When most students study abroad they expect to hear stories and legends from different cultures. They don't expect the characters from these legends to come to life and try to kill them. The archaeology students of "Olympus," a new 112 page graphic novel from Humanoids/DC by writers Geoff Johns and Kris Grimminger and artist Butch Guice, find themselves fighting for their lives against a variety of creatures from Greek Mythology. The student's only allies are a group of heavily armed mercenaries who were threatening to kill them only moments before the monsters appeared. CBR news spoke to Humanoids Editor Collected Editions, Francis Lombard, "Olympus" artist Butch Guice and colorist Dan Brown for an inside look at the project.
"Olympus" came about after Geoff Johns submitted a story for Humanoids' "Metal Hurlant" 2. "Humanoids wanted to do something else, something bigger that would give him a chance to break into the European market," Lombard told CBR News "He and Kris came up with this great story about Olympus. Getting an artist on it took a while; one of our editors in Europe came across Butch Guice's work on 'Ruse' and was really impressed. So when Butch's time at CrossGen ended, Humanoids scooped him up and got him going on 'Olympus.'"
When Guice read the script for "Olympus" he was hooked. "I read the emailed proposal and script, thought it was wacky and wonderful, and we were off to the races from there," Guice told CBR News. "Geoff (and Kris) wrote a really great story -- chock full of the type of imagery I was immersed in during my misspent youth -- tough guys, resourceful women, Cyclops, Minotaur, centaurs, harpies, medusa, and dangers around every corner."
In addition to needing time to find the right artist for the book, the same could be said for lining up the right colorist. "They had been looking for a colorist for it for quite a while," Dan Brown said. "They weren't satisfied and they just wanted me to do a couple sample pages and that was it. They loved it."
The students of "Olympus" want one thing, to survive their ordeal. "Their goal is to get out of this thing alive," Lombard explained. "With the monsters of Greek mythology coming at them and this very tenuous alliance with a group of mercenaries, who are up to killing them at the drop of a hat if they can't be of any help, the students are stuck between a rock and a hard place."
"Olympus" is a very different sort of comic book in that it features no spandex clad superheroes according to Lombard and the tone of the book is action-horror with a big emphasis on action.
The chance to do something other than superheroes is one of the things that drew Guice to "Olympus." "Hey, comics can also be fun without capes and steroid abused anatomy," Guice said. "I broke into the industry as most of the non superhero genres were rapidly being pushed into retirement here in the US market. So, I've rarely had a chance to draw the type of comic books which inspired me as a young fan -- my much missed DC war books, the western titles, science fiction, sword and sorcery tales, etc. I can enjoy a well done superhero comic as much as the next fan, but I deeply miss that variety of old on the shelves, and I hope in the future we'll see a much healthier mix of genres return to the scene."
With "Olympus" being one of Guice's first post CrossGen works he had to polish up on some skills that had gone rusty. "I had just spent three years plus drawing those 'signature' double page spreads of Ruse, so it did take a little time to get comfortable thinking vertically rather than horizontally in my layouts," Guice said. "And, it had been three years since I had done any sustained inking (having been spoiled during that time by Mike Perkins), so I had to work quickly to revive those very sleepy skills -- but in general, I approached the project as I always have -- liberal doses of swearing, much artistic frustration, and occasionally beating my head against the wall."
Brown also had to alter the style that he had grown used to on his previous project. "There was a lot of growing pains at first," Brown explained. "I was coming off of doing 'Black Widow.' That was a very sort of stylized kind of rough style I was using over Bill Sienkiewicz's stuff. I was using some of the same techniques. They were kind of, 'What's all these textures and all this stuff going on?' So I had to smooth it out especially on the skin tones and stuff. They wanted it very smooth and realistic."
One of the most intensive tasks for Guice, as an artist, was keeping track of the large arsenal carried by the various characters of "Olympus." "We start the story with a large, rather heavily armed cast of characters," Guice said. "As members of our cast perished, many of the weapons changed hands, having been retrieved by the closest survivor. Occasionally, I found the need to create bits of physical business in the background in order to get the proper weapon into the correct hands for an upcoming scene. I finally resorted to making a flow chart for myself to help track who had what weapon."
Guice really enjoyed rendering the lush, outdoor setting of "Olympus." "…It's always nice when I'm given the chance to draw organic scenery -- trees, rocks, streams, weather, etc," Guice explained. "I grew up playing in woods most of my childhood so I enjoy every opportunity I get illustrating that type of environment. Dan Brown did an incredible job of adding texture and mood to the scenes. That guy can color the great outdoors like nobody's business."
Guice enjoyed his first work with Humanoids so much that he signed an exclusive contract with them. "Working with Humanoids is better than I ever anticipated it would be (and believe me, after years of daydreaming about the opportunity, I anticipated a lot). I'm having a wonderful time on my current projects, and since 'Olympus,' I've signed an exclusive contract with the company," Guice said. "I couldn't be happier with my work situation."
There are two projects Guice is currently working on for Humanoids. "Right now, we're keeping Butch Guice really busy," Lombard told CBR News. "The two new books he's working on are beautiful and someday they will make it to the US."
"Olympus" is a self-contained story but Lombard believes there is room for a sequel. He joked, "Now, if we can kidnap Geoff from DC..."
Brown would be up for a sequel to "Olympus." "I'd be up for it sure," Brown said. "Once you cut your teeth on a project and know the approach its always easier to jump back to it. Whenever Geoff's exclusive is done."
Guice also would jump at the chance to work with Geoff Johns and Dan Brown again. "In addition to being freakishly talented, they're both genuinely fun people to interact with," Guice said. "Geoff understands the visual side of my job like few writers I've worked with -- his scenes build very naturally and logically when you illustrate them. The characters move and interact with each other. And Dan -- well, he truly brings the art on the page alive. The guy's work is stand out terrific."
"Olympus" hits stores this Wednesday from Humanoids Publishing.