When they announced earlier this year that they'd be kick starting their own comics imprint under the Image Comics banner, the creators collectively known as Man of Action were not kidding around. While several of the groups members already publish books through the company, it was announced at this weekend's Baltimore Comic-Con that Joe Casey ("Godland"), Joe Kelly ("Amazing Spider-Man"), Steven T. Seagle ("American Virgin") and Duncan Roleau ("Metal Men") are unleashing four new projects at Image Comics in February as part of the company's Man of Action Month.
"Joe Casey had already been doing books at Image like 'Godland' and 'Charlatan Ball,' and he encouraged all of us to bring original projects into Image as Man Of Action Comics," Seagle told CBR. "Joe Kelly was ready to follow up with 'I Kill Giants' pretty quickly and did. Once it became clear that each Man had a project coming up, Eric Stephenson suggested we make a party of it and Man of Action Month was born."
And the bouncing bundle of joy that is MoA Month revolves around three brand new series as well as a new, expanded edition of Casey and Charlie Adlard's acclaimed superhero noir "Codeflesh." The new mini series include Rouleau's sci fi mystery series "The Great Unknown," Seagle and Marco Cinello's "Soul Kiss," and Kelly and Diego Greco's "Bad Dog." And while the four-man team is best known in the general public as the creators of Cartoon Network's hit "Ben 10," they assured comics readers that the new Image books would allow the creators to bust out of the simple molds often found in average superhero and kids entertainment.
"We’re blowing off the doors on conventional comic book stories," said Rouleau while joking that they teamed with the creators at Image because "they're mavericks."
"'The Great Unknown' is an existential whodunit; 'Bad Dog' is guns, booze and dirty panties; 'Soul Kiss' is a slap in the face from a beautiful bitch; and 'Codeflesh' is post-super-hero noir remastered."
For a closer look into each book, CBR grilled each man on the Man of Action team for the specifics on their series, current and future, starting with…
DUNCAN ROULEAU'S EXPLORATION OF "THE GREAT UNKNOWN"
While Rouleau proved his "complete package" status with his recent run on DC's "Metal Men," his latest book gives the artist an opportunity to cement himself in the role for the long term.
"I am writing and drawing, and currently I plan to color the book as well," he explained. "In terms of what I gain in doing my own comic scripts, I don’t have to navigate someone else’s storytelling. Slowly but surely I’m trying to replace bravado with experience."
And with hope, "The Great Uknown" will be quite an experience as the five-issue series has its eyes on blowing a few minds and breaking a few hearts along the way. "In keeping with my tradition of complex psychodramas. 'The Great Unknown' is a lo-fi sci-fi mystery story. Directionless genius Adam Feld discovers that someone is stealing his thoughts and he goes to hunt down the thief. In doing so, he may just discover who he really is.
"The big theme of the story is 'What defines you? The ideas in your head or the actions you take?' It’s also about piracy — intellectual piracy. And privacy. With the technological age we’re in, our humanity is being redefined and made public — ripped apart, cut up and posted on the internet. How long will it be before people go right into our minds to get that information directly — without our consent? I think that technology is only about five years away."
Of course like much great sci-fi, a great big piece of the series is built upon fulfilling the promises of your past. "'The Great Unknown' is also about trying to score with that chick back in high school that you missed the first time around. It’s also about the idea of whether you have a responsibility to share the great ideas you have in your head."
STEVE SEAGLE KISSES OFF THE MAINSTREAM WITH "SOUL"
Seagle's "Soul Kiss" started out years ago as a pitch for an animated web series, but taking the book to Image not only brings it to the public, but as Seagle says, the deal brings the story to life in a way he never expected originally.
"I want to state right up front that this isn’t just us making use of some old thing we dusted off and propped up. This 'Soul Kiss' story is all new and its own thing," he explained giving credit to his art partner for spurring the new direction for the original idea. "Marco — a very talented animator who went on to work on movies like 'Spongebob' and 'Rugrats' — decided he wanted to do this story as a graphic novel and he redrew the opening chapter to convince me it would work. It did work, and I got reinvigorated about the project so I also took a new look at the story and went back and rewrote the entire script top to bottom. So, it is related, but this is all new material with very different themes, structure, tone."
And with the story pitch Seagle laid out, one can imagine that the tone of the story will take more than a few turns toward the twisted end of fiction. "'Soul Kiss' is the story of Lilli, a woman who makes a short-term deal with the devil. That deal — as you might suspect — turns out very badly, so to get out of it, she makes a long-term deal with the devil. She agrees to send Satan ten deserving souls in ten days in trade for one undeserving soul she inadvertently sent his way.
"I think we’ve all had that thought — that it would be great to be able to send some of the people we encounter in our day-to-day purgatory straight to Hell — but Lilli finds out that actually making that call is tougher than we might think."
As for his future in creator-owned comics, the acclaimed writer of everything form Vertigo books to satirical plays has plenty of other projects begging to see the light of day. "I have had an unlikely number of projects get stuck in the production process — 'Look,' 'Jaguar Stories,' 'My Vagabond Days,' 'Volcano,' and many more. It’s been great in recent years to finish some of these projects — like 'Solstice' (which is still one of my favorite books of my own) — and re-master others — like 'Kafka and The Amazon' (which is coming from Dark Horse as soon as Tim Sale has time in his killer schedule to finish the covers). The success of these other projects has inspired me to find a way to rescue my AWOL work. So yeah, I’ve been thinking of a book of Seagle apocrypha — books and stories by me that never quite finished and wouldn’t really fit a traditional collection. I hope to get to that next year — especially doing something with ‘Jaguar Stories’ — the much completed, but never released book with Mike Allred."
JOE KELLY TEARS IT UP LIKE A “BAD DOG”
Already in the midst of what could possibly be a one-man imprint with current Image projects like the kid crazy "I Kill Giants" and the coming of age dragon epic "Four Eyes" (article, preview) and the upcoming fantasy "Douglas Fredericks and the House of They," Kelly is kicking out some wild and wooly action with his latest book. "'Bad Dog' comes from that place in my writing where I’m not allowed to look when I’m working on the mainstream stuff," Kelly said. "This is that place where characters who are broken as hell exhibit really bad behavior, which hilarious and horrifying at the same time. It’s a book where I can do stuff that would make my editors lose their jobs.
“All that said, 'Bad Dog' is about my favorite stuff — Werewolves, bourbon, and self-loathing bastards trying to do right in a world that makes no sense at all,” continued Kelly. “Lou is a bounty hunter who happens to be a werewolf, but refuses to revert to his human state because he can’s stand most people. His partner is Wendell, a former minister who lost his way in a storm of booze, broads, and bad behavior. The two of them wrangle skips and try to bring the bad guys to justice — though nine times out of ten they wind up drunk or just screwing the job to hell."
With Diego Greco hard at work on interiors (and who Kelly promised "is doing an unbelievable job of making two loser dirt bags look gorgeous"), the series' debut issue will be double sized. In the meantime, Kelly's fans can catch up with his work by scoping his many other Image books.
"[In 'I Kill Giants'] Barbara is a girl on the fringe of her little school society — she digs D&D, dresses weird, and doesn’t take crap from anyone. Her social filter is all messed up. From the first issue we see that along with her dysfunction is an obsession with Giants. She literally believes that Giant is coming, and she needs to be prepared to kill it.
"By the time issue three opens, she’s met the characters who are going to challenge her world view — Sophia, a kind new kid who’s not afraid of Barbara’s antics, Taylor, a bully with Barbara locked in her sights, and Ms. Molle, a school psychologist who has taken an interest in Barbara because she’s really started acting out…oh, and she sees fairies and monsters, like for real — but we don’t know if they’re hallucinations or if she’s seeing something else."
JOE CASEY COLORS IN "CODEFLESH"
One of his earliest and most celebrated creator-owned series, "Codeflesh" hasn't been seen by a large amount of comic fans from its earliest days as an anthology entry in 2001's "Double Image" through its run with Robert Kirkman's early Funk-O-Tron publishing umbrella to its last iteration as a trade at AiT/Planet Lar, but the black and white series about a super bail bondsman adorned with a barcode on his face mask will be new to almost everyone in its deluxe color hardcover. So just to catch folks up…
"The original impetus for it was Charlie and I expressing our shared love for Eisner’s 'Spirit' strip," Casey said. "From there we simply said, 'Let’s do our own "Spirit"-style strip.' Heavy noir feeling, underbelly of society-type stuff. Our version of crime comics. A bail bondsman for super-villains just seemed like such an obvious idea, I couldn’t believe it hadn’t been done before."
And it’s that collaboration between himself and Adlard that's brough Casey back to the book. "Personally, I was excited to come back to it because it was an excuse to do a brand-new 'Codeflesh' story, exclusive to this hardcover edition," said Casey of the work that supplements the original run. "Plus, there’s been an added bonus of doing this new story…I’ve always thought Charlie was the most consistently accomplished artist out there. Even before I’d worked with him, I thought he was so good. Then, in anticipation of doing the new story, Charlie sent me an inked piece he’d done of 'Codeflesh' — the first one he’d done in years, probably — and I was blown away. I mean, I thought he was good before… but the man has actually improved as the years have gone on. Imagine that! All kidding aside, it feels really good to collaborate with Charlie again on this material. I thought he broke through a major wall on the 'Rock Bottom' book we did a few years ago… but with the work he’s doing now, I really think Charlie’s going to be considered one of the 'greats' of his era.
"We didn’t go for a strictly 'real time' approach to the new story, but a bit of time has definitely passed since the other stories. Maybe a few months. I definitely wanted that sense of checking back in with the characters and seeing where they were at in their lives. But, as you’ll see when you read the story, it’s definitely not meant to be the 'final' story. Not even close. If anything, it leaves the door wide open for Charlie and I to come back to the strip again at some point."
Although just because his February project is comprised of remixed material from the past, that doesn't mean Casey isn't still dishing up new books for readers, including the Kirby-influenced comics "Godland" and "Charlatan Ball," the latter of which takes a leap forward in the months ahead. "It’s definitely leading up to something big. Issue #6 contains a real climactic moment. But the series is definitely meant to have that vibe of 'anything goes.' A lot of it is me having the kind of fun you can only have in creator-owned comics, where there are literally no rules. Having said that, there’s still a solid story there, and some really solid characters.
"It’s weird, because I think whatever Kirby influence that’s creeping in is all due to Andy’s design sensibilities. He’s a huge Kirby nut, too. At first, I never thought this series had a Kirby vibe at all, until I started seeing Andy [Suriano’s] pages. So I see how readers take that away, especially since I also write 'Godland,' which is very much Kirby-inspired (although, c’mon… what superhero comics aren’t inspired by Kirby?). To me, the real mix is the mix of my drugged out, freaky surrealism and Andy’s classic comicbook vibe. Slowly but surely, over the last eleven years being a pro in this business, I’ve finally learned how to bend and shape the medium in ways that I haven’t quite seen as a reader before. And there’s a lot more to come."
And as for "Godland," even though the comic is entering it's final year, Casey and artist Tom Scioli have plenty of gonzo epic to go. "We’re always open to inspiration, which is why Tom and I have never committed to an actual issue number to end the series. Yeah, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but the tunnel has a lot of bends and twists in it that, from a writer’s point of view, I’m excited about passing through. Issue #27 introduces a brand-new character, the Almighty Decimator. The cover’s already out there for people to see, so they already have a sense of how cool this character is. Tom really outdid himself on that one."