Longtime friends/collaborators/studiomates Rafael Albuquerque and Rafael Scavone are launching their long-simmering creator-owned series Hidden Society this month from Dark Horse Comics. This medieval magic fantasy book pits a quintent of heroes against a shadowy group of magicians set on re-awakening a primeval force that would burn their world to the dirt.
With the four-issue series debuting February 26, Newsarama had the chance to talk to Albuquerque and Scavone about their upcoming title where we discuss what type of magic the series will explore, the origin behind their rag tag team, and if they want to explore more from this world if this series proves successful.
Newsarama: After working on Neil Gaiman's A Study in Emerald, what made you want to work together on this title?
Rafael Albuquerque: We are long time friends and collaborators. I think the fact that we share a studio together makes the whole creative process more interesting and organic. We have room to go back and forth all the time, making sure the result will be exactly what we have in mind.
Rafael Scavone: I consider myself a lucky guy for having the chance to learn and work with Rafa Albuquerque. He has an undoubtable talent and is the easiest guy to collaborate with. We've been doing it for years. But we've also been looking into making a creator-owned story ourselves and Hidden Society is the first of many.
Nrama: How did you come up with the concept? Did you work on plotting it together from the beginning?
Albuquerque: They came up from old ideas that we had for the characters. Rafa had an idea for Laura and Orcus, we had another story for Jadoo (different name at the time) and we also had another pitch for Mercy (also with another name). At some point we figured out that despite all these projects having distinct approaches, they were all about the same thing: the occult. Daniel Chabon, our editor at Dark Horse, then gave us the idea of getting them all together in a “team book”, which made a lot of sense.
Nrama: Tell us a bit about the characters?
Scavone: Hidden Society's characters are very diverse. The main character is Jadoo, a talented young illusionist who ends up facing powerful old magic. There’s also Laura, a visually-impaired girl who is eager to fight crime with the help of a powerful ancient roman demon. And Mercy, an enigmatic bounty hunter who harvests damned souls for an old devil. This is our main crew, but I'll let you read the story to find out more!
Nrama: The characters all come from different walks of life. What's their chemistry like?
Scavone: The characters have distinct journeys, it's true. Each one is looking for something different, and since they never met before this story they don't really trust each other yet. So it is a bit of a messy group of heroes we have here. I think much of the chemistry in the story comes from the perspectives each of them have regarding each other, and how they slowly understand that the collaboration among them is the only thing that can save the world. Perhaps that's kind of the same challenge humanity is facing nowdays?
Nrama: Rafael, how did you come up with the designs for these diverse set of characters?
Albuquerque: Their personalities were so well defined in the pitch that they pretty much came up naturally. Our partners in Stout Club came up with great ideas for them as well, so we managed to find a unique look for each one that reflects their nature and backgrounds.
Nrama: What character do you have most fun writing/drawing?
Scavone: I loved to write them all, of course. But if I have to pick one I’ll go with Jadoo. After witnessing his brilliant future to be compromised, he finds out he has only a few hours to save the world from a primeval beast… and also to learn a new language in this process. The poor boy is a natural hero.
Albuquerque: I also love them all, but Orcus is a lot of fun, to write and draw.
Nrama: From an art perspective, what’s been your approach for this title?
Albuquerque: We really wanted to do something that could find the limit of an adventure and a horror story. It’s moody and dark in many moments but also has “feel good” humor sometimes. That’s reflected both in the scripts by Rafa and my art: dark, moody but also fun and colourful.
Nrama: Tell us about the supernatural aspect to the world?
Scavone: It's 1979 and the fantastic and supernatural are an active part of the world. Demons, enigmatic creatures and magic are protagonists and some of the characters can interact with this occult realm and even see how it looks like. There's a lot of details about Hidden Society's supernatural world that we want to explore further but we want to allow the readers to experience step by step what's possible in this universe.
Nrama: Magic has such a vast mythos. What made you explore these specific forms of magic?
Scavone: The story uses what I like to label as very ancient magic - basically the human voice. I believe that one of the first ways humans experienced magic was through the sounds we produce with our mouths, the words, and its meanings. In Hidden Society we explore it using a sort of new magic language that also has its own alphabet. I like to think that much of the joy we experience reading comics comes from our imagination, from what happens in the readers mind navigating the panels. This is why this new alphabet has no codex, so the readers will have the chance to create, in their own minds, the sounds and words for this ancient magic.
Nrama: Why do you feel like Dark Horse was the perfect place to publish this story?
Albuquerque: We have a fantastic relationship with Dark Horse since Eight. They are very supportive and are very concerned about the quality of everything. Daniel Chabon is one of the best editors we’ve worked with and everybody there is very talented.
Nrama: Why did you decide to make this a four-issue series?
Albuquerque: In my opinion it's the easiest way to test a story. If we can establish these characters, this universe in four or five issues, it means it’s solid to continue into a bigger series or more minis. We have a lot of ideas on how to develop all these characters in the future for a long run, but it’s important to know how the audience will react to this first.
Scavone: As each of the characters was initially developed as a complete story on their own, they all have rich and complex backgrounds. So, I like to see it as a good challenge, trying to establish these characters and their universe in only four issues. The exercise was to expose a little bit of their lives and troubles, but not too much. The interesting thing is that those limitations ended up showing us some cool ways of presenting them. I’m very happy with the solutions we found.
Nrama: Would you like to see it as an ongoing, someday?
Albuquerque: We absolutely want to keep up in this universe for a long time. We have a large bible about this project and this mini is just the beginning of it. But if we are going to do this as an ongoing or mini-series, is something to figure out later.
Scavone: I'd be very happy to have Hidden Society as an ongoing story. Even though the mini has its own resolution, we have a lot of extra stories for these characters that we’d love to tell.