Some comics readers first encountered the work of Michel Fiffe in the pages of Marvel’s “All-New Ultimates” earlier this year, but for other readers, Fiffe has been crafting some of the most inventive and creative superhero work in the pages of his self-published comics like “Zegas” and “Copra.” “Copra,” which came out monthly for the first twelve issues, has slowed down in 2014 — #18 is the most recent issue — but this is a title that Fiffe writes, pencils, inks, colors and publishes himself. The series is set for a collection from Bergen Street Comics, which collects the first six sold-out issues of the series.
Inspired by the classic “Suicide Squad,” “Copra” book involves a team of mercenaries on the run. While it wears it’s influences on its sleeve, it quickly becomes its own unique comic early in the story. Described as “a monthly team book featuring a pack of bizarro mercenaries on the run and on suicidal revenge mission” by Fiffe, it’s certainly a bit of a departure from his more mainstream work on “All-New Ultimates.”
Fiffe spoke with CBR News about the upcoming “Copra” collection, the process of self-publishing the long-running series, how taking on “All-New Ultimates” has made him a better writer and more.
CBR News: Michel, why did you decide to self-publish a monthly comic like this?
Self-publishing was the only way for me to get my work out there in the way I was satisfied with. I also liked the tradition of the 24 page serialized pamphlet. The hard part was coming up with something that readers would want to come back for.
What has the experience of making a monthly comic, having to produce work at a steady rate, working with the same characters, taught you?
It has taught me to trust my instincts a little more while getting out of my own way at the same time. Being your own boss can be tricky, especially when aesthetic concerns and deadlines are at loggerheads.
Do you think that the pace of the book, making the first 12 issues in 12 months, affected the story or the approach?
My main concern at first was having enough material to even fill 12 full issues without any padding or decompression. Once I mapped it all out and started working on it, I found that I had too much material.
Do you have a favorite character among them?
I’m currently dedicating entire issues to individual characters, so I have a new favorite every month. Next up is Xenia, the dark arts apprentice with godlike powers on a rescue mission for the unrequited love she never knew she had.
How did Bergen Street Comics end up publishing collections of the book?
Bergen Street first started out with 3 issue compendiums, which efficiently met the demand of the title’s growing readership. The “Round One” collections were the next natural step. [“Copra: Round One” includes] The first six issues of the original run, issues which have long been sold out and have basically set the tone for the entire series. If you like this collection, you’ll love the rest.
Do you have an end point in mind, either in terms of story or a point where you see yourself ending the comic?
I do have a specific last arc I want to tell, but getting to that point may prove to be more organic that I thought. It shouldn’t take more than 50 issues to complete, give or take a few specials, but it really depends on several factors.
It’s not as though you hadn’t done anything before “Copra,” but what has the challenge been in distributing the book?
Getting it to as many people as possible is always the main hurdle. Even when I first started self-publishing, walking from store to store trying to convince stores that my comics were worth carrying [is] always the most difficult part. No wonder creators would rather stay indoors and draw all day.
Did having a series with continuing characters coming out monthly help you in terms of getting outlets on board to distribute it? Does it hurt? Was it irrelevant?
I don’t think it hurt, but I don’t think it’s really relevant. A store will carry what they think they can sell, and the criteria for that varies.
What were the comics and creators that really made an impression on you growing up? Who inspired you to make art?
I used stare at Dave Gibbons’ “Green Lantern” comics and tried to figure out how they were made, how they even functioned as lines on paper. Those stories, the Shark issues in particular, spooked me but the also deeply fascinated me. To this day I’m still trying to figure it out.
Was “Suicide Squad” a big influence? Why did it make such an impression on you?
It was a comic I read and collected as an older kid and when I dug it up, I was blown away at how well it had aged. Not only that, it reignited my excited for these characters, and for John Ostrander’s writing in particular. I thought what he created, later with the help of Kim Yale, was truly remarkable.
What has the experience of working at Marvel on “All-New Ultimates” been like?
It’s been pretty rewarding, actually. I’ve learned a lot in terms of communicating ideas, in terms of being clear. My cartooning works best when I do it all myself, but collaboration can be beneficial and it helps me work out the individual muscles. But nothing beats getting to do it all myself. I’m lucky to have an outlet for such a desire.
Do you think writing “All-New Ultimates” has made you a better writer, or taught you how to write in different ways?
Certainly, yeah, it’s taught me how to be clear in communicating but it’s taught me a lot about the collaborative process, from your artist to your editor to the marketing department. Every little function counts to serve the best possible product.
I would imagine it’s a very different process of “Copra” where it’s a group process and a much slower process.
Yes and no. Although I do go faster when I work on my own, that’s simply because the entire operation is run by me. Marvel, and most every publisher that runs on their level, operates at a different speed altogether. So it’s not really comparable. Once you’re on that unstoppable engine, you’re quickly moving forward even when you’re waiting for approvals.
Have there ever been moments writing for other artists when you think, “Oh I want to draw that?”
All the time. I try to make sure to write stuff that would be fun for a comics artist to draw, particularly the ones I’m working with. I aim to write to the strengths of the artists if possible.