Case you haven’t heard, critically acclaimed title Rex Mundi, will soon be making the move from Image to Dark Horse Comics…
As a longtime supporter of the book, I was quick to congratulate creator Arvid Nelson, right before asking for yet another interview with him, and newly drafted artist Juan Ferreyra, who has been chosen to complete a story years in the making. Obviously, you’re reading this because he agreed, and somewhere along the way, we touch on exactly how and why the book is shifting publishers, his feelings about nearing the series’ halfway point, and the movie deal he’s been sitting on for quite a while. Supplying visual aids is Ferreyra, fresh off a stint on the very excellent Small Gods series, and preparing to launch The Emissary with his Small Gods collaborator Jason Rand. Pretty pictures include a couple covers, three interiors from the upcoming 18th issue (click on the thumbnails for the full effect), and a step-by-step PDF breakdown of a Rex Mundi page from initial script to final colors (click on this cover to access it, or Right Click, Save Target As, to save it to your HD).
Enjoy, and be on the lookout for the final chapter from Image Comics, sporting a Humberto Ramos cover, and the first from Dark Horse, by an artist who should make just about everyone smile. Let’s get it goin’…
Brandon Thomas: Okay man, Rex Mundi has been through quite a few changes over the last year and half, including some artist changes, scheduling problems, and now a shift in publishers as of issue 19. What does this move to Dark Horse mean for the title?
Arvid Nelson: That’s a good question! I’m not sure I’ll fully know the answer until a few months from now. But I can tell you a few things up front; it will mean I don’t have to pay for Rex Mundi out of my pocket anymore, which is a huge relief. I could just never make that work through Image. Erik Larsen and Eric Stephenson were really great to support it for as long as they did, but it was really grueling for me.
The change will also mean no more scheduling problems, mostly because Juan Ferreyra is so dedicated and so professional. I think it will add up to more people reading Rex Mundi, and that’s the goal.
Thomas: How did the deal happen? Was it a situation where DH contacted you, or did you think Image wasn’t the best home for the book anymore?
Nelson: Image has always been really supportive of Rex Mundi, and they were sad to see it go, and I was sad to leave – but again, I just couldn’t do it anymore. So yeah, Dark Horse approached me. They’re working on a film adaptation of the book, and they basically emailed me out of the blue one day, and said it would make more sense to be at Dark Horse, so we could coordinate things better when and if the film comes out. They also said they’d pay for the production of the comic, and it was an offer I couldn’t refuse. After all I’ve been through with Mundi, I don’t mind saying I was a little battle weary.
Thomas: So Dark Horse was prepping a Mundi movie, even while it was still at Image?
Nelson: They sure were. We’ve been working on the movie for about four years now. I don’t like to shoot my mouth off about it because so many “big announcements” about comics-into-movies are just hot air. Suffice it to say, we’ve been making steady progress, and when there’s something concrete to report, we’ll shout it from the rooftops!
Thomas: Without insinuating they’re even the same thing, do you think the success of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, and the likely success of the upcoming movie, kinda paves the way for a Rex Mundi feature film? Also, along the same lines, have you read the book yet? I might be the only dude who hasn’t, and I have the nerve to work at a bookstore, but you know, if you have, what’d you think?
Nelson: Hey, insinuate away — they are similar in some obvious ways! All I can say is that Rex Mundi precedes Da Vinci Code by a few years. Yeah, I’ve read it, and I’ve made some disparaging comments in the past, but I’ve mellowed out a little bit on it. I’m definitely not going to retract anything I’ve said, but I don’t think Da Vinci Code is meant to be great literature. It’s a beach novel. I thought it was boring, I hope Rex Mundi is better, and that’s about all I can say.
You might think Da Vinci Code would have helped our chances of being made into a film, but the exact opposite has been true. We were making a lot of progress in Hollywood until Da Vinci Code exploded. Thankfully, we’re back on track now, after some dark days.
Thomas: Does DH handling the production end of things enable you to adopt a monthly schedule, and if not, do you think releasing the book every two months influences how you write the book, in terms of pacing?
Nelson: We’ll still be on a two-month schedule. The main reason is that Juan is also penciling The Emissary through Image. Though even if he weren’t, he really couldn’t do an issue of Rex Mundi every month, considering that he’s drawing and coloring it.
In regards to the pacing, no, I don’t think it would affect things if I released it more frequently. I just try to tell the story at the pace I feel it needs to be told at, no faster, no slower.
Thomas: You think handling the production duties has left you with an additional appreciation for the entire creative process?
Nelson: I think I do have a unique perspective on the whole thing, because I guess most writers just hand in scripts, maybe make a final pass on editing dialogue once they see lettered pages, and that’s about it. I’ve been intimately involved with creating this book every step of the way, and I hope that makes me a better writer. I’m definitely able to better understand the points of view of everyone I work with.
Thomas: With the release of your 18th issue, which will be the last installment through Image, the story of Rex Mundi will have officially reached its halfway point. When thinking about the progression of the overall story, are you exactly where you’d thought you’d be, or possibly not quite as far? Have any characters become more or less important than you initially imagined?
Nelson: You know, things are always changing. Some characters have developed a life of their own – or maybe it’s that I better understand them as the story progresses. But I’ve had the whole thing planned out from the very beginning, and all of the really creative work was done a long time ago, and what I do now is more like executing a computer program than anything else. Maybe that’s hyperbolic, actually, but the basic framework is pretty well established.
Thomas: Bringing Juan Ferreyra into the frame, you’ve already released two issues with him manning the art chores. What about him and his work make him the right collaborator to finish out the story?
Nelson: Juan is one of the most incredible artists I’ve ever worked with. I don’t know how he produces pages as quickly as he does – and he does all the art, from the pencils to the colors. At every step, he’s as good as any of the best working today. He has such a wonderful imagination, a wonderful sense of the history and the setting. But the best thing by far, is that he believes in the story, and that’s really all I can ask for.
Juan Ferreyra: Actually, I wasn’t, but not because it didn’t attract me, simply because I live in Argentina and I cannot get American comics anymore in the city I live. But I was hearing a lot of good things from Jason Rand and a lot of others, so it was a title I was always very curious about, so when Arvid asked me to come on board, the first thing I asked him before saying yes, was to read the story, to see if the book was all I’d heard. What I read was great, and the decision was made right there, then Arvid sent me the master outline, which I decided not to read, so that the surprises would come at the same time I read the scripts, and this way I’m enjoying it more!
Thomas: How are you managing the artistic demands of 2 regular titles?
Ferreyra: I am not! Ha, in fact I’m only able to do 2 regular titles because Rex Mundi is bimonthly, and while The Emissary is monthly, I only have to do pencils on that one.
Thomas: When you came onto the book, the visual “look” of the characters was already well established by other artists. How did you approach them, in a way that respected the earlier takes, but were undeniably your own work?
Ferreyra: Well, I looked at the characters, and tried to make them similar enough that the readers will realize my Julien was Julien, keeping the look of the hair and clothes, but with the supporting characters it was easier make some changes, because they’re not as important as the main characters. One important fact is that the characters at the beginning of my run might not look exactly the same as later issues, because as I take time to feel comfortable with a character, they take different shapes and evolve as time passes.
Nelson: Honestly, no. I look at it as an opportunity to continue doing what I was doing. Scott Allie has been just terrific to work with. He’s giving me a lot of creative freedom and some sapient advice about the story, so I feel like the potential for the rest of the series is really that much greater.
Thomas: Looking over what you’ve done thus far, can you pick a favorite issue or moment?
Nelson: The latest issue is always my favorite! I just learn so much each time, that I feel like I’m improving every issue. Maybe, the one exception would be issue eight; which was a bit rushed, and led to us making a couple of sacrifices with the art, because we were behind.
Thomas: Okay, well since the last issue is your favorite, can you reveal something about the first Dark Horse issue that you just can’t wait for people to read?
Nelson: Ah, if I did, it would ruin some of the surprises, and let’s just say there are a few! One thing I will say is that I’m very excited about the JH Williams front cover.
Thomas: Is he going to your permanent cover guy?
Nelson: Alas, no! But I really want Juan to do the covers, and I think he does too. Juan is a terrific artist, and it’s only a matter of time before he’s a huge name. His covers are fantastic and I want to showcase him as much as possible. Not that I’m not extremely grateful to and admiring of JH Williams! It’s a huge boost for Rex Mundi, and he’s one of my favorite artists, so it’s a dream come true all around, to be honest.
Ferreyra: Well, doing the covers is one of the most important things for me, and one of the tasks I enjoy the most, because it’s totally different from doing interior work. I don’t have to worry about pacing, storytelling, or even the colors, because I can use whatever colors, settings, or situations, that fit into the design.
For the Rex Mundi covers, each time I try to come up with an original approach, at least original in relation to my work. The first cover I made was for issue 16, and in that issue Julien meets Isabelle, and there’s a definite chemistry between the two, so I came up with a very romantic cover that was based on Alfonse Mucha’s work, and because he did all the lettering himself, I even drew the logo, our names, the prices etc, all by hand.
The second cover is much more iconic, and makes a direct link between Jesus and Lorraine, with Julien in that issue making a bloodline connection between the two. So, I used the blood as the main visual, and played that up, suggesting Lorraine wants to be “The King of the World”.
Thomas: Arvid, if you had to describe “King of the World” to someone that’s never read it, how would you do it, and are you taking any additional steps to ensure that someone can jump onboard the first DH issue, and have more than enough to maintain their interest?
Nelson: It’s hard to fit in really detailed plot synopses into a 32-page comic book. I do the best I can, but I can’t include silly expository conversations in the beginning of every issue, as it would destroy the flow of the story. The synopses I put at the front of single issues really assume you know what’s going on. They’re just refreshers.
As to helping people jump on board, I offer the first issue of Rex Mundi online for free, at www.rexmundi.net. If you read that and like it, you can track down the single issues or get the first trade paperback. If you like the first trade paperback, you can get the second. I think that’s the best way, given the nature of the story I’m telling.
I know in my heart Rex Mundi is one of the best comics being produced today, and nearly everyone who reads it tells me, “I don’t know why more people aren’t reading this,” and Dark Horse is fully committed to finishing the story. It’s going to mean the end to a couple of my struggles, and finally, I can just focus on the writing. The story itself has just turned a corner, and longtime readers and newcomers alike are in for a lot of action and a lot of surprises.
Everything that’s come before in the story has happened for a reason, and it’s time to cash some of those checks. If you’ve been following it all along, your reward is finally here. And if you haven’t, you can be assured I’m going to finish Rex Mundi, when it is finished, that’s there’s going to be a real story for you to grab onto. And oh, what an ending I have in store!
Thomas: Looking forward to it, and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank both Arvid and Juan for answering my questions, and wish them the best of luck in their brand new home. Rex Mundi‘s first installment through Dark Horse will be issue 19, and the publisher will be making sure the two previous trades get fresh printings, along with soliciting volume three in the upcoming August Previews. Sure I’ll be making another mention of this, so more details can be found here as they become available.
The next installment will likely be another interview, with someone I’ve been meaning to catch up with for months. Can’t hate on the man though, cause he’s been quite busy as the lead character designer for the critically acclaimed Boondocks series on Adult Swim. If everything works out, Lesean Thomas and I will be talking about a little something called Nervous Breakdowns in exactly two weeks time…