In 2019, writer Aubrey Sitterson and artist Fico Ossio joined forces for No One Left To Fight. A kind of love letter to manga like Dragon Ball Z and One Punch Man, the book explored the “regret, resentment, and growing older” experienced by a once highly-skilled fighter (Vâle), asking the all-too important question, “What does a fighter do when there’s no one left to fight?”
With volume one having ended with a massive cliffhanger, the pair are set to return with its follow-up. No One Left To Fight II picks up immediately where its predecessor left off, where our heroic fighter is “struggling to find his place after all his battles have been won and while there’s still time left.” Fans of the first volume will find even more epic action and pitch-perfect humor, as the duo of Sitterson and Ossio take their creative partnership to all-new heights.
Ahead of issue #1 dropping on October 13, we caught up with both creators via email. We discussed the series’ continued development, what they draw from manga, where the story is headed next, and much, much more.
AIPT: What’s it like to come back for round two? Is the story easier or harder to tell as you move into the next phase?
Fico Ossio: We were ready to jump right into the second part after we finished part one, but due to the pandemic things changed. So more than anything we are happy to be back! We were eager to continue, especially after we left the readers with such a huge cliffhanger.
It’s definitely not hard. I always find working on NOLTF a joyful experience. Working with Aubrey, along our great team has been always a lot of fun and work that I very much look forward to do. I would say more than hard it’s challenging, but in a good way. With Aubrey we are always looking forward to push the Fightverse further. And everyone at Dark Horse has been SUPER supportive of that idea.
Aubrey Sitterson: On my end, each issue of No One Left to Fight is easier to write than the last; it’s a joy and a relief to return to THE COMIC YOU ALWAYS WANTED! Initially, before we even pitched the project, Fico and I worked out an immense amount of background for each of our characters and the Fightverse as a whole. But, truthfully, so much of our characters’ personalities and identities spring from the way they look and how they emote on the page. Coming back for round two, courtesy of Fico’s tremendous designs and character acting in the first series, our characters are so well defined I can actually hear them talking in my head.
AIPT: Can someone jump into this volume without having read volume one? If so, what do they need to know beforehand?
FO: Yeah, you can. But it’s obviously a better read if you read part one, too. I think the issue lets the reader know what’s going on right after the first 5 pages.
AS: Obviously, everyone should go pick up volume one of THE NEXT GREAT DARK HORSE UNIVERSE but it’s far from essential. Folks who read those first five issues know that a big part of our approach is leaving things unsaid, giving readers just as much as they need to appreciate the depth and breadth of the Fightverse. Which is the highfalutin way of saying that even if you start with the very first issue, there are still going to be things you’re wondering about. I remember the thrill of coming to Dragon Ball Z without knowing anything about the original Dragon Ball and the excitement that came from diving headfirst into such a well-developed world. That’s the hit we’re trying to deliver to readers!
AIPT: What was the fan/reader perception of volume one like — and did that alter how you’re telling this next chapter in any way?
FO: We found huge support from fans on part one, more than we expected. And the best part was the realization that they got what we were going for. The whole idea of NOLTF was to build the Fightverse along with the fans, leave out clues and space for the readers to fill in the blanks. And that’s exactly what happened. Aubrey and I were blown away by how everyone built up the universe from the little ¨crumbs¨ we left. So that hasn’t changed our telling of the next part, but propel it to further exploit that concept. It feels like a bigger universe now too.
AS: Echoing Fico, we’ve been overwhelmed by the support we’ve received for No One Left to Fight, not just from fans, but retailers, the press, even other publishers and editors! But, at the risk of sounding arrogant, none of this came as a surprise. From jump street, Fico and I have had a plan; not just for the first series or the first saga even, but for years upon years of Fightverse stories. Along the way, everyone involved, from the creative team all the way up through Dark Horse, has been keenly aware that we’re building something truly special, as seen by all the support the book’s received. So, when it came time to do the follow-up series, to conclude this first saga in THE NEXT GREAT DARK HORSE UNIVERSE, like most things in life, it was simply a matter of keeping a steady hand and sticking to the plan.
AIPT: You ended chapter one with something of a massive cliffhanger. Without spoiling too much, where do we land with the first issue of volume two?
FO: Issue #1 picks up right were we left off. Without spoiling much I can say we dive into the consequences of that revelation and the aftermath of it. I wasn’t just a cliffhanger for sports. It’s really something that’s gonna drive much of the second part.
AS: Though the end of part one confirmed it and gave readers some specifics, I don’t think it’s spoiling anything to say that our hero, the Planetary Champion, Vâle, is suffering from a mysterious affliction. The latest installment in THE COMIC YOU ALWAYS WANTED will open with the characters asking the same exact questions that readers themselves asked at the end of our first series: What’s the nature of the affliction? Can it be cured? How? What does this mean for the fates of Vâle, the rest of the cast, and the Fightverse as a whole? And, of course: When is Billy Von Katz going to show up?
AIPT: Does this part of the larger story align in terms of emotional overtone, aesthetic, etc., or do you think you’ve done things slightly differently?
FO: At least on my part, it’s a bit different. It`s been a while, so I’ve changed a bit how I draw. But it’s still holds its distinctive aesthetic. I don’t think I enforce my style on each book. I always like to adjust or bend my art to serve the book or even try different things. So when we started working on NOLTF 2 my take was to keep the same style and improve on it. Same with Raciel. We have been working together for a while now and I think this time we have a much better artistic-bond. He’s been doing a terrific job too! The big poster we revealed for the announcement should give everyone a clue on what to expect on the book.
AS: In the first series, we made sure that each issue had its own distinct feeling and vibe. THE NEXT GREAT DARK HORSE UNIVERSE is a big, wonderful, weird place; we made our first visit to it a road trip so that we could explore as much of it as possible! That approach continues in part two, with each issue introducing new locales, characters, and aspects of the Fightverse. But throughout, you can and should expect the same thoughtful, action-packed, emotionally fraught approach to fight comics that we brought in those first five issues.
AIPT: How does your perception of these characters, or the world or the events playing out, change or shift as you move between the two volumes?
FO: It doesn’t. It’s part two of the same Saga. And this second part concludes the story of that arc. We have other Sagas planned moving forward but this one will not finish in a cliffhanger as the first part.
AS: For me, the biggest change has been in terms of my personal favorites. During the course of the first series, I fell head over heels in love with Winda; her confrontation with Vâle is not only achingly sad and relatable, it also perfectly captures the entire Fightverse approach in just a few pages. In the second series, I’ve found myself cracking up at Krysta’s parents. I’d be lying if I said that, in plotting out future arcs, I haven’t been looking for excuses to more prominently feature Winda as well as Krysta’s folks!
AIPT: There’s so much robust mythology packed into both volumes. What are the challenges and opportunities of effectively building your own universe in a series like this?
FO: I think the first challenge was to get the audience to be in sync with the dynamics of the Fightverse. And fans responded in the best way on the first part! Now with this second part it’s all about the opportunities that we have to expand on it. It’s one of the things we enjoy most.
AS: I think having so much history and lore to draw from actually makes my writing process easier; we know this world and its characters backward and forward, so there’s only really one right path to follow for each storyline. The challenge comes from having so much to show off in so few pages! To wit, we still haven’t seen the intergalactic rock star Billy Von Katz in action; somehow, that didn’t keep him from becoming a fan favorite. This is why the THE COMIC YOU ALWAYS WANTED needs to continue until the characters and Fico and me are all old and grey.
AIPT: I think some folks have pointed out there’s some robust inspirations here, like Miyazaki and Street Fighters and (to a larger extent) Dragon Ball Z. What about these kinds of stories or properties stand out?
FO: Stories like Street Fighter, DBZ, One Punch Man, and others are part of the Shounen Manga Genre. Which was the influence or genre we wanted to play with when Aubrey and I came together to create the first creator owned book. We were both big fans of it and thought there was a good opportunity to bring that genre to readers an ¨American Comic¨ type of way.
NOLTF has many of those archetypical things of the genre but with a different twist. Those stories are focused on action, adventure, and fighting. The twist or spark that created this story. What happens when there’s no one left to fight.
AS: I’m a huge fan of what I call “fight comics.” Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, One Punch Man, Baki, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, Fist of the North Star…these are some of the biggest, most popular comics in the world and yet, American creators don’t typically delve into the genre. Fico and I aimed to change that with No One Left to Fight, which, rather than being a deconstruction of the genre, is our contribution to it. As a writer, when it comes to exploring characters’ motivations, their passions, what’s important to them, what they’re willing to risk it all for…there’s nothing better than a fight. That’s something that the best fight comics never lose sight of and it’s a crucial component of THE NEXT GREAT DARK HORSE UNIVERSE.
AIPT: You talk about more stories to come out the “Fightverse.” Are you talking about NOLTF specifically, and if so, what could we see in chapter three or beyond?
FO: YES! We’ve got plot for two more sagas! HA! Hard not to spoil much when talking about the next Saga. Well… one thing we can reveal is that for Saga two, Billy Von Katz would be part of the story. And each Saga has a time jump. Not a major one.. but along 5 years or so form Saga 1 to Saga 2. That’s all I’m gonna say!
AS: Fico’s being modest: We’ve got plot for at least two more sagas! As for a tease: What’s a fight comic without…A TOURNAMENT?
AIPT: Why should anyone pick up issue #1?
FO: The best part of having Brother Aubrey as a partner in this is that he’s THE BEST at promoting, so I’m gonna leave that to him. All I can say is… LOOK AT THAT COMBINED COVERS POSTER! Are you gonna miss out on all that??
AS: How about I answer a slightly different question: Why should everyone pick up issue #1? Because it’s got everything: Action, romance, drama, suspense, and humor with art unlike absolutely anything else on the racks. No One Left to Fight will scratch all your itches because it’s got everything you need, everything you yearn for. That’s why it’s THE COMIC YOU ALWAYS WANTED.
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