Last week we got a first look at Aspen's new series, Lady Mechanika #1. We gave you a review as well as a first look at some exclusive pages before the book makes it's first appearance on store shelves this Wednesday. Now, it is our pleasure to introduce you to an all new ongoing Aspen book, Charismagic. To find out a little bit about Charismagic, the new ongoing series from Aspen which is set to launch early 2011, we caught up with the creative team for the series to find out more about this mysterious magician and just what this whole story is about! Writer Vince Hernandez answers some of our burning questions, and is joined by Khary Randolph and Emilio Lopez in an in depth interview where we ask things like where did the inspiration for Charismagic come from, what influenced the character design and what makes this new series interesting.
Comic Vine: The name 'Charismagic' made me think of 'charisma' and 'magic' combined, would you say this is one way to describe your new character? What other words would you use to describe her?
Vince Hernandez: I’m glad you touched on the two names and their meaning because it actually does play into the storyline in a few ways. I would say, while it doesn’t reflect on our female heroine, Sudana per se, it does very much reflect on our main male character, Hank Medley. At the outset of the series, Hank is the star of his very own Vegas Magic act called…you guessed it, Charismagic! And while it’s the name of his show, it also goes a long way in describing two very important traits of his. When we start the series, Hank is at the top of his game: confident, famous, successful, and yes—very charismatic. But after his world is turned upside down by an event of magic that affects everyone on the planet, he is forced to build himself back up and discover more human abilities he never knew he possessed in order to try and keep from being annihilated himself. So the title really fits him both in a literal and figurative sense for sure. The first act of Charismagic is all about Hank and Sudana’s parallel journeys: Hank is human, a man who is an entertainer and magician, but not a person of magic. She is obviously a being of magic, but her lifestyle is the complete opposite of his. When their two paths converge in the story, we begin to highlight the differences between what a human would feel, what a supernatural being would feel, and more. Without a second thought, I would use just one word to describe her: strength. Her entire arc is built on sacrifice...
== TEASER ==
which the readers will come to learn.
There were several motivations for coming up with this story. When I was a younger, growing up in Los Angeles, I was no stranger to Las Vegas as it was so close, and I always felt a strong interest in the spectacle and wonder of those Vegas shows. They really are their own form of entertainment unlike anything out there, and the stars of those shows always seemed larger than life to me. I’m a fan of epic fantasy stories with adventure and action, romance and drama. You can fit so many different themes within a fantasy story and weave together multiple story lines into one concept. So I think those two feelings really merged together when I started developing the property. I sought to take this person Hank, who was at the top of his industry, and break him down, then build him back up again. But along the way, I didn’t want anything to be predictable with his journey. With the element of magic as a theme, it became easy to do just that. For Sudana, our female lead, her story was one I had envisioned from day one even before Hank’s. And we’ll see early on that her motives in the story really set the framework for everything in Charismagic. The book is grounded in reality, so our characters are vulnerable and flawed, and this will define their actions. Using this thought process as the backbone, it was easy to get inspired to write the series. And of course, Frank Mastromauro and Peter Steigerwald make it easy for me to get motivated on a project. They’ve always been two of my biggest supporters and have allowed me the creative freedom to take my ideas and run with them. That level of trust is uncommon in this industry, and once that weight of having to conform to any creative restrictions is lifted off your shoulders, and you know you can tell the story you want to tell—the rest becomes easy.
Comic Vine: What kind of an audience would you say would appreciate these characters?
Vince Hernandez: I feel like there’s a little bit of everything in this story for people of all interests and ages. It’s a big, expansive magical adventure in structure, but there are also moments of drama and romance, horror and mystery early on. I enjoy poking fun at the magic genre itself, so there are also comedy elements involved in the story. I tried to approach everything in the script with a very realistic and logical tone to it. I asked myself, how would I imagine someone in real life reacting to these absurd situations? So in this way, characters react in more human ways than might be the norm for what’s considered a proper story. There are no clear-cut heroes or villains necessarily, which I hope makes them feel more genuine when you read it. The audience will be able to take away what they want from each character and make their own judgment on them. I just let the characters lead their own paths in a way. For instance, in the zero issue, we’re introduced to the ‘past life’ so to speak of who I suppose would be considered the threat of the story, a magical being named Samsun. Soon, we discover what makes him this threat is really a situation he’s born with and can’t control. And in the story, he’s persecuted for this bane of his existence. So in this regard, is he really a bad guy? Or is he a victim of circumstances? I’ll let the readers decide.
Comic Vine: How much involvement did you have in the design of the character overall? Did you sit down with artist's Khary Randolph and Emilio Lopez for the character's design?
Khary Randolph: Quite a bit. The great thing about working with Vince on this project was, while this is his baby, he was still very receptive to our ideas and designs. He spoils up in a way -- once we got the main concept and his initial thoughts, he really let us go wild and run with it. It's very rare to have that kind of freedom. We were all more or less on the same page from day 1, so for the most part my initial designs (minus some tweaks here and there) are what you seen on the final page. Afterwards, Emilio and I would go over everything and talk color, style, mood, share ideas and spent a lot of time just formulating the look we wanted to achieve. I handpicked Emilio for the job because we have similar sensibilities and I knew he was someone I could really trust to bring out the best in my lineart. Plus he's receptive to the ideas I have (when they're good, anyways).
Emilio Lopez: Personally I didn't have much to do the actual main character designs. Though I did get to design and paint the extra portions in the back of Issue 1. I was part of the correspondence between Khary and Vince wile they were hammering out the details of the characters. As they did this, I did some conceptual color work based on the plot for the series. the conceptual color work was a collection of paintings I did to reflect the mood of a specific portion of the story. I painted them for Vince and Khary to get an idea of where I wanted to go color wise. it also gave them a chance to comment and give suggestions. When the character designs were approved I began to create a pallet for them. Vince already had ideas for what he wanted to see but at the same time was open to new ideas. For the most part my first passes at color for the characters is what ended up in the book. Charismagic is such a great collaborative effort and I consider myself really lucky to be working with Vince and Khary on my first official comic series, they really trust my instincts and abilities.
Vince Hernandez: This is one of the best parts of the Charismagic team in my opinion; we constantly communicate back-and-forth daily with each other on every aspect of the character’s development process. Khary and Emilio are so immensely talented and just get what the story is about, and what the character designs call for at any given moment. In the zero issue alone, we’re introduced to a wide assortment of characters with different looks and feel. We foreshadow what readers can expect for the rest of the series—which is the unexpected. Hank and Sudana, our lead characters, are introduced in their own respect. And the aforementioned Samsun and his origin are examined. We get a look at a whole array of magical beings in both the present and the past, and we introduce wizards, imprisoned creatures of magic and more. I’ve always been a fan of big, sweeping prologues that set the stage for everything else in the story to follow and I think we really achieved this in the zero issue. I hope readers will agree.
Comic Vine: The concept of 'magic' in many of Aspen's stories isn't an entirely new concept. Another of Aspen's popular series, SOULFIRE, deals with magic both good and bad. Will we be seeing both good and evil magic in the pages of Charismagic?
Vince Hernandez: Actually, the newest volume of Soulfire premieres in the same month as Charismagic #1 in March so Aspen will be celebrating a magical month! But I’m not concerned with there being any similarities with the two universes. For starters, Soulfire takes place two hundred years in the future and centers on the ongoing struggle between technology and the return of magic. Our story is a present tense tale, with magic already sort of fitting into our society. And about halfway through issue one after something rather cataclysmic happens in Vegas, our story really takes a turn into the more magical, absurd side. So, in this regard, I don’t feel there will be many similarities between the two magic-centric stories. There’s enough magic to fill a lifetime’s worth of stories at Aspen I think :D
Comic Vine: Tell us a little bit about the first issue! Who are the central characters, where does the story take place and what are their motivations? What is Charimagic's biggest challenge in this first issue?
Emilio Lopez: Wow what can I say with out giving anything way. I guess you are in for a ride unlike anything you have seen in comics today. Vince, Khary and I have put a lot of heart into Charismagic to try to make it as fun to work on as it is to read. The biggest challenge? Hmm, nothing comes to mind. Not to sound overconfident but I know Khary's work like the back of my hand. I have worked with Khary for a long time. Ever since we worked in animation and on the “Chaotic” card game. Even when Khary turns on the thunder, it never feels like a burden because it's so fun to work on. He’s an incredible artist, a great friend and colleague also, and I try to give him my very best. Plus if I F'ed up I wouldn't hear the end of it ha ha ha!
Khary Randolph: The biggest challenges honestly were the ones we put on ourselves. Both Emilio and I were of the mind that we wanted to create a book that would stand out as something fresh and original on the shelves. Since we both have an animation background, this was an area that we really wanted to explore to create something that doesn't quite look like anything else out there on the market. And we would push each other skill-wise -- every page I'm drawing with the idea that I can't wait to see what Emilio does with it. And every time I get them back I see something I've never seen dude do before -- which makes me work even harder on the next one. And of course, this world that Vince has created is so big that I'm doing everything I can to fully realize it in a way that will make him happy as well. So basically, I'm pushing these guys so they can push me harder. It's kinda messed up, now that I think about it.
Vince Hernandez: We tried to set up the zero and first issues to be as thrilling as possible, with a meaty prologue that will give you everything you need to know to get going, but also hit you with enough questions that you’ll hopefully to want to read on and discover more. I can’t rave enough about how great the artwork is that Khary and Emilio are bringing to the table so I honestly feel that’s worth the price of admission alone.