. Woodward (Fallen Angel, Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who) recounts how he and his wife lost everything but their cat and the clothes they were wearing during Hurricane Sandy — and how what happened afterward changed his perspective: ““When things are going right, you really don’t know what kind of world you’re living in. You tend to be cynical. But there has been such an outpouring of support not just here but from the comics community — we did a podcast interview, for example, and I mentioned how we had to go to the laundromat every day because of our clothing situation. As a result of that, two days later I went to my studio was packed full of care packages with toiletries and other necessities. It showed that what should have been a real tragedy turned into a blessing. It gave me a much more positive outlook.” [The Conway Daily Sun]
Thirty-six questions. Six answers. One random number generator. Welcome to Robot Roulette, where creators roll the virtual dice and answer our questions about their lives, careers, interests and more.
Today we are joined by Sam Humphries, writer of Uncanny X-Force, The Ultimates, Our Love Is Real, Sacrifice, Fanboys vs. Zombies, Higher Earth and more.
Now let’s get to it …
Although I had seen the X-Men on an episode of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, my real introduction to Marvel’s mutant heroes was with 1983’s The Uncanny X-Men #173, purchased for me by my mother while I was home sick with one childhood illness or another. That issue also introduced Storm’s ’80s-punk look, meaning that, until I discovered a direct-market store and a back-issue bin a couple of years later, the only Ororo Munroe I knew had a mohawk and studded collar. (As an aside, Paul Smith’s rendition of Rogue, with her skunk stripe, led me to think for the longest time that she was middle-aged rather than a teenager.)
To this day, that version of Storm remains my favorite. It apparently also holds a special place in the heart of Sam Humphries, writer of Sacrifice, Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates and Uncanny X-Force, has launched F Yeah Mohawk Storm, a blog devoted to “comics, covers, fan art, cosplay, and fashion celebrating Mohawk Storm.”
You have to wonder what took so long for this to happen …
It’s become an annual tradition during our birthday bash: No matter how much stuff we line up, people we interview, etc., there are still tons of people we like to hear from and include in our giant New Year’s/anniversary/birthday activities. So, as we have in past years, we have asked various comics folks what they liked in 2012 and what they are excited about for 2013.
Check out Part One, and keep reading to see more of what people shared with us, including details on their upcoming projects. Our thanks to everyone who responded this year. Also, thanks again to Tim O’Shea, Michael May and Chris Arrant, who helped collect responses.
SAM HUMPHRIES (The Ultimates, Sacrifice, Uncanny X-Force)
What was your favorite comic of 2012?
Sacrifice, the self-published fantasy/adventure comic by Sam Humphries and Dalton Rose will return Jan. 16 with Issue 4 after a nearly year-long delay. The final two issues of the acclaimed series are scheduled to arrive in February and March (or, in the words of the teaser, “Now Monthly Until the End of the World!”).
“The whole Sacrifice team has been working hard this year to allow us to return to Sacrifice without additional delays,” Humphries, whose first issue of Marvel’s Uncanny X-Force goes on sale the same day, said in a press release. “Issue 4 is ready to go to the printer, issue 5 is completely drawn, and Dalton is hard at work on issue 6. We’re well within schedule to ship the final issue in March. The book is looking better than ever — we thank our awesome retailers and devoted readers for their patience!”
It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. We’ve each picked the five comics we’re most anticipating in order to create a list of the best new stuff coming out two months from now.
As usual, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell us what we missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.
Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time #1 (of 12): I’m a sucker for Doctor Who, I think I’ve said that before, right …? No surprise, then, that I’m very much looking forward to this year-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the BBC science-fiction show, with each issue spotlighting a different incarnation of the character. That Simon Fraser is providing art helps a lot, too; I’ve been a big fan of his “Nikolai Dante” work for 2000AD for a while. (IDW Publishing, $3.99)
One Trick Rip-Off/Deep-Cuts hardcover: Speaking of things that I’m a big fan of, Paul Pope easily fits that bill, so this enhanced reprint of his Dark Horse graphic novel — with more than 150 pages of rare and unseen work from the same period, including his Supertrouble manga — is far too tempting to pass up. (Image Comics, $29.99)
Star Trek: Countdown to Darkness #1 (of 4): I was very impressed with Star Trek: Countdown back in 2009, and the way it teased the then-upcoming J.J. Abrams reboot without giving too much away, so I’m looking forward to see if this prologue to this summer’s sequel is just as fun. (IDW, $3.99)
Star Wars #1: Brian Wood and Star Wars feel like an odd pairing in my head, but everything I’ve read about this new ongoing series set after the first movie (which is to say, Episode IV these days) seems completely up my alley, and the 5-year-old within me is completely sold on the chance to see more stories set in the “true” Star Wars era. (Dark Horse, $3.50)
Young Avengers #1: Kieron GIllen and Jamie McKelvie pairing on anything is pretty much a must-read for me, but seeing them let loose on Marvel’s teen characters and seemingly determined to make them actually seem like teenagers. … Yeah, this looks like it may be one of my favorite superhero books in quite some time, I suspect. (Marvel, $2.99)
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.
If I had $15, I’d line up to get the this year’s CBLDF Liberty Annual #5 (Image, $4.99). I’m an anthology junkie, and this hits that perfectly while also benefiting a good cause. The creator list is amazing – even without knowing who’s working with whom. After that, I’d get Happy #2 (Image, $2.99). This book’s first issue hit me harder than I expected; I was buying it for Grant Morrison to wow me with his writing, but it was Darick Robertson’s artwork that hit me square between the eyes. I’ve read all the issues of Transmetropolitan and most of The Boys, but his art here has graduated up a level and I’m almost salivating at thinking of this second issue. Third this week would be Wolverine and the X-Men #19 (Marvel, $3.99), quietly usurping Uncanny X-Force as my favorite Marvel book on the stands. Last issue’s Doop-centric theme was great for me, but I’m excited to see star pupil Nick Bradshaw back on pencils for this issue.
If I had $30, I’d double back and get Higher Earth, Vol. 1 (Boom!, $14.99) Canceled or not, this series looks interesting despite my bailing after Issue 1. It’s a complicated concept (from what I gleaned from the first issue), but I’m looking to let Humphries school me on this.
If I could splurge, I’d snatch up EC: Wally Wood – Came the Dawn and Other Stories (Fantagraphics, $28.99). I’ve been aware of Wally Wood for a almost two decades now, but I tend to go through periods of simply floating around before I consume and learn more about him in short but voracious periods. Last time it was in the bloom of Fear Agent, and seeing this in Previews a few months back got me jonesing to do it again.
Think of the shelves of your local comics store as a crowded room where everybody is shouting for your attention. It’s difficult to rise above that din, and that’s why being unique — in tone and in presentation — makes you stand out quickly in the market. Writer Sam Humphries got his start in comics in summer 2010 with shorts for anthologies like CBGB: The Comic Book, and then self-published his first book Our Love Is Real the following year. Fast forward 14 months, and he’s writing two of Marvel’s top titles in Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates and Uncanny X-Force. How does that happen?
As I learned in my interview with Humphries, a lot of it has to do with his background but also his drive and know-how to tell stories. Humphries initially crossed paths with the industry when he oversaw marketing for MySpace’s comic book portal, which lasted for several years. From that, he began participating in the comics community on podcasts and through contributions to anthologies. After being turned down by more than a dozen publishers, Humphries decided to self-publish Our Love Is Real with artist Steve Sanders and found a way to cut through the noise to become a prominent new voice in comics. He followed that with the first issue of Sacrifice, and then was quickly pulled into other publishers like Marvel and BOOM! Studios to tell stories on a larger platform.
The newly announced writer of Uncanny X-Force, Humphries is also at the center of the buzz surrounding the development in Ultimate Comics: The Ultimate‘s making Captain America president of the United States (Comic Book Resources has a preview of Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates #17). CBR spoke with him in-depth about those issues, allowing us to talk about Humphries’ career and his whirlwind of success.