“Dark Horse Presents,” Dark Horse’s once and future flagship title, has been the launching pad for a number of the publisher’s biggest properties since its first issue in 1986. In its original incarnation, the series featured the first appearance of Paul Chadwick’s Concrete, John Byrne’s Next Men and Frank Miller’s Sin City along with many more.
Since relaunching in 2011, “Dark Horse Presents” has continued the tradition of publishing new concepts by both established and unknown creators, sometimes using shorter strips to lead into larger projects, such as the return of “Star Wars: Crimson Empire” or the debut of Brian Wood and Kristian Donaldson’s “The Massive.”
In April, Dark Horse introduces readers to yet another original series by up-and-coming creators in the pages of “Dark Horse Presents” with the mob drama “The White Suits.” Written by Frank Barbiere with art by Luke Radl, who previously collaborated on “Divine Intervention” at Arcana Studio, “The White Suits” will debut with an eight-page installment titled “The Way Out” in “DHP” #11, telling the tale of an orphaned young woman in 1980s Moscow trying to survive the criminal underworld.
Comic Book Resources spoke with Barbiere and Radl about the project and their plans for “The White Suits.”
CBR News: Frank and Luke, to start, howÂ would you describe the story you’re telling in “The White Suits?”
Frank J. Barbiere: “The White Suits” is a textured narrative that deals with history, action and the titular group of mysterious killers. In “The Way Out,” readers are given a glimpse into the early days of the Suits, when they were operating in Russia during the Cold War. The story here could be considered a “prequel” to the main “Suits” narrative, as it introduces readers to several important characters who return further down the line, as well as the general tone our story works within.
Luke Radl: “The Way Out” is a kind of vignette. It introduces readers in a tangential way to the story and gives them a good taste of the style and themes we want to explore with “The White Suits.”
What does the name “White Suits” signify?
Barbiere: The name “The White Suits” is quite literal: the mysterious gang (who are the true antagonists of our story) don white suits — it is ultimately their signature and calling card. As the Suits begin to manipulate crime and dominate the Russian underground it is certainly a mechanism for fear and recognition. The nature of these characters dressing in all white also has a strong thematic element and will later be revealed as a practical plot point. Plus, we think it looks cool.
Radl: As a function of story, they give the gang an effective intimidation technique. Stylistically, it gives me something graphic and iconic to work with in a world without spandex.
Who is the girl at the heart of this story? What’s her background, and how does she come into the situation she’s in?
Barbiere:Â The young girl is named Petra. Our story finds her barely scraping by, living in a Moscow ghetto where she runs errands/delivers packages for Russian gangsters. The short further elaborates on her personal history and the fact that she is forced into a life of soft crime due to her parents being deceased. She also takes care of a younger sibling. Petra is clearly becoming more and more disenfranchised with her life and seeking a “way out,” which she finds, rather unexpectedly, in our story.
Radl: Like lots of young people without pro-social economic opportunities, she’s opted into a less-than-desirable lifestyle purely for survival. She gets a chance to break out of that, but she still has all of her other problems and she’ll have new ones to deal with if she takes it.
Why set a story in 1980s Moscow? What is it about this setting that appealed to you?
Barbiere: At the crux of our narrative is the mystery of the White Suits and exactly how and why they were operating in Moscow during these years. There is a certain danger in the air, despite the Cold War coming to an end, that makes this setting particularly enticing to introduce our characters. There is also a great bit of history we can manipulate that will work into a later reveal of the Suits’ true endgame.
Radl: I like the idea of telling a story that reflects the culture surrounding it, as opposed to something that could just take place anywhere. So in one sense, it’s set in Moscow because it has to be. From a creative standpoint, I also enjoy the challenge of visually depicting a city and society that I’ve never been to or experienced — hopefully in a convincing and compelling way.
What kind of world are we dealing with here — is this essentially the realÂ world, or are there supernatural/other elements to it?
Barbiere: The world of “The White Suits” is very much the real world with a slightly altered history. Towards the end of the Cold War, Russia saw a spike in criminal activity, and in our story world we propose that this mysterious gang (The White Suits) are the catalyst.
Though we are in the late ’80s here, the main “Suits” narrative takes place in more current times.
Radl: It’s been fun to try to flex my storytelling muscles with this project. Artistically, I think you can get away with a lot when you’re dealing with super heroes or magic — even sci-fi, to some extent — because people already are letting their guard down to accept that world. When you say, “No, really — this could happen,” you’re opening yourself up to extra scrutiny. Plus, you have to work extra hard to make really mundane things interesting and keep a page flowing well. I can’t lead people’s eyes around with laser beams or flame trails.
How did the two of you come together for this project?
Barbiere: Luke and I have been working together for a few years, now. We were introduced through mutual friends and have collaborated on a few projects prior to “The White Suits.” I think we’re very lucky that we really “click” artistically and have been fortunate enough to meet in person and become friends. With “The White Suits” we really wanted a unique, bold looking visual style, and I think the textured, black-and-white-with-some-color look Luke has given the material really stands out.
Radl: Like Frank said, we had worked on a few things together already and discovered in the process that we work really well together, so when that ended we kind of just went, “What’s next?” “The White Suits” was sort of born out of how we each answered that.
It sounds like it’s safe to say you have big plans for “White Suits” beyond the “Dark Horse Presents” strip.
Barbiere: As I’ve mentioned, the DHP stuff really serves as a prequel to a White Suits series we’ve been developing. I’m very happy to be able to explore the history and mythos of our story world before diving into what we consider the “main” narrative, but we’ll certainly have more down the line. We unfortunately can’t announce much in terms of publisher and dates, but we are definitely working on some material.
Radl: Yup! Stay tuned.