Comics, Games, Film and Fashion Collide in "Dust"

Nazis, aliens, robots, zombies and beautiful women are tried and true conventions of sci-fi literature, but rarely have they ever looked this good. Created by former lead Versace fashion illustrator Paolo Parente and music video and film director mink, "Dust" is a high concept, high style, alternate reality remix of World War II in which the Allies team up with the Sino-Soviets, the Axis team up with aliens, and robots, zombies and beautiful women roam the battlefields of Europe. CBR News was the first to announce the 12-Gauge and Image Comics series back in February, and now, one month out from "Dust" #1's July 5th debut, we spoke again with creators Paolo Parente and mink about the genesis of this project and its immense multimedia future.

"'Dust' was always my personal pet project," Paolo Parente told CBR News. The designer-artist is well known throughout Japan, Italy and much of Europe for his work in the model kit industries and trading card game industries, where he's created over one hundred cards for "Magic: The Gathering" and other games. Some American readers will also remember Parente's artwork for DC Comics' "Lobo Unbound" as well as various "Star Wars" covers for Dark Horse. But before Parente became a name in the comics, sci-fi and games world, he was fashion icon Gianni Versace's lead illustrator. "Working with Gianni Versace was a dream. I loved fashion, and his fashion particularly. Gianni was a great, brilliant man. Fashion has been my industry and trade for years, first as designer, then as the director of the most prestigious Italian fashion school, Marangoni, which I ended up directing for ten years.

"Dust" #1 and #2 wrap-around covers

"Illustration, toys and graphic novels were always my secret personal passion and hobby. So, it was perfect transition, as working in fashion requires you to have multiple personalities. I was also designing a lot of fantasy and sci-fi illustrations at the time for the curriculum of the school and for Gianni, so the transition seemed logical to me when the time came to design toys for a friend. That in turn led me into designing my own collectable toys which required illustrations for the boxes, and then that led me to drawing comic covers and the rest is history as they say."

"Dust" gestated for several years on Parente's drawing board, first as amalgam of ideas and fascinations the artist had with various designs, model kits and comic books. While slowly building the world of "Dust," he met toy and model kit manufacturer William Yau, who specialized in World War II material. "One night in Hong Kong, over cocktails, I showed [Yau] some drawings and he freaked out. That night we decided to start this adventure with the first set of 'Dust' toys together."

Christopher Wingfield AKA mink made a name for himself directing music videos for Snoop Dogg and Slum Village, and went on to direct the Steven Seagal vehicle "Into The Sun" and the forthcoming "Mortal Kombat: Devastation." Parente and mink were introduced at San Diego Comic-Con International a few years ago, and a creative partnership was born. "[mink], like myself, is a very passionate creative guy," Parente said. "His enthusiasm for the material and the possibilities was fantastic. I think from day one we started understanding each other very well. He pitched some story ideas to me right out of the gate, based on his love of classic WWII movies like 'Guns of Navarone,' 'Where Eagles Dare,' 'Bridge on the River Kwai,' and 'The Dirty Dozen' that I thought were terrific as well. He took what William and I had done [with the toy designs,] which was almost a think tank of ideas, and gave them a structure and direction with a classic 'three act' sensibility. mink has been a great addition to the team."

mink echoed Parente's sentiments. "[Paolo] is a true artist worthy of respect and admiration," the director declared. "I approached him as I would approach any collaboration with another artist, actor, or director of photography.

"William Yau is also an intricate piece of the puzzle. He has made all this possible up until now behind the scenes. So it is a lot like the right movie team; the producer, the director and the writer all working together to make something hot. Paolo and I have an understanding: if it sucks it goes out the window so bad ideas don't hang around for long. Even I know when it's not right so in regards to the overall vision we are both on the same page and that makes the creative process fun and exciting to bounce new ideas and shape old ones into better ones."

One of those new ideas was the character of Joe and his Ranger Team, who work together with the Sino-Soviets' special forces unit led by the beautiful Koshka. "Because of Paolo's love of beautiful women (can't blame him for that one) and his ability to draw them (love that too), there was already Koshka and her team and her part of the universe which she occupied. He also had designed 90% of all the mechanized vehicles and weapons. I took a look at the material and felt it needed another center post character and his own crew. Having been a huge fan of '70s war films -- especially Gregory Peck in 'The Guns of Navorone'-- I came to Paolo with 'Joe from NYC.' Paolo clicked with the idea and Ranger Team #2 was born to complement Koshka and her special forces team. I then started to run with the rest of the material as far as storya arcs and then Paolo and William filled in all the tech-based additions based on my story ideas. Once we got the core story we were off to the races. It was critical to me that this universe, all though it is an amalgam of a lot of different material, feels fresh, stylish and fun."

Indeed, readers of "Dust" will be able to tell from even the slightest glance that a tremendous amount of preparation and world-building has gone into the project, much of which will also be realized in "Dust's" various multimedia ventures. Parante explained that in all, he envisions "Dust" as a twelve-year storyline across multiple mediums, beginning with comics. It was mink who introduced the "Dust" project to 12-Gauge Comics, a move which Parente characterizes as a crucial piece of the "Dust" multimedia puzzle. "12-Gauge being such a very selective company is a perfect for me," Parente said. "Their titles are very cool and I am proud to part of their portfolio.

"We see 'Dust' first as a series of comic books, then a board game [from Fantasy Flight Games] which launches this summer with collectible figurines, and toys including 12" figures and model kits. We will launch this summer with a two-part series followed by a fifty-page source book in October and then continue in December of this year with a four-part mini-series. My ideal situation is to make it a monthly title but that is a ways away."

"Dust" will also take the form of a first-person shooter video game similar in style to the popular "Call of Duty" and "Medal of "Honor" titles. And, mink added, "Of course the feature film. I will direct the feature when we get there it has been a dream of mine for a while now. At one point we talked to another Hollywood heavyweight director at my agency who loved the material and Paolo was kind enough to say to me in the hallway as we left the first meeting, in his best English-Italian accent, 'I am confused, mink. He is nice but I want you to direct the movie!' How can I say no to that!"

Although Paolo Parente maintains a full time job as an art director at French games producer Rackham and continues to create artwork and designs for "Magic: The Gathering," "World of WarCraft" and various other titles and publishers, he is spiritually committed to "Dust" above all else. "My heart and my head is focused 100% on giving the audience of 'Dust' the best experience possible," Parente said. "I am just a working a guy in this [comic book] business and feel fortunate to be given these opportunities to share my skill wherever it is needed. Being able to bring 'Dust' to a wider audience through comic shops stateside and in the UK, as opposed to just through our website, is a dream come true. For this I am so happy to be working with 12-Gauge, mink and Image. They have been great.

"I hope the fans love 'Dust' as much as me and mink. After the launch of the board game and comics this summer, we will see what the stars have in front of me to offer."

CBR Executive Producer Jonah Weiland contributed to this story.

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