In November, Aspen expands its “Charismagic” universe with a new miniseries. “Charismagic: The Death Princess” introduces a deadly new threat to the universe and explores the origins of magic as a team of heroic magic-users go up against the Death Princess, a brand new villain with the power to control minds. Helmed by “Charismagic” writer/creator Vince Hernandez with art by Emilio Lopez, “Charismagic: The Death Princess” follows Kon, the sage wizard from the original series, in his early years as the young and powerful wizard goes up against Orlana, the Death Princess, gathering allies to combat the new threat.
CBR News spoke with Hernandez about the upcoming series, the tether between the first volume of “Charismagic” and “The Death Princess” and the challenges of writing a team-oriented book. Plus, we check in with Hernandez about next year’s 10-for-10 initiative set to celebrate Aspen’s ten year anniversary.
CBR News: Vince, give us the lowdown on “Charismagic: The Death Princess.” What’s the basic concept and where does the new minseries fall compared to the original volume?
Vince Hernandez: We’re excited. It’s a bit of a departure from the original volume we did. The first volume, when it came out, it did better than we expected. There was definitely a positive reaction to the series and pretty much every issue sold out. We were excited about that and it’s kind of an organic process for us because we wanted to do more stories. I had this Death Princess story I wanted to do and the timing was right, so we just went ahead and basically thought up the concept and here we are. It comes out in November and I’m excited to expand the universe. I’d originally intended for it to be a big magical universe where you kind of don’t know what’s going to happen next. It basically takes things back to the origins of magic, but at the same time, it reintroduces characters from the first volume that, from what I gathered, people loved. It combines the first volume and this new story in an organic offshoot. It’s very much a tale of two worlds.
This is one of the first chances you’ve had to really delve into the origins of the “Charismagic” universe. Is it fair to say this is something you’ve had planned for a while?
Yeah, absolutely. When I first came up with the concept of “Charismagic,” I didn’t want it to just be one self-contained story. I wanted it to be one story in a greater universe and when I say universe, I mean literally a universe. You’ll see not only in “Death Princess” but also in “Charismagic” volume two that we tap into different realms. I don’t want to give too much of a spoiler away, but there’s not one time period this story is set. We jump around a lot. People who pick up “Death Princess” will for sure begin to see the seeds of what we’re truly building here. There are realms, there are magical time periods. We’re going out of left field on the concepts of some of these. People are going to like them, I think, based on what we’ve seen from “Charismagic” reaction from fans. It’s new and exciting stuff in terms of this world. They like when we come out of left field and bring stories, concepts and ideas like “Death Princess” that I don’t think people saw coming based on what you read in the first volume. We’re seeing what works, but we have high hopes for this series.
Considering the title, it seems like Orlana, the Death Princess, has a fairly large role in this book. What about the character makes her such a big threat?
In the first volume, we were introduced to this evil character named Samson. When I first created “Charismagic,” I really loved the idea of his power, which allowed him to absorb other people’s magical powers. So when I sat down and I thought of the idea of “Death Princess,” we needed to take it to the next level with this villain. I decided to do something that was both threatening on the surface but also something that could be cerebral. I have a list, a big notebook, where I have basically magical things that I’ve researched over the years that people might not know about or things that I think would be cook. I’ve always had this one magical ability — the ability to control minds — that I really wanted to work with. To me, that seems like one of the most dangerous abilities a person could have. I thought this would be the perfect time to insert this in the story and see what happens. The Death Princess, she’s the most powerful villain right now that we’ll be introducing in the “Charismagic” universe. You’ll see early on that not only can she control the people around her, but she can control different creatures, not only human. There’s an epic-scale event in the first issue of “Death Princess” where you see how this one person can kind of take over the world. That’s where we introduce our heroes in the story and that’s where you’ll see some returning characters, some characters that are brand new and some of them we just touched on minorly in the first arc. It should be a fun ride.
Who’s set to go up against Orlana in the eventual conflict?
In the first volume, we introduced a wizard named Kon, who in a lot of ways was the Yoda of our universe. He had the knowledge people were looking for in terms of saving the day. He was definitely one of the more powerful heroes. We only briefly touched on his story and this arc, we’re expanding his story and adding to it. You go back in time and see how he got his start as a wizard. It’s very much a “Magnificent Seven” type story where he recruits the most powerful wizards and the most powerful sorcerers around him. It’s a team book. It’s definitely called “The Death Princess,” but there are elements of — I’m a big fan of big action movies. I don’t want to touch on any specific ones, but just ones where you have these big heroes team up and take on a larger threat — that’s where I go with this story. I think fans will like the characters we’ve come up with. They’re unique, they’re very different for sure.
“Charismagic: The Death Princess” is different from some of the other work you’ve done in that it’s a team-oriented book. Did you find that transition challenging?
It’s a tale of two cities in a way, because I like to write the one-hero stories, which is what we did in “Charismagic,” but at the end of the day, “Charismagic” had a lot of other heroes involved. For this one, I wanted to go the team route. I’ve never really done a book that’s team-based where you have different characters bouncing off each other with dialogue. You don’t have that in a book with just one hero. I really wanted that dynamic where you have these differing opinions and different personalities. It’s been fun. I’m finishing up the final scripts right now and it’s been a challenge trying to fit so many different personalities on one page. Again, not to spoil too much, but we’re talking a team of five or six heroes that are going up against the Death Princess. It’s been tough to manage, but fun at the same time. I’m looking forward to trying it again — maybe not in my next series, but I enjoy doing it. It’s fun stuff.
Emilio Lopez is back for this installment after doing some work on the original Charismagic series. Did it help to have that visual continuity for “The Death Princess?”
That was big for me. I’ve been at it a long time and you can see the differences when you bring in a new art team and you see the different takes they have. Not to say another art team would have done a good job and I’m sure at some point in the future if the property gets big enough, we’ll expand it to other visual styles. For this one, I held it close to my heart and I wanted the Death Princess to be designed and brought to life by the people who created “Charismagic.” For me, that was an easy choice and it came pretty naturally. I was talking with Emilio about the story and he suggested himself. I love it when an artist steps up and takes the risk. This is his first comic book that he’s illustrating the whole thing. It took me by surprise at first because a lot of times you put the artist and the colorist into a certain category and you assume they’ll only want to do certain things, but I knew Emilio enjoyed drawing and he had done a few pages of “Charismagic.” I already had that basis and I knew he was capable of doing it. For me, it was a no-brainer because he knows the world better than almost anyone. Sometimes even better than me. He definitely takes every idea and every little summary of character description — he drew the Death Princess in every stage of her life, a different design of each year of her life. To me, that was crazy. I’ve never seen an illustrator take it to that degree. He did that for all the characters. You’ll see when you see “The Death Princess” pages. There’s no skipping of a beat between what we saw in the first volume and what they’re providing in the second volume. Jocelyn is coloring it and she was involved in coloring the first “Charismagic” pages, so there’s definitely no drop in the quality. Fans who liked the first volume will be able to get a Khary Randolph piece with it as well because he’s doing all the regular covers. It’s great. I’m excited. Not to say too much about the future, but we’re looking past this series as well and what the future will hold. Khary and Emilio are going to be playing a big part in that.
Beyond “The Death Princess,” how are things shaping up for Aspen’s 10-for-10 initiative set to debut next year for the publisher’s tenth anniversary?
It’s looking great. We’re really taking an approach unlike anything we’ve done before with this initiative. We meet daily to go over every aspect of it because we want this to be unlike anything we’ve ever done. Right now, we’re working on the first two projects that will be coming out. One of them is by David Wohl, the other’s by our president SOMEBODY and I can’t wait for people to see what we have in store — not just fans, but retailers. We’re going to be pouring out all this stuff; making the issues 99 cents, something fans can pick up on without a big investment. We’re adding specific bonus material just for the print editions, so our trusted retail partners feel like they’re getting their money’s worth with the print copy. We’re going day and date [digital] for the first time with all our print books, which for us is pretty huge. We’ve usually stuck to a three-week window for releases and when they come out on digital. It’s not only a big initiative for us in the print world, but we’re also stepping it up in the digital world. We’re taking it to the next level, making sure everyone can get what they want when they want it. We’re excited and I really can’t wait. It’s definitely going to be the biggest thing we’ve ever done.