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AICN COMICS Q&@: Russ Sheath speaks to artist Steve Epting about his latest collaboration with writer Ed Brubaker, Image Comics’ VELVET!

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Q’s by Russ Sheath!

@’s by VELVET Artist Steve Epting!!!

Russ Sheath here and this week brings the launch of the highly anticipated new series VELVET from writer Ed Brubaker and artist Steve Epting. VELVET, a cold war espionage thriller, marks the continuation of a partnership that began with CAPTAIN AMERICA and continued with THE MARVELS PROJECT, and was responsible for The acclaimed 'Winter Soldier', a story that will soon be seen on the big screen in the upcoming CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER. Steve Epting took time out to talk to me about what we can expect from VELVET and his latest collaboration with Brubaker.

RUSS SHEATH (RS): Steve, can you give us the 'quick pitch' for VELVET?

STEVE EPTING (SE): What if - Moneypenny was actually a former spy before she became a secretary and she is framed for the murder of James Bond? Mix in a little Bourne Identity, Modesty Blaise, John LeCarre etc.

RS: Stylistically - there's some trademark 'Epting art' in VELVET. How do you challenge yourself artistically when you have such a noted style that fans and publishers want to see from a Steve Epting project?

SE: That's a good question. I guess my art has steadily evolved over the years and I expect it will continue to do so. I kind of just let it happen naturally and do what I feel is appropriate for the book rather than tailor anything to anyone's expectations. That said, there is not going to be any huge stylistic shift in this book so anyone who has enjoyed my work in the past won't be shocked by how this book looks. The one thing that is different (and has a huge impact on the tone and look of any book) is that I'm working with Elizabeth Breitweiser for the first time - a colorist I have never worked with before. So far the results have been better than I ever dreamed and I'm thrilled we were able to get her on board for this project.

RS: What was the 'hook' for you with this particular project?

SE: I've always been a big fan of MODESTY BLAISE and when Ed first mentioned to me that he wanted to do a book with a female spy I insisted that I be the one to draw it. Thankfully he waited until I was available and here we are, seven years later!

RS: There's often some historical content in your books. The scenes from Captain America set during WW II, THE MARVELS PROJECT and now VELVET, which is set during The Cold War. Do you enjoy the research and portraying a historically accurate world?

SE: Yeah, it's always fun (and sometimes challenging) to recreate a specific period of history accurately. Of course the early 70s aren't that long ago and I was a kid during that time so it's not totally alien to me. One of the things I'm enjoying is putting some very cool cars in the book. I love those old 60s - 70s muscle cars!

RS: Artistically, did you draw upon any specific inspirations for VELVET?

SE: Not anything specific. I tend to use a lot of blacks in my work and Ed wants these pages dripping with shadows so artistically I am just doing what comes naturally. We are trying to go for an early 70s paperback cover feel with the cover art though, which is something I sort of started doing in our CAPTIAN AMERICA run.

RS: What was the appeal of working with Ed Brubaker again?

SE: It's always nice to work with someone that you have developed a rapport with and after so many years of working together Ed and I certainly have that. He knows what I need and what to expect and writes with that in mind. He also has a great sense of pacing and it's not a struggle to figure out how to lay out the pages.

RS: Is that quite a collaborative effort, working with Ed? Or is he quite specific and directive in what he wants to see on the page?

SE: He gives me enough information in the descriptions so that I can give him what he wants, and he does it without needlessly complicating any of the scenes. I would say he is as specific as he needs to be without dictating too many details and stifling any freedom on my end. That's another thing that's so great about working with him again.

RS: Are you a fan of the 'espionage' or 'spy' genre - do you have any favourites from films, TV or literature?

SE: As I said I've always been a big MODESTY BLAISE fan. I've enjoyed a lot of the Bond films but was never a fanatic about the series. I also liked J.J. Abrams' ALIAS from a few years back.

RS: After so long working on established characters from the Marvel universe, did you enjoy world building and the design process behind VELVET?

SE: Yes it's nice to be able to establish everything from the ground up, but it's also challenging. With the vast Marvel Universe already established it sure is easy to get reference for whatever you need and someone else has already done the design work.

RS: How long is the series and do you have plans for further outings?

SE: We are planning it to be ongoing, though I think Ed has an end already figured out when we decide that's where the story needs to go.

RS: When 'casting' the VELVET comic did you have any actors or actresses in mind for the characters? Can you let us in on your ideas?

SE: I didn't use anyone specific; it was more of a 'type' of character. I kind of saw her in my mind as soon as Ed and I started talking about it. A couple of people have mentioned to me that she looks like this actress or that actress and in each case they named someone I was not familiar with at all! I think there a many actresses out there that would fit the role well.

One thing I do like about the character is that she is a bit older than the standard female protagonist in comics. I don't think we give her specific age in the book but it's clear she's retired from field work and gets drawn back into action only out of necessity.

RS: Is 'Velvet' something that you could envision adapted for film or TV?

SE: Oh sure, I think it's tailor made for either film or TV. It's a great high concept that I think would work well in a lot of different mediums.

RS: Speaking of film and TV, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER is coming out next year - how does it feel to know that the movie is drawing directly on a character and storyline you had a hand in creating?

SE: It's great really. I had the opportunity to be on the set while they were filming the climactic battle scene and it was just surreal watching it happen right in front of me. Not to mention casually chatting with Sebastian Stan while he was in his full Winter Soldier gear. We all know that Hollywood generally feels the need to tweak the costumes for film adaptations but Winter Soldier was standing there right in front of me virtually exactly as I drew him. It was quite a thrill!

RS: Thanks to Steve for taking the time to talk with us. VELVET #1 is on shelves this week from Image Comics and all good comic book stores.

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

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