Breaking Down Image's "Pherone"

With development history that begins in the world of video games, and a run in "Heavy Metal," the story of the sexy spy Eve hits the stands in April in an Image Comics graphic novel titled "Pherone," co-written by Viktor Kalvachev and Patrick Baggatta & Jim Sink with illustrations by Kalvachev. The project's producer, Philo Northrup, spoke with CBR News about the story, the creative team and "Pherone's" digital origins and possible future (or past).

"Pherone" is the story of Eve, a spy undergoing a breakdown. "Eve is a stunningly beautiful, highly trained espionage agent on the edge of her sanity. We follow her as she dispatches her missions with great skill, but it soon becomes apparent that Eve has lost her way," Northrup told CBR. "She has doubts. She blacks out after missions. She's falling apart. This story follows Eve as she puts herself back together and finds out about her past. A lot of action happens because people keep getting in Eve's way."

Fans of classic crime and modern espionage will likely be drawn to "Pherone." It follows Northrup's characterization of the graphic novel as "Raymond Chandler meets Jason Bourne, starring a sexy woman." "'Pherone' is dark and Viktor Kalvachev's artwork is charged with tension," he continued. "Themes of trust, perception, and redemption underpin the action. I think that's why this story resonates so well. "

Asked what the main character wants in the course of the graphic novel, Northrup's answer revealed much about the nature of the story. "That's what Eve needs to figure out," he replied. "Fundamentally, Eve wants to find out about the gaps in her past."

The answer is clearer in regards to the supporting cast. "Cass, another female agent, wants Eve. Dr. Farsley wants to find a cure. Simon wants to use Eve and Dr. Farley to get power. Detective Pearson, the handsome guy, wants to know who's killing all these people and why."

"Pherone" came out of Viktor Kalvachev's unquenchable desire to create a graphic novel starring a sexy and dangerous female protagonist. "It's fair to say he was obsessed," Northrup remarked. "For a while, that energy was channeled into a videogame project he was working on with [game developer] Bridget Erdmann. The game had a seduction mechanic, where you control a female character who can make her enemies drop their guard. The game never got off the ground, but Viktor was inspired to create a character that combined combat skills and incredible allure."

Northrup continued, "In 2005, all of us were working for Foundation 9 Entertainment. The company was looking to promote original story ideas with comics. Viktor talked us all into joining the effort and we got the pilot episode published in time for [San Diego] Comi-Con. Patrick Baggatta wrote the script for the 10-page pilot episode. When 'Pherone' was greenlit, Patrick was on board and, working with Viktor, wrote the next 28 pages. Halfway through the project, Patrick left, so Jim Sink came on board and did the writing with Viktor for the rest of the graphic novel. Jim was a shot in the arm, and he and Viktor worked great together. Bridget gave input, but was working full time on other projects. Viktor did all the art - layout, pencil, ink, color - and did a fair amount of writing too. I produced it, which meant that I made sure Viktor had the allotted time to do the art, arranged all the logistics between the parties, and worked out the deal with 'Heavy Metal' [in which the story was originally serialized]. I often had to run interference with Foundation 9 management because lots of projects wanted Viktor's time."

Because "Pherone" had been previously presented in a serialized format, Northrup and the creative team opted for a graphic novel as opposed to a miniseries. "We wanted it all in one place so the reader can get the full impact," Northrup said. "Visually, the story has a specific rhythm dictated by the color details, which is quite apparent if you flip through it."

Regarding the possibility that there might be more tales spilling out from the graphic novel, Northrup said, "I don't want to spoil the ending for anyone, but it's fair to say that sequels are possible. 'Pherone' has great characters and lots of people would like us to explore what they might do in the future, or what they did in the past. The biggest impediment to a 'Pherone' sequel or prequel is finding the time to do it. It took about a year to do."

"The original target audience was ourselves," Northrup responded when asked about whom the book is aimed toward. "It's not for little kids. We haven't done any studies or anything, but I imagine that the same folks who enjoy 'Hellboy, '100 Bullets,' 'DMZ,' the Bond & Bourne movies, 'The Prisoner' series and 'The Avengers' (wanted to throw in an Emma Peel reference there) will enjoy 'Pherone.'"

Northrup and his team are already hard at work on a new project. "It's an action comedy that's a little like 'Snatch,' but with more women, dirty money, stoned thoroughbreds, and good coffee. We have a slate of great artists collaborating with Viktor on it, and hope to have it completed later this year."

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