WC15: Rick Remender Talks "Low" Influences, Original "AXIS" Pitch

Late Friday afternoon, Rick Remender joined WonderCon 2015 attendees for a spotlight panel focused on his work. With no host to ask him questions, Remender relied on audience participation to discuss his work, with particular attention paid to his Image Comics series "Low," and a candid discussion about his recent work on Marvel's "Avengers & X-Men: AXIS" event.

The first question was a broad one, asking how Remender makes creator-owned comics. The writer explained that he begins by coming up with ideas and placing sticky notes on his desktop. "When people see it, they think I am crazy. I have like five hundred stickies," Remender said. "There's a system. They're all color coded for different ideas, they are all germs of ideas -- or thoughts that wake me up in the middle of the night -- or even titles."

Shifting to "Low," drawn by Greg Tocchini, Remender said the comic is based around his own personal experiences in therapy. It's here, Remender noted, that "no matter what's going on, I can only recognize the negative aspects."

"In the case of 'Low,' the high concept is, in the distant future, mankind has fallen to the bottom of the oceans to avoid the expansion of the sun. Which is something that I found fascinating as a child. The [expansion of the] sun is hundreds of million years away.

"That was the metaphor for being low -- or down, or depressed."

The creator uses fantasy elements within his own work to talk about some of the things he "cares about." For "Low," Remender wanted to talk about his depression and negativity. Within the work, he explores protagonist Stel Caine, who he noted is an "eternal optimist," a mindset Remender admits to having "very little experience with."

"If these things are not visually exciting, and if they aren't visually enthralling -- you're basically asking a genius in the shape of a really highly trained and talented comic book artist to dedicate a day of his or her life to every page of your comic," Remender said, explaining that he believes creators must be passionate when they are telling the stories in order to keep their artists engaged. "If there's not something than can lend a greater weight to the work, then it's almost a crime, in my opinion."

"There have been plenty of jobs that I have done, where there has been no personal aspects to the work. It's nearly a work-for-hire job and you end up writing things that feel very surface level."

He cited David Lynch's process book "Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity" as an inspiration on his own creative process. Reading the book allowed him to find the ideas that are "less obvious" when searching for the metaphor that allows him to tell stories.

Asked how he chooses the different artists he's partnered with, Remender referenced a "file" he keeps of people that he eventually wants to work with, including a number of friends and past collaborators.

"That really is the magic, when you can work with somebody and you have a friendship that forms out of it. The work, I think, benefits from that -- the collaboration is more pure than work. It's not like writer hand the work to editor, editor hands the work to artist -- artist painstakingly draws. It's less of a job at that point and more like exchanging emails."

Remender noted that in "Low," Tocchini added a lot of aspects that were not in the book previously, including design work. He stated that he took a specific liking to a "giant suit of armor" that would go on to serve an important role in the upcoming story. Remender explained that being friends with collaborators turns comics into a "joyful experience."

"In terms of the creator-owned stuff, Image is a good fit for me," he said, explaining how so much of his work has ended up at the publisher. "I can hire an editor and keep everything going. That's pretty much the Image deal -- you run your own show. The deal is unparalleled, I get along with them and were all pals. That's not to discredit or say anything negative about IDW or Dark Horse or any publisher that I have worked for or had a good time with."

"The idea that made it to the book versus the idea that started it were very different," Remender responded when asked about how "Avengers & X-Men: AXIS" spun out of "Uncanny Avengers." "I don't think I'd do another event -- I think it just serves so many different purposes that you have to be okay with letting initial idea transmorph into something else as other needs are serviced. I'm proud of the end result and I think it's a fun story."

Asked if he was able to do everything he wanted to in the series, Remender stated that at first, he wanted the event to be called "Inversion." "Where the villains become the heroes, and the heroes become the villains -- but the world doesn't know this. So while the world still trusts the Avengers, the Avengers are tearing things apart. The villains who they don't trust are trying to save the world -- that's the original pitch."

Stay tuned to CBR News for more on all of Rick Remender's various projects.

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