One of the most hotly anticipated comics of the summer is Robert Kirkman and Paul Azaceta’s Outcast, which will have its first issue released on Wednesday, June 25. I had the chance to sit down with Paul at this year’s Emerald City Comicon to discuss the book. It’s been a while since I spoke to a creator who’s so excited to work on a new book, and I think you can read his excitement on the page.
Jason Sacks for Comics Bulletin: So how’d you hook up with Robert Kirkman on Outcast?
Paul Azaceta: I’ve known Kirkman for years. I knew him way back before the whole Walking Dead nonsense. We weren’t close friends or anything like that, but I’ve gotten to know him. We traveled in the same circles, and we actually briefly even talked about working together years ago.
As far as this project, he had an idea for this thing he wanted to do as his new monthly, and I was just lucky enough I guess that he thought of me. He called me up or emailed me, whatever it was, contacted me. I was maybe a little nervous, I’d never done a monthly before, but I couldn’t resist working with Kirkman. I’ve been dying to do something more long-term. The story sounded amazing, so I took it.
CB: What can you tell me about the story?
Azaceta: What I can tell you about it — Kirkman is better at this because he’s the writer, I’m an artist — but Kyle Barnes is the main character. He’s basically plagued with always being involved somehow with possessions, people getting possessed, and demons, and these weird weird kind of events, this and that, throughout his life. When this story starts he’s really down, just down in his life and sort of depressed, just in a miserable state, like the lowest part of his life, and he just figures out that it’s really time to figure out what the hell is going on for him because he continues to run into this crazy stuff.
So it’s about possessions, horror, demons and fun stuff like that. There’s some exorcism. It’s gonna be creepy and fun. It’s different than The Walking Dead, which is a little more in-your-face gore and horror. This is going to be a little more atmospheric, creepier, horror-filled, stuff like that. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
CB: I noticed that the poster image is very black, dark, kind of noir. Is that the approach you took to it?
Azaceta: Yeah, exactly. I think that’s kind of what I do anyway, so why he thought of me for the book in the first place. But yeah, we’re definitely trying to push that. It takes place in West Virginia, so a lot of rural areas, and there’s a lot of trees, so we’re trying to go for atmospheric, creepy, fun stuff. And I love black, so I throw a lot of black on it.
CB: I can tell. You’re super-excited to work on this.
Azaceta: I am. I am. It’s been really fun so far. We’re well into it already. We’re trying to get way ahead, because it’s out in June. It’s my first monthly thing, so it’s a whole new experience for me, and it’s been fun.
CB: So you’ve got a bunch of issues in the can already? That’s good.
Azaceta: Yeah, yeah. It’s as ahead as possible because it’s going to be monthly, and the more ahead I get now, the easier it will be later when they start coming out.
CB: Right. But you’re working with Robert Kirkman, so that’s going to get you a lot of attention immediately, too.
Azaceta: Yeah yeah. He’s become quite the phenomenon, and it’s an honor to work with him now. I’ve known him for years, but still. He’s become such a big name in the industry, that that also is what I’m very excited about.
CB: So, how’s it different working on this than something like BPRD? Do you approach it differently?
Azaceta: I think first of all, I’ve just learned a lot since I did BPRD, which was a few years ago now. I’ve learned a lot since then, so my approach is different in general. But it’s not too different. I think that might actually be the closest thing to this that I’ve done. Because it had again, horror, but there were also some real great scenes that were creepy and kind of atmospheric in that book. It was a lot of fun to do. So I guess it with this one I get to do is just do that, but to the next level. Because I’ve learned stuff, but also it’s gonna be a much bigger story than what I was able to do on BPRD.
CB: Are you starting out with an endpoint in mind?
Azaceta: Well, I believe he has an end in mind. But we don’t actually have an end issue if that makes sense. So there will be an end eventually, but we don’t have an actual issue. It will be done like, we think of it more like Vertigo, where they have 100 Bullets that ran 100 issues. There was an ending. It was an ongoing series but there was still an ending and they got to it. So something like in that vein.
CB: Is it a different exercise building these characters who you’re going to be living with for a long time?
Azaceta: Yeah. I mean that was the one thing, I think, working on the first issue, that actually took me longer than most first issues, besides the fact that it’s double sized. So we’re doing that. But it took me a little bit longer because I started designing and started getting in my head a little bit. Normally if I draw a house, maybe the house is in a few scenes, and then it’s done and I don’t have to think about it again. But with this one if I have like 50 issues, I have to draw this house again and again, so I’d better make sure it makes sense. I made a floor plan of his house. I went a little above what I usually do to figure it out, because I’m like if I have to draw this like, eight thousand times, then I better make sure it works and it’s not something I’ll hate doing after two times.
CB: You’re not used to doing that kind of thing – most people aren’t.
Azaceta: Yeah. I’ve obviously planned things out, and all that stuff before, but this one took a little extra planning –more than usual. Because it looked to be the longest thing I’ve done, and I’m trying to save later headaches by doing a little extra planning now.
CB: Everyone will pay attention to the things that are inconsistent, so you’ll have to go back and fix everything later, right?
Azaceta: Yeah, hopefully I won’t have to do any of that.
CB: Always be looking forward.
Azaceta: Yes. That’s what I’m trying to do.
CB: It’s a good time to be doing a book for Image, too.
Azaceta: Yeah, Image has been blowing up, and it’s been amazing. A lot of my friends, too, like Matt Fraction and Rick Remnder and everybody who’s doing books now over there, and all the work they’ve been doing amazing. I feel it’s a real great time to be working at Image too, because the creators that have come over have been people like Rick Remender, for instance. He’s not just coming and over and doing a book like where you’ve seen him in the past. He’s a writer you know, but he’s working with Matteo Scalera. People loved his work, and the people he’s collaborated with that work on, like his other books that were from Marvel, too. Teams are coming over.
And I think that’s a big difference right now, the collaborations. There’s a real great vibe. The books are incredible, too. I mean, I’m a fan. I’m collecting them, I’m reading them. And so, that’s the other part on being excited to do this, is that this timing couldn’t be better, I feel.
CB: What are you reading and loving right now?
Azaceta: Well, Deadly Class, which, speaking of Rick Remender, I was just reading that and really, really loving that. Stray Bullets just restarted too, that’s another thing. Thor, Jason Aaron’s Thor is amazing, and Esad Ribic is one of my favorite people in the world, one of my favorite artists and people. Daredevil has been really great too, with art by Chris Samnee, Mark Waid is always.
CB: Cool. I usually ask ‘What’s your next project?’ but I think we know what your next project is.
Azaceta: Yeah, the next project for a long time, hopefully, as long as I can do this, is gonna be Outcast. And it’s gonna be on my plate for a while.
CB: And hopefully, people will really catch onto it.
Azaceta: Ah, yeah. I’m hoping so. I’m really looking forward to everyone getting to see it. Like I said, I’m really getting ahead of the curve here. I have a stack at home of pages. We have colors, we have a lot done, that no one has seen. So I feel weird. I feel like I’m sitting on this—
CB: You’ve got gold sitting there.
Azaceta: Yeah, gold. Something there, hopefully it’s gold. But I’m really anxious to get it out there and have people actually read it, and hopefully enjoy it. So it’s pretty cool.