NYCC 2011: Video Game Artist Goes for EPIC KILL At Image

NYCC 2011: New Series EPIC KILL


This past weekend’s New York Comic Con had no shortage of new announcements, and one that came out of this weekend’s “Image Comics Show” Panel is guaranteed to be epic. A new ongoing series titled Epic Kill follows a young girl named Song who has a unique talent – a talent for killing. She’s turned this inherent skill into her career as a professional assassin, but things go personal when she finds out who murdered her parents when she was a baby. As it turns out it’s a prominent (and crooked) politician, so she’s forced to wade through an army of bodyguards, hitmen, and even the U.S. Armored Forces to bring about the only justice she knows how.

Set to debut in early 2012, Epic Kill comes from writer/artist Raffaele Ienco who also created the 2008 science fiction horror graphic novel Devoid Of Life from Image. Ienco’s best known work, however, is doing artwork for video games such as Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes and Eternal Darkness. The writer/artist is bringing that kind of style – and body count – to this new Image series as he commits full-time to the world of comics. 



: The title of this new series, Epic Kill, is pretty striking: what does it mean for the series?

Raffaele Ienco: The title defines the theme of the series. In each issue, the lead character for the arc of the story, will, in effect, be in situations that require them to masterfully kill a ton of bad guys in some really unique, bizarre way – an epic kill. That’s what you can expect from the books. Car chases, motorcycle chases, foot chases, guns, missiles, helicopters, trains, explosions, bullet dodging – a lot of action-y set-ups. The wilder the better.

Like the movie Die Hard, I'm hoping the series is popular enough to continue with more arcs. Even though Song (a woman) is the main character in the first arc and is revenge driven, the concept of Epic Kill could involve a different character next time. 



: Although we just learned about the series today, I’ve been told you’re very far along on the book. How many issues have you completed, and what’s on your drawing board right now?

Ienco: Well the first arc is five issues and I’ve got the first three books totally done – as in fully drawn, colored and lettered. I’m doing all the writing and art chores - like I did on 2008’s Devoid of Life graphic novel. I just finished inking page twelve of book four so the series looks to be fully good to go for an early 2012 release. Issue five wraps up the story completely.

Nrama: The lead character, Song, is a teenage prodigy but for a very unique skill – killing people. What’s she like, and how’d she get this way?

Ienco: I’m discovering who Song is myself doing the series. Unlike the major comic characters that have decades of material to draw inspiration from, inventing a character from scratch isn’t as easy as a person would think. Anyway, Song is eighteen and Japanese. She lost her parents very young and filled that void with special martial arts training. It was a healing therapy for both her and the man who trained her – who also lost someone.


She’s very cold blooded. I needed her to be that way if I was going to put her in situations where a large body count was going to be amassed. So, yeah, some innocent people get wasted by her actions. Selfish too then, since trying to balance the scales of justice for her parents death by killing anyone who gets in her way is pretty self-centered.

But I've become really fond of Song (she does have her good kind-hearted side) since I've started and want to explore her life and world more. I have a “killer” wrap up to this first arc and am working towards it.

She may or may not survive her journey – I haven’t decided yet. I would love to draw her in the electric chair though. And then have her get out of it in some clever way and kill a ton of people in the process.

Nrama: This wouldn’t be an action comic if Song didn’t have something or someone to go up against – what’s she fighting, and fighting for?

Ienco: Song wants to bring a powerful politician, responsible for her parents’ death, to justice and that means killing a whole lot of people that get in her way. She is up against the full might of the US military and the President. And organized crime. And some hitmen. Corrupt cops. Mercenaries. Yeah, that’s where the action is. She’s pissed off a lot of powerful people. 


: While some people might have missed Devoid of Life, another project you did quite a lot of people know about – you worked on the video game Metal Gear Solid. Can you tell us about the games you’ve done, and how it helps you when it comes time to draw comics?

Ienco:It’s not too late to check out Devoid of Life (science fiction horror GN) from Image Comics – when I’m at conventions people always comment how they missed out on it the first time – but dig it when they finally see it.

So, yeah, I worked in the video game industry for ten years as an environment and character artist working on high profile games like Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes and Eternal Darkness – both for Gamecube. It was a great experience that increased my computer skills astronomically. I learned 3D geometry and Photoshop and other creative talents. But I missed comics (having done them before video games too) and being able to tell my own stories in my own way. When I got back to comics I had all these new skills I could use to make my pages better then they have ever been.

Nrama: It’s been three years since your last comic came out. Where have you been, and how’d Epic Kill turn out to bring you back to comics? 


: After Devoid of Life I did a 120 page supernatural thriller GN (which I haven’t found a suitable publisher for yet – I’m hoping to show it to Image if Epic Kill does well) and I also wrote three big tent-pole illustrated screenplays. Having provided helpful notes on the Devoid of Life screenplay (written by a high-profile LOST writer) I was encouraged to write a screenplay myself. Each of my screenplays took eight months to complete and all are currently making the rounds in Hollywood. Turned out I was pretty good at it, I was told. Each screenplay has about a dozen wide comic panels that depict the best trailer moments of the stories imbedded into the PDF.

As for how "Epic Kill" came about, it’s a unique story. I had just finished my third screenplay and was chilling, talking to an artist friend about how "easy" it is to create a submission for Image Comics. They just need five finished pages and a cover, which isn't a whole lot when you think about it, considering a mini-series is like 130 pages. And it just hit me "yeah, it is easy" I should do a pitch myself (again). I started the next day. I worked up 5 pages and a cover, thought that wasn't enough material, did 6 more pages for a total of 11 and sent that off by snail mail. I was jazzed I came up with the name Epic Kill. I love the name and the imagery it instantly conjures up with just those two words.


By the time I heard back from Image publisher Eric Stephenson I had the first issue finished. I was concerned because for a while I thought Image had passed on my book and considering this was my best work, I was discouraged for my future in comics. But I did get the greenlight from Eric eventually (he was convention hopping) and was floating on air that week. "Thank you, Eric!" He never gets thanked enough, I think.

I also got my first screenplay assignment that same week – when it rains it pours. So I’m going back and forth with several Hollywood people on the new screenplay and doing Epic Kill during the downtime. It’s working out pretty well.

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