After the unprecedented rise to success of the Image artists in 1992, the comics industry became a new playing field. For those rising through the ranks, some were earmarked as the next big thing while others took awhile to achieve success. For artist Joe Madureira, he was an overnight success that worked for years to get there. After years working for Marvel, he achieved breakthrough success drawing Uncanny X-Men before jumping ship and launching his own series Battle Chasers. Launched as part of WildStorm’s Cliffhanger imprint, this fantasy comic pushed his comics career to the pinnacle of success, pitting a young girl named Gully in search of her father with the help of a swordsman known as Garrison. Along the way they assembled a band of heroes comprised of Knolan the wizard, an outlawed war robot called Calibretto, and a buxom pirate named Red Monika. Madureira delved deep inside himself to create career-defining work that eclipsed his work on Uncanny X-Men, but after nine issues – he stopped.
Years of long-nights and breakneck deadlines led Madureira to take a sabbatical from comics and explore his other passion, video games. After years of work he reappeared as the creative director of THQ/Vigil’s Darksiders game, which proved so popular that he and his team of artists are hard at work on a follow-up. But throughout it all he still carried an immense love for comics; in 2007 he returned to do a four-issue story arc on Marvel’s The Ultimates 3 with writer Jeph Loeb, but the question he was always asked since he left comics back in 2001 is “where is Battle Chasers?” And after years away, he’s beginning to provide an answer.
Earlier this month, Image Comics released the long-awaited definitive collection of stories in the Battle Chasers Anthology. This collects all nine issues of the original series, along with new sketches and even a rare additional story that was published in a magazine years ago. This collection comes at the same time Madureira is hard at work on a new project for Marvel, but as we learned in an interview with the artist, Battle Chasers is never far from his mind.
Newsarama: Let me get you warmed up with an easy one Joe, what’s on your drawing board today for you to work on?
Joe Madureira: Right now I'm working on pages for an upcoming Marvel project. Unfortunately, it hasn't been announced yet officially, so can't say much more!
Nrama: That’s understandable. Let’s get down to what we’re here for – what’s it like to be able to hold such a major chapter of your life in your hands with The Battle Chasers Anthology – all in one nice package?
Madureira: It's a really incredible feeling. Over there years, so many people have asked for it. They'd be missing issues which are hard to track down these days, or simple didn't even know some of the smaller stories existed (Like the one in Frazetta Fantasy Illustrated ). I'm glad I was finally able to get this done and into people's hands.
Nrama: There’s been Battle Chasers collections in the past, but this one is the definitive one – with several lost sketches and some new work by you with the characters. Can you tell us about putting together this project and deciding what to put in there – and finding it?
Madureira: Yeah, the original trade only had the first 5 issues in it. One of the reasons I've waited so long to put this one out is that I wanted it to have a definitive ending. The series ended abruptly after issue #9 and I always thought I'd do a couple more issues to tie things up before I released this book. Unfortunately, as the years dragged on and I got bogged down with other work, I realized that probably wasn't going to happen, and it had been over a decade since the series launched. And people were still asking for the collection, regardless if it was finished or not! So, when Image approached me about this (for about the 10th time ) I thought- yeah. Let's do it!
My hat's off to the Image guys. They really busted their ass to get everything together. There were so many files missing, and we really wanted it to be completely comprehensive. I dug through so much junk to find all those sketches and such! But once it was all together, I was amazed at how much Battle Chasers stuff there actually was. I never thought we could fill a book that was over 300 pages! In the process, I also reconnected with a lot of the guys that worked on the series back in the day, and that was really great. I'm as proud of it today as I was back then, if not more so.
Nrama: Will this also include the Adam Warren back-ups that were included in the final issues of Battle Chasers ?
Madureira: Absolutely! All of Adam's work is in there, including the covers.
Nrama: Like you said, The Battle Chasers story is one that you haven’t gotten around to wrapping up – do you think you’ll ever have the opportunity to tell the ending you had in mind for this story?
Madureira: As I mentioned before, it's something I've always planned on doing, but it's really hard for me to commit the time to it right now. There are possibilities however, such as bringing on another team to relaunch the series, or even opportunities in other media (such as games or film). Nothing is solid yet, but there are a couple of Battle Chasers related projects that are still slowly moving forward. I have my fingers crossed.
Nrama: Your Cliffhanger friend J. Scott Campbell did just that, continuing the Danger Girl story by enlisting a co-writer and artist to continue it on in a series of miniseries. What do you need to make that happen?
Madureira: It's a definite possibility. I just have to find the right team. One that gets me even more excited than I'd be to do it myself. It's so hard for me to let go of things too. it's one of my problems as a creator. But. I'm hopeful!
Nrama: Your big project as of late has been Darksiders – the first game came out in early 2010 and I hear you’re hard at work on a sequel. Can you tell us about this project and how much of it is pure Joe Madureira story and art?
Madureira: Yep, we are pretty far along in development for Darksiders 2. We haven't released many details about it yet, but we will be releasing some screens and videos in a couple months ( most likely at E3, Comic-Con, etc ). I love, love, love it. Fans of the first game are in for a treat, and there are many surprises, new features and gameplay. It's a bigger game, with even more depth and exploration. Wish I could say more!Regarding my involvement, I'm still Creative Director, though our team has grown considerably, and I'm operating a lot more of a director roll than as a hands-on artist or writer (here are still plenty of characters in there that I conceived). We are all dedicated to preserving the visual style of the first game though, and I actually feel like it looks more like my stuff than the first game.
Nrama: You seem extremely busy with that, but do you ever get the itch to return to comics – to creator-owned comics, specifically – and do it one more time?
Madureira: I do, all the time. I'm actually working on a project for Marvel right now. I hope they announce it soon because I'm dying to talk about it!
Nrama: And we’ll be there to talk about it as soon as the news hits. Speaking of Marvel, You returned to comics several years back to do a stint on Marvel’s Ultimates; what was that like for you? It seemed something like a sports player who retired at the top of his game came back to do a season years later.
Madureira: [laughs] Well, I like to think so, though I never considered myself 'retired'. I always knew I'd be back. Even in the video game industry, I'm still 'The comic book guy'. It's what people know me for, and I don't think that will ever change. And I'm cool with that! I loved working on Ultimates. So many awesome characters to play with--and I felt like my work had changed a little since I'd done Battle Chasers-- and I was excited to apply that to some new stuff. I'm really thankful for the opportunity.
Nrama: We’ve beaten around the bush a couple times about your upcoming unannounced project at Marvel. At Wizard World Texas last year a friend said you mentioned it way back then even, being palpably excited. I know you can’t break the news to us, but can you give us any hints?
Madureira: I can't believe it hasn't been announced yet! I feel like so many people know about it already! But I can't let the cat out of the bag just yet, I will leave that up to Marvel! But, I will say it's a character that I've always wanted to work on. Probably my favorite character of all time, since I was a kid. People who follow my work can probably guess what it is!
Nrama: We’ll let the commenters make that call, but I have some ideas.
For ten years you were a religiously hard-working comic artists – going from Marvel intern to superstar and then starting your own thing with Battle Chasers. Now that it’s been ten years since you stopped doing comics full-time, how do you look back at those years?
Madureira: It was rough. I feel like I accomplished quite a bit, but looking back I feel like I could have done more. Or at least I wish I'd done more. It wasn't easy though. I started really young, and I think I wasn’t managing myself correctly. I got really burned out, too early. Still, I'm in a great place right now, and it was all built on the success of those years, so I can't help but be proud. And thankful. I'm extremely lucky to be able to do what I do.
Nrama: Like I said earlier, for 10 years you lived and breathed comics. What are comics like to you now – not just as a professional, but as a fan – do you still pick up a lot of comics, and if so, what draws your eye?
Madureira: God, I wish I had more time. As a professional, I still love doing it. Laying out pages, the raw visual storytelling. Love it, there really isn't anything else like the feeling of really nailing a page (it doesn’t happen as often as I'd like! Hah! ) as a fan, I pick up a lot of trades. I don’t get to hit the comic shop as much as I'd like, so I'm probably missing a ton of awesome stuff. Hitting the shop regularly is something I really want to get back into doing this year!