This morning we posted the Bryan J. L. Glass and Victor Santos' prequel to their new Dark Horse series Furious, which debuts Jan. 29. In preparation for the issue's release, ROBOT 6 spoke briefly with the creators, in the process discovering the character had been percolating in Glass' mind (on some level) for more than 20 years.
Tim O'Shea: Once you learned you could run a short prequel Furious story in Dark Horse Presents, how did you two settle on what story you wanted to tell?
Bryan J.L. Glass: It was the perfect opportunity for the series as a whole! The moment chronicled in those eight pages has always been part of the character's back story. It's how she gets her name. She's seeking personal redemption through super powers, so there was no way she was ever going to call herself "Furious." She intended to be "The Beacon," as a name representative of her desire to inspire others. Yet despite her best intentions, her actions scream louder than her words, and the world -- or in this case a television reporter -- dubs her accordingly. It's an important moment. So as soon as we received the green light to introduce her via a DHP short story, I knew I could then remove it from Issue 1. Let it be referenced. It's the terrible thing that happened on the day this superheroine tried to go public, and now she's trying to move forward with baggage she never intended; a microcosm of everything that drives her to be a heroine in the first place.
Victor Santos: I think I drew the issue and the DHP story at the same time, but surely Bryan wrote them in order. It was useful because I could quickly check how the concept worked in a closed arc. And at the same time it's a sample of the storytelling resources I wanted to use. I´m sure every creator wants to differentiate his/her creation from others and find a voice. Bryan works hard in a world full of glorious history and at the same time a lot of crap like popular genres, and my duty is trying to show it in a unique way.
Neither of you are known for superhero comics. What prompted you to explore this (albeit popular) comics subgenre and at Dark Horse in particular?
Glass: The woman behind the Furious goggles has been with me in one form or another for over twenty-five years. So although her name and moniker, past and powers have ever evolved, my desire to tell her internal story through the superheroic genre has always been strong. Yes, I could have translated her tale into a less colorful genre, and/or produced it as a real world drama through another medium entirely, but there is just something so potent in the metaphor of superheroes! The woman called Furious would destroy people figuratively long before she ever had super powers; now she has the power to literally destroy people, and the only thing holding that destructive rage in check is a desire to atone. Making her story a superhero tale suddenly loans that aspect of her struggle a more human edge. That's the magic of superheroes: bringing subtext to the surface, allowing deeper exploration of the human condition beneath. Jim Gibbons at Dark Horse Comics was the first to recognize what I was really saying, and appeared to fall in love with this broken woman as much as I was. Together, we've made her story one that only only have been told at DH!
Despite my work on a number of Thor-related properties for Marvel Entertainment, I am also primarily known for writing fantasy because of The Mice Templar. Yet my mice are lauded for how human they are. I'm a storyteller first and foremost, regardless of the genre, and it's unfortunate how many in the industry won't look past genre. Outside of Mice Templar's fantasy and Furious' superheroics, I'm currently developing sci-fi, horror as well as a black comedy set in a zombie scenario to be announced later this year.
Santos: Bryan and Jim came with the offer and I was delighted. I love the genre and I was hoping for a chance to work on it. My love of the genre doesn’t mean I’m in agreement with all the superheroes that the industry has created. I’m not a hardcore fan. Like I explained in other interviews, I came late to these stories because the Manga boom abducted me during the college years.
But I have in my mind some clear things about why superheroes are so cool, and they have a tone of never-ending artistic possibilities. The use of the coloring is one of those. The relationship between line and colors, the contrast of the costumes and the real world is something fascinating. I think today a lot of comics want to hide the costumes … well, that's like making a western and hiding the hats and the guns!
From my earlier interview with Victor I know that Walter Simonson partially informed his approach to one scene. Can you two talk about other creators that helped inform your approach on Furious?
Glass: Overall, I wouldn't say I've consciously tried to emulate any particular style or approach. I'm telling this tale the way I feel it should be told. Furious herself is our guide, and most of the story is told through her lens. Yet this introductory tale provides no direct look into her head, her motivations; she doesn't even reveal her true name. It was important that readers enter her world as outsiders, to see the same actions and images the rest of her world sees; and then given a chance to glimpse behind the mask and see the anxiety she carries.
So while I'm not seeking to be directly influenced in my approach, I would be foolish not to acknowledge what's come before. I've probably been the most influenced by the 1980s, the decade that transitioned my interests from high school through college, and then into the working world as an adult. Frank Miller's Daredevil, Ronin, Dark Knight; Claremont & Byrne's X-Men; Wolfman & Perez on The New Teen Titans; Walt Simonson's Thor; and Alan Moore's Miracleman, Swamp Thing, Watchmen; and DeMatteis and Muth's Moonshadow.
Today, I'm in awe of the quality and output of writers like Bendis and Brubaker, Waid and Aaron. I read their work and then second-guess myself constantly. Jim Gibbons has been great with helping me recognize when I've done good, when I need to look at my work with new eyes, and most of all not to languish in creative paralysis.
Santos: Jack Kirby, of course, or his nickname when I was 7 years old, “the guy of the super-explosion punches.”Steve Dikto, I really have appreciated Dikto for more than 30 years. Alex Toth, Harvey Kurtzman, Will Eisner, Joe Kubert …
About modern masters… I’m an absolute fan of Matt Wagner. I love his Grendel books and the Mage saga. A lot of people think the Polar red tones is a tribute to Frank Miller, but really it is Wagner’s influence (Miller used it very few times). His storytelling in these books and his Trinity/Batman contributions is subtle, elegant and smart. I like how Tim Sale plays with the void spaces and the expressivity of the characters of Amanda Conner. Bruce Timm and Darwyn Cooke, Javier Pulido, Mike Allred…
A lot of superheroes books seem like screen captures from a video game, but I think these guys and others great artists keep the classicism of the joy seeing beautiful and personal drawings. Their work inspires me every day and if I’m blocked, sometimes simply holding one of their books helps me.
My influences comes from all kind of artistic expressions, the manga books and animes, from classic artists like Tezuka or Goseki Kojima to modern like Kawajiri or Satoshi Kon. The animation series like Cartoon Network stuff, Bruce Timm productions and Fleischer’s Superman. Sergio Leone movies. Chandler novels … It never ends and this is the great part of this work, likes and jobs converging.
You are two creators who clearly relish working together, can you explain why?
Glass: I've been working with Victor for over five years on Mice Templar. I was terrified when Mike Oeming first passed the reins to this Spaniard on the other side of the world. There were language and understanding concerns, along with the anxiety of losing my communication style with Mike. I mean, Mike and I have been friends since 1989 ... and I didn't know Victor at all.
But one of the first emails I had with him was about altering my script style to overcompensate for the language barrier. Victor wanted me to write "an American script." He wanted nothing different than I would write for anybody else. So right out of the gate, Victor was putting both of us on the same page. And I've respected him ever since.
I write very detailed scripts, and Victor has proven adept at sifting through the minutia and isolating the heart of my scenes. He knows what to cut, and rarely do I need to tell him about what's been missed. And it's always a treat to see him visually get to the heart of what I was writing, capturing the intended emotion in a profile, in the glance of a single eye, a single tear.
Truth be told, Victor wasn't my first choice. I knew Furious was going to be very visceral and real world. I wanted one of those uber-realistic styles. I wanted readers to feel the brutality, because the book doesn't relish or languish in the violence; I wanted our audience to carry the shock the same way Furious herself does: horrified by what she's done, and desperate to never go back there...even as she does again and again. This incarnation of the character was re-developed in 2012 for artist Josh Medors,who was planning to bring his visceral horror approach to a woman in spandex! His original illustrations for this series were both beautiful and brutal. But after Josh's passing that November, I couldn't bring myself to even think about Furious any longer. When Victor was suggested as Josh's replacement, I simply didn't believe how his cartoonist style could suggest that weight-of-the-world quality I intended. So it was Mike Oeming again (boy, does that guy get around) who championed Victor as the artist capable of taking this book into another realm altogether.
My first decision was to give Victor carte blanche in the design of the characters and look of the book. And even now, after seeing a nearly finished mini-series, I'm already looking ahead to scripting future arcs that play to Victor's visual expertise.
I think it all really boils down to how much I love this man, this artist, this partner and friend whom I've never actually met face to face!
Santos: Bryan has the talent of other writers I’ve been lucky enough to work with, he always considers every stage of the project, his tasks don’t end when he has finished a script. He’s a brilliant writer but also thinks visually, he considers the space of the balloons, the lettering, all the aspects of the storytelling … It’s harder than working with other guys because he’s demanding, but at the same time it’s extremely easy to work with him. In The Mice Templar, Bryan he’s really the editor and supervisor. That it means now in Furious I have the two DH editors, Jim and [assistant editor] Spencer [Cushing], over my shoulders and Bryan, but this arrangement has a positive effect on the final art and my learning as an artist.
What typically attracts a consumer to a project is some unique element to the character or the story. Can either of you single out qualities about this project that make it unique?
Glass: The biggest, most unique hook for Furious is something we actually can't talk about without spoiler warnings until after Issue 1 hits the stands on the 29th. In many ways, Furious is actually about a villain trying desperately to redeem themselves. Most superheroes wear a mask because if their identity was known, those they love would be in danger. Furious wears a disguise because if the media learned who she really was...the public would despise her. Once the truth of her identity is known to comic readers, the true potential of this series should be recognized as an approach never attempted in comics before. A pretty bold statement, I know. But I'm pretty damned proud of how Furious has turned out after all these years!
Santos: Surely some readers will see all the blood and the reviews about a fallen pop star, and they will think we are going to do some sarcastic parody about Miley Cyrus, with Seth MacFarlane-style jokes and gore … but this is another kind of story. It’s an adult superheroes story, but “adult” in a positive way, forgot grim and gritty. I think it’s a step forward. We talk about redemption, about growing, about mass-media and the social network influence (even in my storytelling), and of course with entertainment, danger and adventure. Because we are not ashamed of making enjoyable superheroes, but we’ll be ashamed if we don’t give our best creating the best comic book possible.
What am I forgetting to ask about that we need to tell folks?
Glass: With fandom demanding more profound female characters of substance, depth and complexity, the industry has responded with nearly every major publisher positioning themselves as one heeding the call. Furious the book and character were never crafted to answer that demand. She's been in development for a long time. Furious is haunted and broken, angry at the world, but even more so at herself. Nothing about her suggests a hero; only that she desperately wants to be something nobler than she's been. In defiance of a media culture that makes heroes out of villainy every day of the week, Furious is a villain desperate to make herself a hero in a way that actually matters. Although her identity as a female is integral to how the media views women, Furious is a journey that transcends gender to deliver a character of conflicting and compelling motivations.