Joe Benitez on Finishing Soulfire at Aspen

Joe Benitez on Finishing Soulfire

When the staff at Aspen Comics looked for someone to complete artist Michael Turner's unfinished Soulfire story, they wanted it to be the "right person."

As announced on Newsarama last week, the artist selected by Aspen Comics to finish Soulfire is Joe Benitez, an artist well-known for his work at DC Comics and Top Cow, where he worked side by side with Turner when they were both starting out in the comic book business.

Soulfire, which tells the story of a futuristic world without magic, is an original series by Turner, who passed away in June. Although the second volume of the Soulfire series, written by J.T. Krul and artist Marcus To, is ready to be published, the first volume was waiting on Turner to finish the last three issues. Now Benitez will draw Turner's story, completing the volume for readers and fulfilling Turner's wish for the story to continue.

Newsarama talked to Benitez to find out more about the job ahead of him as he picks up the pages left undone by his friend.

Newsarama: How did you hear about the opportunity to finish Soulfire?

Joe Benitez: I met up with the Aspen crew (Frank, Vince, Peter and Mark) a couple of weeks back to discuss doing some work. Before the meet, I talked briefly with Vince over the phone. One of the things he mentioned was maybe doing some work on one of the books Mike was unable to finish. At the meet, they asked if I would finish Mike’s Arch on Soulfire. I was incredibly touched and honored that they thought of me for the task.

NRAMA: Were you familiar with the character and story?

JB: I’m a fan of Mike’s work, so anything he did, I would pick up. He just had an amazing look. I really dug his sense of design and the elegance of his people. I thought Soulfire was a really cool idea, incredibly imaginative. I liked the fantasy and futuristic elements he blended together. I’m trying to catch up on the story and get better acquainted with the characters. I want to get a really good sense of how they act and who they are to better interpret them on the art board.

NRAMA: Why is finishing this volume something you wanted to do?

JB: Mike wanted the arc finished; he wanted the story to be told. I’m just helping to get it done.

Wish it wasn’t something that needed to be done but I’m happy to do it.

NRAMA: You guys knew each other at Top Cow, right?

JB: Yep, we were studio-mates at Top Cow for most of the '90s. Shared space with a lot top talent back then. It’s funny how fast time passes by. It’s been close to 10 years since we shared a studio, but it sometimes feels like not too long ago, we were all at the Studio playing Puzzle Fighter and having late night bull sessions, not getting any work done. We were all in our 20's, and life was just starting out for us.

NRAMA: Are you going to try to match your style to the start of the series, or are you changing up your style at all for this?

JB: I’ve talked with [Aspen VP and Soulfire colorist] Peter [Steigerwald], and we want to keep the look somewhat consistent with the look that he and Mike came up with. We’re going to experiment a bit to see what we can come up with. We just want to make the book look as good as we can.

NRAMA: Have you heard about how the first volume of Soulfire finishes up and what you'll be doing? What do you think of the story?

JB: It’s going to be fun. There’s a lot happening, a lot of action, but I don’t want to give anything away. You’ll just have to wait and see.

NRAMA: Have you started sketching out the characters or working on the series at all? How does it feel to be drawing the characters and settings of Soulfire?

JB: I’ve been doing some sketching, trying to get a better feel for the characters. I just started; the more I draw them, the more comfortable I’ll get and the easier it’ll be.

NRAMA: Are you going to be doing this for awhile, or do you have other projects at the same time?

JB: I’m committed to finishing the run. It’s about two-and-a-half issues, so I’m going to put all of my energy into it, my focus now is on making this book as good as possible.

NRAMA: Anything else you want to tell fans about the drawing Soulfire?

JB: This book was Mike’s baby. I know how much it meant to him. It’s in our care now, and we’re going to try our best to make him proud.

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