Oni Press has been teasing fans for the last month with news of a new mini-series from acclaimed writer/artist Andi Watson called "Love Fights," releasing only a single image to whet the appetite of fans. CBR News was able to get a hold of Watson and he was happy to reveal a bit more about the new, ongoing series, which he explains will provide a unique look into the superhero world and will also be his first major indie project this year.
"It's a romantic comedy about real people in a superhero world," explains Watson of "Love Fights." "There's Jack, the penciller of a superhero comic, and Nora, who works on a superhero gossip rag. They're the two would be lovers constantly parted by superhero shenanigans. Also, their professional lives are at cross purposes. Jack makes his living from reinforcing the superhero myth while Nora makes hers from tearing it down. Ironically she's the big fan and he's kinda jaded. There's also Russ, Jack's pal, and Sue, Russ's wife. She writes the scripts and Russ inks on the same book as Jack. Whereas they're a couple, Jack is single and thinks women only like superheroes, not regular guys like him."
But dealing with superheroes isn't something that most people have come to expect from Watson, who is more known for slice of life and down to Earth storytelling, despite the sci-fi overtones of his original work on "Geisha" or his upcoming work at Marvel Comics on "Namor." "Yeah, I figured after a decade of making comics I was gonna have to deal with superheroes in one way or another," laughs Watson. "I'm inspired by real life and the hero genre, whether I like it or not, impinges on my real life and work. In the context of 'Love Fights' the genre is perfect because as soon as you put 'real' people in such an absurd world you have amusing situations. Whenever Jack and Nora look like they're gonna get together some superhero related shenanigan comes between them.
"I've never been a fan of the genre, I read a couple of annuals as a kid and watched the 'Batman' show with Adam West like a lot of people growing up in the 70s. But I don't have dewy-eyed childhood nostalgia for the genre; I'm kinda looking in at the direct market from the outside. I did do a bunch of research, reading hero books, and they are what they are, fantasies for boys. I enjoy them when they're silly and they know they're silly, I did get a kick out of the early Legion of Superheroes stories. One thing I learned pretty early on was it's impossible to do a superhero parody because the most ridiculous ideas have already been done with a perfectly straight face. I'm deeply suspicious of the underlying message of the genre, by beating up bad people we make the world a better place. You only have to switch on the news at the moment to see that really isn't true."
With Watson's lack of nostalgic affinity for the superhero genre, it's hard to imagine why he was so drawn to doing a series like "Love Fights," and he explains that there's a creative challenge in doing something so different from the norm. "It's a different approach in that I'm writing 'real' people within an unreal-world. 'Breakfast After Noon,' 'Slow News Day' and 'Dumped' are all firmly rooted in real life whereas here I'm putting those characters into a genre setting. It's kind of 'Slow News Day' and 'Dumped' meets the superhero genre.
"I was really looking to do something fun and draw different things. With the last three projects I've drawn over 400 pages of people and places in and around where I live. I enjoy that, it gives the stories a solid grounding, but also I was itching to do other things visually. I was getting burnt out on drawing suburban semi-detached houses ;) With the big city and the cloak-wearing heroes I'm stretching myself in different ways. I've never been able to draw muscular guys so it's all a fresh challenge art wise. I like to try new things out and avoid being labeled one thing or another. When people start expecting a kitchen sink drama out of you it's time to side step their expectations. My focus is still on character and relationships and the recurring themes of art and commerce."
The inspiration for the project lies with another company, namely Marvel Comics, and Watson explains that through a strange turn of events, "Love Fights" became an Oni project when it was close to being published through Marvel. "This was a weird one. Back when Oni were talking with Marvel we were chatting about doing something and the Oni guys came up with the idea of 'Serendipity meets Marvels,' lovers kept apart by superheroes. I'd neither seen the film nor read the comic but I thought it was a neat idea and wrote up a brief synopsis. Later on down the line I realized I really liked the characters and situations, re-wrote the story over a couple more times and started work on it in September last year.
"Seeing as it was Oni's idea that inspired me I could hardly take the concept anywhere else, so I decided to do it through them. Also, it'd been a while since I'd done a longer series with them so it all came together nicely."
Lest fans forget, Watson isn't only renowned for his writing talents- he's developed quite a fanbase around his art skills too, skills that he says he'll be taking to the next level in "Love Fights." "Visually I'm developing the style in 'Dumped,' only trying to push the brush and tones further. I'm always trying to balance the designed aspects with the spontaneous brush work. Also I'm mixing up a lot of the dense, moment to moment lay outs, with more open, not exactly splash panels, but more open pages. Looking again at manga layouts and how they keep the pages exciting but not sacrificing the importance of the 'quieter' moments."
If the release of "Love Fights" isn't enough to keep Watson fans happy this year, the creator is happy to say that he's got a bunch of other projects on tap. "I've got the 'Complete Samurai Jam' coming out from Slave Labor in July. It collects the four issues of my very first comic series along with the three self published issues. As it's my tenth anniversary of being in comics Dan and I figured we'd finally put this out. We'd joked about it for a long time, because, well, it's not a pleasant experience looking at the first pages you've drawn. Also from Slave in July is the 'Kitsune' one-shot written by Woodrow Phoenix (Sugar Buzz) and drawn by me. It'll be 48 pages and is a fairy tale set in ancient Japan. It's back when Kitsune was a younger and less agreeable fox spirit. We'd talked about this a couple of years back, Woods suggested Kitty would make a good character in her own right and as I'm a great admirer of Ukiyo-e woodblock prints it'd be great for me to draw. The problem was I couldn't get the tone right. Then Woods sent me a script out of the blue, he nailed it perfectly first time and I had to draw it."
Looking back at 2002, Watson says he was happy with what he achieved, but he does have one major regret, admitting, "I wish I'd achieved more. I wrapped up 'Slow News Day' and 'Dumped' but then it felt like I was busting my ass all year and didn't have a whole lot to show for it. It was pretty frustrating until I started on Love Fights. Part of it might have been adjusting to being a father and getting that 'work/life balance' right. The 'life' part takes priority and I'm fortunate in that I can spend a lot of time with my daughter. Working from home becomes priceless. I might not have drawn a lot of panel borders, but I did get to see my kid grow before my eyes."
For 2003, the creator hopes to put out a few more projects and hopes to hone his craft a bit more. "I guess professionally, I should say for the sake of my editors my plan is to make all my deadlines," laughs Watson. "Y'know, the same as every year, do the best work I can. I'm getting fussier, more likely to re-work things, re-draw, re-write...I want to get it right and the longer you're in the medium the more you realize the little details do make a difference."
If you're not quite yet sold on "Love Fights," Watson says that he truly believes it's a comic for anyone who's read comics and a series he really believes in. "Anyone who's read my other work will enjoy it, especially those who've picked up 'Skeleton Key' and 'Geisha.' Also anyone who reads comics will get something out of the book, in some ways it's a comic about comics. All those retailers who haven't given my books a shot yet should order this series, it's a book that fans of superhero stuff will enjoy."
"Love Fights" ships monthly starting June 11th. It's black and white, 32 pages and carries a cover price of $2.99.