RELAPSE: Wong & Valentino Talk "After the Cape II"

It's easy to be a substance abusing superhero if you're a dashing, unmarried billionaire who answers to no one but yourself, but what about the street-level hero who's both husband and father? What happens to him when he gets older, the money gets tighter, and the bottom of the bottle is nowhere in sight? What would he do to take care of his family?

Those questions were asked of Ethan Falls, aka Captain G, in Image Comics' hit "After the Cape." Produced by Jim Valentino's Shadowline imprint, the three-issue miniseries depicted for readers a powerful and emotionally honest story of a superhero fallen on hard times, a hero who made the choice to turn to crime to provide for his wife and children. On sale now in a collected edition, "After the Cape" was just the first part of the tale of Ethan Falls, a saga that continues in November's "After the Cape II." CBR News spoke with writers Howard Wong & Jim Valentino and artist Sergio Carrera about the new miniseries and what's next for the disgraced superhero.

Six months after the events of the first volume, "After the Cape II" #1 finds Ethan in worse shape than ever and with even more on the horizon. Trouble is on its way in the form of the Russian Mob, with whom Ethan became entangled previously, as well as his former teammates from the United Heroes, a group he alienated deeply when they discovered how low he'd sunk. Worst of all, Ethan's wife Ellen and their children have left him, and she's determined to move on.

"What matters most to Ethan is his family," creator Howard Wong told CBR News. "He needs their support and wants to do right by them. Those events make things complicated for Ethan to succeed."

Co-writer Jim Valentino agreed, saying, "If we could say that the first series involved actions , then it can be said that this second series involves consequences . Everyone who was introduced in the first series comes back. How they move forward and what happens to them is what the second series is all about. We see this as a character-driven book and this second series is going to have a lot of very shocking twists, turns and consequences."

"After the Cape" is by most standards an indie comics success story. Then an aspiring writer, Wong placed an ad online in hopes of finding someone to illustrate his story. Artist Marco Rudy answered the call, and their collaboration in-progress caught the attention of Image co-founder Jim Valentino, who worked closely with the pair of first-time creators to fine-tune their project into a three-issue miniseries that exceeded all parties' expectations.

"Each issue [of 'After the Cape'] completely sold out at Diamond – on its first day," said Shadowline chief Jim Valentino. "What that means is that the demand exceeded the supply significantly enough that even with overprinting by a margin of 30% over initial orders, we were still unable to fulfill all re-orders.

"In our estimation, that's like a home run."

"As a newcomer to the industry, it was a wonderful, surprising shock how people responded to it," Wong remarked.

Joining Wong and Valentino for "After the Cape II" is Argentinian artist Sergio Carrera, who like Wong and Rudy before him, is debuting his first American comics work at Shadowline. "Sergio is one of the finest new talents I've ever worked with," Valentino declared. "His sheer drawing ability is amazing-great staging, great acting, beautiful rendering in the Noel Sickles/Milton Caniff chiaroscuro style, which he pulls off masterfully. He's fast and he takes direction beautifully. I cannot say enough good things about Sergio and what a pleasure he is to work with."

As he did his "After the Cape" artist Marco Rudy, Howard Wong discovered his new collaborator in the comics internet community. "Howard actually found Sergio at the Digital Webbing site," explained Valentino. "This should be good news for all of the folks posting their work on sites like Digital Webbing, Penciljack, ComicSpace and all the rest--yes, people are looking!"

"Sergio's professional, understanding and passionate about his work," said Wong. "You can see the attention and care he puts into his art, which I know people will appreciate. It's been terrific working with him. I'm very happy he's part of the team."

Carrera's emotive, ultra-crisp, ultra-high-contrast style maintains the striking look the "After the Cape" title has made all its own, and it's an image Jim Valentino feels is integral to the story of Ethan Falls. "'After the Cape' really isn't about a superhero in the same sense that, say, an issue of 'Iron Man' (which also dealt with alcoholism) or 'Superman' or 'whatever' is about a superhero. It's about a man who has made all the wrong choices in life-choices which affect his livelihood (his job being a superhero), his home and his family. It is those things that, I believe, resonate with the readers. This series concentrates on the more human than super-human element, thus the chiaroscuro style fits it far better than a standard superhero style."

"Mainly, I wanted to maintain what Marco had offered in the first mini," the modest Sergio Carrera told CBR News. "That was great! And I cannot imagine a better story for me to begin with, in the American industry of comics. I feel this story is a very dramatic story -- very little action. So I really enjoy having the characters play a good performance. This is what I love about drawing, and 'After the Cape' is perfect for this!

"It is very easy for me to work with Howard and Jim," continued Carrera, who is looking forward to working on more projects in the American comics industry. "Since the beginning, they have shown a great confidence in my work, and they give me so much freedom! And when I make mistakes, Jim is there for me, being sincere and teaching me how to be the best. I'm learning a lot on 'After the Cape.'"

If "After the Cape II" mirrors the success of its predecessor, fans can expect a third and final volume in Ethan Falls' tumultuous odyssey. "If we take my descriptions of the arcs above as canon, then it should be fairly easy to figure out the theme for the third series," hinted Valentino. "If we end it with only these two series then the reader will still have a very satisfying conclusion. The story is not meant to go on indefinitely. More like manga, we're presenting a story with a beginning, middle, and end. A novel approach for an American comic, I know."

In any event, creator Howard Wong is presently putting together new pitches while he spends more time with his wife and children, and co-writer Jim Valentino continues to oversee more projects from his Shadowline imprint. "We have a great book about a man who can't die, called 'Lazarus,' written and drawn by Juan Ferreyra; a zombie-western tale called 'Graveslinger' by Shannon Eric Denton and Jeff Mariotte; and a fantastic one-shot from Dwight L. MacPherson and Grant Bond called 'Archibald Saves Christmas.' Head on over to my message board at Image Comics to see previews.

"For myself, I'm currently working on a second issue of 'Drawing From Life,' and as soon as I'm done with that, I intend to do a short story for Erik Larsen's Golden Age 'Next Issue Project.'"

"After the Cape II" #1 ships November 7 from Image Comics, and Howard Wong says, "For those who have read the first series, they should find it very involving, and for the new reader, it's a great character exploration."

Jim Valentino added, "If the first series surprised you, this one will kick your ass."


Now discuss this story in CBR's Image Comics forum.

EXCLUSIVE: Jonathan Hickman Peels Back the Curtain on His X-Men Run

More in Comics