The constant evolution of technology has led to advancements in all fields, from medicine to warfare. There is no telling where technology will take us in the near future, or what the repercussions will be.
In Top Cow and Image Comics' upcoming comic book series Aphrodite V, set to debut on July 18, the title character is a self-aware android assassin who turns her back on her masters and decides to chart on her path in Los Angeles of the near future. There, she finds an evil technological force that she takes upon herself to stop.
Aphrodite V, first announced in 2016, is both a new beginning and a reimagining of Top Cow's Cyber Force and Aphrodite IX series, which originated in the '90s. Building on the concepts that were created then, writer Bryan Hill and artist Jeff Spokes are bringing a new spin on the mythology of the Aphrodite androids. CBR talked with both creators for an in-depth interview on their relaunch of the series, discussing its accessibility, the themes at the heart of the story, the '80s projects that helped inspire the book and what went into the visual designs of this new future.
CBR: Aphrodite V is a character that has been part of Top Cow's universe for a while now, through Cyber Force and her counterpart Aphrodite IX. Does this new iteration draw a lot from events in these past titles, or is it more of a new direction?
Bryan Hill: When I first came to [Top Cow President and COO] Matt Hawkins with this idea, I told him I wanted to do a miniseries that honored what has come before, but also doesn’t require a reader to be fluent in the world of Cyber Force, or even Top Cow, in general. I wanted the biggest tent possible for the story, a way to let the most readers we could into a great, genre experience.
The concept is simple. We have the fifth Aphrodite, a line of self-aware, android assassins. This version, V, has escaped her masters and she’s landed in Los Angeles, in the near future. She has power and freedom, but she has no purpose. What she finds in Los Angeles is a city in crisis from a villain born from the bleeding edge of Technology. The city has no idea how to respond. She does.
And she responds the best way she knows how, with war.
For this new series, Aphrodite V has a new look. How did you end up with this more modern design for the character?
Hill: That’s the genius of Jeff Spokes. Jeff has such a visceral style, and with someone as talented as he is, you don’t need to influence it. I shared a file of photographs I use as reference when writing (I’m a pretty visual thinker, since I’m also a screenwriter and filmmaker. The images help me craft the narrative) and the design came from him. For my part, I was influenced by everything from Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell films, to the work of filmmakers like Kathryn Bigelow, Michael Mann and James Cameron. Music also helps me frame the feel of characters and stories. Right now, I’m pretty obsessed with a retro-wave group called The Midnight. Their 2017 album Nocturnal is brilliant. It just fills me with those classic, '80s inspired feelings of purpose and heightened drama.
Jeff Spokes: This was definitely one of the highlights of the project for me. To begin with Bryan sent me a ton of images and ideas, ranging from high-end fashion to cybernetics to ballerina movements… a lot of stuff, I printed it out and sat staring and absorbing it all before I began to draw. I started off with small stuff like shoes, gloves, backpacks, trying to figure out what things would look like in this world he was describing. I eventually started applying those elements to full character drawings and we began to figure out what was working and what wasn’t.
For a while we had pretty much scraped everything besides the green hair from her old look, and then the white body suit felt like it was too iconic to drop so that happily came back in to the mix. The first finished, inked, color version I did ended up being a pretty severe departure from the Aphrodite we had known, it was a very William Gibson/cyberpunk inspired version… as much as I liked it I knew it was wrong as soon as I sent it off. Bryan was nice, he was like…. "Yeah, I think we may have to bring it back a bit." I don’t think that one got sent to Matt, it might have raised a red flag or two…
There are many android characters out there, from big screen movies to comics. What separates Aphrodite V from the rest of the pack? What makes her unique?
Hill: Most of the time, android characters are obsessed with the idea of being human or not. Being alive, or not. I feel like so many works have explored that. Westworld explores that every week. Aphrodite knows she’s alive. She knows she has agency. She just has no idea how to make a place for herself in our world. She’s much more akin to someone like John Rambo, in a way. The sense that Rambo was turned into a weapon and the only time he feels at home with the world is during a war. What he is won’t work in a gentle world. So his choices are basically war or self-imposed exile. Aphrodite faces a similar choice, but instead of exile, she’s looking at a future of wandering without ever setting roots in a place.
Her first few moments in our Los Angeles are filled with violence. Most people would flee after that, but she sees a situation she could help. She’s got a war, and with it comes a sense of belonging.
There is something very unique about the fluidity of Aphrodite V's movements in the action scenes. Could you walk us through the process of designing her fighting style?
Hill: Again, that’s all Jeff. I may have mentioned wanting to incorporate some grace in her violence, and that’s the Mamoru Oshii showing up in my imagination. I think the action scenes in Ghost in the Shell are beautiful, sad and full of consequence. You sense that violence is a terrible last resort, and there’s a slightly mournful quality to the sequences in that anime. I have a lot of respect for that, because I’ve been in a few fights and it’s not something to celebrate, even when the violence is justified. I love how Jeff has her flowing, looking light as a feather while she’s creating massive damage around her. The visual juxtaposition is fantastic. More than I could have hoped for.
Spokes: In that initial batch of images and ideas Bryan had outlined her fighting style like the movements of a ballerina and that really clicked with me… she’s so well trained/programmed, so used to fighting that unless it’s a worthy adversary, it’s really her just going through simple motions… graceful and easy. There’s a panel in the first issue where she’s taking on three police officers where I really got to try and illustrate this. I mapped out the fight sequence in a series of small sketches, figuring out how theses officers were attacking her and how she was effortlessly moving through and dispatching them. Great fun.