Fathom #6As Aspen Comics turns a new corner this week, J.T. Krul is the writer leading the way.
With the release today of Soulfire #8 (preview here), readers will see the last comic pages by Aspen founder Michael Turner, who passed away last year from cancer. One of Aspen's flagship titles, Soulfire previously sat unfinished for months, but is now being completed by writer Krul with the help of artist Joe Benitez.
"It's weird because it's been a storyline that's been a long time in the making," Krul said of his work on Soulfire. "There were gaps in the book coming out because of Mike getting sick and putting things on hold. And after he passed away, it was hard just trying to regroup and figure out the best way to move forward with a new artist that could step into that role, which isn't an easy role for somebody to step into.
"It feels good to have it completed now, but it was a weird issue to do in the sense of getting back into it and going through it all to see Mike's last pages and Joe's first pages," Krul said. "That was a little surreal. So there was a little sad element to that, just to know that it was going to go differently than we'd all hoped it would go. But the book itself and the story itself is all exactly what Mike had in mind. And we're very proud of it."
In fact, Krul said Benitez used some of the layouts by Turner for pages he didn't get to complete. "So you have Mike's finished pages, and then pages of Joe's that Mike did the layouts for, and then going full on toward the end of the issue where it's all Joe," Krul said.
"And in the storyline, it's a big transition to another setting right when Joe's pages take over. So it's almost like everything that happened until now that Mike was able to do, it's kind of like crossing over in Soulfire #8. And the last page before the crossover in the story is Mike's page, and the first page after the crossover is Joe's first page. And it fits with the story. It was weird how it worked out that way, but it make the transition really smooth."
This kick-start for Soulfire will lead into a big year for the property. Once the 10-issue volume is completed by Krul and Benitez in May with an oversized issue, Aspen will release Soulfire: New World Order, a five-issue mini-series also written by Krul with art by Francisco Herrera. After the mini-seres wraps up, Krul's Soulfire Vol. 2 will immediately begin with art by Marcus To, who is already several issues into drawing the series, making the company anticipate a steady schedule for Soulfire from now on.
"It took us a long time to get to this point, but now that Soulfire #8 is coming out, there's going to be Soulfire stuff coming out every month for the next year, and most of those issues are already done," Krul said.
Soulfire isn't the only Aspen flagship title being guided by Krul, as this week also sees the release of Fathom #6 (preview here), continuing the second volume of the title that helped launch the publishing company 11 years ago.
"Fathom is going through a monumental shift right now. People throw around the phrase, 'everything will change,' but something is happening in the Fathom universe that really does change everything," Krul said of the title, which he's doing with artist Ale Garza. "At the end of issue #5 and continuing into #6, the Blue have come forward and exposed themselves to the rest of the world. It's a pretty big move, and it definitely changes the landscape. But we're still just holding with what Mike had envisioned. The whole storyline was mapped out, and this is everything that we've been leading up to. The plan was always that Volume 2 would be the war between the humans and the Blue, and Volume 3 will just be a massive global conflict involving the humans and the Black and the Blue that will possible end the world."
Krul has been working with Aspen since 2003, after he debuted as a writer for Marvel. Through their mutual friend, Geoff Johns, the Aspen executives approached Krul to write the Dawn of War mini-series, but soon after gave him the reins on Fathom.
Detail from the cover of Soulfire #8"Once I was knee-deep in Fathom, Mike had been doing Soulfire with Jeph Loeb, and Jeph needed to focus on other things, so they asked me if I'd come in and help out with that," Krul said. "Before I knew it, I was doing these mini-series and all these ongoing series, and I had four books coming out for Aspen by the end of 2004."
Krul has enjoyed his work at Aspen not only because he's become friends with the people there, but also because it gives him the opportunity to do very different types of stories. "With Fathom, it's almost like Lord of the Rings where there is so much going on and it's so epic and I'm getting to write this story where the sky is falling and the world is on the brink of disaster, and that's really exciting to write," he said.
"At the same time, the mini-series have let me explore some of the up-close stories of the characters, and I enjoy writing that kind of thing too," Krul said. "One of my favorite issues I've ever done is the Fathom prelude we did. It was a single issue story that Aspen put out with Dynamite. And it was just a small little character piece. And a couple of things I've done for DC were just getting into the nuts and bolts of the characters. And I like doing that type of story as well."
Krul said he has several other projects that will be announced soon, and he's doing a G.I. Joe story for IDW, but for now he's keeping busy with his Soulfire and Fathom work.
And while many of the writer's issues that are coming out now were written awhile ago -- "I look at some of these Soulfire pages and say, 'Oh yeah, I remember doing that!'" the writer said with a laugh -- he's glad to see them finally taking shape and fulfilling the vision that his friend Turner had for the series.
"It's great to see the Soulfire story continue, and it's a gorgeous issue. Joe's been incredible. The pages are amazing. He's a fantastic artist anyway, but he just really did an amazing job, and given everything that's happened, he had reservations, as anybody would, stepping into this job. Everybody, as always, did their best job, but I think they amped it up a little more because they wanted this issue to be something special," Krul said. "So I think it will really please fans of the book."
More information about J.T. Krul and his work can be found at his website: www.krulwords.com