From cartoon animals to cavewomen and the world’s biggest heroes, Frank Cho has done it all. But now, he’s boarding a ship into outer space for a new journey – and he’s brought along a few friends.
The upcoming 4-issue series 50 Girls 50 puts Cho alongside co-writer Doug Murray (The ‘Nam) and relative newcomer (and competition winner) artist Axel Medellin (Elephantmen) on a journey into the wilds of unexplored space – with an all-woman crew. Imagine if Wally Wood did a mash-up of Star Trek and Quantum Leap and you’re almost there. The series follows the adventures of Space Vessel ESS Savannah, with an all-woman crew sent on the mission to acquire rare resources to keep the planet Earth alive. But after their run for resources turns into a one-way trip, they must find another way home.
With the series set to debut on June 1st, Newsarama talked with Frank Cho about the series and his new creator-owned endeavors.
Newsarama: From the looks of it, 50 Girls 50 sounds like a real pulpy space romp. What can you tell us about it?
Frank Cho: Doug Murray was the main architect of 50 Girls 50. I was brought along to help him solidify some of the ideas. And yes, 50 Girls 50 was designed to be just that—a kind of throwback to the days of Wally Wood, Al Williamson and the like—with a touch of Catwomen of the Moon and Queen of Outer Space tossed in. We’ve tried to make it as exciting as possible—putting our crew of beautiful women up against a variety of menaces ranging from Big Bugs to Intelligent Dinosaurs! There’s even an Alien Encounter!
Nrama: Can you tell us about the Savannah and her crew?
Cho: ESS Savannah is one of several ships built by the people of Earth in an attempt to get badly-needed resources from other solar systems. She’s pretty much a massive 18 wheeler that travels through space, designed to carry a lot of cargo from point A to point B.
The crew are highly-trained women from all countries and all walks of life. They’ve been entrusted with the lives of everyone on Earth. If they do not bring back the needed resources, Earth will soon become uninhabitable...like Detroit.
Nrama: Ouch! Why is this mission carried out by an all-female crew of explorers?
Cho: Due to a peculiarity of the drive they are using to move between the stars, anyone with a ‘Y’ chromosome (which means all men!) dies as soon as the ship enters the wormhole the drive creates. Normal women (two XX chromosomes) also die. Only the very rare women with three X chromosomes can survive—and there are only 50 of them, trained for space travel, on Earth—thus, 50 Girls 50!
Nrama: You teased some of the threats they’ll be up against in the void of space, but break it down for us.
Cho: They’re up against the universe and everything in it. They’re literally jumping to new planets completely blind—with no idea of what they’ll find! To make matters worse, their tech isn’t all it’s cracked up to be—and they have blind spots they don’t even know about. Think of Star Trek crossed with Quantum Leap, but sexier.
Nrama: I read that although you decided just to do covers and co-write this, you ended up doing a comic at the end of this first issue. Can you tell us about that?
Cho: It's one of those things that you don't foresee until the finished pages come in. I thought the "beat" was off in the end of issue 1 and it needed a closure. Also I thought, the story can have a bigger pay off in later issues if we threw in another twist into the story. I had some down time between my Marvel gigs, so I wrote and drew the epilogue story in issue 1 that addressed all the concerns.
Nrama: Creators have told me they’re often surprised when it comes time to take a comic from its initial ideas to turning it into comics. Have you had any surprises when it came time to breakdown the ideas into a comic and the pages started coming in?
Cho: No, I wasn't too surprised. 50 Girls 50 started as a talent search so Doug and I knew what Axel Medellin, the artist, was capable of. The big unknown was finding the right colorist. We lucked out. Image Comics was able to bring in Nikos Koutsis for our book. Nikos is the brilliant colorist from Kirkman-Ottley's Invincible and Larsen's Savage Dragon.
Nrama: We know how you hooked up with artist Axel Medellin (what with the competition being facilitated partly here at Newsarama and all), but I’m really interested in how you and Doug Murray struck up a friendship and did this.
Cho: Doug and I have been friends for many years. We’ve done a few other projects together and I asked Doug if he had any ideas we could use for a talent search experiment for Image Comics. Doug being a fountain of imagination had tons of ideas. One of the ideas he had in mind for me was then called XXX which later became 50 Girls 50.
Nrama: This is the first of several new projects you’ve got going, including something teased online called Brutal. What led to you ramping up these new stories, Frank?
Cho: It's just pure timing. People don't realize that I started my career as writer-artist with University2, Liberty Meadows and Shanna the She-Devil. Although my art gets all the publicity, I write just as much as I draw. Many of the stories that I'm bringing forth are stories I've been writing on the side for fun. Don't get me wrong, I'm not leaving Marvel any time soon. In fact, I love Axel Alonso's vision of Marvel and I'm gearing up for few big projects there.
That being said, the next two years will be an exciting time for me. I'll be launching several creator-owned titles which I wrote and in process of drawing - Guns and Dinos, Dragon Lines, Liberty Meadows (got my rights back from Sony) and Zombie King (watch for major news later.)
Also I'll be collaborating on an ultra-violent superhero assassin story called Brutal with Joe Keatinge, and a new romantic comedy comic strip called Glory Rose with Aaron Williams and Jim Demonackos.
Yessir, very exciting time in career right now... Hopefully, I can sneak in a nap somewhere.