Spring is upon us, and you know what that means… It’s time to breed! Or better yet, time to read about the brand new adventures of Jim Starlin’s creation of the same name. Originally published in 1994 through now-defunct Malibu Comics, “Breed” was soon followed by “Breed II” later that year and spilling into 1995, but then things stalled out, according to Starlin, after Marvel purchased Malibu and closed the publisher’s doors. In the sixteen years since the last series landed, Starlin returned to working for both Marvel and DC, but recently found himself wanting to get back to his own creations. At the top of his list was “Breed,” a character the writer/artist has a special affinity for. With the seven issue miniseries “Breed III” set to launch in May from Image Comics, Starlin spoke with CBR News about what took so long between series, what “Breed” means to him and what he’s learned about himself as a creator. But first, he explained exactly who this Breed fellow is and what he’s all about.
“Ray Stoner — the main character — is the issue of demonic rape,” Starlin told CBR. “His mother escaped being hauled back to the demon’s world and so he was born here on Earth and raised by a general. He became aware of his demonic heritage and aware that there’s a lot of half-breeds like him running around doing what they call the father’s work.”
The new series kicks off with Ray getting attacked by some of his fellow half-breeds, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The series also deals with Ray confronting his demonic dad as well as developing a possible romantic relationship.
“We’re leading up to him confronting his father. That’s natural, that’s what everybody’s waiting for,” Starlin said. “He’s also had this girl he’s been spying on in the waters for 12 issues. He finally meets her. I work very hard to work around expectations on that point. This is a love story, but at the same time it’s not a love story. These people are in an uncomfortable situation and if you have somebody like Breed come into your life, it’s not head over heels [in love]. It’s more like ‘God, how can I get away from this guy?’ We’ve got some interesting things coming down the line. Her name’s Zoe, I can give you that much. Zoe and her son and Ray have a story all themselves. I started off with a nice fight at the beginning and there will be some in between, but I’m afraid I’m going to laden the reader with a bit of a story along the way here. And it has an ending, which not many of these comic books have.”
Before getting to that ending, though, Starlin compared the themes of “Breed” to those of another well known property filled with unusual looking folks — Marvel’s X-Men. Much like one of that group’s members, Breed finds himself questioning what he knows about himself in this new series.
“In some ways, it’s much like the X-Men in that [the larger themes are about] alienation,” Starlin explained. “This is a guy who has a heritage which he, over the last two series, has been discovering, but never been comfortable with. He’s like the ultimate outsider in many ways. He’s also finding there’s some things he believed to be true that aren’t. Even he is finding out there are some secrets he hasn’t discovered [about himself] along the way yet.”
Speaking of self-discovery, Starlin admitted that he shares a specific connection with the character, which was one of the more prominent reasons he wanted to come back and finish Breed’s story after such a long hiatus.
“Well, Ray Stoner and Breed are, I guess, closer to who I am than any other character I’ve ever done,” Starlin revealed. “There’s some heavily disguised autobiographical things that take place in the story and I just always felt that I wanted to get back here and complete his tale. I wanted to get back here and wrap up things properly. I’m finally getting the chance to do it.”
Starlin noted that, at the end of “Breed II,”Stoner had been badly burned and taken sanctuary in a church where he spent the past 15 years. In that time, though, he matured a bit as did the themes of the book which have shifted towards the type of comics Starlin is most famous for.
“He’s more of a thinker than he was when he started off,” Starlin said. “The mystical elements are less pronounced than they were in the other [series]. In many ways this is harkening back to my more cosmic stuff. If you read the original two series you’ll find that a lot of what you think about Ray Stoner or Breed is not exactly right. I’m having fun going along those lines and setting the record straight even though I was the one who messed it up to begin with.”
While setting records straight, Starlin also discussed what took so long between the second and third segments of “Breed.” Basically, it was a combination of Malibu shutting down, a change in the market and other creative opportunities presenting themselves.
“About the same time [Malibu closed], the horror market crashed and above all else, ‘Breed’ is a horror story,” Starlin said. “I went back off into doing some superhero stuff and that just kept me busy until we finally got to the point where Marvel and DC with their endless crossovers just made it impossible to work there any longer. So, I decided to come back and revisit ‘Breed.'”
From there some legal wrangling eventually landed “Breed III” at Image along with reprint collections. The “Breed I” trade paperback will be out the same day as “Breed III” #1 and the “Breed II” collection hits in July. While the business side of things went smoothly, Starlin found himself going back and altering pages he completed years ago.
“I’ve pretty well reworked everything I had,” Starlin said. “The original ‘Breed III’ had computer generated backgrounds which nobody liked. That eventually came to view and I’ve been reworking and working on this thing for the last six months at least, probably closer to eight, ever since I finished off with ‘Strange Adventures.’ I just said, ‘I’m going to go write this,’ and this has been it. I’ve had some commercial work to take care of, but even that has been put aside here.”
After working for DC and Marvel again, Starlin has a greater appreciation for the freedom doing creator-owned comics offers, noting that big two editors like their creators to stick to the outlines they present at the beginning of the process. Starlin appreciates being able to follow a project wherever the story takes it, much to the benefit of “Breed III.”
“I’ve always liked to be able to veer off into different directions and find something that’s really kind of interesting,” Starlin said. “We’ve had a couple of veerings here that have been kind of surprises. I don’t like to straight jacket myself as I go along. I like to look at things in process and have a say in which direction we’re going sometimes. It’s creator-owned here at Image so we’re all working on our own babies. If anyone’s going to come up with an idea to go off in a different direction with, it’s going to be the parents, probably not always to the liking of the characters themselves but that’s what makes good stories.”
Now that he’s back working on his own characters, Starlin has found a strong connection to his early days in the industry and even discovered a new love for a step in the comic-making process that surprised even him.
“When I started off I just had a piece of board on my lap, drawing and penciling comics for Marvel,” Starlin said. “Now, I spend as much time on the computer as I do at the drawing board. In fact, I’ve come to find that my favorite part of the job is coloring the backgrounds. Who would have thought? The business has changed so radically in the time I’ve been in it that I hardly recognize it anymore. This is sort of harkening back to me just sitting back and doing the Metamorphosis Odyssey with ‘Dreadstar,’ just sitting back and doing what I want and doing the whole job.”
The “Breed III” finale will bring an end to the saga, but Starlin noted that it would not preclude him from future tales if the mood struck. In the meantime, he has a desire to return to another creator-owned comic of his.
“I’d like to do a final ‘Dreadstar’ story,” Starlin revealed. “I’m talking to some folks about that. We’re also going to be doing an illustrated novel that’s going to be serialized in a magazine that will be coming out from IDW in the later part of the year.”
Being absorbed in the process and taking on a variety of projects has kept Starlin both interested and excited as a creator, something he can’t say about every assignment he’s worked on.
“As a child and an artist, if I’m not interested, I become terribly bored and you get very shitty work,” Starlin said. “My Firestorm stories in the back of ‘The Flash’ are testament to that.”
“Breed III” debuts in May from Image Comics