There’s an exciting new superhero in town, and he goes by the name of Sereno, the “Nightwatchman” of the futuristic yet magical city of New Teia. The compelling and visually stunning hero is the brainchild of acclaimed Argentinian comic book writer and artist Luciano Vecchio, who may be best known for Marvel’s Voices: Iceman, Ironheart, Hulkling & Wiccan, and Multiversity: Teen Justice. And you can see Sereno in action when Vecchio’s new creator-owned comic debuts in English on February 22 via CEX Publishing.
Sereno, which was first released as a weekly online comic starting in 2014, will be published in three action-packed issues, each an “episodic short story” that focuses on the titular hero battling a new member of his rogues gallery in stories “…that range between the esoteric, psychological, futurism, romance, conspiracy and just plain awesomeness.” Explored through a uniquely queer lens, Sereno offers readers not only outstanding art with gorgeous neon colors and dynamic fight sequences, but also a genuine glimpse into an impactful queer romance, and the power of believing in yourself, your friends, and your future.
Vecchio has been working on the world of Sereno for nearly a decade, and that’s more than evident from our interview as he earnestly reflects on superhero philosophy, esoteric theories, the mythos of comics, and the power of representation. Sereno is much more than just a gorgeous comic (which, to be clear, it very much is as well) — it is an evocative, relatable, and meaningful passion project from Vecchio, who balances various identities within himself and his art to create an intersectional and excitingly fresh take on the classic superhero story.
Beware: Spoilers ahead for Sereno.
AIPT: Sereno #1 releases February of this year! How are you feeling about its upcoming release, and what are you most looking forward to?
Luciano Vecchio: I’m super excited about Sereno finally being available in print, in English! In many ways this is a foundational work for me, the one that pushed me to graduate from just Artist to full-on Author, and made me rethink the way I approach comics, superheroes and our role as creators. It’s a very intimate and personal work that I just want to share with as many readers as possible, and it being released in English will allow that.
AIPT: You have been working on Sereno since 2014, so almost a full decade now! Can you talk a little bit about the history of Sereno, and the journey it has taken to finally be published in print by CEX Publishing?
LV: It first started as a webcomic, releasing one page weekly as part of the the collective Tótem Comics, which was founded by my two most admired Argentinian creators, Quique Alcatena and Fernando Calvi. The prompt was to create superhero comics with a strong personal stamp, to be experimental and unique. At the time I was working full time on an Ultimate Spider-Man digital comic, and using my weekends to work on Sereno. So to justify the extra effort it had to be different from what I was doing in mainstream media. It had to be something else that only I could offer. Both the webcomic and then its book release made waves and were a local success.
An English translation took a while to take flight, at first I was stuck with how to translate the name. In Spanish “Sereno” means both “Nightwatchman” and “Serene”, so it’s a perfect wordplay that can’t really be translated. Ultimately I followed the advice of my translation editor Alexandro Segade to keep the names in Spanish and embrace the fact that this is a work created from this point of view and conditions. In 2020 during quarantine I used some unplanned time off to finally polish the English translation for a limited digital release, which eventually led to CEX offering to release it in print. And rethinking it as a three issues miniseries gave me the chance to draw a set of new covers exclusive for this edition.
AIPT: The world-building of Sereno’s universe and the city of Nueva Teia is expansive and layered. Can you discuss your inspiration for the technologically advanced, yet spiritually attuned, world Sereno operates within?
LV: This is a sort of primordial retelling of the superhero myth, reimagined for the 21th century after surviving the imaginary End Of The World of 2012. As such, the three basic elements of Superhero, The City as object of protection, and the Rogues Gallery, have the same importance as building blocks. Sereno is a magical boy that turns into the Nightwatchman in a city that is a futuristic utopia by day but transforms into a blurry portal of mystical possibilities by night. Nueva Teia changes as much as Sereno, and it was built by collecting and exaggerating everything that at the time felt like a promise of reality shooting us into the future. Actual tech advances, pseudoscience theories, spiritual discourse both helpful and toxic, transcendent hope and ultimate doom, everything converges and coexist in Nueva Teia, creating a scenario that allows all kinds of stories, tones and genres to take form in supervillains and epic duels.
AIPT: Many times when a new superhero is introduced their story will immediately describe their “origin,” what made you decide to thrust readers into Sereno’s story as the already established “Nightwatchman” of New Teia?
LV: I feel at core the most important and fun part of superheroes are their powers and mission, what they do, who they fight, and what are their adventures. I wanted to focus on that first. Exploring the scenario, the complex but very specific powerset, and what each antagonist unchains was my main motivation. I feel the Secret Origin is an extra, a layer of information that adds meat and bones to the myth and deepens the readers’ connection to it, and that’s why in this case it is revealed towards the end of the story as a fundamental piece of the overall puzzle that allows [the reader] to see everything that happened so far from a three-eyed perspective.
AIPT: Where did your love of comics come from as a form of expression, and can you talk about some of the writers, artists, and activists who inspired Sereno?
LV: I grew up in Zárate, a small city near Buenos Aires, in Argentina. My older brother collected comics, mostly Spanish translations of DC comics, so they were always part of my environment and playground since I was little. I forged my imagination and creativity on superheroes, anime and mythology while unlearning my imposed religion at the same time, and trying to see the underlying substance that connected it all and composed subjective realities. I started making comics as soon as I learned how to write, or even before. The act of creation, and how to bring fantasy into reality and expand possibilities were my themes of obsession.
The list of inspirations for Sereno includes George Perez’ Wonder Woman, Sailor Moon, Avatar The Last Airbender, Batman Beyond, Knights of the Zodiac, Steven Universe, Starman, Promethea, Sandman, and most of all the works of Grant Morrison. In particular Supergods was my grimoire of sorts to channel and manifest my own aspect of the Archetype.
AIPT: As queerness in the world of comics continues to become normalized and celebrated, Sereno’s queerness is a major highlight of the series. How has your own queer identity influenced your work on Sereno?
Building off of that, why was it so important for you that Sereno be a queer superhero, particularly one who doesn’t need to come out?
Luciano: While things have changed at superfast speed in the last few years, when I started Sereno it was what I needed to see and still wasn’t around. A queer lead of his own series, in stories that don’t revolve around queerness as a narrative, but instead are built on queer sensitivity as its soul and structure. An alternative to the hypermasculine approach that historically defined the genre.
As I was pretty unknown when I started it, and my own queer identity wasn’t as visible or connected to my work, as a strategy I decided to deliver the information with subtlety but firmly. As this was a weekly webcomic first, by the time Sereno’s queerness is confirmed on page I wanted readers to be invested in the story for months for its other qualities, and then bam! the lead is queer and you’re on board regardless of if this was what you were looking for.
I would say it also worked the other way around, my work on Sereno informed my queer identity and how it became intertwined with my work as a form of micro activism through storytelling.
My superhero being queer was not just important, it was vital and organic and the only possibility really. Back then it felt like “this is what I need to see, what I needed to see when I was young, and it seems if I don’t do it no one will” (Thanks Goddess time quickly proved I was far from being the only one manifesting that as the accumulated progress in such few years show.)
AIPT: I have to ask, do you own cats? Rufián’s cat-like behavior and “holistic purring” remind me of someone who definitely has spent time around cats!
LV: Haha, I live with two cats actually! They were adopted in the middle of this project. I’ve always been a cat person, and though at first Rufián was created as a direct queer reflection of classic Hero/Antagonist attractions, like Batman and Catwoman and Spidey and Black Cat, I guess there’s something very sincere that makes him became his own person that readers fall in love with.
AIPT: Your writing, illustration, and design of Bobby Drake in Marvel’s Voices: Iceman was a highlight for me of comics in 2022. Did Sereno’s awesome costume inspire Iceman’s new-and-improved all white/blue superhero look?
LV: Actually, the challenge was to keep them apart since they’re already very similar visually. I originally wanted to give Bobby a full beard to bring him closer to his Icemaster persona, but it just made them look too equal so I settled for an icy scruff. The new Iceman design was just what felt iconic and true to the character through the ages.
But I would mention that the fact that my editor read and liked Sereno was what led to the opportunity of writing Iceman, so there’s a linear evolution there.
AIPT: Your emphasis on intersectional lenses of identity, culture, and history is clearly important to you. Can you expand on why focusing on the holistic, intersectional aspect of a character like Sereno, or a Marvel hero you’ve written like Ironheart, is so important in modern storytelling?
LV: It is a need, to challenge the false narrative that was historically reinforced that the world is white, male, cis, straight. As comic creators our medium of choice to participate in doing that work is telling stories, and there is just so much to do to even begin to compensate and create a narrative that is truthful and matches reality. We tell the story of who we are, and who we are is all this diversity and so much more. We do it because it hurts us if we don’t, metaphorically but also literally. I do it to find relief and reparation, and also have so much fun in the process.
AIPT: I would be remiss if I did not mention Secuencia Disidente, an ever-growing archive of Latinx LGBTQ+ comics from Argentinian creators you founded. Can you speak to how your Argentinian roots, culture, and peers continue to inspire your work, both creator-owned and otherwise?
LV: I always feel like living in parallel realities at the same time, vibrating like the Flash between Earth-Argentina where I live, grew up, speak Spanish and am immersed in my culture and society, and Earth-US, of which I consume and assimilate pop culture, and for which I work, speak English, visit often, offer my voice and craft, but am ultimately an outsider. I feel like a bridge in tension between both, but I am Argentino y Latinoamericano first and foremost, it’s the territory and history that built the person that I am.
I feel existing in the Global South with all the geopolitical turmoil that comes with it, gives us a unique distance and perspective. On one hand we don’t have a large mainstream cultural industry so we consume music, movies, comics, and stories of the Global North as much or more than our own, but magic happens in the intersection. We watch Anime with a sensitivity trained by watching telenovelas. The tango-like melancholic beauty of a territory with a stolen potential that never stops pouring artistic expression of all kinds out of a never ending sense of urgency. A heartfelt invocation of Memory, Truth and Justice as fuel of the collective triumph against our darkest past and future.
Come to think of it, I guess the inseparable merge of artistic expression and search for justice is our heritage as artistas latinoamericanos, and what I feel I have to offer and give back when I share some of that background through my work.
AIPT: That was beautifully said, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with AIPT, Luciano!
Check out preview pages for Sereno #1 – out from CEX Publishing February 22nd, 2023 – below:
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