It’s tough living out on the streets – but for a fortunate group of runaways, they get taken in by an aging inventor and given a chance to do something good – not only for themselves, but the world. In the upcoming series The Intrepids, a group of homeless teenagers band together under the guidance of an inventor named Dante and given marvellous technological contraptions to strike back at those that might wish ill on their fellow man. Their rogues gallery is large – from Dante’s former colleague Dr. Koi, and a host of others including a bionic beast aptly called Cyber-Bear.
Originally solicited under the title The Rat Bastards, the series reverted back to its original title -- The Intrepids -- after a trademark/copyright issue dealing with the title. But now with that behind them and their first issue less than a month away, this series is an auspicious debut for two new comic creators – writer Kurtis J. Weibe and Scott Kowalchuck. Newsarama talked with the pair about this new series and what readers can expect when the first issue debuts on March 2, 2011.
Newsarama: Who are the Intrepids, guys?
Kurtis Weibe: The Intrepids are a group of orphaned kids who were given a second chance at life when their benefactor, Dante, took them in.
Nrama: Tell us more about Dante, the guy who takes care of these runaways
Weibe: Dante’s an old school inventor, but he’s got a complicated past he’s trying to redeem. In his university days he was a member of a scientific community that worked on cutting edge research and experimentation.
His research partner, Dr. Koi, betrayed him when they’d developed a cyberlimb prototype and since has been using the tech for his own nefarious agenda. Dante needs the Intrepids to be his hands and feet in the field, as he’s an old codger who doesn’t get out much anymore. He arms the Intrepids with recently developed tech and in this series his focus is on recovering what was stolen and putting an end to Dr. Koi once and for all.
Nrama: After getting off the streets, why would these teenagers agree to sign up to Dante’s ideas to fight bad guys?
Weibe: Other than getting to use jetpacks and machine guns to lay the hurt down on cyberbears?
The Intrepids feel a great debt to Dante, a kindly aging inventor who gave them a beautiful home to live in and an opportunity to be more than they’d ever dreamed. Granting them a major role in stopping evil men from inflicting pain on the world, and enabling them to do so with fantastic toys made it an easy sell on these kids who not long ago felt they would never amount to anything.
Nrama: Who are each of your favorite members of the team?
Weibe: I find them all a total joy to write for so many different reasons. I love Crystal’s soft heart and hard exterior. She is caught in such duality, the demands of leading what is essentially her family into dangerous situations and trying her absolute best to live up to the expectations of Dante, the man who saved her. I find her character the most compelling.
Scott Kowalchuck: Doyle is the most fun to draw, which keeps him very close to my heart. I've actually never said that about another man before. Hmm. Honestly, the versatility of the visuals of all four Bastards force me to become a better artist. Like, if I were only ever drawing guys in blazers, well, I would become very proficient at drawing guys in blazers. But the individual characters have so many different aesthetics, I really get to flex a lot of drawing muscles, which is really the best way to learn! Chester, for instance, is a total wise-ass, so I really get to play around with expressions and body-language with him, which is fun. Crystal is pretty stoic, which can be daunting to draw, but, again, learning how to draw a gal who is always serious has its merits. In the end, I learn something new from drawing each of them, which is my favourite aspect of the process.
But Doyle is still the most fun to draw. Snap!
Weibe: I’m really fond of Chester, too, he’s the youngest of the group and has a sarcastic sense of humour and sees the world through a very specific lens that I think I can related to. He’s a bit jaded for a teenager, and really kind of a jerk, but one of those lovable jerks.
I’m just a jerk without any redeeming qualities.
Nrama: I see a big purple bear with a cybernetic head on the cover. Is he who the Intrepids are facing off against in the series?
Weibe: It’s what they face in the first ten pages on an infiltration mission for an ex-associate of Dante’s, Dr. Mutovin. The bear is not their main adversary, but there is a colourful cast of villains that the Intrepids come up against.
As I said earlier, their main target of interest for the series is Dr. Koi, the man who betrayed Dante when they were research partners. Who he is, and what danger he represents will be revealed slowly through the series. Rest assured, the villains aren’t all what they seem to be.
Nrama: I really like the art you’ve done for this, Scott – how’d you just pop up on the comics scene with all this refined style?
Kowalchuk: I wish this was a live, one-on-one interview so I could put on a pair of glasses, only to thoughtfully remove them and answer the question. In short, thank you, you are very kind and it wasn't easy. Boy, where to begin. I learned a lot of basics (anatomy, perspective, storyboarding) while taking a Bachelor of Design degree at the Alberta College of Art & Design in Calgary. But, in general, that is where you acquire your basic foundation as an artist. I knew I always wanted to work on comic books and be a comic book artist so, naturally, I focused on studying the work of my favourite comic book illustrators. Alex Toth, Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, David Mazzucchelli, Chester Gould, Darwyn Cooke, Mike Allred, Paul Grist, Javier Pulido, Marcos Martin, just to name a few. I worked at understanding how they approached making books (which is exhausting when studying the talent on my list), and tried to let those styles influence me in to developing my own. Obviously, I'm not Darwyn Cooke, but hopefully I acquired some "style" by studying his work (and the others) closely.
That said, after graduating in 2009 I worked heavily in the freelance illustration market, up until the middle of 2010 when I had to start focusing solely on my comic book work, as it really required all of my time and attention. The freelance market is a heck of a place to develop as an illustrator. The deadlines can be nightmarish at times, and occasionally you only have time to go with the first idea you have. Knowing that you (in the case of this long-winded anecdote "I") will have published work in the public eye, to some extent, really forces you to refine your work on the fly. I'm not convinced my work is quite as refined as it could be, but, I guess, with this being my first series, I have some time ahead to work on that!
Nrama: There’s a lot of thinking you must be doing when drawing – you’ve got to design a cyberbear on the cover! – so how do you figure out what the world and the people inside look like while keeping it original and unique?
Kowalchuk: Again, if we were in a one-on-one this is an instance where I would lean back in my chair, groaning in a low considered manner, and puffing on my pipe (I'm wearing a tweed jacket with arm patches in this scenario too). Research. Lots and lots of research. When Kurtis first pitched me his vision for the series I knew straight away that I would have to thoroughly research the world and environment. I mean, a Cyber-Bear could be done so wrong, so quickly. I could have been made to look more grotesque or violent, but, come one! It's a bear! Bear's a pretty fricking scary, just as bears. I mean, all the cyborg parts are influenced by something. The chest-pad, from a tubby umpire I once saw officiating a game. The helmet, a cross between a jet pilots helmet, and some old HiFi equipment. Doyle's trenchcoat, inspired by something I saw Maxwell Smart wearing on an old episode of Get Smart. Rose's jetpack, influenced by an old 1950s vacuum cleaner I found online. I collect all of this pictorial inspiration and then distill it down the best I know how. In most cases, like Rose's jetpack, I draw and redraw until I have something that actually works. That jetpack took-on about 20 different incarnations, and just when I thought it was finished, I had to change it when I actually drew Rose in action, because it was too clunky. It's a long-winding road, Chris, and, occasionally, my car runs out of steering fluid.
Nrama: Are you inking and coloring your own work as well?
Kowalchuk: I am inking my own work (and colouring the covers), and did do the colours that were in the proposal pages that Kurtis and I delivered to Image Comics, but for the actual series I have two wonderful colourists, Justin Scott and Donna Gregory. Justin is on the series for the first two issues, and Donna picks up from there. It has been wonderful having a team backing me up, they make me look good (it's not the 'soul-patch' like everyone says).
For me, inking is when the work actually comes alive, and where, as the penciller, you really find out whether the decisions you made hold water. Sometimes I have to change elements in the inking stage, because I neglected to take something into account in the pencil stage. I'm always fond of seeing Steve Ditko's work from pencil to ink stage, because when he would hit those inks, man, wow, magic! Or John Romita Sr, that dude can ink! If I could ever reach half the level of ability that those cats did, well, I could walk with my head high -- as opposed to slouched, and hidden behind my hands, shielding myself from the produce being thrown by old ladies at my local market. Living in Canada is harsh sometimes, Chris. 'Harsh' in that old ladies throw produce at you when you walk around with a t-shirt on that says '10 cents to ride this' and an arrow pointing, well, you know.
Nrama: Although that image is endearing Scott, let’s get back to the book. People are always concerned about comics coming out on time, so I have to ask; where are you at in terms of completing the series?
Weibe: I’d written the first issue in the summer of 2009. Normally that’s as far as I go in a series before I try to attach an artist and get to the pitching, and this wasn’t any different. I didn’t even start writing the second issue until mid summer of 2010, but I’ve been steadily hacking away at the scripts since then. Right now I’m pretty much done Issue #5, balancing between The Intrepids and Green Wake, my other Image title coming out right away.
We’ve had a few shuffles in the art department for both colourist and letterer, but we’ve solidified our team as of today, actually. Scott’s nearly finished the third issue, and is aiming to have the series completed by the time our second issue hits the stand. We’ve committed to The Intrepids being on time, month after month until the run is complete. We’ll do everything we can to fight delays.
Nrama: Where does an idea for something like this come from?
Weibe: It all started with a girl. Need I say more?
Nrama: Uhh.. Yes.
Weibe: Alright, alright. I drive city bus as a day job, and one morning I spotted a young woman dressed in almost identical style to our main character Crystal. This unknown woman was the catalyst to creating a cast of misfit teenagers who became a comic book. As far as plot and story, I’d been super impressed with Umbrella Academy, how a large cast of zany characters were unique individuals and how the story had heart despite it’s insane setting. I wanted to try my hand at a quasi-superhero story but was growing tired of the trend to take really light characters and force a dark and gritty angle on them.
This was all about the fun, whatever my imagination came up with, I could put into this wacky little series and it would be all the more entertaining.
That, and I’ve always dreamed of a safer, smarter future protected by armies of Cyberbears.