Who is the Infantry?
That's the question which drives the new series from Devil's Due Aftermath imprint written by Joe Casey and featuring art by rising star Clement Sauve. At its heart "Infantry" follows the lone survivor of a failed experiment in human performance enhancement, but what is his agenda? Is he a hero for the people, or something else entirely?
The real treat of this series is the creative team that directs it. Joe Casey, CBR columnist and rock star, and the continually sought after Clement Sauve, whom we just so happened to have the pleasure to speak to about the new series and more.
Sauve started his professional comics career as a background artist for Yanick Paquette before moving on to work on his own on such titles as the Ty Templeton penned "Human Defense Corps" six-issue mini-series from DC Comics. This was his first gig as the core artist on an entire series, and his style impressed quite a few people. Sauve's is a style that has evolved from the likes of Travis Charest-esque in his earlier years, then to the influence of Yanick the three years he spent as his assistant to his own style which Sauve describes as "50% everybody I like, and 50% Yanick. Yanick pretty much molded me before I became his assistant, and his influence became even stronger when I started working with him. Now that I'm on my own, I basically just try to keep it interesting. I like details and I suck at rendering, so I do detailed stuff with almost no rendering. It's as simple as that."
Following "Human Defense Corps," Sauve was announced as the hot new series artist for "Stormwatch: Team Achilles". This of course took place around the time the series writer, Micah Wright, was discovered to have lied about his military service and the books cancellation was seemingly inevitable. In the end, Sauve only ended up doing a single issue of the series.
"Actually, I was told I would be doing 4 issues. I assumed I was to be the bumper artist between CP and the new regular artist, but then the ads came out saying I was the new artist on 'Stormwatch.' I figured 'oh well, I'll just draw it until the schedule catches up with me' but things played out differently. I learned later that they knew all along that 'Stormwatch' was gonna be cancelled when they called me, they just didn't tell me. I can understand that, but honestly I would have worked my ass off even if I had known the book was getting canned. It wouldn't have bothered me to work on a book knowing it was gonna end, but it sure bothered me to learn I was unemployed by reading Newsarama, and then finding out that a shitload of people knew and kept it from me.
"In the end, it think the book getting cancelled was probably for the best, because once Micah came clean, it wouldn't't have mattered who was drawing the book, or even if the book was good or not. It seems like a lot of people hated Micah and were just waiting for something like this to happen."
Fortunately for Sauve, a number of people were already aware of his potential which lead to getting picked up on the "Infantry" series which he describes as "…sort of a modern twist on superheroes. And I don't mean that in that cliché way that means we're doing 'superheroes in the real world.' It's more like superhero concepts, done for the modern day readers. I mean, most comic fans today play games like 'Metal Gear Solid' and watch TV shows like '24' and 'Alias,' so trying to sell them 'good guy in costume punching bad guy in costume' would be kind of hard. I think Infantry is a nice twist on the concept of the super soldier because it almost lacks that romantic idea of the hero fighting for his country. Sure, there's plenty of fighting, but it's more intricate than a guy in a flag themed outfit punching out Nazis.
"Besides Infantry, there's Charlie Alexander, an insurance investigator, Agent Styx, a CIA agent, an organization called Nemesis, and various shadowy figures whose affiliations are revealed as the story unfolds." Continued Sauve. "We follow Charlie Alexander as he tries to make sense this huge mess, and as the story unfolds, we discover how the pieces fit together."
But don't assume Charlie is the core of this book, it is called "Infantry" after all. "Well, I wouldn't say Charlie is the main character, but Infantry and him both play an equal role in the book. Charlie is the normal guy who's thrown into this world made up of superhumans, spies and covert agencies, and ends up in over his head when he tries to figure out what and who Infantry is."
Considering the subject matter people have been quick to label the series as "'political." While there may be some of those elements, the series is really an action thriller with a bit of a political slight, or as Sauve describes it "Well, I don't think the book has a political slight in the same way that 'Ultimates' or 'Stormwatch' had. I'd say the politics in the book have the same flavour as the politics in movies like 'Clear and Present Danger' or 'Spy Games.' I mean, if anybody tried to make a super soldier in this day and age, the US government, the CIA, terrorists cells and foreign powers would certainly all be paying attention, and basically, that's what happens in 'Infantry.'"
While you may think of Captain America when you hear the words super soldier, don't expect Infantry to walk around with a big star spangled shield. What he does have, however, is a sort of modified baton. "My original designs had Infantry using short sticks that were kind of like small samurai swords, but Joe wanted the good old police style nightstick, so I went back to my drawing table and came up with a design that combined the 2. It's a stick with a handle that folds back at a 90% angle and allows another piece to pop out, creating a baton. I don't know how many of the other gadgets Joe is gonna be using, but there's smoke grenades hanging on a strap on each side, and a nightvision goggle system that snaps on the mask."
How does a rising star artist get hooked up with a star writer like Joe Casey you ask? "Devil's Due Publishing's Mark Powers was the first guy to offer me work after 'Stormwatch' got canned (he actually offered me work 2 days before it was announced officially, which is one of the reasons I kind of knew it was coming). He told me they were going to do this new line of books that were not gonna have anything to do with 'G.I. Joe' or 'Transformers' and to be honest, I thought they were insane. The market has shown time after time that it will not support any superhero book outside of DC and Marvel, except for the excellent 'Invincible,' which everybody should be buying, so I figured Josh had lost it. Then Mark mentioned the writer was Joe, so I said yes.
I said yes mainly because I absolutely loved Joe's 'Mr Majestic' and also I loved the possibility of promoting 'Infantry' with the line "the writer of 'Wildcats' and the artist of 'Stormwatch,' both cancelled because of low sales, together at last!'"
Casey has been applauding Sauve's skill on this series, describing him as the sort of artist who gets better and better with every page, we asked Sauve how it feels to know the man behind the scripts is a fan of your work. "Honestly, I feel incredibly uncomfortable knowing I have any fans at all," admitted Sauve. "Every time I draw something that sucks, even if it's just a building or a hand, I figure that people who used to like my stuff no longer do, and that just stresses the hell out of me. Knowing that people like your work is both flattering and nerve wracking at the same time, because you constantly feel like you're going to disappoint someone."
When an opportunity like this comes along, though, it's important to know where your strengths and weaknesses lie, as you can see from the preview pages accompanying this interview, Sauve isn't short of strengths. "I have a very strong sense of perspective, which comes from three years of doing someone else's backgrounds, and that helps when it's time to draw technical stuff like guns and pouches, things like that. Basically, I'm better at drawing people in clothing with tons of shit hanging on them, but that might just come from the fact that that's what I prefer to draw. Drawing flat out superhero stuff, guys in tights and capes, is what I find most challenging. Not because drawing anatomy is hard, but because I find it incredibly boring. I just can't entertain myself by drawing anatomy, because there's almost no creativity coming into play. No creative way to draw folds in clothing, no new design for pouches and straps. Its just muscles, and it's been done thousands of time by people better than me, so there's really nothing new for me to bring there."
Casey has expressed how glad he is to be working with Sauve, but how does he feel to be working with Casey, perhaps the most high profile writer he's worked with to date? "Well, he's big enough to have a fan following, so it's nice to know that we'll at least have his fans buying the book. I think every time someone unknown like me gets hooked up with someone more famous like Joe, the goal is to try to impress the hell out of the guy."
Like with any new project there's a sense of nervousness and anticipation when connecting with the creative team because usually it takes a while to predict how well you'll mesh with a certain writer, inker, colourist, or even editor when being brought onto a series. "How well you'll blend with a certain writer is a little hard to say, because they can change their style from one book to the next and tailor the books to your strength, but it's easy to tell what inkers would do a good job and which ones wouldn't," said Sauve. "Basically, inkers who have the same influences as you do can guess what you want and what you're trying to do, so just by looking at their work and who they've worked on can give you a good idea of how well they'd work on your own stuff. That being said, the best inker over my stuff is 'Ghostbuster' inker Serge Lapointe, but you'd never guess that by looking at all the other things he inks besides my work. For colourists it's a little harder to predict, because they can adapt to the artwork, but I've found that the most important factor when it comes to how well a colourist will mesh with you is how much time he has to colour the book. For 'Infantry' I didn't have to worry though, because I dragged along Kevin Senft, who had worked with me on a few 'Voltron' covers. He used to colour stuff I had in my portfolio back when I wasn't even a pro, so like Serge, he knows how to avoid doing stuff that infuriates me. For editors, well, I don't think I've worked with enough of them to actually tell how much they influence the book."
One of the bonuses of being a series artist is getting the chance to try your hand at a cover piece. With "Human Defence Corps," Ty Templeton designed the covers and Sauve's artwork followed his layouts, but things are different for "Infantry." "I'm mostly following Mark Power's suggestions. I usually do a bunch of sketches, and Mark will either pick one of those and suggest a small change, or suggest something completely different, and I'll just go from there."
Not only is Sauve doing the "Infantry" series, but he was also brought on to do a special cover for the "G.I. Joe/Transformers" cross-over series. "I'm not gonna lie to you, it's flattering to get asked to do a cover for a book you're not working on. But when Mark called and suggested doing something for 'G.I. Joe/Transformers,' I almost said no. No offense, but fans of those properties seem to be a little more hardcore than regular comic fans, and I thought that every line, every belt and every bolt would be examined to make sure I had done it exactly the way it was 20 years ago when those fans fell in love with the characters. But after getting reference from Serge Lapointe, who did a fantastic job on the inks for the cover, I realized that out of the four images of Roadblock, and three images of Lady Jaye, there weren't two that were alike. That took a lot of pressure off, and allowed me to just have fun with it."
What's fun about a cover piece is designing a work of art meant to catch the eye and entice the reader, but when it comes to the series itself, you're starting from scratch. Not just one page, but a whole new world with all new designs, costumes, tech… so where do you begin when you have to start at the beginning? "You have to design everything pretty much the same way a set and prop designer work for animation and movies," said Sauve. "You have to figure out what style you're going for and try to make everything look like it belongs in the same world. Of course that's the fancy answer. The short answer is, I try to make shit look cool. I pull out a bunch of reference and use that as a starting point. I also try to keep in mind all the other books, cartoons and movies that have been done with a similar theme, because you have to realize that that is where the bar has been set, and that people won't settle for less."
Readers don't like to settle at all, especially when it comes to the timeliness of a new series, with this being Sauve's first ongoing monthly series, and so many artists unable to maintain a regular schedule, a boy can get concerned about taking on such a project. "Actually, I'm one of those many artists you just mentioned that is unable to maintain a regular schedule. I'm honest about it, I can't do a page a day, especially not on 'Infantry' where I have no inker. I think that while comics should be monthly, artists shouldn't have to be. I think that rotating creative teams is the best solution, because fans want kick ass art, and there's no way a guy doing a book in four weeks is gonna compete with Brian Hitch or Adam Hughes."
With a single issue of the Aftermath imprint still to be released, the entire line has already been optioned for film, television and video games. As artist of the series, we asked if he'd been approached about being involved in the extra media adaptations. "No, but this early in the process I'm not exactly
expecting to be. Also, as fun as it is to get press because of potential movie and cartoon and videogame deals, we have to remember how many of those never see the light of day. My priority is to make the best 'Infantry' comic that I can. My only hope is that whoever gets the rights to do 'Infantry' in other media does the same. The same goes for any comic related material. If you do a comic inspired movie, cartoon, videogame or even lunchbox, I hope it's because you are so impressed by that book's potential and you love it so much that you wanna put every ounce of energy you have into making it into a kick ass movie, videogame, cartoon or lunchbox. If on the other hand, you're buying the property because you wanna attach the word 'comic' to your shitty movie, cartoon, videogame or lunchbox, in hopes to rake in the cash like 'Spider-Man' did, I have absolutely no respect for that."
Since Sauve no longer works in a studio environment, his home has become his office, so what can be expected in his time away from the drawing table? "Time away from the drawing table? What is that? Seriously, if I play half an hour of Playstation a day it feels like a week in Disneyland. The only reason I'm working at home instead of the studio is because I don't have time to waste going back and forth. Also, if I left for the studio in the morning at 9 and came back at midnight, 6 or 7 days a week, I'd go insane."
Infantry #1 will be in stores this December from Devil's Due Publishing, order code OCT042584 with a cover price of $ 2.95.
Jonathan Ellis is a Contributing Writer to CBR and Co-Editor in Chief of PopImage.com.