Imagine being the greatest superhero of all time. Then imagine if you were his daughter. David López's new creator-owned title Blackhand Ironhead explores that with Alexia and her father, Titan, and the world around them.
López is fresh of a run at Marvel which culminated with All-New Wolverine, and this new creator-owned project is a return for him after doing Fallen Angel with Peter David and others in his youth. But instead of going through the typical route of Image Comics or other publishers, López has hitched his wagon to Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin's Panel Syndicate with a digital release and a 'pay what you want' model.
Newsarama talked with the Spanish cartoonist about his return to creator-owned work, taking a break from Marvel, and just who is the Blackhand and Ironhead.
Newsarama: David, what is Blackhand Ironhead about?
David López: It’s the story of Alexia, the daughter of the greatest super hero there is, the one that fixed everything. Alexia wants to be a hero but the times of heroes are gone and her family doesn’t want her to fight. That’s the starting point, after that we have mystery, family secrets, and lots of dark humor. It’s a story with super heroes but not about super heroes.
Nrama: So who is Alexia exactly?
López: Alexia is an idealist in postmodern times, everything is complicated… and there she is, a super-strong good-willed hero without an enemy to punch in the face. She would have loved living when there was death fights twice a day like in the stories of his father.
Nrama: How big a shadow does Alexia's father cast over her life?
López: Huge, a shadow the size of his ego. He’s really used to being in command and knows (he thinks) what’s best for everybody. He loves her daughter but see her as an extension of himself. For Alexia her father is a giant; she does everything she can to make him proud but they differ in what makes him proud, and she wants to be a hero to make him proud. He wants her not to be a hero to fulfill his plans.
Nrama: Who else is in this series?
López: We have Arthur, her uncle, who’s been like the mother she hasn’t had; Titan, a hero bigger than life, almost a god… and, of course, Amy, the Black Hand, a young villain with huge pride and power.
Nrama: And what is Alexia up against, besides her father's reputation?
López: Her bigger pain in the butt will be Amy; she's her nemesis in every aspect. The core of the story is the relation between these two young women who hate the guts of one another. There’s family issues, super hero fights and mystery solving too, but that’s the icing of the cake.
Nrama: How many issues do you project for this series, or the first arc at least?
López: Blackhand Ironhead #1 is almost a double issue. #2, #3, and #4 are twenty-pagers and #5, the final one, is longer too. It’ll be 140 pages long, more or less.
Nrama: So, this is what led you to take a break from All-New Wolverine. How big a choice was it for you to pause on work-for-hire and go into creator-owned work once again?
López: You never make a decision like that for one reason only. I had several.
• I was exhausted and needed a break. I had been working very much for quite a long time and I was feeling dry. I felt I had nothing to give to readers, and while I knew how to make comics look good I wasn’t as brilliant as I wanted; I needed time and distance.
• What Kelly Sue was doing at Image… wow, she was doing her best work because of total freedom, I wanted a taste of that. Envy fuels me a lot, I must admit it.
• I was reading a lot about scriptwriting and I wanted to give it a try, see if my ideas of what a super hero should be worked.
• I felt the itch of having worked for majors for 10+ years and not having anything I could call my own. When you work for Marvel or DC, you know that you have the chance to play with the coolest toys in the world but they will never be yours. I needed my own toys.
Nrama: You've done creator-owned work before, in Spain but also with the DC-liberated Fallen Angel with Peter David. How different is it for you now than then?
López: The creator0owned work I had done in Spain was really amateur, my first books are 20 years old, that’s really lots of time, everything has changed in 20 years. I am different too… now I’m not that carefree, I think more about what I’m doing and why, I have grown man responsibilities, and I’m not that same person who published those books in the 90s anymore. I’m supposed to act like a professional cartoonist!
My first book (fanzines aside) was published by an independent publisher in Barcelona who I communicated via postal mail. Blackhand Ironhead has been drawn completely digitally, has been promoted via social networks, and is available to anybody anywhere in the globe. It’s been quite a ride.
Nrama: And what led you to partner with Brian and Marcos at Panel Syndicate and not do something at Image or one of the many other creator-owned outlets?
López: The freedom, the reachability, the transparency, the statement it supposes.
I know how the pitching process works with publishers… it’s frustrating, and the limitations of the physical format, of course. At Panel Syndicate I can add a page or a dozen, I have direct contact with Marcos who is… a god of light, good as gold, and he’s really open and upfront and I appreciate that. At Panel Syndicate they only compromise they asked for is: no DRM, name your price, that’s it.
Nrama: Speaking of print publishers, do you have plans for this to go in print or are you, like Brian and Marcos, reticent to bring these out in physical books?
López: I am reticent, yes. My home is cramped with comics and I suppose everybody has that same problem too! Tablets are the perfect solution in my opinion, they're amazing for reading comics, if I had the chance to have all my books in digital format in a snap I would probably keep less than 10% in paper. Digital gives you the chance to be a collector without having to move to a bigger house.
Nrama: Big picture, what are your goals for Blackhand Ironhead?
López: The main goal is (now was) making it. I wanted to learn to write a script I could be proud of and I’ve done it. And I wanted to make my book without distribution frontiers, direct to the reader, and here it is.
To be truthful, I wasn’t asking for too much.