Heroes Con: Remender, Blevins and Monsters at IDW
This ain't your father's Legion.
Unless he's dead.
And then brought back to life.
The upcoming series Legion of the Supernatural from IDW finds writer Rick Remender and artist Bret Blevins taking a motley assortment of monsters and putting them into a more heroic spotlight as they emerge as the last line of defense against an invading army of "starving inter-dimensional vampires". That's right, "starving inter-dimensional vampires" – Rick told us that himself. If you've read his work on Strange Girl and Doll & Creature then you know this is the kind of thing he dreams about. Anyway, the new series was announced today at HeroesCon with a planned debut on Halloween Day.
This series marks the full-featured return to comics for artist Bret Blevins. 80s comics fans remember him for his stellar work on Cloak & Dagger, New Mutants, Sleepwalker and Batman. Since 1996, Blevins has worked in the field of television animation as a storyboard artist, but he also ventured into gallery art with oil paintings. He's dipped his toes back in comics several times in previous years, but now he's jumping back in full-force with fully painted work for Legion of the Supernatural
Newsarama: There's all sorts of goodness to be had in this, guys. Being a big fan of Bret's great work years ago, I have to ask my first question to him. What prompted your return to comics, Bret?
Bret Blevins: The timing of the opportunity to team with Rick on this series. I left mainstream direct market monthly comics around 1996 when I joined Bruce Timm, Paul Dini and the gang at Warner Bros Animation and fell in love with the craft of storyboarding, to which I devoted most of my professional time for the next decade. My love of comic book storytelling never dimmed though, and I managed to fit in an occasional comic book or story during those years. After roughly 14,000 storyboard pages I was feeling the urge to return to creating my own finished artwork again, so I gradually returned to illustrating for print. I created the art for the Redwall Graphic Novel (Philomel Books, 2007) in fully rendered black and white tones. I had a lot of fun with the challenges of that project, then I painted a series of short comic book stories in full color of Scarecrow of Romney Marsh adventures with writer Michael Stewart for the now defunct Disney Adventures Magazine. That showed me that I wanted to paint comic books! About a month after the last Scarecrow piece appeared Rick called me to discuss Legion of the Supernatural--and here we are!
NRAMA: Yes you are. And what made this project, The Legion of the Supernatural, the title you wanted to mark your return?
BB: Rick's enthusiasm and talent. Over the last several years Rick and I have discussed collaborating and I painted a cover for an issue of Strange Girl along the way, but this project was the one that brought everything together. I love Rick's gift for hyper pulp-flavored concepts elevated by perceptive character drama--his lurid sensibilities exploit all the visual potential of the illustrative half of the medium, but always as integrated dramatic settings and motivations for his characters, never empty gimmickry for its own sake. Rick's imagination, IDW's enthusiastic support and the chance to paint the entire series made it a dream come true. From our first conversation I immediately felt my imagination and enthusiasm engage--Rick has managed to tap into the deep wellspring appeal of these classic fantasy icons, weave an intricate inventive narrative for them to engage in and energize them with a modern dramatic intensity, without losing their fundamental character and mystique! I feel like I've been waiting for this book to happen for 25 years!
NRAMA: Let's bring Rick into the conversation.
Knowing you Rick, this isn't just an adventure - it's a whole world we're stepping into. Set it up for us - what's going on?
Rick Remender: The Legion of the Supernatural follows the last of the famous monsters in a world where super heroes have hunted their brethren to near extinction. When an army of starving inter-dimensional vampires returns to consume our world, only The Mummy, Frankenstein, The Bog Creature, The Wolf-Man, Dracula and Sister Arcane have the power to contest the coming darkness-- as it was their birthplace. I’m joined by legendary illustrator Bret Blevins for the fully painted ongoing adventures of this pulpy monster-mash starring the most unlikely team of super heroes.
BB: I'm ecstatic about the project and intend to make it the best comic book on the shelf. I describe it as every monster lover's dream comic! All the classic icons are here, plus a few hybrids and new horrors. The stories jump all through history and place, from prehistoric savagery to outer space to other dimensions and everywhere in between. There's mystery, visceral action, superheroes, gothic macabre suspense, gritty noir and black horror beautifully woven into a rich character-centered human, superhuman and supernatural melodrama. There is so much character, mood, conflict, surprises, and so many genres cross-layered through the stories that the series is hard to describe--you'll have to read it to believe it!
RR: When our heroes fail us… we will turn to our monsters
So that’s the official sales pitch. Who are you to resist?
NRAMA: Who helped get this project out into the light of day?
RR: First of I have to give a shout out to Steve Niles for development help on this and for getting the ball rolling with Ted at IDW. IDW have given us so much support in helping us to produce this series exactly how we intended it; a fully painted ongoing series that makes amazing use if IDW’s world famous design and high quality production values. Bret and I are having the best time on the book, you won’t get more for your money in any other title come this Halloween when Legion of the Supernatural launches.
NRAMA: You've got a motley assortment here - The Mummy Queen, Frankenstein, The Wolf-Man, Dracula, and two lesser-known characters - The Bog Creature and Sister Arcane. Tell us about the last two first, so we have our bearings - who are they?
RR: Let's go one by one:
SISTER ARCANE: At five-hundred and seventy-nine years of age Brigitte Azacca looks no older than twenty-five; coincidentally the very age at which she obtained the Nine Eyes of Sousson-Pannan, the evil Haitian Loa. Nine competing Vodou spirits now possess her, each with separate powers and motivations. Depending on what sprit takes her she can summon demons, conjure spells, and transverse the nightmare plains of the in-between lands. The actual spirit of Sousson-Pannan has never emerged and she fears what will happen if it does.
THE BOG CREATURE: An ancient and timeless elemental drawn from the environmental wastelands of the nightmare plains by the first Sister Arcane seven thousand years before Christ walked the Earth. The spirit has been with its current host, Kevin Pennington, since 1970’s. Kevin was chosen, as he needed to pay penance for serving as a crooked site manager of an industrial waste facility. He is a quiet and withdrawn creature who seldom leaves the deep bogs of The Pantanal do Mato Grosso, in west-central Brazil, south of the Amazon. He has an innate sense of justice and has been known to stray far from his jungle/swamp home to serve vengeance on those who pollute and desecrate our world.
NRAMA: And now that you've got the Bog Creature and Sister Arcane covered, let's get to the team as a whole. There's got to be a leader to this - who is it?
RR: That would be Dracula. Our Version of Dracula is a Billionaire playboy, a pale skinned Tony Stark with red eyes and a taste for human blood. He has a bit of a gothic style mixed in with his high-class playboy to his esthetic and attire. Medium build, short slick black hair and deep set features. Over the centuries he’s used resources bought by his extreme affluence to hunt and kill off all the other vampires on Earth. He enjoys his status as the last vampire on Earth and lives like a God on Earth in his opulent penthouse high above Manhattan.
Dracula, content with the current stage on our Earth, does not wish to allow this dark curtain to be pulled over the mortal realm and calls together the five most powerful monsters to combat the rising army of inter-dimensional bloodsuckers. Clued into the knowledge that the desecration of these various sites was preordained as the coming of the “dark days”, Dracula, the last vampire on our world, sets out to discover what sinister entity is behind this.
THE MUMMY QUEEN: The cursed mummy of Cleopatra has wandered the Earth for two thousand years in search of salvation and rest that can only be granted by the collection of one thousand human souls. Impervious to physical harm she cannot die until her curse is fulfilled and lifted. To the naked eye she is incredibly beautiful but look for too long and you will see the true horrific form of the mummy queen.
FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER: Our monster is a smart man frozen is a dead body. The effect is total frustration, as what he says comes from an intelligent mind but is delivered inarticulate and awkwardly. Our Frankenstein’s monster has continued his creator’s work in secret in a dank laboratory amid the alien ruins on the moon. Though he has discovered the secrets of reanimating corpses he has long since given up hope of building himself a better body. He uses his time to monitor Earth for his lost bride.
THE WOLF-MAN: Our Wolf-man is a Mayan priest who made a terrible deal with a wicked wolf-God. Feral and vicious when transformed. Cold hungry eyes and a cruel tooth filled mouth. He is one of the last Werewolves, his line cut down by Dracula and his dark assassins centuries before. Though other Werewolves do exist in a clan hidden in South America he has had no contact with them. He can control his transformations to a certain extent but on a full moon he can easily loose control and turn feral. He has no love for humanity or vampires.
RR: Unbeknownst to most there are parallel dimensions where supernatural vampire forces have consumed all life on Earth. In these dark terrible worlds, where no food remains, the vampire leaders have discovered supernatural and arcane magics capable of opening doorways to other dimensions… to our dimension. They are infiltrating us now, scouting out cities and preparing for the coming invasion, lurking in the shadows conspiring to bring on the end of times.
NRAMA: Sounds like a secret invasion to me. Where are the humans in all this?
RR: We are all fodder, unsure who or what to trust. When our heroes and governments fall we will be left with one force to turn the black tide. Read that last line in a Vincent Price voice for full effect.
NRAMA: We have you to thank for bringing Brett Blevins back to comics, I think. How'd it come together?
RR: I’m currently still making comics because of Bret Blevins and Ivan Brandon. In two separate instances over the past seven years I’ve left and gone back to animation of video game work and it was the support of these two that kept me in the fight. Bret has to be the most optimistic and supportive people I’ve ever met. As a life long fan of his work to not only have had the pleasure of becoming friends with him but also now work with him is a true honor. He’s a modern master and this series will be a treat for his long time fans while making anyone new to his work into instant appreciators.
NRAMA: Bret, for this series you're doing fully painted work, which is something new for fans of your older work. But doing research, you've been doing a lot of painting these days. What's it like painting a comic instead of drawing it like you did in one of those classic New Mutants issues you did?
BB: It's much more work! But I love the results--the technical range of expression is so much richer. The conventional contour line overlaid with mechanical color technique of most comic art is a fine vehicle for visual storytelling, all the basic requirements can be handled beautifully; drawing, composition, staging, pacing, acting, lighting, etc., but in a painted book these and many more elements of dramatic picture making are in play as I create the images; tone, color, texture and myriad effects that grow out of the actual application of the paint, the spontaneous physical process. I've always loved every kind of drawing and painting, so the techniques I'm using in Legion of the Supernatural are a natural progression for me. Painting makes the entire process organic--I can manipulate ALL the visual elements simultaneously, changing the entire image in one stroke, dabbing or adding texture with a sponge, scraping in effects with a razor blade--anything that works. This brings the printed art much closer to what I see in my imagination. I've never had so much fun!
NRAMA: Before we go, let's get your thoughts on Rick, Bret. You're working with writer Rick Remender on this one. How does he measure up, Bret?
When I received the first draft of Rick's script for the first issue, I was inspired by EVERY panel. That is rare in a story of this length--the majority of stories (in any medium) have "set-up" and exposition sequences that are inherently less visually interesting than the vibrant exciting elements, and as an artist I mentally note those passages on the first read as "work bits"--sequences that require special concentration and effort to make them visually interesting. As I read through this script I was waiting for those bits--and waiting, and waiting, but they never appeared! Rick has found a tone and rhythm for Legion of the Supernatural that is saturated with visual richness that always moves the story forward in action and inward in character depth. Instead of a searching process for the most effective images, the storytelling and imagery forms itself in my mind as I read, by a seemingly spontaneous intuition --a delight to experience!
Legion of The Supernatural launches on Halloween as a monthly ongoing series from writer Rick Remender, artist Bret Blevins and IDW Publishing.