The assassin- and zeppelin-filled world of writer/artist Hoang Nguyen’s “Carbon Grey” enraptured fans when the first issue hit in March thanks to its dazzling visuals and innovative concept. The alternate-history epic — co-created by Nguyen, Paul Gardner, Mike Kennedy and Khari Evans, set in Europe and featuring a quartet of lady assassins, the murdered Kaiser one of them was sworn to protect and all the political intrigue you can handle — will get even more well-defined come October when “Carbon Grey Origins” launches from Image Comics.
An anthology series designed to tell even more stories set in the “Carbon Grey” universe, the two-issue “Origins” mini will flesh out characters like Giselle and Mathilde, as well as the other Greys. Nguyen surrounded himself with trusted talent, roping in co-creators Paul Gardner and Khari Evans (best known for his work on “Shanna the She-Devil”) as well as Pop Mhan (“Orson Scott Card’s Ender in Exile”) and colorist Kinsun Loh (“FVZA”) to add even more layers to the complex world of “Carbon Grey.” Comic Book Resources spoke with Nguyen about what the different creative teams brought to the table, a few details about the story and why handing over his creations to other people wasn’t as difficult as you’d think.
“All of the artists and writers are people I’ve known for a while and whose work I trust,” Nguyen said. “I’ve worked with Paul and Khari for a long time, and I’m pretty comfortable with their take on ‘Carbon Grey.’ As for Pop Mhan, he used to be my assistant a long time ago, and I’ve watched him grow as an artist over the years. So it’s been a privilege for me to see his take on ‘Carbon Grey.'”
When it came to figuring out which creators would be doing what in “Origins,” the process was organic.
“Paul, Khari and I brainstormed on what we wanted to accomplish with the book, but most of the ideas came from Paul,” Nguyen said. “We did try and match up each strip with the artist we thought could best tell that story or might have a good feel for the characters. Once the outline was written, we’d pitch it to them.
“We’ve had so many requests and questions from readers wanting to know more about the world, the sisters and key players, as well as some of the background characters in the book,” Nguyen continued. “Since we couldn’t go into details about them in the regular series, we thought having an anthology would be the best outlet to answer these questions.”
To provide those answers, most — though not all — of the stories take place before the events of the first “Carbon Grey” arc.
“All but one of the stories take place before the series, but at very different points in time,” Nguyen said. “For example, ‘The Adventures of Giselle and Mathilde’ is set just a few years before the events of arc one. We’re focusing on them as young teenagers, the events that defined their relationship and forged the unbreakable bond between them. Another story takes place just a few days before issue #1, while a third is set over a thousand years in the past, so it’s a pretty good range. The exception is ‘Marshal and Marshall,’ which is set after the third issue of arc one and sort of sets the tone for the upcoming series. All of the stories introduce concepts that are important to the larger story, or characters that will appear again in the second arc.”
The writer/artist dished on a few more details about who worked on what for “Origins” after some prodding.
“I’m working on a 14-page storyline which will appear in issue #2,” Nguyen said. “It’s a biography of Raisa Vasilyeva, the Cossack Queen. Khari is working on a strip that follows Gottfaust’s rise to power. Gottfaust is the father of the Greys, and something of a legend in Mitteleuropa, so we’re taking a different approach. It’s told in the style of an old newspaper cartoon serial, which I think is going to be really fun. Paul has written all but one story in ‘Origins,’ including ‘The Adventures of Mathilde and Giselle.’ I think he’s enjoyed the opportunity to expand on the ideas of the first arc and the freedom to write in different styles.”
Speaking of different styles, the artists involved also got to do their own thing, adding new shades to the “Carbon Grey” spectrum.
“Pop is a phenomenal artist,” Nguyen said. “I love how his style has evolved over the years. His work on ‘Spyboy’ and ‘Blank’ have been my favorites. It was a pleasure to have him jump on board and lend his artistic sensibility to the world of ‘Carbon Grey.’ His action sequences are really dynamic and full of this energy that are perfect for the story. As for Khari and Kinsun, they both bring a lot to the table. Khari is really good with character designs and sequential work. He’s able to express a lot in each panel simply through a character’s expression and body language. There’s a lot there for the audience to read into. Kinsun’s colors are absolutely stunning; he adds so much in terms of atmosphere and tone, but his work never overpowers the original art. In that respect it’s a true collaboration; I can’t wait to share their latest work with the fans.”