MEN ON ACTION: Seagle & Cinello "Soul Kiss" Joe Casey

Soul Kiss

"Soul Kiss" #1 on sale in February

Much like snowflakes, fingerprints and criminals, no two comics are exactly the same. In the case of Steven T. Seagle and Marco Cinello's February-launching "Soul Kiss" miniseries, the comic book about a young girl who can steal your soul with a simple smooch started as an online animated cartoon before it became something much different.

CBR first brought you news of the titles in Man of Action's February slate of comic books from Image, but when it comes to digging into the nitty gritty of the new imprint, creators Joe Kelly, Steven T. Seagle, Joe Casey and Duncan Rouleau make it easy for fans to get the scoop by simply interviewing each other!

In our first MEN ON ACTION feature spotlighting the titles and creators behind Image Comics' latest imrpint, Seagle interviewed his Man of Action studiomate Joe Kelly about Kelly's forthcoming "Bad Dog" project. As MEN ON ACTION continues, "GØDLAND" writer Joe Casey chats with Seagle and Cinello about "Soul Kiss" and the independent and underground works that influenced its creation.

Joe Casey: You started out your comics career writing and creating your own books with "Kafka" and, a little later, "The Amazon." Then you pretty much spent the last decade publishing your original work through DC/Vertigo. So what's your take on doing new work through Image Comics and the Man Of Action imprint?

Steven T. Seagle: In a lot of ways it's stripping things down and getting back to my early roots. I had the good fortune of re-presenting my earliest work in the last couple of years - Richard Starkings kindly re-mastered "Kafka" and "Solstice" for me, and I remembered how much charge I got out of doing guerilla comics - building everything from the ground up with just an artist in tow. Even "The Amazon," which I did with Tim Sale drawing and the editorial assurance of Diana Schutz and Bob Schreck (coming out in a re-mastered edition this March from Dark Horse), was done pretty much in a bubble. I did whatever I wanted in terms of pacing and narrative - my scripts for that book were wildly avant-garde.

I wanted to get back to that place wild creativity and Image is uniquely positioned for that. And come on, Man Of Action Comics?! Who doesn't want their own comics company these days? I at least feel like we earned ours!

Casey: As a reader and a fan, what's been your history with other creator-owned comics?  Any favorites that you still draw inspiration from on any level?

Seagle: Tons. When I got into comics, everybody who was anybody was branching off and doing their own thing. From great small press black and white books like [Michael] Cherkas and [Larry] Hancock on "The Silent Invasion" or Los Bros Hernandez repeatedly blowing my mind with "Love & Rockets" to impossibly dense color work like [Howard] Chaykin on "American Flagg!" and [Bill] Sienkiewicz on the mind boggling "Stray Toasters," people were using comics as a medium exercise, not a genre trap. And that was incredibly inspiring to me. I naively thought comics could tell any kind of story, so my first books were a spy thriller, an eco-parable, and a time-fractured father/son adventure tale. Lately I started to realize how bold (or stupid) that was as a break-in strategy and I wanted to get back to taking those kinds of risks.

Casey: Any nervousness or even trepidation about putting new books out in this kind of Big Event market? Do you ever consider those factors or is it strictly about the creative aspect?

Seagle: Nervous? I don't think for a minute I'm going to show up in the top ten with anything I do that really interests me, because that's not my primary comics wiring. And I am so okay with that. I sat at #1 on the sales charts for a year-and-a-half doing "X-Men," and found it way less fulfilling then holding the complete "Solstice" in my hands last year. It's about the stories for me, not the bragging rights. I just hope I put out books that Image appreciates, readers appreciate, and I can be proud of.

Casey: On the other hand, how excited are you to finally be in full control of things like design and packaging?

Seagle: Oh man! I couldn't be more stoked about that! I've always been a frustrated designer. And my frustration has mostly come from people telling me "no" to things I know will work. For instance, I remember endless road blocks trying to get a cover layout design approved for my "House Of Secrets" series that was ultimately rejected. Flash forward ten years and that exact design was the much-lauded "Civil War" cover layout! I was ten years ahead of my time! But now I get to call the shots and I don't have to ask anyone's permission (except Marco's)! That part of this experience is awesome! Having to do all the work again...well...okay, that's less awesome, but still worth it.

Casey: How exactly did "Soul Kiss" originate?  Not like a typical comic book, as I recall...

Seagle: Marco Cinello and I were asked to contribute webisodes to the then expanding online site Icebox. We pitched a few things they liked and wound up going with an early take on "Soul Kiss." Luckily for us, we hadn't signed our contracts when the site ran into some problems, so we didn't get caught up in their issues. We pulled "Soul Kiss." I jumped into "it's a bird..." for Vertigo, and Marco went back to work on animated features and TV series. But about a year ago, we decided to pull the story out, rev it up, and reformulate it as a graphic novel right as the Image deal was coming together.

Casey: On the surface, there seem some similarities with another favorite of mine, "House Of Secrets," in that the lead character is a young woman. From your perspective, where does a project like "Soul Kiss" fit into your overall body of work?

Seagle: Well, the lead character in "Charlotte's Web" is also a young woman. Is that all it really takes to be like "House of Secrets?" I mean come on, Joe! Put a little something into this! But yeah, I like to write strong-willed, attitudinal women, and Lili is definitely in that mold. But unlike "House's" Rain Harper, Lili always tells the truth, which is kind of how she winds up in the predicament she finds herself in: sucking the living souls out of dudes with her kiss. This book is another angle on finding justice, it's just that where Rain was a witness, Lili is the executioner!

Casey: So, Marco, what's it like working from Steve's scripts?  I've seen quite a few of them and they can range from fairly straightforward to - in the case of a complex issue of "House Of Secrets" - pretty obtuse. Which one is "Soul Kiss?"

Marco Cinello: In the case of "Soul Kiss" maybe somewhere in-between. Steve's scripts read like a novel. There are lots of details and references that can be overlooked at a first reading, but on a more specific level there's a huge amount of information that is very helpful and inspiring for the visual artist. This helps a lot in translating word to visual - especially in the case of "Soul Kiss" where Steve trusted me to tell a story thru striking images and not necessarily thru an abundance of text.

Casey: What is it about Marco's work that makes him right for this?  What are the qualities in his art that fit the material and the collaboration overall?

Seagle: I actually saw a number of Marco's environment paintings that he had done for, I believe, "The Prince Of Egypt" film, and I wrote the treatment for "Soul Kiss" based on that work. So it isn't that Marco's right for this project so much as this project was created based on the themes and colors I saw in his work.

And speaking of influences, I constantly have flashes of "Elektra: Assassin" in my head when I look at "Soul Kiss" because Marco's use of color and layout is as bold in today's market as Sienkiewicz was back in that great book.

Casey: I get a really cool vibe off your art. "Soul Kiss," to me, looks like the kind of experimental indie books I got hooked on in the mid-'80s. What kind of artistic influences are you bringing to this book?

Cinello: When you grow up in Rome, Italy, art is all around you 24 hours a day and obviously that made quite a huge imprint in my growth as an artist. But once I discovered the French edition of "Metal Hurlant" and Moebius's work I was hooked. Then I was influenced by a long series of incredible Italian artists from Sergio Toppi to Dino Battaglia, Tacconi and Pratt and all the Argentinean school. Once I started working in animation I was able to dip into all these references I had accumulated in my head growing up and approach drawing from a more graphic angle. I hope the "Soul Kiss" art reflects the best of all those great influences.

Casey: Without getting into specifics, what kind of work - what kind of comics - are you looking to do through Image as the Man of Action brand evolves?

Seagle: There are creators whose body of work is easily identifiable. But I think my calling card is that I'm not so easily pinned. To that end, the books I am working on for the next year run a very wide gamut: from a totally new take on super-heroes; to a missing person mystery that comics fans will get in one way, and non-comics fans will get in another; to a goofy kid's book - also with Marco on board on the painted art. But for now it's "Soul Kiss" all the way, a book about the ultimate hot temper...and the Devil who pissed her off!

"Soul Kiss" debuts in February. A four-page preview can be found on pages 140-141 of the December "Previews" catalogue.

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