With a film you may have seen mentioned one or two places on the Internet coming out next year, it’s no surprise that Marvel Comics is bringing out the big guns….or swords…hammer(?)…or the Mighty Thor. Classic stories are back in print, A-list writer Matt Fraction is taking over the main title, and a slew of one-shots and miniseries by some of the best talents in comics are hitting stands as we speak.
But one Thor comic promises to be more...metal than the rest.
Thor: For Asgard teams Robert Rodi, writer of the acclaimed Loki miniseries a few years back, with artist Simone Bianchi, known for his work on such Marvel books as Wolverine and Astonishing X-Men and Seven Soldiers: Shining Knight at DC. In this tale, Thor has it bad – his friend Balder the Brave is dead, Odin is missing, and even Thor’s hammer is gone! How is he going to put Asgard back together?
From the look of these pages – with an iron fist. Not to be confused with the actual Iron Fist.
Simone Bianchi contacted us with some exclusive black-and-white pages, along with a look at what the series will be like in color. A big-time Thor fan, Bianchi shared his enthusiasm for getting to redesign Thor and the Asgardians for a miniseries that promises action straight out of a Frank Frazetta album cover.
Newsarama: Simone, tell us what we can expect from Thor: For Asgard.
Simone Bianchi: Hopefully some great art; without any doubt a great script by one of the best writers I have ever worked with; a lot of unexpected interactions between the usual Thor characters; amazing dialogue; a trouble-twisted Thor, as we have never seen him before; an Asgard which is something between the great Spanish architect Antonio Gaudì and a more traditional fantasy Lord of the Rings might look like; some slight variations in the costumes, especially Thor, which again will look like something halfway between a Barbarian and a character from Lord of the Rings.
Sorry, what you cannot expect is to see him with his traditional hammer in his hand.
NRAMA: What attracted you to this project?
Bianchi: The possibility to re-create all Asgard settings and environments, costumes and more – in general, the design from this world from scratch and the character himself, which I’ve always loved since I started reading comics.
NRAMA: When you did new designs for the characters, what did you feel worked best about their classic appearances, and what did you want to update/change?
Bianchi: I’ve always liked the classic Thor costumes from the old days. I slightly changed his cape because I agreed with Robert we wanted to give a more classic barbarian look, so we add some fur.
I also distributed differently the four circles on his torso and added two skulls, one on his belt and one on the front of his helmet. I’ve always thought skull decorations match perfectly with the fantasy genre.
As for the Warriors Three, I just used a classic costume, the same way Olivier did in his ongoing series. Loki appears only in a couple of pages, but I redesigned his look a lot.
NRAMA: What's the biggest challenge in approaching characters such as Thor and the Asgardians?
Bianchi: The biggest one is try to give them and epic look, after all they’re all almost gods but at the same time try to give them a body and gestures that are still believable, like the way they walk or sitting on a throne, other than a chair, or just talking one to another.
NRAMA: What are some of your favorite Thor stories or moments, be they from the comics or the original Norse mythology?
Bianchi: Loki by a certain Robert Rodi and an amazing painter as Ribic, then of course Straczynski and Olivier Coipel’s re-launch of the character a couple of years ago; from a visual point of view, especially what J.R. junior did in 1998 and of course the John Buscema classic run on the character.
NRAMA: Which other Thor writers, past and present, would you like to do a Thor story with and why?
Bianchi: I absolutely loved what Straczynski did on the ongoing series with Olivier and the classic Walter Simonson run from the ’80s.
Not-Marvel writers, it would be interesting to see what Grant Morrison would be able to give us, Frank Miller. I am sure Matt (Fraction) will do an amazing job on the character.
NRAMA: What's your collaboration with Robert Rodi been like? You indicate you were familiar with his Loki miniseries...
Bianchi: As I said, yes, absolutely, and I loved it. It has been a very open collaboration, in which we have given each other input and ideas back and forth. He is obsessed with the Palio of Siena, so he comes to Tuscany every three or four months and he always would come to Lucca to see the new pages in person and talk about the story.
I couldn’t be any happier about this writer, especially considering some late trouble experiences I had.
NRAMA: So how far ahead are you on this book in terms of keeping on schedule?
Bianchi: I have 15 pages left on issue #6 and then I’m done. It has taken me 11 months to get to this point, though as usual I have produced a good amount of covers on the side – Siege, Amazing Spider-Man, Wolverine Origins, Frankencastle, Cable and Deadpool, so I must say I’ve been quite busy.
NRAMA: Tell us about how you approached some of the redesigns of the characters.
Bianchi: Robert gave me some ideas and then I tried to re-elaborate the classical costumes with a personal vision of mine. Other than this, I did not follow any rules or criteria, just going as free as I could.
Speaking of which, I’d like to say some unpronounceable things to all those guys who had something to say about my X-Men redesign, which by the way Marvel still uses on all X-Men books, but then you would ban this out of the interview for sure.
NRAMA: How have you adjusted or updated your artistic style for this? My favorite description of your art for this was "pure metal."
Bianchi: It’s the best compliment I could ever get, since I’m a huge heavy metal fan, either you want to interpret it as the music genre or the magazine from the ’80 and ’90. From this point of view, maybe listening so much to bands like Metallica, Dream Theatre, AC/DC, Linkin Park, Iron Maiden, System of a Down, Rage Against the Machine or Pantera – just to name a few - might have helped a little bit.
I haven’t consciously thought on how to change my artistic style, even if I tried to alternate the usual ink-wash with a more classical black and white drawing and line-drawing because I thought it would have helped the flow of the storytelling and soften the pages a little bit.
Also, we used a complete different color palette with my colorist Simone Peruzzi (who I think did absolutely his best work ever by far). We spent a very good deal of time working side by side on these pages, as much as we had never done before on any other project.
NRAMA: What are some other Marvel characters you would like to work on in the future?
Bianchi: It would be quicker to mention the few I wouldn’t like to work on – I would like to cover them all, since I’ve grown up with these characters and I feel affection to each and anyone of them.
If I had to pick up some, I would say the Fantastic Four, Inhumans, Daredevil, of course Spider-Man, and I would particularly like to draw a story with a lot of villains...just to name a few: Loki, Doctor Doom, Kingpin, Sabretooth (if he ever comes back), Magneto, Red Skull, Green Goblin, Mysterio and all those amazing Spider-Man villains, throughout all his history.
NRAMA: What have you learned from your experience of working at Marvel, and drawing the Marvel characters?
Bianchi: I think that the effect that working at Marvel that stroke me the most was how hard you have to work to make these characters look great, especially when it come down to groups and teams.
Another thing that I have realized when working if different books and different characters is that it at least takes two or three issues to get completely comfortable drawing a certain character. I’ve seen it with Wolverine, first, X-Men – maybe the most – and of course Thor himself.
That’s why I’d love sooner or later to stay on a book for 12 issues, other than six, and see how that character would look like at the end of such a long run. My only concern is that because I always feel the urge to change, to get new challenges, I could maybe lose some of my enthusiasm in the last issues.
NRAMA: Do you have any new projects outside comics at this time?
Bianchi: To be honest, I really have no time left! I am missing my fine art paintings and exhibitions, but hopefully sooner or later I’ll get back to that too.
NRAMA: What's next for you?
Bianchi: A project involving one of the characters I mentioned before – but of course I am not allowed to reveal anything.
NRAMA: One thing that's always bugged me: How does Thor's helmet stay on his head when he's flying around?
Bianchi: This is something that really didn’t concern me at all during this run, as you’ll never see him flying. My theory is that when he flies, the helmet itself flies, but really close to his head, maybe exploiting his little wings. [laughs]
NRAMA: Anything else you would like to talk about that we haven't discussed yet?
That I’ve got a still quite new website with a message board, to exchange opinions on the work, www.simonebianchi.com, and I invite everybody to stop by, plus I’ve got a fan page on Facebook that we update with everything new… so I’m working hard to be in touch with the readers, and I hope we’ll succeed in this. That’s it.
Thor battles For Asgard beginning in September.