Frank Frazetta's NeanderthalNext Wednesday, Frank Frazetta’s Neanderthal reaches comic shops. It has the distinction of being the first silent issue in the Frazetta Comics line.
This special issue, which showcases the art of Tim Vigil and Jay Fotos, is scripted by Chris Ryall, and, in addition to a cover reproduction of Frazetta’s classic painting, features variant covers by Fotos and Nat Jones.
We talked to Ryall, Fotos and Vigil about their approach to this issue.
Newsarama: Chris, this is the first silent Frazetta comic. How did you go about scripting this one?
Chris Ryall: Well, I got special dispensation to work around my IDW exclusive for this one, but the one caveat was that I couldn’t put any of my scintillating dialogue to good use for a competitor like Image.
Well, that’s not entirely true, and I actually need to get the word “scintillating” back to Stan Lee before 5 PM—it was just on loan—so I suppose I should answer seriously.
Frank Frazetta's Neanderthal, page 1And seriously, writing a dialogue-free issue was a bitch! I’ve always tried to keep captions and inner monologues to a bare minimum whenever I could as a way to not let myself get overly reliant on scripting words to tell a comic story so I thought this would just be the next step, but man, fully removing the dialogue from the story really presented some challenges. The main one being, once it all came together with the art, is that I realize I had the story in my head so of course I could follow the wordless images fine, but it was only after looking at the final issue that it made me wonder if I’d managed to communicate that well enough to the reader. Which I suppose we’ll see soon enough.
I always write full scripts, so this one just required a bit more nuance, more detail, and me asking more of the art team since they’d need to carry the heavy lifting of communicating intent with just facial expressions of body language.
I did lead the story off with two captions that set the time and place for long-time Frazetta Comics readers (thanks to Josh Ortega for suggesting that little thing), and we worked in sound effects and a few pained grunts and groans so the issue isn’t totally wordless, but still, it was probably the hardest I’ve worked on any script so far.
NRAMA: What did Tim Vigil bring to the story?
CR: Tim brought his kick-ass, visceral art style to every page. When Tim draws a Neanderthal throw-down, you really feel the fist meeting the face. And Jay Fotos was a huge boon to the storytelling, too, taking Tim’s panels and images and whipping them into pages and then finishing them off with colors (and then letters), too. Tim and Jay can discuss their approach below. All I know is, I was the beneficiary of their joint labors.
Frank Frazetta's Neanderthal, page 2NRAMA: Readers can get an idea of the tone from the original painting that’s on the cover, but what can you tell us about the story itself?
CR: I can tell you that the whole story builds to a moment that will either work for fans or leave them scratching their heads, or maybe both, and that any such reaction when you come to this moment is the right one. Which doesn’t tell you anything, does it? In basic terms, the days of the caveman are winding down, and the leader of a tribe of Neanderthals runs up against a threat that might be too much for him unless he can find a way to communicate this threat to his tribe and recruit help. So he and I were both faced with the challenge of communicating this threat coherently without using normal language. This one might require some post-game commentary to discuss what people have read—it’s a nicely challenging and ultimately rewarding read, I think. And the challenge and experience of it all was a blast. I’m happy to have been a part of the whole Frazetta Comics line.
NRAMA: Tim, over to you. You didn’t draw traditional pages on this one.—what was your approach to the art?
Tim Vigil: That's true, I didn't do any finished comic size pages 11x 17. The whole story was done in different parts. I drew each panel or two on sketch paper that Jay put together. Some backgrounds were done separately and some retouches of faces arms or total bodies had to be pasted in by Jay. What I have seen Jay did a great job in butting all the pieces together. I was given thumb nails and quickly learned that they were very definite and shouldn't be added to or changed. I was looking through the eyes of Chris and Jay. I had to do some mind melting through time and space to actually transcend myself to see as they saw. The thing I was doing basically was being a better illustrator in representing character and environment. It was real fun and interesting to present a story in such a different way.
Frank Frazetta's Neanderthal, page 3NRAMA: Was the fact that this script was presented wordlessly, and that so much hinged on a big moment in the story, more of a challenge than usual?
TV: Not at all. A lot of times stories are presented as just themes and dialogue is never added in until later, so doing characters and drawings without story is common. The main thing here was that the emotional facial features was stressed to be specific. They had to carry the story.
NRAMA: Jay , you were heavily involved with the art direction and page layouts while also dealing with all the coloring and lettering of sound effects. First question to you is, was this the most exhausting Frazetta Comics book you’ve done so far?
Jay Fotos: Yes, this book was done a lot different then the norm of your typical comic book production would go, but it worked well. At the beginning Tim and I discussed on how I would like to approach the “style” of the art, right off the bat I wanted to show off Tim in a way that he has never been shown before(comparing to his work on Frazetta’s Dark Kingdom and Frazetta’s Moon Maid), this was what is so great/fun about this medium(comics), we can do whatever we want and try different stuff. Was this the most exhausting Frazetta Comics book you’ve done so far? Yea, it was pretty tough. Being I was involved with the story as well a lot of work was done in preproduction, full pages and panels were redone trying this, trying that…lots of tweaking.
NRAMA: What was your vision for this issue? And what steps did you take to get there?
Frank Frazetta's Neanderthal, page 4JF: Like what Chris mentioned, “Writing a dialogue-free issue was a bitch!” and there is a reason why you can maybe count on one hand on the amount of comics done like this. But when you think of the concept it seems to be the only way to do it and I think fans will appreciate that. I also want to state when you do pick this book up “think like a Neanderthal” and “read” into the illustrations, there are a lot of little details that I think really help tell the story. I also wanted to mention we don’t want to treat the readers like “Neanderthals” either and beat the story into their heads, there will be a lot of different interpretations on how this story reads and I am eager to hear the fans perspectives on how they picked up the story…cause it can be read in different ways and I think that’s pretty cool.
I think Chris said it best, “…any such reaction when you come to this moment is the right one.”
NRAMA: What’s next for the Frazetta Comics line?
JF: Oh boy, lots of stuff, the Frazettaverse is growing by leaps and bounds!
After Frazetta’s Neanderthal, Frazetta’s Sorcerer hits in June, written by Joshua Ortega and illustrated by Josh Medors, this story jumps right back into the world of Iparsia, Death Dealer, Demons and Evil Sorcerers…you can’t ask for anything more!
Frank Frazetta's Neanderthal, page 5Silver Warrior! Silver Warrior! Silver Warrior! Yes, the long awaited follow-up series to Death Dealer is coming, I swear!
Dark Kingdom is coming back! Oh boy, just wait till you see what we have in store, not only are we presenting this in a new format but how would you like to see Red Morden go toe to toe with a certain horned helmeted, axe wielding dealer of death, hmmm?
Frank Frazetta Jr.’s two issue miniseries Interlopers is in the works that we have some really big news on that as well soon to be announced.
Also slated is Frazetta’s Tyrannosaurus Rex, Frazetta’s Combat and we are now in the process of bringing a classic tale back to life, to give you a little hint…it’s headless!
There is more, but I don’t want to give anymore away, stay tuned!