In 2003, CBR News brought you word of a new superhero project, “Sentinels,” that stood out for two main reasons: the writer worked for the New York Times newspaper and the story of this super-team was to be told in original graphic novel format. “Sentinels” debuted to a strong response from fans, making writer Rich Bernatovech a regular fixture at the conventions and creating a lot of buzz for subsequent volumes. As 2007 begins, fans await the March-shipping “Sentinels Book 4: Hope,” which concludes the tale by Bernatovech and artist Luciano Vecchio. The fourth volume will wrap up all the major plot threads, while also introducing some elements for perhaps future tales, though Bernatovech & Vecchio weren’t about to give away any details. The duo were, however, happy to speak with CBR News about “Sentinels” and the feeling of finishing a four-year-long project.
“It’s a total feeling a completion as well as a huge relief,” admitted Bernatovech, a Production Manager for the New York Times. “We worked hard on this entire series and learned so much along the way. I’m also very proud (but not in an egotistical way) that we finished it. Not many Indy books get a chance to finish their story. We got lucky and were able to. I have to thank everyone who supported us by taking the chance and picking up ‘Sentinels,’ they made that possible.”
Vecchio called his time on “Sentinels,” “Very fulfilling and marks the end of a huge first step in my career as artist. Looking back at them I see a learning process that gave its fruits and a passion for what we were doing that is present everywhere.”
As one might expect, both creators have spent time looking through old volumes, reminiscing and criticizing now visible flaws (though Vecchio calls all four volumes, “A great product.”), but Bernatovech is most proud of the story’s integrity. “It has meaning,” he explained. ” The story stayed exactly the same from start to finish. The ending was planned from day one. That never altered. Some things changed in the middle here and there, but nothing that impacted the storyline that was started.
“Creatively, we changed a lot during the series and I think that’s evident with each book and how we both grew as writer and artist. The first three chapters in book 1 are not as strong as the rest of the chapters in the series. That’s mainly because I was writing differently at that time and had never done anything like this before. Once Luciano and I started working together we got into a real collaboration that heightened both of our creativity. The characters became stronger and more unique which was one of the criticisms early on.
“There are some characters that didn’t get as much time in the spotlight as I had hoped, but I think they all had an arc or some kind of resolution. If anything I would have liked to show more interaction between members since that’s what interests me the most. But with a cast as big as we have in ‘Sentinels,’ that’s setting yourself up for too many possibilities. We had to focus and decided early on to tell the story in four books.
“One thing that did change greatly from the beginning was the character Switchfast/Stitch. We liked the character so much we ended up writing him more into the story. Some of the minor characters from ‘Book 2: Masks’ also ended up working their way into the finale in a surprising way.”
“I do think that today’s day and age has given a lot more meaning to responsibility. Comics are better then they’ve ever been in my opinion and I think that’s because of the changes society has gone through. Many books are dealing with issues that are happening in the real world now. To be honest, when we started ‘Sentinels,’ one of the reasons I wanted to do it was because I wasn’t enjoying any of the superhero books out at the time. They all seemed to be treading water and keeping the status quo. Four years later Marvel is doing ‘Civil War’ and DC is doing ’52’ and the OYL books. I love that they’re doing that and hope the changes they’ve both started last.”
Working up to such a grand finale, it can be hard for creators to not get wrapped up in worry about the expectations of fans who’ve spent years following “Sentinels,” and Vecchio admitted, ” I did get consumed by worrying about that, both as creator and as first reader and fan of the story. I wanted to be happy with it and I wanted it to be flawless.”
When fans finish “Sentinels Book Four,” they’ll see that there’s a lot of stories that can still be told, but as far as Bernatovech is concerned, the story is over – for now. “We did exactly what we set out to do and told what we believe is a fun and exciting superhero story,” said the scribe. “To keep going at this point would lessen the impact we think the series has. We could always do an anthology book somewhere down the line or a possible spin-off, but that would only be if we came up with a really good idea that we thought had its own merit. But for us, Book 4 is the end. Luciano and I do have another series in development that would have very slight ties to ‘Sentinels,’ but nothing is set in stone yet and it wouldn’t have anything to do with ‘Sentinels.'”
With “Sentinels” finished, Bernatovech promised fans that he’ll move onto some different projects, so they can see he can write more than just one genre. “Both Luciano and I have new projects starting up individually and one together. Drumfish Productions will begin some new series next year, the first of which will be called Neverminds and will be written by me and drawn by Jamie Fay. Luciano and I are also developing another series mentioned above called Caspian Curses. I’m also planning on publishing work by other creators and I’m shopping proposals around to other companies too because there are a few mainstream books I’d love to get a chance at writing. 2007 should be an exciting year.”