On the surface, Michel Fiffe’s COPRA might seem like a G.I. Joe/Suicide Squad amalgam, but with Image Comics officially republishing past editions and now launching a new ongoing, new readers will see it’s its own violent juggernaut.
Newsarama spoke to Fiffe about the new series, which debuts October 2, about how it works as a jumping on point but a continuation of what has come before, the Suicide Squad analog blueprint, and what he has in store for his soliders of misfortune.
Newsarama: Michel, Image has published the last five volumes starting this past May; how has the transition been for you for even on a level of exposure?
Michel Fiffe: It’s been a massive relief to not have to self-publish, let me tell you, it’s a big goddamn weight off my shoulders that allows me to fully concentrate on making comic books.
Nrama: So with the series continuation, it jumps right in with from the previous volume, but also acts as a jumping on point. How did you feel was the best way to go about this?
Fiffe: I was returning from a break that had me working other projects so I really just tapped into my own reacquaintance with the COPRA story and cast. I also knew that this was a unique opportunity to show a whole new audience what this series was all about while remaining true to the original narrative and not skip a beat. What a challenge, but one I was really excited to tackle.
Nrama: The way the team is constructed using almost analogs for Suicide Squad members (the Lloyd character, for example), does that make it easier or harder to get to the center of who these characters are?
Fiffe: That was just a blueprint. The characters have long become their own entities who sometimes barely resemble the source. They’ve all organically taken on a life of their own.
Nrama: You did G.I. Joe: Sierra Muerte earlier this year which is sort of your whole brand. What was it like to finally work in that sandbox?
Fiffe: [Laughs] Well, it was a choice between Robots in Disguise or the Real American Hero; I was more familiar with the latter. Working on that or on Bloodstrike or with Marvel properties, you have to be comfortable with creating within boundaries, within their own respective set of rules. Having said that, Bloodstrike was the closest I got to working on a personal passion project with somebody else’s creations. I put a lot of myself into that thing.
Nrama: How would you describe your aesthetic because, yeah, there's this old school feel with the colors and layouts, but there's still an edge to it.
Fiffe: I have dozens of approaches and tons of influences, man, I can’t boil any of it down. What I do know is that the “old school feel” is probably because I use traditional tools to color my work. Other than that, there’s not much throwback tics in my art or stories.
I know I like using a thick, dry brush to ink sometimes. The crappier, the better.
Nrama: Speaking of which you're pretty much a DIY guy with everything from writing, drawing, coloring, even the hand-lettering, where do you start? Are you more of a visual guy and build a story around that or more traditional approach with writing then drawing?
Fiffe: I take it issue by issue, depending of what the specific story needs. Sometimes I start with huge chunks of dialogue and chisel it down to panels and pages, and sometimes the art and action dictate the terms. I wish I had a formula, it might save me some time!
Nrama: Do your scripts ever change along the way as you're building it up? Ever just like something you're illustrating and just like "damn, I want more of this!" and reconstruct everything?
Fiffe: The advantage of doing writing and drawing is that I’m constantly thinking about both, and they’re always in flux, always fighting to dominate. My job is to wrangle them into something harmonious, 24 pages at a time.
Nrama: What's in store for the COPRA team? Obviously we're going to have some closure of the Castillo cliffhanger, but what kind of stories do you want to have under the Image label?
Fiffe: It’s really important to me that this comic feels like an intimate experience you can’t get anywhere else. COPRA is made by my hand, directly for the reader to lock into it. I’m honoring that by telling all types of stories. Sometimes those stories will involve violent revenge sprees.