Ever miss the days of the 1980s – not the damn leg-warmers and shoulder pads, but when creators like Frank Miller and Alan Moore were doing mad-crazy books that felt like nothing you’d seen before? Michel Fiffe’s Copra painstakingly recreates the look and feel of those books, while adding in enough weirdness to make it seem new all over again.
Deathzone! set the stage for Copra, which like Suicide Squad deals with supervillains being used as government cannon fodder…with plenty of crazy angles, hyper-saturated colors and visual effects that can only be gotten away with in a comic book. Three issues have come out so far with a fourth on the way in this new monthly series that Fiffe writes, pencils, colors, and publishes himself. You read that correctly. Here’s a trailer for issue #4:You can order Copra and Zegas from Fiffe’s Etsy store, and we’ve got him right here to talk supervillains, 1980s comics and more.
Newsarama: Michel, for those who haven't picked it up yet, tell us about the origin of Copra.Michel Fiffe: It's a psychedelic Dirty Dozen-type crew made up of ridiculous assassins on the run after being framed for a horrific crime they did not commit. Nrama: You made some waves with your Suicide Squad fan comic last summer -- did Copra organically come out of that, or was this an idea you had before? Also, name some awesome Suicide Squad moments if you want. Or we can shut this interview down and just talk about Suicide Squad for an hour, but my editors probably won't let me.
Michel Fiffe: Yeah, Deathzone! was my personalized Suicide Squad comic. It is now long gone and officially out of print, but it absolutely served as a gateway for Copra. I've gone on about how much I love that comic, especially the John Ostrander/Kim Yale material. It's criminally out of print.
I've loosely followed those characters after the initial run came to a close, and I was surprised at how much I liked Ostrander's return to the team many years later, but their story ended with Deadshot and Count Vertigo's final scene. Nothing beats that ending.
Nrama: You are writing, illustrating and publishing a full-color monthly comic yourself. How do you do this, and are you mad, sir?Fiffe: I've hired a full staff of aspiring cartoonists and assistants and they do all the work, bless them. All I do is pull a Bob Kane and sign my name right on their work. Everyone's happy.
Nrama: Tell us a little about your creative process for creating the book, both story and art.
Fiffe: The creative process to make a 24-page monthly comic from the ground up is chaotic, to say the least. It's controlled, though, I keep tabs on everything. If something's not being drawn, then it's being shipped. If I'm not e-mailing retailers, then I'm scribbling dialogue on napkins.
Nrama: Do you have a favorite member of the team to write?
Fiffe: I like them all, no kidding. In fact, I'm excited to dedicate full issues to each respective members. At the moment I like the dynamic between the core group, those who survived the first issue's mission.Nrama: You've been focusing more on the creative side of things with Zegas and now this, but how do you find your years of writing about comics and creators has informed how you create them?
Fiffe: All the things I've written about - which I've only really done for a few years - have come from my desire to specifically explore or figure something out. It's how I work out my thoughts on narrative timing or the way Jorge Zaffino inked jaw lines.
The interviews I've conducted, on the other hand, mostly map out a creator's career arc. Those are more out of curiosity than for applied practice, but they're still very valuable to me.
Nrama: One of the things that's most interesting to me about your work is how you're paying homage to some styles that aren't acknowledges as much in comics, such as that 1980s Frank Miller style with dark Klaus Janson inks and bright-but-stark Lynn Varley colors, or Walt Simonson-style drawn letters as part of the panel, or that sort of jagged, Trevor Von Eeden Thriller style.
I'm curious about some of the elements you're "remixing" for this work, why you're drawn to them, and some elements readers such as myself might have missed.Fiffe: Depending on what circles you travel in, my reference points can either be blindspots or they can be familiar. You may not see that my love of unreasonably long sound effects comes from my Walt Simonson fetish. You picked up on it, Zack.
I love a lot of the variations on a theme that those guys represent. Kyle Baker, Klaus Janson, Rick Leonardi.... I can rattle off names for a while... Jon Bogdanove, Tony Salmons. They all represent confidence and urgency in the face of restriction.
Nrama: What's coming up for the team?
Fiffe: International and dimensional travels and maybe a bloodbath or two. I have a couple more characters to introduce, but the main cast is set.Nrama: Obligatory stupid question: According to a basic Google, a Copra is the technical term for dried meat of the coconut. How does this reflect upon your ongoing narrative?
Fiffe: It doesn't.
Nrama: What are some other books and creators you currently enjoy?Fiffe: I'll keep it to what I've read in the past week, that list I can manage. Tom Scioli just made a webcomic to die for, Satan’s Soldier. It's gorgeous. Zack Soto just put out The Secret Voice as a print comic, which is a really appealing package, tailor-made for me.
Oh, and Jim Aparo's The Brave and the Bold material. I'm always reading those. Aparo was a giant.
Nrama: What's next for you?
Fiffe: Whatever issue of Copra is next. I might put out an issue of my other comic Zegas in a few months. That's up in the air, as I just have to find the time to do it!
Copra can be ordered through Michel Fiffe’s Etsy store.