The end is here — at least for the Atomic Victory Squad miniseries. After the first four issues debuted between 2019 and 2020, writer/creator Lowell Dean has returned with issue #5. (You can snag the entire series right here.) The story of a group of misfit superheroes, AVS proved to be a hugely entertaining title in a COVID-19 world.
In honor of issue #5, I spoke with Dean about the book, its creation, and working in indie comics, among several other topics.
AIPT: Thank you, Lowell, for taking the time to have this interview with us, so what is your secret origin into comics? How did you start as a fan and then eventually moving on to creator?
Lowell Dean: Great question! Like so many, I fell in love with comics during childhood. It started with Superman and Batman. Then, as I matured (just slightly), I gravitated towards characters with relatable life problems like Spider-Man and the X-Men. I devoured DC and Marvel superheroes all through my teen years. More recently, I’m more drawn to titles like The Walking Dead and Saga.
As a first time creator, I was very nervous to get into comics! I didn’t know where to start. Luckily, with the help of a few smart friends and experienced creators, I got good advice and eventually found my way into producing Atomic Victory Squad issue #1.
AIPT: How were you inspired to give these characters voice? Did any of their character voices come from friends of yours or other places?
LD: These characters are all a part of me. My hopes, my dreams, my insecurities. I created them in innocent childhood… but they really took shape in my jaded adulthood, which is a very fun way to go about tackling a project. I tried to be true to what I wanted as a ten year old, but as a man I now see the world and these characters in a very different light.
As a result, I made a conscious effort to have each of these characters address (in subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways) social issues we all face in society. Racism, gender identity, mental health, substance abuse… and so on.
AIPT: What was a big page, panel, or moment in the comics for you that you just fell in love with from this adventure?
LD: Too many to name. Our artist, Javier Martin Caba, has just a wonderful style and so naturally perfect for the tone of AVS. I think the first panel I remember being stunned by (in a good way) was the one in issue #1 where we see Invincibull’s home planet and there’s a line up of humans being milked by cows. It’s one thing to see it in your head, but when Javier drew it I was like “Wow. That’s… unsettling”.
AIPT: I enjoyed all the extras of drawings and designs that you include in your issues, did you happen to see some change/evolution when writing these issues?
LD: Thank you! Yes, Maurice Roy, who assembled the issues, felt it would be a fun touch to showcase my earlier childhood drawing that inspired the characters and the story. The overall story for this five issue origin series was set out before we began, but I for sure tweaked some details and specifics as the pages took shape with Javier’s art and Micah’s lettering.
AIPT: With this finale, I really liked how you had the characters grow and even that message about being alive at the end, was that always the note you wanted to end on? Or did you happen across that as the series progressed and the characters “grew?”
LD: The series is, broadly speaking, about accepting your own weirdness. We are often defined by what makes us unique, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing! While some may see it as a weakness, it’s important to know that being weird and an individual can also be a superpower. As for the outcome of this origin series, I didn’t want to end it with full closure, because these characters will have more adventures in the future. But I wanted them to learn just enough to make you feel they are headed in the right direction. Change is possible. Maybe.
AIPT: How did you meet your crew that you worked with on this series?
LD: Emersen Ziffle and I work in film together (WolfCop). Emersen was the one who motivated me to make the first issue. He’s also the one behind our perks and merchandise. Maurice Roy, who assembles the issues, I also knew from film. Joel Hustak, the artist behind most of our covers, is a friend who has also done work for our films.
As for artist Javier Martin Caba, I didn’t know him at all. I was a fan of his art online and his work in other comic books. His style felt just perfect for AVS so I reached out cold… and we got lucky! He suggested Micah Myers for lettering and I’m very glad I listened to him. Javier also brought on Andrea Martin Fernandez and Ivan Almansa to assist with coloring. It’s a great team. This is my first comic book experience and I got really lucky.
AIPT: What have been some of the moments, from a creative standpoint, that stuck out with you as you were working on this series and even doing this as an Indiegogo?
LD: When we knew we were going to get enough money on our Indiegogo to finance the first issue, rather than stopping there, we immediately put the overflow into getting a head start on issue 2. That felt like a good step. Throughout this whole process, we were always biting off a little more than we could chew and keeping the project ambitious.
Personally, I’m far more used to writing feature film scripts so I had to “retrain my brain” to write comic scripts — which is a very different format, I soon discovered! I enjoy how different they are.
Learning new things and embracing risk has been the heart and soul of this project. That and total creative freedom!
AIPT: Now with the ending of this origin story series do you have plans to come back to these characters for another adventure? Is it too early to ask about “The Odds”?
LD: Five issues felt like a natural stopping point in our story — for now. We are a small outfit, and we spent all our time and energy on making the comics, so I want to shift our energy now to marketing and exposure. We have to spread the word about AVS — hard to do in a pandemic! Hopefully soon we can get out into the world again and attend fan Expos and Comic-Cons, put the origin story into a graphic novel format, and so on. If we get a publisher down the road, I’d love to tell more stories in the AVS universe. There are so many places to go with these characters!
As for “The Odds”, that is most likely my next comic book project, with the same core creative group. As for the story, it’s one again about a team of outcast misfits but this one is… a little different. It’s a period piece, darker and more mature. The characters are very twisted and I can’t wait.
I’ve said too much!
AIPT: How can fans find you so they can keep up with all of your creations?
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