Doctor Strange has a posse.
In the new ensemble book Doctor Strange & the Sorcerers Supreme, the current Sorcerer Supreme is teaming with other previous (and future) holders of that title. That means his teammates include the likes of an impetuous teenage version of his mentor, the Ancient One, as well as - through reasons unexplained - his eventual successor, Wiccan. That's not to mention a Native American Sorcerer Supreme with shades of Ghost Rider in her veins.
Scheduled to debut October 26, Doctor Strange & the Sorcerers Supreme kicks off when the group is called into action by Merlin (yes, that Merlin) to thwart an ancient evil named the Forgotten that arose after the magic world was rocked with Doctor Strange's "Last Days of Magic" arc.
Spider-Woman artist Javier Rodriguez is completing a unique full circle, returning now to the character he first drew for Marvel in Doctor Strange: The Oath, which incidentally, is the story next month’s feature film is loosely based on.
Rodriguez spoke with Newsarama about Doctor Strange & the Sorcerers Supreme, designing (and re-designing) the cast of this magical ensemble, and working with writer (and Supernatural alum) Robbie Thompson.
Newsarama: Javier, what's on your drawing board today?
Javier Rodriguez: Today I'm drawing more Doctor Strange & The Sorcerers Supreme pages and a cover for a Spider-Woman issue.
Nrama: We're here today to talk about Doctor Strange & The Sorcerers Supreme. What interested you about this project with Robbie Thompson?
Rodriguez: I'm a longtime Marvel fan and I love Stephen Strange. My first gig for Marvel was as a colorist of Doctor Strange: The Oath. Also this is a new challenge for me because it is my first time dealing with a group of superheroes. I'm excited.
Not forgetting that Robbie is one of the most brilliant new talents and a fantastic writer to collaborate with. He is awesome developing characters and creating story plots. I couldn't resist to jump on board when editor Nick Lowe invited me, despite that I was enjoying being on Spider-Woman with Dennis Hopeless.
Nrama: This is essentially a Doctor Strange team book, and I'm told you did the designs for a number of characters. Can you talk about co-creating and designing the team here?
Rodriguez: It was amazing. You know, when I was kid, I dreamed about drawing for Marvel someday but my most desired ideal was to create my own characters. Like Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko. [Laughs]
I was a naive child. But now this is the closest to that experience that I could have and I glad I am doing it. On this case my take was particularly on female characters and I'm in love with both.
Nrama: The new character I'm most interested in is the Native American sorcerer supreme Kushala, who is on your cover to Doctor Strange & The Sorcerers Supreme #3. Native American characters have had a sometimes troubling depiction in comic books, but from talking to you in the past you are known to me to get deep into a character when designing them. Can you talk about her?
Rodriguez: First you need to think that all of them are fictional characters living fictional adventures. But you're right, because she's Native American, an Apache. I like to find more about her background, a deeper approach. She's a sorcerer, a warrior and a demon (maybe too many spoilers) from the 19th century. I researched a lot of elements to get inspiration. One of them was the amazing Apache Crown Dancers, a really interesting ceremony. Other was the Chiricahua clothes. I added some touches as I imagined the Mexican border outfits 200 years ago but with a contemporary vibe, a bit of a rocker because she is a character called to action. We'll see how the characters develop along our story grows, anyway, but I'm sure that Kushala will be one of the most loved by the readers.
Nrama: And what about the villain - the Forgotten. Can you talk about that character, and the work you've done on making it real?
Rodriguez: I like to design villains a lot. The Forgotten is special, it can change size and move inter-dimensionally so it's so cool to play with him through the page composition. I designed it thinking how to use the physical attributes to support, to aid, the eye movement through the pages easier and entertaining the reader at the same time. I know that maybe it doesn't make sense now, but you'll see.
Nrama: Looking at the cover to #2, I'm realizing that this book has more actual capes than most any Marvel comic. Unlike DC heroes, Marvel heroes aren't usually prone to capes -- but the Doctor Strange & The Sorcerers Supreme cast revels in them. How is having so many flowing garments affecting your work, especially in composing a cover or a panel?
Rodriguez: I'm discovering that it helps a lot. One of my favorite capes is Wiccan's. He adds lot of flow and movement anytime he shows up. And that red helps to make him pop up.
Nrama: Does the work of Chris Bachalo on the main Doctor Strange title or the upcoming movie affect what you're doing with Doctor Strange & The Sorcerers Supreme?
Rodriguez: Well, it is intimidating because Chris is a legend. He is an awesome artist, unique. With a very rich artistic style and with an own world. Of course I'm sensible to the amazing book that he and Jason Aaron are doing, as well I'm eager for the movie. But old stuff like Ditko's and, my favorite, Paul Smith's works on Dr. Strange are big influences too.
Nrama: Alvaro Lopez and Jordie Bellaire are joining you on inks and colors respectively for this. As someone who's worked in those support capacities before, how are you now working with them to visualize the pages you three are creating together?
Rodriguez: I'm so lucky because they are the best collaborators I can imagine to team up. Alvaro is like my other half, talking about line art. We work close and I can't think on my artwork without his input. And excited to work with Jordie since she did the colors of the (fantastic) Emma Rios' Doctor Strange. Her recent work is incredible. I knew she was so good but when she showed us the first pages I can't believe it. She is the perfect colorist for the project because she is one of the best in the business. Let me said that Joe Caramagna lettering makes the whole team just perfect.
Nrama: Robbie has said that you two are in active communication with one another, outside the scripts. How is being able to talk with the writer here in this case helpful in drawing the scripts?
Rodriguez: Robbie is the first writer that I have met in person, so maybe this is sound silly but to me is big plus.
He is very creative; a solid and talented writer, first of all. Also, we have a lot of pop culture in common and that really made the task more fun. He listens to my opinions and this is very important to me. And the way he writes the characters is fantastic. It helps in creating warmer artwork, and allows a lot of room for readers' investment in the story which I enjoy.
Nrama: Last question then, what are your big goals with launching Doctor Strange & The Sorcerers Supreme?
Rodriguez: I really like to be part of a comic that attracts readers like my favorite Marvel comics caught me up when I was a kid. That sense of wonder, you know. I hope so.