The title characters of the Marvel’s Royals are an eclectic group of Inhumans who are on an intergalactic quest to find the missing element that imbued members of their culture with superhuman powers. The initial leg of their journey has brought them to the devastated home world of the Kree, the empire that created the Inhumans, and soon they’ll head into the far reaches of space.
Come October, artist Javier Rodriguez joins writer Al Ewing on the series with Royals#9, a Marvel Legacy arc that introduces the title characters to the Progenitors, a brand-new alien race with ties to both the Kree and the Inhumans. CBR spoke with Rodriguez about designing the Progenitors, their wondrous home world, and his love for the Inhumans and the legendary Stan Lee and Jack Kirby comics they debuted in.
CBR: In Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme, you got to visit a number of otherworldly locations and bring to life a diverse cast of human and fantastic creatures. It feels like with the protagonists of Royals embarking on a cosmic odyssey into the farthest reaches of the Marvel Universe, you’ll get the chance to continue to let your imagination run wild. Is that what drew you to this series?
Javier Rodriguez: Yes! Comics mean to me a constant dialogue with the readers. I lay down my visual input, the audience fills the gaps and connects the dots. Their interpretation builds their rapport with the comic. This is when the story comes to life. It’s the main reason for me to love this language; particularly the fantasy or sci-fi genre. I love Kirby’s Fantastic Four run — it might be my favorite comic ever. In my opinion, Inhumans are the best characters in it. I have no words to express how much I love them.
Two of the most prominent characters in Royals are Medusa and Maximus the Mad. They’re both in interesting situations in this series with Medusa apparently being ill, and Maximus having successfully swapped positions with his brother. What’s your sense, as an artist, of Medusa and Maximus? Which of their qualities did you really want to capture in your depictions of them?
Medusa is my favorite Marvel character. To me, she represents the terrestrial forces, unlike Black Bolt. He reigns in the sky with his infinite power. He is a king, Medusa is the ground, the rationalism versus the divine. She is the question, not the answer. Her power is tangible, visually speaking, connected with the earth. Her red hair evokes hot lava, whipping red veins moving under her control. I wanted to show an empowered Medusa. Knowing that she is not under the best circumstances, she goes through some predicament. The best stories emerge from conflict.
And of course, Maximus is capital to understanding the Inhumans. He has a Shakespearian antagonist role. In my opinion, he represents the Marvel foundation. The essence of the Lee and Kirby origins, where the bad guy could be grey. Not evil per se, often a victim of the environment. He can work with the heroes at times… I love him.
What was it like bringing to life your other cast members? Which of these characters did you especially enjoy drawing? Were there any characters that were hard to get a handle on?
As a Fantastic Four lover, Crystal and Gorgon are special to me. I’m really enjoying the chance to do my own take on characters that I loved and followed since I was kid. On the other hand, the Nuhumans and Marvel Boy are fresh concepts. I wouldn’t say “hard” when I refer to the art. But it is true that they deserve lots of attention to detail. Their costumes and behavior were new to me, but it was interesting. I know by experience, that often, these kinds of characters, the ones with less background, all the sudden become a huge thing. It happened with Roger in Spider-Woman, and with Nina and Kushala in Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme. So let’s see!
One of the biggest elements you’ll be bringing to life, both metaphorically and literally, is the Progenitors. The designs I’ve seen indicate they’re a pretty diverse species in terms of appearance, but they all share a few common traits: they’re giant-sized when compared to humans, they have both mechanical and biological traits, and they don’t appear to have necks. What inspired you to give them these shared traits?
The background and clues come from Al. He gave me lot of info, character stories, and a lot of room for me to be creative. One of the most interesting features were the floating heads. It is random and seems out of place, but makes them quite interesting. Are they living beings? Artificial? They live in a hi-tech environment, isolated from the rest of the galaxy. Is their task to control the wild nature of space? Research the knowledge hidden in the coffins of the universe? Are they good? Evil? All of these elements were on my mind. That, and that I love to draw big characters, giants. Artistically speaking, you need ample spaces to show where they live. This allowed me to play around with a group of characters like the Royals.
What inspired some of the unique traits and looks of the Progenitors we saw on the cover of Royals #9?
Wil Moss gave me an idea. We are suggesting that the Progenitors are behind the Inhumans’ origin. Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam was an inspiration. That cover should show that the Progenitors are beyond the galaxy and knowledge; some puzzling space creatures doing their business. Black Bolt represents the Inhumans, looking for answers, pushing the wall of wisdom.
We have about five Progenitor designs, and each of them have a task, a reason to exist that affects the design.
Concept art is just a starting point. The way the story evolves. How to tell the story through panels effects a lot of the character design. I always try to keep them flexible, visually speaking. Same applies to the other characters. The mood and the narrative thread have a huge impact on the way that you reveal the characters. Using their appearance is a key. One of my achievements, is to show that character development when I have a chance to draw more than one issue.
Finally, the Progenitors are still shrouded in mystery at this point but we do know they’re capable of astounding seemingly technological feats like “The World Farm.” What was your reaction when you heard about that? What was it like bringing to life something so big and crazy as the World Farm?
When I read the script I thought to myself, “How am I gonna portray this astounding, mind-boggling world?” It is a big deal because the Progenitor’s world is fascinating. I don’t want to spoil it, but it’s not only a task for me, the penciller. It requires lots of work by Álvaro López. Doing a detailed and clean ink job plus the wonderful color work that Jordie Bellaire does. You’ll see what I’m talking about in the last pages of #9.
It is a pleasure to work on a book with some of my most loved Marvel characters and all under the talent of Al Ewing. To me he’s one of the most interesting and brilliant writers in business right now. I love the way he build the characters. On the art side I’m delighted to have the Sorcerers Supreme team together again. I love to collaborate with Álvaro and Jordie, they make everything easy and beautiful.
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