Americans love to buy imported wine from Bordeaux, France, but next week, Marvel readers will get to sample the latest arrival from the city of wine with the first issue of the comic book, Spin Angels.
Jean-Luc Sala, a writer who lives in Bordeaux, originally created the story for Spin Angels for a French audience through Soleil Productions in 2004. With art by Pierre-Mony Chan, Spin Angels told an action-filled story of a black-ops group of specialists and spies working for a Cardinal of the Catholic Church, although for French audiences, the comic was known as "Cross Fire." (which the Marvel adaptation was solicited as for the first two issues)
The comic was a huge success with French audiences, who were attracted to its unique combination of religion and action. As part of Marvel's ongoing relationship with Soleil, the company decided to publish the comic for American audiences starting next week with Spin Angels #1.
Newsarama talked with Jean-Luc Sala from his home in France to find out more about the writer and why he's so excited to bring his creation to America.
Newsarama: Jean-Luc, for American audiences who might not be familiar with your work, what's your background?
Jean-Luc Sala: I’ve always wanted to do something in comics. That’s why I studied in a Comics and Illustration School in Belgium.
But my first works were for role-playing games as an illustrator, and then I worked for 10 years in the video game industry, first as storyboarder, and finally as project manager. I finally got bored with team management and at night, after work, I began to write a story, just for the pleasure of it... just for me. That’s how I came back to my very first love: Comics!
Nrama: How did you end up putting together the story that would become Spin Angels?
Jean-Luc Sala: I met the most brilliant artist I’ve ever seen, Pierre-Mony Chan. He was making character designs and we were working in the same team [in video games]. It was a time when all the French game industry collapsed and we had the choice to move to Canada or USA or to stay at home and give a try in comics.
Pierre-Mony knew that I was writing something and he asked me if I had a story for him. I told him, “well you know, I don’t have anything else than a story with templars, mafia, guns and babes in bikinis."
He took the script, drew two pages and some characters sketches, and we showed the whole thing at the Angouleme International comics convention. We explained to our publisher that we wanted to do a kind of “genre blend” between esoteric thrillers and action/spy comedies. He smiled about the idea of a head-on collision between John Paul II and John Rambo. And a few days later we signed our contract.
Nrama: Who are the main characters in the comic and what will we learn about them?
Jean-Luc Sala: There are two main characters. They are like fire and ice, like in the good old “Buddy Movies” of the '80s. Our story is packed with actions and explosions, and to ignite it we used two detonators – our two heroes.
Sofia is a beautiful and daring historian, specialized in Heresies. She is a kind of special agent for the Vatican and she is fascinated by templar mysteries. The Vatican’s highest authorities use her to exfiltrate documents or artifacts that may be embarrassing for dogma and church. That’s why she is sent in Israel when a gospel written by Judas is discovered.
As her missions are going tougher and more dangerous, she must now act with a bodyguard. Angelo is that guardian Angel; he must protect her. But he was raised by the mafia and his methods are not too “Catholicly correct." He is the comic relief of the story; he is very macho, a little bit dumb (well perhaps more than “a little bit”), and his only religion is the one of guns. Instead of protecting her, he will immerse her in a maelstrom of violence, chases and gunfights.
Nrama: What other characters might we meet along the way?
Jean-Luc Sala: When you see how Pierre-Mony is drawing girls, you think that it would be a sin not to have female characters. And we do have a lot of female characters! And it would also be a sin not to talk about the sexiest, Gina. She will appear in the second episode, and here in France she is very popular in our male audience. The fact that she wears mostly bikinis may explain that phenomenon.
I won’t talk too much about our great villain, “the inquisitor,” as most of the mysteries of the story are about him. One of the most interesting facts about him is that he seems to have witnessed all the periods of our story, even flashbacks set in the middle ages.
Nrama: Where did you get the idea for a story like this?
Jean-Luc Sala: Well, first I would say that I love popcorn movies, and blockbusters packed with FX and action. And that is what I wanted to do for Spin Angels.
But I’m also found of history, and I’ve studied art history. I was also raised in Iran, and my family fled from the country with all the other occidental citizens when the Islamic revolution hit the whole country. Years later, I was in Jerusalem when a religious fanatic shot down the Prime Minister Rabbin, ruining all hopes of peace.
So I had, by experience, a vision about the dark side of religions and wanted to talk about it. And I also love comedies a lot. (By the way, “Life of Brian” is certainly the best movie about religion.)
I mixed all those things together, you will tell me if you enjoy the cocktail!
Nrama: Did you do a lot of research on the church and the setting in order to tell this story?
Jean-Luc Sala: Oh yes! A lot! Even if Spin Angels is packed with fun and action, you will learn some interesting and accurate historical and religious facts. “Learning things while having fun” – that’s our motto!
Nrama: How was the decision made to bring this comic to American audiences?
Jean-Luc Sala: Marvel and Soleil have an agreement. Marvel can choose any title they like in the Soleil catalogue. Pierre-Mony and I were lucky enough to be part of “the happy few.” When I learned the good news, I said “Now I can die,” as my ultimate goal as a comic writer was to be published by Marvel one day.
Spin Angels was designed at the very beginning as a Hollywood homage, so I’m really excited to know that American audiences will now have the opportunity to read it.
Nrama: How would you describe the art style?
Jean-Luc Sala: It’s quite unique, even here in France. It’s a French/Belgian comic style, with a mixture of US comics and mangas, and a Hollywoodian flavor.
Nrama: Then to finish up, is there anything else you want to tell comic book readers about Spin Angels ?
b>Jean-Luc Sala: I was a big comic book reader in the 90’s, importing from the U.S. all the comics I should get. U.S. comics are really part of my culture.
Spin Angels is a success here in France, but bringing it to a new audience makes me feel like the distressed artist I was when the first book hit the shelves in Europe.
So I’m really eager and distressed to see how Spin Angels will be received by the comic-dom audience. I’m crossing fingers !