Superheroes and spaghetti westerns might not seem that similiar, but for 1872 artist Nik Virella they're very much on the same page.
"Everyone wants to save the day, the rest is just details!" the artist tells Newsarama.
This week Marvel releases 1872 #4, the finale of Virella and writer Gerry Duggan's Secret Wars tie-in series. Utilizing Marvel superhero stalwarts like Captain America, the Hulk and Kingpin, the duo have taken these classic characters back to a decidedly different era than what they’re used to.
Newsarama spoke to Virella about the work of creating a unique world inside of a larger event, as well as her feelings about helping redefine Red Wolf ahead of his upcoming ongoing series.
Newsarama: Nik, 1872 is your second work for Marvel, after Return of the Living Deadpool, which you also colored. How is the experience of working on 1872 different from what you did with Deadpool?
Nik Virella: Honestly, the experience wasn’t all that different. The biggest change was that Lee Loughridge contributed to the coloring in 1872, so I was able to focus on my lineart. I also had the chance to collaborate with writer Gerry Duggan. On any project, the end goal for all of us is to deliver the best possible version of the story, and that means considering each other’s input and working as a creative team. There’s a lot of communication about the design and the layout and how things flow. At the end of the day, comic books are always better when everyone involved is equally passionate about getting the story out there as best we possibly can.
Nrama: You came on board 1872 when the original artist, Evan "Doc" Shaner, had a scheduling conflict. How’d you land the gig?
Virella: My editors Jordan D. White and Heather Anthos referred me to the project for 1872. It worked out well since I’d just finished Return of the Living Deadpool. After that, I was teamed up with Gerry Duggan and Lee Loughridge, and we hit the ground running.
Nrama: What are the challenges of drawing characters that are, essentially, superheroes, in an atypical setting like the Wild West?
Virella: I wouldn’t actually consider it a challenge! Most superhero stories are already like westerns, if you think about it. All the elements are there – good versus evil, fights and dramatic rescues and everything else… Really, if you look at the old spaghetti westerns, it’s not hard to translate those characters into today’s superheroes. Everyone wants to save the day, the rest is just details!
Nrama: With your work on 1872, you’ve helped define Red Wolf, who’s getting his own series after Secret Wars. Did you know going in he was going to be a breakout character, and did that inform your work at all?
Virella: At the time, I didn’t know Red Wolf was getting his own series, but I did know he’d have a spotlight in 1872. It was nice that this series focused on him because his character has been around since the sixties. And he's only had a spotlight series here and there.
Nrama: Who is your favorite 1872 character to draw? Did you get to do any design work for these versions of the characters?
Virella: It’s hard to choose one favorite, honestly, I really loved them all. But yes, I did get to do the design work for a lot of the characters. Everyone had a few outfits and redesigns to make them part of the 1872 world, which was a lot of fun to come up with. There’s a lot to consider in a redesign, especially in a project like this. Not only do you try to stay true to the character, but going back to the year 1872 puts some new restrictions on what a character can wear or carry. An enormous amount of research went into that, and I still think a couple of anachronisms slipped through.
Nrama: Do you change up your linework when you know someone else is going to be coloring your pages as opposed to doing it yourself?
Virella: No, I don’t think the linework changes depending on who’s coloring. But the style definitely adapts to suit the story. While I work to give each story its own unique and personal style, I try to stick to the same mantra, which is "tell the story the best way it can be told." That extends to the lineart, too. So much of the storytelling is visual, and it was important to preserve the feel of 1872 instead of forcing it into a style that wouldn’t work for it.
Nrama: What’s it like working on a tie-in to such a big event as Secret Wars? Was there anything you had to keep in mind in order to get the book to line up with other Secret Wars titles, or did you have free rein to go crazy?
Virella: It's pretty exciting to be a part of a storyline with so many intersecting stories and alternate universes and timelines. For 1872, so much of the main story takes place exclusively in its own world that there was some free rein. There were the usual Easter eggs and character cosmology in that particular world, of course. Like the name of the town – Timely – a nod to Marvel Comics, which used to be Timely Comics up until the 1960’s.
Nrama: Without getting too spoiler-y, what’s on your drawing board right now? Can we expect more Marvel work from you coming up?
Virella: I do have new projects that will be announced very soon, but unfortunately I can’t tell you about anything specific right now. Working with Marvel has been a fantastic experience, and I’m hoping to be able to contribute to more of their projects.