Ryan Stegman and Donny Cates have pulled off some real comics magic in the past. That includes not only the excellent Venom series but also the massive King in Black event. (Plus, they’re working more behind-the-scenes magic with their KLC Press stuff.) Now, they pair have joined forces once more for a new series, Vanish.
The title, published by Image Comics, is described as an “all-new take on the classic hero’s quest!” We follow Oliver Harrison, a kind of edgy take on Harry Potter whose long since slayed his own personal Voldemort. But when a mysterious new superhero team arrives on the scene, Oliver must revisit the “epic fantasy crap from his childhood” and maybe even correct the course of his adult life. It’s a dark, bloody, and engaging tale straight from the ’90s, blending different elements — “evil sorcerers, superheroes, war, blood, guts” — into a poignant tale of maturity and reclaiming one’s destiny from the idiots of the world.
Before issue #1 drops on September 21, Stegman was kind enough to answer a few questions via email. That includes working with Cates once more, referencing and celebrating ’90s comics, and the art of world-building, among other tidbits.
What’s the elevator pitch for Vanish?
It’s the story of what happens after “the chosen one” succeeds, and it’s not pretty. Simplest way to put it: The Chosen One trope meets Inglorious Basterds meets The Boys.
What’s it like working with Donny Cates again? How has your dynamic shifted over time?
It’s great. We have a very symbiotic (wink) relationship when it comes to our work. It’s a true partnership in every sense of the word.
We’ve now gotten to a place where we can work full Marvel style, honestly. We don’t always do that, but when we do it yields some really creative results. Donny is one of the most creative people I’ve ever met and he really “flows” creatively. So I can completely throw him a curveball when we are discussing stuff and he will immediately run with it and expand on it.
This book feels really and truly indebted to ’90s comics madness. Is there anything you pulled from directly?
Not directly, no. I think visually, I knew when we set out to do this that I wanted to have that first cover with an iconic looking character on it. That’s what got me so excited about Image Comics back in the day. Those cool, new characters. Beyond that, Donny and I are just progeny of the ’90s. It’s in our DNA. So there really is no discussion of us “trying” to do that. It’s just what comes out of us.
There’s also some more pronounced magical tidbits then we’d associate with the Cates-Stegman team. What drew you into this kind of Harry Potter-esque realm?
We wanted to create a UNIVERSE, and that’s just what came out of us. We thought about this as something big and expansive that, if successful, can run forever and inspire all kinds of spinoffs. I always think it’s cool when a comic hints at something much bigger than what’s on the pages. Your mind can run wild with the possibilities. And I think that’s what we’ve done!
You’re also playing around with the archetypes of superheroes. Why is that interesting, and what does working on so many superhero titles do for your perception of these specific characters?
I love superheroes. The human body in motion is what I am interested in and superheroes scratch that itch. So when we created this thing, we knew we needed superheroes. And again, we wanted that superhero team shot that hearkened back to the early Image days. These new characters with an air of mystery about them.
As for how it influences my perception of these specific characters…Well, it’s just another day at the office. Except way more violent.
Oliver Harrison is a pretty solid example of an anti-hero. How do you hope or think he’ll be treated by readers?
I hope they just go along for the journey. There are some really interesting subversions of expectations that we have planned that I’m not sure have been done before.
What are some of the upsides of designing and building a new world/universe? The obstacles/challenges?
Well, design is freaking hard. It’s very subjective, and the amount of full drawings you have to do before landing on a final design is really frustrating. Some of the characters fall right out of you and some are like pulling teeth. But in the end, when you get something you’re satisfied with.
The obstacle really is the lead time it takes. It took me a few months to really roll on Vanish because I always underestimate how long that process will take. But now that everything “exists” I can really sink my teeth into the book.
We talked about the overt ‘90s influence already, but how much of this is just a direct, unabashed love letter to Spawn specifically?
There’s definitely a ton of influence in terms of tone and setting. But really I wouldn’t call it a love letter to Spawn. Again, Spawn and all that early Image stuff is just baked into my DNA. I can’t help it!!!!!
What other tidbits and high points can we expect from the rest of the story (without too many spoilers, of course)?
Oh boy, well, don’t get too attached to anyone! Expect lots of explosions and expect to have the rug pulled out from underneath you. Wherever you think this book is going…You’re probably wrong.
Why should anyone read Vanish?
Because we’ve poured our hearts and souls into it. Not to sound like a braggart, but people like the work Donny and I do for a reason. And this is us unleashed, doing all the things we love. I feel like I can always feel when the creators of a book are passionate about it, and this is no exception.
The following previews are courtesy of Image Comics.
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