Kuhn Updates Golden Age Superspy in "Next Issue Project"

Tue, November 27th, 2007 at 12:00am PST

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Michael Patrick Sullivan, Contributing Writer

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"Fantastic Comics" #24, part of "Next Issue Project," on sale in December

This December, Erik Larsen and Image Comics are undertaking an experiment in reviving of public domain comics characters of the Golden Age. With "The Next Issue Project," Larsen and a slate of modern comics creators will publish what they imagine as being the next issue of several series from that bygone era of the 1930s-1950s. Contributors include Mike Allred, Kyle Baker, Frank Cho, Bill Sienkiewicz, Howard Chaykin, Steve Niles, Phil Hester, Jay Faerber, Steve Gerber, Jim Valento and many more.

The first such issue continues the Fox Features Syndicate series "Fantastic Comics," last published in 1941, with issue #24. "Brit" artist Andy Kuhn spoke with CBR news about his contribution to "Next Issue Project."

"The character I got to do is called Yank Wilson Superspy Q-4," Andy Kuhn told CBR News. "In his original incarnation, he was a spy for the U.S. during World War II. He fought a lot of evil scientists and dictators from vaguely Eastern European-sounding countries with fake names. I changed all that, however. Now he fights Middle Eastern terrorists from countries with fake names."

Asked if the character held any special significance for Kuhn, he answered, "Yes he does. I grew up in a family of super spies. They were all very disappointed with my decision to go into comics. This story allowed me to bring a little closure to that chapter of my life.

Page from "Fantastic Comics" #24 by Andy Kuhn
"I had never heard of the character Yank Wilson Superspy Q-4 until Erik asked me to do this story," Kuhn said. "It sounded like it would be a fun challenge and it was. Image sent me images of several Yank Wilson stories, which I read and promptly forgot. The research that I did involved getting out a stack of spy comics that I loved, some new, some older. I then went back through them to try and distill what it was that caught me about those stories."

With the conceit that "Fantastic Comics" #24 is the unpublished next issue of the series, some of the creators involved are hewing closely to the styles of the past. Said Kuhn, "I think that a lot of the contributors to this project are trying to recreate the look and feel of the comics from the forties, and doing an tremendous job of it. I decided to go in a different direction. The spy comics that I grew up loving were the "Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D" comics from the late '60s. Jim Steranko did such an incredible job on those stories. They continue to influence me to this day. My version of Yank is essentially "Yank Wilson - Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D," but without the mega-talent of a Jim Steranko to back it up."

Page from "Fantastic Comics" #24 by Andy Kuhn
Kuhn continued, "For the look of this story I used a newer style that I have been fooling around with recently. The drawings are looser than my usual work. I'm trying to get some of the life that my sketchbook drawings have onto the finished comics page. It's a slow process trying to unlearn how to draw."

The nature of the project brought Kuhn to consider the differences that have developed in comics over the last 70 years. "I do think that the comics of the '40s have a certain joy and quirky charm that's missing from most modern era funny books," said Kuhn. "It wouldn't hurt to bring some of that fun back. "

The format of "Next Issue Project" presents a unique set of challenges; introducing characters from another time to an audience with different sensibilities, for example. Kuhn had a different concern, though. "For me the greatest challenge was in the writing," he said. "I am not a writer, but I have aspirations of writing my own stories at some point. I have never had to write as an assignment, or write to a page count before. My hat is off to anyone who can do it; it's much tougher than it looks. I wasn't really concerned with any audience other than myself. I just tried to come up with a fun story that I'd like to read for six pages."

Page from "Fantastic Comics" #24 by Andy Kuhn
Kuhn's involvement with "Next Issue Project" has had an effect on the artist-cum-writer. "This project did inspire me to continue to try to write," Kuhn said. "Most comic artists I know want to write their own stories at some point, and I am definitely one of those. When you eventually see a slew of horribly written comics with my name on them, you can blame Yank Wilson, Superspy Q-4.

"What I take away from this project is that Erik Larsen had a very cool idea, and I had a great time helping him to realize his vision," Kuhn added. "I get my work included in an anthology with a bunch of professionals that I am a huge fan of. If you're a comic creator, there's nothing cooler than that. I just hope that my part of this book doesn't embarrass them too much. I had a lot of fun making this book and from the looks of it everyone else who contributed did too. Hopefully that joy will translate, and the fans will have a heck of a good time reading it!"

Related:
THE GOLDEN AGE IS BACK IN "THE NEXT ISSUE PROJECT"

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