Aspen Takes on God & Evil in New Series DELLEC

Aspen Takes on God & Evil in New Series

As Aspen Comics continues to diversify its comic line, this week's Dellec #1 will take readers into a world where God is the creator of evil and only one man is fighting against him.

Offered at a lower price point of $2.50 per issue, Dellec is co-written by Aspen President Frank Mastromauro and Editor-in-Chief Vince Hernandez, with art by Micah Gunnell. And the attractive price isn't the only way Aspen is promoting the comic – the makers of Dellec are behind the "It's Spreading" viral marketing campaign on Deviant Art that ran rampant through the website this spring.

Dellec will begin as an eight- to nine-issue volume that the creators are writing as just the first volume in an ongoing series. While Aspen released Dellec #0 in May to tease the series, the story kicks off this week with a new #1.

In the comic, the main character, appropriately named Dellec, discovers that servants of God are creating evil on Earth, encouraging fear among God's children so they will worship him in the face of disaster.

The concept behind Dellec is not only a new one for Aspen, but it's a bit of a departure from the comics they've done in the past. The publishing company was founded by artist Michael Turner, who passed away one year ago, and has mostly concentrated on publishing tie-ins and spin-offs for its flagship titles Fathom and Soulfire. But that's started to change over the last couple years, with titles like the Shrugged and the current Executive Assistant: Iris.

Now Dellec takes the company into more uncharted territory. And word is that there are more original concepts being announced by the company at this weekend's San Diego Comic-Con.

Newsarama talked to Hernandez and Mastromauro about the comic, the viral marketing campaign, the low price, and what it all means to Aspen Comics.

Newsarama: First, let's just double check on that promise you made when this comic was announced earlier this year. Are you still going to be able to offer this comic at only $2.50 for the life of the series?

Vince Hernandez: Yes! We made a promise at the outset of announcing Dellec that we were going to stick to the cheaper price tag to help make it easier on any potential readers to give it a try, as well as allowing fans of the series an easier price point to allow them to continue on with it. We really believe that for the level of quality we’ve placed on this title, coupled with the lower price, that it’s a great value for the comic book fan.

Nrama: Let's talk about this viral marketing campaign you guys put together for Dellec. Where did you get the idea for the "It's Spreading" promotion? And how did you execute that?

Hernandez: This idea came from our director of Design and Production, Mark Roslan. The plan and execution were so simple, yet the result was incredible. Mark started out using the symbol used in Dellec, yes you will have to read the book to get an idea of what the symbol is, but basically he employed the use of several popular artists to draw their own version of the symbol and post it on their respective web pages, Deviant Art sites, etc. From there, our work was essentially finished as the campaign took off by leaps and bounds, and the symbol began popping up on hundreds of artists' pages. Nobody understood or knew why they were doing it, but they couldn’t help joining in on the fun. It really was a reflection of the "it’s spreading" theme we use in the book, so we felt it was a rousing success and an interesting experiment.

Nrama: For people who might be interested in picking up the comic, how would you describe the story of Dellec?

Hernandez: On the surface it’s a tale of one man, Dellec, who is forced into a situation where he’s essentially fighting his own creator, God. But below the surface of this over-riding premise is the question of what is evil? How is evil created? And how is it carried out? Throughout the first volume of Dellec, we basically take him on a journey to discover some of the aforementioned questions. And what we’ll come to discover is there is no black and white, but only levels of grey that evil exists in. But of course, since Frank and I are both fans of big, epic, action-packed stories, we’ve incorporated these themes into a huge adventure that’ll see Dellec take on multiple evil doers and put him through some unexpected paces.

Nrama: Who is Dellec as a character, and what brings him to this revelation and into this world?

Hernandez: The Dellec we are introduced to at the beginning is already a transformed character, so-to-speak. When our story kicks off, he is already basically fighting the forces of evil, and throughout the course of the story it will be revealed why Dellec is who he is, and what turned him into this person. The revelation that ultimately opens his eyes to what’s really going in will definitely be a major highlight of the series, as will the discovery of his past and the man he once was.

Nrama: How has it been working on this series together since the last time we talked? You guys are both busy executives at Aspen, so are things working out well now that you've taken on the co-writing of Dellec?

Mastromauro: Since last we spoke...Well, I believe I've fired Vince about 10 times while we've worked on Dellec, but he keeps showing up at work the next day. You definitely have to admire his tenacity! Honestly though, we've worked together for so long and on so many different projects that when we put aside time for Dellec, it's a breeze. We shoot ideas off of each other and continue to build his world bigger and better each time.

Hernandez: It’s been a blast and the most rewarding experience I’ve had yet working on a comic series. The team from top to bottom is loaded with experience and talent. Frank and I are trying to really up the ante in terms of the story, always striving to push the envelope of what we can do. We’ve basically thrown out the playbook on what’s expected in a comic book story and tried to tell this tale our way, and I feel it’s made it much more of an exciting story. It seems like almost every day that we’re shaping and molding the story, changing it for the better.

Micah is putting his heart and soul into the pages and you can tell just by looking at the pages. Each one that comes in is more impressive than the next. Rob Stull is a veteran inker and his inks have enriched Micah’s line art, but they also bring their own style to the page. And then to top it off with Matt Hollingsworth’s color palette, which is undeniably perfect for this series in every way, and yeah, I couldn’t be happier to be working on this series.

Nrama: What's surprised you the most about the characters and the story as you've worked on the series?

Hernandez: For me personally, the thing that surprises me the most about the story and characters of this series is the way that both shatter stereotypes of what they’re supposed to be. For instance, Dellec is our main protagonist, but in reality, his actions don’t reflect the attributes of one. We also have a priest, Father Strayer, who is not quite as devout as one would expect for a man of the cloth, and who is not afraid to get his hands dirty. It’s these forms of contradictions that I find compelling and draw me in as a writer to make the characters seem interesting, yet realistic in nature. Real people act accordingly. Often times events or actions will dictate how they react, and it’s this idea of staying true to human nature that we wanted to explore in Dellec.

Mastromauro: The motivation. Our story depends a lot on the different characters' motives and what they're looking to achieve. Action scenes and whatnot are easy to come up with, but if they don't flow naturally into the characters' story and what they're trying to accomplish, then things just fall flat and hollow. It's been tough, but also a lot of fun ensuring we weave everything together and try to prevent that. Hopefully all of our readers will agree when they check it out.

Nrama: From the preview images we've seen and the work in Dellec #0, Micah has turned in some amazing artwork, but it's a little darker from what he usually does, isn't it? How has it been working with the artist?

Hernandez: From a standpoint of having seen Micah’s development for many years now, I can honestly say this is the best work he’s ever produced. While the subject matter is in fact darker than material he’s worked on in the past, it’s not to say that’s what he is all about. I believe Micah, more than anyone, would tell you how exciting it’s been for him to be able to showcase this other side to his artistic style.

Nrama: Will we be seeing more diverse titles like Dellec from Aspen in the future? And will we be seeing more from you two (Vince and Frank) as writers?

Hernandez: Yes and yes. We actually will be announcing two new titles this week at the San Diego Comic-Con and Aspen fans can expect even more surprises from us in the next coming months. Frank will be working on Dellec with me for the foreseeable future but will also be hugely busy as Executive Producer on the Fathom movies and other multimedia projects we have planned. As for myself, I am always staying busy with upcoming writing projects, and I have something planned really soon that I will be diving right into, heh.

Nrama: Just to clarify, since there was a #0 issue, can a reader can pick up the first issue of the series without having read Dellec #0?

Mastromauro: For sure. The Dellec #0 issue just serves as an introductory story to our title. It's a stand alone type story to give readers a small glimpse of what they can expect in the full series. It serves to provide a bit more back story and also hints at things to come. But, you certainly won't miss a beat if you start reading Dellec from Issue #1.

Nrama: What can readers expect from future issues of Dellec? More action? Intrigue? Anything you can tell us to whet our appetite?

Mastromauro: All of that plus much more. Just the other day, we went over the Volume 1 story outline and worked out the final few issues. We had so much packed into the ending that we needed to move a few things around so it flowed better. In future issues, fans can expect to see Dellec head to the slammer (hey, even he isn't above the law!) where the inmates certainly don't have a warm welcome in store for him. More will soon be revealed about Dellec's weapons, and we haven't seen the last of...well, you'll see!

Nrama: Anything else you want to add about Dellec?

Mastromauro: Just to say thanks to the entire creative team on this book for working their tails off on bringing Dellec to life. Micah [Gunnell], Rob [Stull] and Matt [Hollingsworth] have been doing amazing work on this title and we've been getting great feedback on Dellec because of it. It's been a tough risk bringing the book out at only $2.50 an issue, but hopefully it'll all be worth it. That'll be one for the fans to decide. We've also been getting some good interest in it from Hollywood too, so you never know!

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