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Interview: Ales Kot Talks ZERO, Working with Different Artists, and the Future of the Series

Find out about the latest series everyone should be reading.

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Ales Kot has delivered a different kind of spy story. Focusing on agent Edward Zero, we were introduced to him during a crazy and over-the-top mission. Throughout the first arc, we've discovered information about his past, present, and future.

One thing that has made this series different is the fact that each issue has featured a different artist. Normally this could be a distraction and give a sense of disconnect. Kot has made it work, along with the consistency of having Jordie Bellaire's colors on each issue.

Kot hasn't been holding back and with the first arc over, that doesn't mean the story is. Kot has plans for more as we continue throughout Zero's life to that moment in the future we saw in various issues.

If you missed out on the series when it first came out, Image has just released a trade containing the first arc which will allow you to get caught up before the next arc begins next month in issue #6. We asked Ales some questions about the series, working with different artists on each issue and what we can look forward to in future issues.

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COMIC VINE: At what stage of your planning process did you decide to get a different artist for each 'spy' mission?

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ALES KOT: If I remember correctly, the decision came almost – or completely – at the same time as the idea to make ZERO. I was quite interested in creating a container series, meaning a comics series that where issues or arcs would be self-contained yet also pointing towards a larger whole, for quite some time. I originally intended to make a different one, however I didn't feel I was at the point where I could pull it off creatively in a way I would be completely happy with, so I stashed it for later use and then realized I wanted to make ZERO.

I loved the idea. Work with multiple amazing artists and see myself grow in the process? Work with a different artist every month? All of this would surely change me, change the ways I approach process, the ways I approach narrative. What would I learn? How could I pull this off in a way that would give me the best of both worlds, of the self-contained stories and of the long-form narratives?

I was so excited by these questions. I still am.

CV: Did you seek out each specific artist for each story. In other words, were the missions tailored to their art style?

AK: Yes, very much so. For the first issue, I wanted someone clean and approachable in a sense of coming from a very mainstream comics tradition, and Mike Walsh, with his art's connection to David Mazzucchelli, David Aja, Michael Lark, Sean Phillipss and Alex Toth fit the bill perfectly. There is darkness to his work, a certain love for shadows, and that, along with his clear line, worked very much in our favor.

The second issue was about Zero's childhood and it needed someone who could pull off the hyperreality of childhood perception and merge it with subtle emotional work and big action beats. And Tradd Moore can draw just about anything.

Third one was very action-heavy and I knew Mateus Santolouco's ink work was kinetic and fluid and right. Fourth one was Morgan Jeske drawing favelas in Rio – what I thought of was rawness, harshness. Morgan brought it. And Will Tempest's simple and subtle line work in #5 is perfectly suited to the coldness of the atmosphere and the Agency headquarters, especially when it contrasts it with his astonishing character work. When I look at Will's character work I think of Steve Dillon.

CV: With the story continuing past the first arc and what we've seen of Edward Zero's future, do you have an idea how many arcs you have to tell in between?

AK: Yes. At this point, I suspect it will take about three more arcs before the story is over in comics form. It can stretch or contract as I see fit and/or as the story tells me. What matters is I have to be honest in telling it.

Regardless of when ZERO ends in comics form, there is certainly the possibility that he will show up, in a different way, in other media.

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CV: You put Zero through some tough times. Do you feel bad for what you've put him through?

AK: You know, that's something I wonder about. Are the characters in stories any less real than we are? I just recently brought up this:

“I believe consciousness is fractal -- everything in each part. This goes back to my experiences and to the experiments of David Bohm, a physicist at the University of London. Bohm believes objective reality doesn't exist. The universe is a hologram. But I'll backtrack a bit further. It's 1982 and Alain Aspect, a physicist at the University of Paris, discovers that subatomic particles (such as electrons) are able to communicate with each other regardless of the distance separating them. Now this discovery, it cancels out Einstein's idea of no information traveling faster than the speed of light.

Now Bohm uses this discovery in his research and finds out that when a hologram of a rose is cut in half and illuminated by a laser, each half still contains the entire whole of the original image of the rose. Boom. This repeats with every new division.

What we get is the whole in every part. Of anything.”

If the universe is a hologram and we are a hologram, what does that make the stories we tell, the characters we help materialize? What if we are no less than they are? The answer is I do not know, however here's another interesting story.

Zero (SPOILER) loses an eye in #4. A couple weeks after the issue went on sale I got my first eye infection of my life – in the same eye he lost. It got so bad that I still have the infection now, a very mild case of it that is finally going away, about six weeks later.

When I was creating CHANGE, my previous comic at Image, I very consciously made it a spell that was changing my life as I was writing it. The interaction between the story and my life was quite clear and intense and profoundly life-altering. Things I have done in my life went into the comic as they were happening and things that happened in the comic were finding their way into my life. I used this to learn things about myself and get myself into a better place. I used this to walk through a valley of death and be reborn. It was an intense process and completely worth it.

Now, Zero is intense as well. However, the boundaries between me and Zero are much less defined. I see the character and the story, at least partially, as an exploration of some themes and elements I wanted to explore: nature and nurture, the violent/war impulse, the idea that we can change and the idea that we can not, the idea of genetic memory and more. So I put myself in. Because I have to. It's how I create a story that is relevant and resonates with me. And now I'm learning just how it resonates with me, and how I resonate with it.

So to answer your question: I don't know. Sometimes I wonder about it, but that's not the same as actively feeling bad. I do wonder about the ethics and the physics of it a lot.

CV: Hmm. Very deep. How long is the second arc?

AK: Five self-contained issues that, once again, also come together when read as one story. We begin inside CERN in Switzerland and then go to Mexico, United Kingdom, Bosnia in 1993 and Iceland.


CV: Can you tell us what artists you have lined up?

AK: Vanesa R. Del Rey for #6, Matthew Taylor for #7, Jorge Coelho for #8, Tonci Zonjic for #9, Michael Gaydos for #10.

CV: Can we assume the awesome Jordie Bellaire is still doing colors?

AK: Yes.

CV: What else can we expect coming up?

AK: In terms of ZERO? Things get much, much bleaker. #9 is the saddest story I have ever written in my life. I cried when writing it.

In terms of my other work? There's plenty more coming. WILD CHILDREN, my debut, came out just a year and a half ago, and as I said to someone else recently, I am just getting started.

There are so many stories I want to tell, so many things and ideas I want to popularize and/or invent. I want to play and grow and communicate through what I do, and Zero is a part of this big wonderful thing.

Come with me.

The first trade paperback for ZERO is in stores now! ZERO #6 is on sale March 19, 2014.

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Kot really got my attention with his stint on Suicide Squad, and I've been enjoying his writing ever since. I really like how experimental Zero is and the artists have also been amazing (with me especially liking Mateus Santolouco's issue).

It's too bad that the series is only going to be about 40 issues, but I'm definitely along for the ride, and I can't wait to see where Zero's story goes and which artists will join him.

I'm also very much looking forward to his upcoming Iron Patriot miniseries.