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AICN COMICS Q&@: Russ Sheath talks to creators Whilce Portacio & Glen Brunswick about NON-HUMANS from Image comics!

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Q’s by Russ Sheath!

@’s by NON-HUMANS creators
Whilce Portacio & Glen Brunswick!!!

Russ Sheath here. I've long been a fan of artist Whilce Portacio, ever since his Image comics debut, WETWORKS. Of course Whilce's career didn't begin at Image. From the mid-80s onwards Portacio was making an impact at Marvel comics penciling THE PUNISHER, X-FACTOR and UNCANNY X-MEN as well as the cult favorite, STRIKE FORCE MORITURI. As one of the seven Image founders Whilce joined the likes of Jim Lee, Marc Silvestri and Todd McFarlane and his book Wetworks and was part of a revolution that continues to impact the industry to this day. Returning to Marvel, Portacio joined his Image stablemates in breathing new life into Marvel's most recognisable characters with HEROES REBORN with his take on IRON MAN. With notable runs on BATMAN CONFIDENTIAL for DC, SPAWN, ARTIFACTS for Top Cow and STORMWATCH: TEAM ACHILLES, I'd argue that Portacio has always been at his strongest when working on his own properties and creating worlds of his own.

Portacio's latest venture is NON-HUMANS. Teaming with comic and screen writer Glen Brunswick (JERSEY GODS), the duo offer a story that has been described as 'Toy Story meets Blade Runner'. Issue 4 of NON-HUMANS hits stores in print and digitally this week and I spoke to Whilce and Glen about the origin of NON-HUMANS and their plans for the future.

RUSS SHEATH (RS): Glen, can you tell us about the origins of NON-HUMANS, where the idea came from and how that led to working with Whilce?

GLEN BRUNSWICK (GB): NON-HUMANS are toys that have come to life due to a global epidemic we brought back to Earth with one of our Martian probes. Teenagers are the ones affected who now have the ability to spark toys to life simply by using their will. But these are not your typical Disney come-to-life-toys with personality traits that simply reflect the dolls themselves. NON-HUMANS are born in the same way that babies are born to their mothers. That is, a portion of their mental DNA comes from the individual that created them making NON-HUMANS as different and unique as human beings are. This is the idea that Whilce and I latched upon that we felt would make this story different than other stories where things come to life. The juxtaposition of seeing the humans and their NON-HUMAN offspring--what make them tick, and how that differs in each of them is the special sauce that enables us to take our story somewhere that is emotionally exciting. As far a getting Whilce to work on this with me--I started with bribes and finished with begging. Lucky for me Whilce is a huge fan of begging.

RS: Glen, Can you give us an overview of the story in NON-HUMANS?

GB: It's 2041, twenty-six years since the disease first came to Earth. We follow a police detective, Oliver Aimes, on the hunt for the serial killer/ventriloquist puppet that murdered his partner. His new partner is a too attractive female detective that also happens to be a NON-HUMANS rights advocate. That and the fact that Aimes has a justified desire to put the NON-HUMANS down means they're going to be at odds most of the time, especially when they're in harms way. In addition, Aimes is constantly being dogged by Medic--the first NON-HUMAN detective on the force that's one part Sherlock Holmes and another part Mr. Spock, his confidential informant is a stuffed teddy bear that also happens to be the local drug dealer, and AImes' fourteen-year-old son is dating a NON-HUMAN who used to be a Victoria's Secret mannikin against his wishes. Speaking of the NON-HUMANS, many of them are very violent when they spark to life-meaning they have to be put down for the good of society. Those toys that are benevolent are desperately fighting, as a new minority, huge in numbers, for their rights to exist within a society that fears and doesn't trust them. It may be a bit of a dark vision, but in a very real sense I think the story reflects the times we are all living in--a need to come together. There's a lot of uncertainty out there for the bulk of the human population that simply tries to cope on a daily basis and wonders if we are really going to make it at all as a societal whole.

RS: Whilce, what appealed to you about NON-HUMANS from a visual storytelling point of view?

WHILCE PORTACIO (WP): I'm a huge Science Fiction fan. Frankly, at first a story of this scope was a little bit daunting. But as Glen and I talked through the world I started developing a picture of this world in my mind. It then became a matter of wanting to get it out of my head and on to the page. It becomes a little like an obsession to get it out. You begin to think of yourself as a futuristic Frank Lloyd Wright with an opportunity to rebuild this new dark picture of L.A. It's an opportunity to mix a vision of our fears and our hopes into a visual soup that hopefully will excite and repeal readers in a good way.

RS: Whilce, In many of your past interviews you've talk about 'world building' as being one of your favourite parts of working in comics. What were your favourite elements of building the world in NON-HUMANS?

WP: I think designing the individual characters were the most fun--looking through toy catalogs for elements of the different Non-Humans that would appeal visually was a kick. It took a long time to find the right pieces to complete the look for Buddy-the-Bear, a favorite character of mine. Humphrey, the ventriloquist serial killer was also a composite of a few different dolls. Spice, the Victoria's Secret mannequin was another character that I had to play with before settling in on the final design. One of the throwaway characters I designed actually became part of the book after I showed her to Glen. He really dug Teresa Tech after I explained to him that she was a little dog that had built herself into a human size doll with spare parts. That became a major part of the NonHumans actual motivation--to desire to make themselves human-like again or to return to humanity.

RS: Whilce, how are you working on NON-HUMANS?

WP: I pretty much do things they way I've always done it which is to say the old fashioned way with pencils on art board. The big difference with NON-HUMANS is I'm inking my own stuff as well so the pencils don't have to be as finished as they would if someone else is inking. I pretty much tighten up my loose pencils at the ink stage which is a tremendous time saver. It also gives the work a spontaneity that keeps the final product feeling fresh for me.

RS: Their's a definite cinematic feel to NON-HUMANS. Do you envision the story translating into film or TV?

GB: I think job one for us was creating a story that stands alone as a comic book. That being said, given the incredible visuals that Whilce put into the world and our characters it certainly creates a strong desire in me to see that vision realized in another medium. If it happens, I would love it.

WP: Absolutely, I would love to see my designs realized either in a live action format or even animated. Though I suspect the world we've created is too dark to work as an animated film. But you never know. Stranger things have happened.

RS: Visually and story-telling wise what were your inspirations for NON-HUMANS?

GB: It's hard to do a future vision of L.A. without BLADE RUNNER being somewhere in your mind in terms of inspiration. I also though a lot about Raymond Chandler and his filmic noir vision. I also was a big fan of Lethem's, "Gun, With Occasional Music." which helped inform some of the wackier elements of our piece.

WP: I think we both had shades of BLADE RUNNER in mind. One of the thing we discussed originally was taking a version of Hong Kong and just dropping it on top of Los Angeles. Our world continued to evolve from there. Akira was an inspiration as well.

RS: This is a four issue mini-series, do you have plans for this universe after this series?

GB: We are indeed hard at work on a follow up story arc. We're very happy that the initial arc was so well received and that we have the opportunity to continue this project that has come to mean so much to us. There are so many ways we feel can take this story. The challenge is picking the best path of many. Creatively, It's an exciting problem to have.

WP: We have very big plans to continue. I've designed a number of new characters that will be a joy to see Glen dramatize as I bring them to life visually. The best is yet to come!

RS: Thanks to the both of you. You can follow Whilce Portacio @whilceportacio and Glen Brunswick @Glenbrunswick on Twitter.

NON-HUMANS is available in print and digitally from Image Comics, Comixology and from retailers.

You can follow Russ Sheath's blog Russwords here and @russellsheath on Twitter here.

Editing, compiling, imaging, coding, logos & cat-wrangling by Ambush Bug
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G

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