Published Nov 01, 2004For years, the ultimate in sophisticated cachet has been the international spy. The glamour, the mystique, the beautiful women and even more beautiful clothes it's all so elegant and yet deliciously sinister as well. James Bond used to be one of those spies his original incarnation, as envisioned by Ian Fleming, was exactly that but he's gone the way of technology, now more gadget than man. Take away his utility belt and Bond would be helpless.
Enter The Interman, the next evolution in international espionage. By adding an element of science fiction to this most classic storytelling device, creator Jeff Parker is both advancing the genre and returning it to its beloved roots. Without the sci-fi element, this new spy is actually very much the old spy: a return to the backdoor dealings in a world populated by backstabbing liars and double-crosses. Parker has redesigned the spy genre by infusing it with elements taken from early classics and blending them with his own unique vision.
Parker got a shaky start in the comics industry almost ten years ago, on a project that folded almost immediately. He's since dabbled sporadically in other forms of art but always comes back to comics. "I've worked in animation and storyboarded for live action TV, and even though that work always pays better, I feel weird if I'm not making comics," Parker says. "Sony Animation was full of ex-comics people who were happy to have regular work with benefits and easier deadlines, but I'd still walk into the comics shop, look at the books on the wall and feel left out. I'd think, I've got to get back into that cruel chaotic world that doesn't necessarily reward hard work!'"
Parker isn't easing his way back into this easily his creator-owned Interman debut is launching as a full-blown graphic novel. Although it looks professionally sleek, with great paper and well-paced, beautifully coloured panels that would rival anything from DC or Marvel, it still is an independent book and has been treated as such. "I think I got a lot of press just for that reason. The huge chorus of Is he out of his mind?' served as good advertising for the book. One book is just simpler than four, and that's what my brain could handle. I probably couldn't have afforded to print a series and a full book, so I opted for what seemed to be the future of comics. And for adult level comics, the graphic novel probably is the future, if not the present."
In fact, the book looks so pro, it's hard to believe there wasn't a grant involved. "Money I got the usual way: saving, borrowing and overusing my credit. I wish I had some cool anecdote for that like I won the printing budget in a poker game against [comics stalwart] Jim Lee' or some such. But I don't. [Conversely], I don't have the overhead that Marvel or DC do, so as a small publisher I can afford to do some nice things with the format. That's a strange logic to follow, I know."
The Interman has been described as a cross between James Bond and Jason Bourne with a science fiction twist. Armed with the ability to completely adapt to his environment, from surviving to sub zero temperatures to growing gills in order to breathe underwater, Parker's creation boasts of technology that seems to be right around the corner. With so many different variations on the spy theme, one has to wonder if people will take to Parker's vision of the genre. Watching the romance and intrigue of James Bond unfold on the big screen, with all the different personas created by influential leading men, has embedded a certain image of the international spy. But the sexy, well rounded man of the world is a far cry from Parker's naïve young man of intrigue. Parker's spy has one distinct advantage over Bond: he would be able to find his lady in a crowded room in the dark by following her scent. And that is sexy.
Beer and Cigarettes
With the release of his collection, Cigarro & Cerveja: Round One, Tony Esteves displays a good sense of what's funny. Using a cigarette smoking rabbit and a beer drinking goose to illustrate familiar social settings is brilliant. In fact, their familiarity might be too disturbing: after all, you'll identify with either the rabbit or the goose in almost every scenario.
Originally published in Gateway, the student newspaper for the University of Alberta, Esteves decided to start posting his comics on his own website after being bombarded with requests for more Cigarro & Cerveja. "The comics would hit the website after they were in print and eventually I just continued to post comics on the website because of emails I would receive asking why I haven't updated in a while."
Although happy with reprinting the comic content already on his website, Esteves has thought about the possibility of coming up with completely new content to publish monthly in comic format. "I never thought of serialising into a monthly comic using my existing comic strips. I have thought of creating brand new 24-page stories and possibly serialising that. The weekly schedule of C&C has kept me happily occupied though."
Publishing his web comic as a graphic novel instead of serialising it first in comic form was never an issue for him. "I never thought of it as being risky. I have picked up books of the collected Calvin & Hobbes, The Far Side, and Garfield books. Those books are in a sense trade paperback formats. I figured that was the way to go when it came to collecting a comic strip. I am now such a big collector of trade paperbacks that I see going with a serialised monthly comic as more risky for an independent cartoonist."