Tag Archives: characters

What Could Be Expected in Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

After its initial success with Iron Man, the Hulk, Captain America and Thor, Marvel Studios quickly realized that it had a formula for success on its hands and seemed ready to take advantage of it.  To do so though required a plan, and studio head Kevin Feige soon had broken down the movies into various phases, with the most recent Ant-Man signaling the end of phase 2.  Aside from the developments inside the movies, there have been some developments outside the movies which have affected the universe as well, chief among those the partial reversion of the rights to Spider-Man back to Marvel, or at least the use of Spider-Man inside the shared universe in a collaboration with Sony.

At the moment, we kn ow the entire lineup for phase 3, starting with Captain America: Civil War and continuing through two new Avengers movies and the Inhumans.  What might be expected in the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe?  The release of the newest Fantastic Four might signal some of the changes which we can anticipate ahead (there are some spoilers below).

Ant-Man and Wasp

waspMany expected Ant-Man to be one of the bigger disappointments thus far in the MCU, due to its ongoing problems with the direction, after it passed from Edgar Wright to Peyton Reed.  It seemed as though the studio was not going to take any risks with the character as they could not even confirm his role in any future movies.  This presumably will all change now that the movie has been released.  Although it can’t compare to the financial success of the year’s other Marvel movie, Avengers: Age of Ultron, it also is noteworthy as being a better critical success, with a better rating at Rotten Tomatoes than Avengers.  With both financial and critical success it seems as though there will be more to come from these characters.  As was hinted at the end of the movie, there is still a lot of story left to tell as well, as the end hinted that Janet van Dyne might not be truly lost.  Furthermore Hope van Dyne was presented with a Wasp suit by her father.  There could be a lot of places to take the story of the two heroes, though one in particular might make the most sense …

Micronauts

micronautsThe Micronauts are a bit of an oddity in comics.  They started out as a line of toys, who were written into comics after in the 1970s after Marvel writer Bill Mantlo saw his son open a box of the toys.  The series started as somewhat of a standalone, but slowly was incorporated into the Marvel Universe, with appearances by some other mainstream characters.  While the rights for the characters do not presently rest with Marvel, there is a long publication history with the characters and as the rights rest with other smaller comic companies, it would likely not be too difficult to reacquire the rights.  Furthermore for the film studio that might try to replicate the runaway success of Guardians of the Galaxy, they might look smaller instead of bigger and find their next surprise hit there.  There would be some hurdles, but also there might be a few benefits, as Janet van Dyne disappeared into the smallest dimension, the Microverse.  This small universe is not in itself small, but the pathways to enter it are, and could give an explanation as to where the character disappeared.  They might find Janet in the Microverse, but they might also be able to find some other heroes there as well…

Fantastic Four

fantastic fourThe Fantastic Four is one of the best known Marvel properties that does not lie within the company’s grasp at the moment, instead being controlled by Fox.  While Fox has managed to control the X-Men franchise strongly enough with some decent movies, the Fantastic Four has mostly been a sequence of failures.  The first of the series was good enough to warrant a sequel, but this was before the wake of Marvel movies changed how fans expected superhero movies to turn out.  Marvel Studios was looking to be innovative, not just rehash generic action/sci-fi plots with superheroes thrown in.  The most recent attempt by Fox to revamp the Fantastic Four might have been an attempt to do the same, to get some new excitement into the mix, but it evidently did not turn out that way.  Critical response (and probably financial) will mean that the characters will have to be shelved for a while before the public has forgotten enough about them.  Using the Sony/Spider-Man approach, lending the characters back to Marvel Studios might be a wiser choice, one that would probably make more money for both, and one which would keep the fans happy.  By this point though, with two origin movies behind them, it might make sense to jump straight into the Fantastic Four with them already established as heroes.  They could exist in a similar sense to Hank Pym in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, unknown but still present.  More so, one of the places that is visited by the Fantastic Four is the Microverse, and if they were stuck there then it would be an easy bridge between Ant-Man and the return of Marvel’s first family.

Namor

namorIt is not entirely clear where the rights to Namor presently rest.  Kevin Feige has indicated that Marvel, if they desired, could make a Namor movie, but that there would be some “entanglements”.  Rights to the movie have rested with Universal, but seem to have at least partially lapsed.  What remains is speculated to be the same arrangement with 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, that Marvel creates but Universal distributes.  While it was not a problem when the Marvel Cinematic Universe was still nascent, it seems moving forward that Marvel likes to create and distribute, and to get rewarded financially at 100% for its efforts.  It might make exceptions for Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four but maybe less so for Namor.  Another factor to consider is what DC Comics will manage to do with its own movies.  The other of the big two comic companies is playing catchup, but also has the benefit of controlling the movie rights to nearly all of its characters.  They have already greenlit an Aquaman movie, but it remains to be seen just how well it will do.  Aquaman is after all a hero that is taken not so seriously in pop culture, but if DC can make it work, maybe it will give Marvel second thoughts about its own underwater hero.

Thunderbolts

thunderboltsThe fact that DC Comics is playing catchup in the movie game can also be to the advantage of Marvel.  Marvel has already taken its gambles and seen those pay off, as with Guardians of the Galaxy.  DC Comics, who are eager to catch up, are also taking their own gambles, and chief among those is the Suicide Squad.  Featuring a group of villains forced into a heroic role, it might catch on, or it might flop.  Fans certainly will not be very familiar with the concept, and the concept in itself is strange enough that it might not work.  On the other hand, it might work, and if yes then it could serve as a gamble that Marvel gets to witness the results of without gambling anything itself.  If popular it could use its own villain-turned-heroes team the Thunderbolts and catch the wave of people wanting more Suicide Squad before a sequel to the DC movie comes out.  If played right as well it could help quieten those that think that the MCU’s villains are the weakest part of the movies.

Defenders

defendersMarvel is already a long way along in its development of the Doctor Strange movie, and holds the exclusive rights to the Hulk as long as he is not the featured character in a movie.  A Namor movie could be forthcoming depending on the success of Aquaman, and if Fox sees the benefits of doing so, a collaboration might be in the works to return the Fantastic Four and associated characters to the MCU, which would include the Silver Surfer.  Those four make up the original four members of the Defenders.  For those that are getting a bit tired of seeing the Avengers over and over again on the big screen, it might be an excuse to feature this other Marvel team (although Marvel is working on a street level Defenders television show as well.)  One interesting aspect about this team is that as opposed to the Avengers that the original team is made up of all non-street level characters, meaning that the stakes could be higher and that bigger things might happen as a result, such as …

World War Hulk

wwhThis has been a long rumored development in the MCU, but also not one that has not yet come to fruition.  Marvel has been careful to include in story arcs from the comics, and it has made for some great connections for fans of both mediums.  Although World War Hulk is not necessarily the best all time Hulk story, it is up there, and would be a better vehicle for putting a new spin on the Hulk stories, more so than what we are seeing at the movies, with both Hulk movies fitting the same general pattern of the Hulk being hunted by the government after smashing up a bunch of stuff.  It would also allow the character to move beyond the Avengers, which is a connection that is not as strong in the comics.  Also if all the pieces fell into place, it would mean that a lot of the major players from the crossover might be able to make it into the movie, save for the X-Men.

Hawkeye

kateRumors abound that another major character will die in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War (especially that there are pictures from the set of a funeral sequence), and without any other way to verify this other than by seeing a movie that will not be released until 2016, it still seems likely that one of the characters that might be easiest to kill off would be Hawkeye.  He is among the less popular of the main characters in the MCU, and has been almost a footnote to the movies series, appearing to provide fans with another superhero, but also one that doesn’t really do much.  Even if he does not die in the movie, it is also worth noting that the character is one which is on the verge of retirement, being somewhat older than the other heroes and with responsibilities to his family.  This could leave open the possibility for a Hawkeye movie except not as we might expect.  As the movies expand in popularity it makes sense to be closer to four quadrant movies, and one way to do this is to introduce more female characters.  If Clint Barton were to retire on screen, it could open the door for Kate Bishop to step up, providing the MCU with another superheroine, and one with a lot more of an edge than Clint.

She-Hulk and Spider-Woman

shehulkOn that same note, if Marvel is looking to keep its female fans happy it might look to develop these characters as well.  Most of the main Marvel superheroines would be tied up elsewhere, with most of the major heroines being members of the X-Men, and other such as Sue Storm or Medusa mostly only operating as parts of teams.  Others such as Elektra and even Hellcat are tied to the television series, which mean that only a few major female characters would be left to get the big screen treatment.  She-Hulk and Spider-Woman could both be strong contenders to hold down their own movie, especially if Marvel did something unexpected and went off the script with the Spider-Gwen version of Spider-Woman.  It would also help to fill the ranks of the Avengers, a team which needs to be mixed up a bit from time to time to keep the roster fresh and the fans intrigued.

Ka-Zar

tigraKa-Zar is one of the longest running Marvel characters, but also one that has not had a very solid fanbase in modern years, although unquestionably popular among many.  Although Marvel is keen on taking risks, could it make the Savage Land work the same as it made Guardians of the Galaxy work?  The Savage Land is the source of many stories within the Marvel Universe, though most of them with the X-Men.  Why might the MCU be interested in the Savage Land?  It is a fantasy setting, and while it does not match up with other heroes, could still serve as an explanation for the re-appearance of some characters who also happen to be Avengers – Hercules, Tigra or even the Black Knight.  It might be a stretch, but Marvel will be looking for new blood for its Avengers as it moves forward, as is evident from the new roster after Age of Ultron.  Tigra especially might be interesting, as she not only is her own character, but is also indirectly responsible for the development of Hellcat, whose non-superpowered version is already set to be introduced in the Marvel television show Jessica Jones.

Iron Man 4

iron manThis is perhaps the biggest question to solve in phase 4.  A big part of what made the MCU so popular is that it based its hopes on the initial movie, Iron Man.  If this movie had failed so too would the plans for the shared universe.  Success would probably have still come the way of the studio, but it would have been a longer road.  Part of the runaway success of the original Iron Man was that Robert Downey Jr. was perfectly cast as Tony Stark, what some might say is not even really acting as he seems to be mostly playing himself.  That having been said, superheroes never really age but actors and actresses do.  While the studio can get a few more years out of Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson (all in their early to mid 30s), and even a lot more out of Paul Bettany (whose character the Vision wears so much makeup as to be ageless) and Elizabeth Olsen (who is in her mid 20s), it can probably expect less out of Robert Downey Jr, who is now 50.  They might push him for a couple more movies, but eventually he will need to be replaced, and the biggest question would then be by who, as the character is one that is of highest importance to the MCU.  There might be no bigger question heading forward in the MCU than who will fill this role.

Review: Batman/Superman #21

bmsm021Since the advent of superhero comics, there is no stronger and dissimilar team-up than Superman and Batman.  One represents the hope that is possible for all humanity, and the other deals with the sometimes sad truth that is the human condition.  One is a superpowered alien, the other a regular man driven to perfection.  In the history of the characters, they have often been played against each other for a specific effect as the differences between the two are highlighted by the same underlying sacrifice for humanity.  While this dynamic is therefor both characters, at the moment both of them are in flux as well.  Superman is undergoing fundamental changes under the Truth story arc and no one is quite sure what has happened to Batman since the end of End Game.  In this case the differences between the two characters exists to show that no one really knows what is going on with them any more.

The action follows Superman as he is cleaning up the streets of Metropolis.  Lex Luthor intervenes and informs him that there is a connection to Gotham City, to which Superman quickly goes to investigate.  His own issues being pressing enough, he must now deal with the disappearance of Bruce Wayne and the introduction of a new armored Batman in his place.  Without his greatest ally to assist him he still searches for the answers as the newly depowered Superman and the mysterious new Batman face off head-to-head in the search for some answers.

While the Truth story arc for Superman is interesting from a certain perspective as it allows the character to be explored for some of his fundamental characteristics as opposed to his powers, there is also the lack of feeling of permanence to it.  This is maybe the most evident here as both Batman and Superman are a little lost at the moment, both absent in one way or another.  As these are DC’s big two, it seems unlikely that these changes are permanent, and so this issue in a way kind of feels like filler.  At the same time it does a good job examining the importance of the two characters for one another, especially as they are at relative lows, but these two do not stay low for long, and so it raises the question of just how relevant this story is?

Story: Greg Pak  Art: Ardian Syaf
Story: 6.5 Art: 7.5  Overall: 6.5  Recommendation: Pass

Review: Convergence Supergirl Matrix #2

consup002There may be no comic book writer who needs to not only be in his exact element of genre, but also to have the exact right characters to make his stories happen as Keith Giffen.  Giffen is perhaps best known for his work in the late 1980s and early 1990s when his humor infused comic book writing acted as a counterpoint to the super-serious and dark approaches used for other heroes.  The problem with Giffen then as now was that he needed the right characters to work with in order to make his sometimes serious and sometimes comedic stories work.  For instance, when writing Justice League he used Booster Gold and the Blue Beetle as main characters to focus the comedy around through some odd hijinks.  The problem was that the pair did not really work well together most of the time instead resulting in some awkward situations.  The same could be said for the first issue of this two-parter where Gifffen tried to play the humor of Lady Quark and Lord Volt against one another.  For the most part this failed and the first issue did not bode well for the second issue.

That is until the arrival of the Ambush Bug.  Put together with the titular hero in this story, the two play off each other well in this story.  There are still some groan-worthy moments, but mostly the action and banter keeps itself going pretty well throughout this issue.  And while other parts of Convergence have introduced the Extremists who are rip-offs of Marvel characters, this has perhaps the strangest pseudo-appearance of another character, with Convergence’s version of Spider-Man showing up.

This issue ends up being what is perhaps one of the better indicators of the impact of Convergence.  While this follows along with the overall story line, it doesn’t dwell on it, and instead focuses on the fun dynamic between Supergirl and Ambush Bug.  It doesn’t always work, but it works a lot better than the plot has so far in most of the Convergence tie-ins as well as the overall story.  This is maybe a forgettable entry into a sub-par crossover, but it is also one of the more entertaining thus far, even if the story is far surpassed by the interaction of the characters.

Story:  Keith Giffen Art:  Timothy Green II  
Story: 7.7 Art:  7.7 Overall: 7.7  Recommendation:  Read

 

Review: Convergence Catwoman #2

concatThe unlikely battle between Catwoman and the Kingdom Come version of Batman continues in this second of two Convergence related titles.  Generally speaking Convergence has been a bit of a misfire on all counts, not really drawing in the interest that it could have with a slightly more tied-together concept.  As it stands though, this combination of characters is one of the best in comics (maybe even the best?), even if it is pre-new 52 Catwoman with an elseworlds version of Batman.  What is interesting about this entry is the relationship between the two.  In alternate reality scenarios, writers often answer the “will they or won’t they?” question that has been played at since her first appearance in Batman #1 in 1940, and it usually ends with a “they will.”

Alternately here and as seen in the previous issue, the Kingdom Come Batman thinks of Catwoman as nothing more than a thief and a criminal, and aims to treat her accordingly, especially that the fate of his city is on the line as well as hers.  As this is the two iconic Gothamites this doesn’t play out exactly as a battle between them, or at least not for long, and while this turn of events is expected, the eventual direction taken with this issue is a little bit surprising for other reasons.

Convergence has on the whole mostly been a disappointment, and unfortunately the same mostly carries over here.  The pairing of these two characters together usually results in some electricity, but here in the rushed and convoluted setup from Convergence, it is more about the crossover and less about the characters.  At the same time, the fundamental attraction of the two characters to each other almost keeps this moving, but it ends up being a a bit too flawed overall.  The story doesn’t finish here, but rather will continue in the pages of the main Convergence title, but for the time being this two part tie-in doesn’t merit the attention.

Story: Justin Gray Art: Ron Randall
Story: 6.8 Art: 6.8 Overall: 6.8 Recommendation: Pass

Review: He-Man Eternity War #5

hemaneternitywar005The latest run of He-Man in his own title has perhaps been the best representation of the character thus far in his experience in popular culture.  This run focused a more mature approach to the character which aims to highlight both the strengths of the sci-fi/fantasy mix while also presenting characters that are far more approachable for those who are not fans of the character.  That is to say that He-Man has achieved a degree of quality which does not depend on the character himself for the stories, but rather the characters and his allies and enemies simply populate the stories which would be equally strong in other cases.  This story first approach is one which benefits most series and characters, and it has been especially highlighted with the Eternity War miniseries.

The most recent issue of Eternity War was one of contrasts.  While it was overall pretty well put together, it nonetheless had a few of the common problems often associated with comics as a medium.  In this case it was specifically the near death of She-Ra, a little bit of a reduction of a powerful female character to a damsel-in-distress like sidekick.  Although the series seemed to be veering down a well trodden road, it takes this same development and turns it around in this issue in an unforeseen and entirely inventive turn.  It reintroduces the old DC comics concept known as hypertime (even mentioning it by name) and in the process features what must be the first in continuity appearance of an action figure in the medium.  The rest of the issue pushes the plot forward, as well as given the He-Man fans something to be excited about, in a “will they or won’t they?” context, in the last few pages.

The creative teram continues to reimagine the characters of the Masters of the Universe in this interesting issue.  While the plot itself is maybe a bit more commonplace, the tricks that they pull out of their bag are not, even breaking what fans might consider the regular boundaries of the fourth wall.  The end result is an issue which once again proves that this new take on the character is for real and deserves attention.

Story: Rob David and Dan Abnett Art: Pop Mhan
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Inhuman #13

inhuman014There is a common enough formula within comics, and especially for superhero comics.  Not every issue can contain a big spectacular action sequence, as those require several issues to build up to, and equally some issue have to be set up to allow for the development of characters and to introduce new plot points to build other stories from.  After the last issue of Inhuman which resulted in the attack of the Ennilux Corporation against New Attilan, it should not be a surprise to see that this issue is at a much slower pace, instead of the action packed previous few issues.

There is a change of focus somewhat at Marvel, at least is some fundamental ways, as the Inhumans have become the mutants, at least in certain applications.  A few years ago, a popular character like Miss Marvel would have likely been introduced as a mutant but now she is given a background as an Inhuman.  This might have some inspiration from who owns which movie rights, but it is undeniable that the Inhumans have a change of focus which examines them as people first and as superhumans second, and that is the case here.  There is therefore the need from time to time for an issue to build up the characters is stronger.  As this issue focuses on the development of certain characters, it comes at a good time, after Iso has been added to the mix of NuHumans.  At the same time, some ground is laid here for an upcoming story arc as Lineage finally begins to reveal his true intentions.

This series maintains its same level of quality here, even if it is not as pulse pounding as some that have come before.  This simply serves as an intermediate issue, though one which is necessary for the series to catch its breath after recent events.  It still serves as an example of the focus put on characters as opposed to other series which rely more on a concept, and it is that which this series is best known for.  This is not the issue that fans will remember fondly, but rather the one that sets up ones that will become memorable.

Story: Charles Soule Art: Andre Araujo
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Read

 

 

Push Comics Forward – The Female Super-Scientist

j4p4n_Scientist_Woman_(comic_book_style)Recently the head honchos at BOOM! Studios put out the idea that comics needs to change and to not be stagnant as a medium.  Long since dominated by superhero stories, the medium has indeed made a number of changed in the past couple of decades and the change is noticeable in some regards.  Equally though, comics are somewhat of a niche when it comes to their perception in popular culture.  Although there is an increasing amount of female readers, the medium is slower to make the changes to draw in fans of all backgrounds, and especially at the big two publishers instead still focuses on mostly a collection of characters who are both white and male.  While the interest in push comics forward doesn’t necessarily lie solely with the big two publishers, change has to happen there as elsewhere in order for the medium to evolve.

Science in comics was a bit of an x-factor until the onset of the silver age.  Until that point, science was usually grossly misapplied in order to move along a plot.  Gross inaccuracies were made and aspects of scientific knowledge would be presented, leaving what was actually used of the science to be misappropriated and simplistic.  As the silver age started, the focus on science is what rescued comics from being a medium for children, and instead allowed the medium to mature.  The changes first came at DC, though with the generally more god-like powers of the characters, the science was not as pertinent.  Hawkman and Green Lantern became intergalactic police, the Atom used White Dwarf matter to give himself powers, and the Flash became a scientist that gained powers by a scientific accident.  While the science was there, it was not until Marvel arrived that it redefined science in comics.  Although still unreal, the science was still presented in a way that it could be real, at least in our imagination.  Instead of characters that were either given or born with their powers, the new wave of heroes earned it the hard way, by building it themselves.  Not every Marvel hero was a scientist, but there were a few – Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, Tony Stark, Hank Pym, and Reed Richards.  While this did push the envelope forward for comics as a medium, what was left behind were the women.  The female leads to these heroes were still sometimes heroes, but they fell back into the template of having powers given to them.  Sue Storm was a college dropout, and Janet van Dyne was just an girlfriend.  They even did better than Betty Ross, Pepper Potts and Mary Jane Watson, who were often relegated to secondary status as damsels in distress (though Sue Storm also performed this role despite being a power superhero.)

lego women scientistsWhile there are perhaps more men than women in science still as a profession, there is no real clear reason why.  Women at younger ages are as adept as their male counterparts, and the interest for science is equally there.  Some consider it to be a genderized problem, that the “old boys club” of science discourages women from entering its field in some cases, and that women are taught gender roles by society to be less focused on science as opposed to other ventures.  While there is debate on these assertions, it is true that women have no more or less natural inclination to science than men do.  So why can’t there be a female version of a super scientist?  There are of course some very intelligent women in comics.  The female version of the Hulk is an accomplished lawyer, and others have shown an ability to pursue more academic fields than what is traditionally typified by their genders, but there is still a gap in terms of the heroes, and who can do what.  Female characters can still be powerful, but it is unlikely that their minds are capable of giving them those powers.  In fact a large portion of female characters derive their powers from either magic or the supernatural.

What has been an interesting and worthwhile development in the cinematic versions of comics, is that the women characters are presented in a way which is a lot more progressive.  Jane Foster is an astrophysicist and in the previous round of Fantastic Four movies, Sue Storm was shown to a be a scientific genius in her own right.  This is because as the characters move to a more popular medium, they are forced into a more acceptable presentation of the role that women play, more so than just damsels in distress, but also as able thinkers on their own.  So why is there no female superscientific genius yet in comics?  This comes back to the inherent idea behind #pushcomicsforward, that there can and should be such female characters, because the medium simply has not caught up yet to the reality of the world.  There is even maybe not a need for as many as Marvel has, but a character that is at least adept at science, and who knows the periodic table from the kitchen table.  There is no reason not to, as such a character wouldn’t even have to carry a series, but they could still be there, guiding the scientific discussion to a place that is more realistic.

Review: Ant-Man #1

Ant-Man #1 (2015) - Page 1Ant-Man is the latest in the Marvel NOW! launches for characters that previously were better known for their roles in teams.  For various reasons, the characters are ones that might never have been thought about whether they could lead their own series, and in Scott Lang’s case it would seem that it is because on the scale of Marvel Heroes that he is considered to be somewhat on the B-list of heroes.  Certainly he has his fans, but the question is always whether that and enough buzz is enough to carry a series by itself.  There is also an obvious tie-in to the future, as the upcoming Ant-Man film is likely to generate some interest in the character as well, and this series did have the benefit of premiering one day after the world got its first look at a trailer for the upcoming film.

The story takes a lot of this into consideration as it launches the character onto his own.  Scott Lang is a very different Ant-Man than Hank Pym, and he is not one that is considered to be one of the smartest characters as is his predecessor.  This is made abundantly clear throughout, that Scott while talented in his own ways, tends to be more reactive in his actions than proactive.  This is perhaps less true in his heroics than it is in his private life, but both are woven together well here.  The story revolves around Scott applying for a job as head of security at Stark Enterprises, and it is an interesting way to fill in his back story for the fans who are less familiar with the character.  At the same time, he is shown dealing with the issues in his personal life that are harder for him to juggle than being a superhero, namely his failed marriage and his desire to maintain a parental role with his daughter.  There are some high points throughout, particularly when he is competing for the job and then later in the last few pages when he comes to some conclusion over his family, and not any real low points throughout.

The end result is a well-packaged story that is a fun and often times funny read.  There will be those that might think to disregard an Ant-Man comic because the hero lacks the same powers as others, but in doing so they would be overlooking a less common occurrence from the big two publishers, namely a story that is character driven more so than plot driven.  As shown here, Ant-Man is a person first and a hero second, and with the tone of the book matching the sometimes awkwardly funny personality of the character, this series is likely to have a cult following for as long as it lasts.

Story: Nick Spencer Art: Ramon Rosanas
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

We Talk Suicide Risk with Elena Casagrande

While still a relative newcomer to the comics industry, Elena Casagrande has already made some impressive contributions to the medium.  She has worked on Spider-Man and the Hulk for the Marvel, but has also gotten her hands on some impressive properties from the independents such as Cassie Hack, Doctor Who and Angel.  She is also the main contributing artist for Suicide Risk, having drawn 13 out of the 20 issues thus far.

We got a chance to talk to her about her work on Suicide Risk, about designing heroes and their unknown alter egos and ancient goddesses.

sr002Graphic Policy: You have been involved throughout without the series Suicide Risk, which tells a story of superheroes but in an uncommon setting.  What are some of the challenges when coming up with a world full of new characters?

Elena Casagrande: Well, I had several challenges so far on my way during Suicide Risk… the first was to create supervillains who had costumes not so eccentric but like they’re made in a real world by normal people, so I focused on a simple but cool design, using here and there nice textures, sport tracksuits or uniforms, peculiar accessories. Then I had to create a parallel universe where our world had a more futurist aspect, but at the same time was different from our own first idea of the future. I took inspiration from Final Fantasy’s world and the 18Days artbook, where fantasy lives alongside high technology or there are very iconic, ultra-detailed, mystic figures and costumes, so on Ultramar the “bad guys” have a more linear and technological style, while the supers are more elaborated, fantasy in a classic way.

The opportunity to create so many characters, so different and so interesting, (and sometimes in two versions) was the most fun part of the work, but I really liked (and found strangely easier) to realize the way they use their powers: how they fly, or destroy, or move, or blast, or fight just came in my mind while I read Mike’s script… I really enjoyed having the “freedom” to move people with superpowers right from my mind…!

I think the hardest challenge was to let them be “real” or at least plausible, both in their marvelousness and for sure to ensure that the fight scenes were very very spectacular.

sr 001GP: How does it work for the character design?  Does Mike just say “there is a telepath named Dr. Maybe” and then you come up with the design, or are you involved with the backgrounds and names of the characters as well?

EC:  Usually I received a short description of the power of the character and sometimes a few notes about his/her aspect (beautiful, age, big, thin, race, etc.); the coolest thing was that reading the description I had in a short time an idea of the character, of his/her face, and the step after was to create the clothes, where I tried to include some features to suggest the nature, the power or the attitude. Diva, for example, in her white and sexy dress is a sort of ice queen for her indifferent disposition and total opposite to her sister Aisa, in the colors and in the lines of their Ultramar dress; Cage has a very painful attitude, hunchbacked, often sweaty, weary and with the hood and the esoteric symbols to emphasize the idea of his power.

GP: The action in the series has been a little bit all over the place, between a fair bit of action on our own world, the other world and inside the minds of all the characters.  Is it challenging jumping between different settings, sometimes numerous times in one issue?

EC:  Actually no, as I said before the main thing was and is to be as spectacular as possible, readable and flowing in the fighting… it was interesting to change the setting and jump from one world to another. I think that it’s something really TV-style; just one time I had some difficulty distinguishing a real world from a mental one from the script but I asked Mike and he helped me out.

sr 003GP: Just as in the story, Leo and Requiem are one and the same, but also not.  How did you go about depicting the same character but in different contexts?

EC:  I always loved in some way characters with a kind of dual personality, good or bad; it always fascinated me to see how they change depending on the situation they finds, so work on Leo was very intriguing. I didn’t know before issue #9 that Requiem would be predominant and how much (I don’t want spoilers from one issue to the next, I read the series month by month like normal readers), so from issue #10 I had to study how to let him move and act; he’s totally different from Leo, so first of all I made him more rigid and grave, haughty and self assured. His eyes are often faint with eyebrows a bit wrinkled, his mouth opens thinly, his posture straight back and often with clenched fists. On the contrary Leo has a different attitude and also in his stern moments I tried to make him a little more gentle, so his eyes are a bit more open, his expressions more emphasized and natural, his movements more open, he feels panic and pain… he’s human like us, not a superpowered leader. It’s just during the moments where both of them stay with their family (Leo with all of them and Requiem above all with his daughter) that they become more similar.

Only in the last issues Requiem and Leo have equally the same time, and this is more difficult to represent, because I have to be sure not to let one personality predominate than the other.

sr 004GP:  Who are the standout characters so far in the series for you?

EC: I think Tracey/Terza is the most surprising, in every sense. I think Gride could tell us more than we have seen yet and Minu-i is very terrifying; Leo/Requiem is absolutely the one to whom I am most attached, but strikingly Dr. Maybe became one of my favorites, I like his character development a lot.

GP:  The wide variety of characters are of your design.  Is there one that you enjoy drawing that isn’t in the stories as much?

EC:  Yes: Sockpuppet. Damn! XD

GP: Can you describe your inspiration for the Goddess?

EC:  From Sumerian and Egyptian art, like Mike suggested on the script… the main thing had to be the duality. The two faces were in the script, too, I just added the gestures of the hands; I didn’t want it to be too complicated, so I tried to do something linear but majestic.