I’ve been a big fan of Travis Hymel’s artwork for a while, even worked with him on a few short comics, so I was excited to see he has a big project to work on, the miniseries L.U.C.H.A. currently on Kickstarter. Its action-heavy narrative is a perfect match for Hymel’s kinetic style, and I’m intrigued by what I know about the story so far. I was excited to chat with both Travis Hymel and writer CW Cooke about how it came together, the choreographing action, and how the Latin American elements serve the story.
All art featured in this post illustrated by Travis Hymel with colors by Jeremy Kahn.
First of all, how did you two connect for this project?
CW: Facebook actually through a group called Kayfabe Anthology which puts together a yearly anthology of wrestling comics.
TH: Yeah, we were both searching for someone to work with for that book and we paired up.
CW: It was a nice bit of luck too as I wanted to do a story but didn’t really know what it was until we got together
How did it evolve from there to what it L.U.C.H.A. is now?
TH: It really evolved after we finished. C.W. really wanted to pitch it. so we started to brainstorm where to take it after the initial bit.
CW: We did the 10-page story for the anthology and had an amazing response from the other creators and fans. So we started discussing future plans for Agente. Where to take him and how to build his world from there. And we added a huge twist after the first 10 pages so anyone who had read it would not be ready for what happened next.
The first thing I noticed on the Kickstarter was blurbs from a lot of big name creators. Beyond making a good comic, how did you obtain all those quotes?
TH: Bribes and threats.
CW: [Laughs] I got lucky and asked a bunch of people I respect and have known for a while in comics. A lot of them I’ve built a bigger/better relationship with recently because of our shared anti-CG stance.
Based on the preview this is clearly an action-heavy story. C.W., what do you like about how Travis conveys action?
CW: Travis is a lot like Ryan Ottley. His pages have kinetic energy and move. His action work is incredible and shows vivid movements where the characters are alive.
What role does each of you play in choreographing the action?
CW: A lot of that comes down to Travis. I plot it out and write as descriptive action panels as I can but his eye for the movement and action is stronger. So I give him the space to play and make things hum.
TH: I feel my role in choreographing it is to, like CW mentioned, break down his descriptions. It can be hard sometimes because we’ll both have different scenes plan in our head when we read over a panel. I try to interpret it the best I can that captures most of what he’s looking for and to keep the reader’s eye moving.
I love the layouts for the page with the stairway and your use of silhouettes. Is that how you first pictured the scenes, Travis?
TH: No, [because] It was actually written differently. After reading the page a few times I thought a moving scene would portray that page better.
CW: The stairway scene is everyone’s favorite so far.
TH: After reading the page a few times I thought a moving scene would portray that page better.
CW: He was right.
TH: What was happening was so fast and also our main character was processing a lot. So I wanted to capture that in the whole page I used this experience to try as many new things with layouts as I could.
Did you both study Lucha libre to faithfully present the fighting style?
CW: I have a lot of saved pages for the moves and the mythology and the masks.
TH: It also helps to have someone like CW who is willing to let an artist have some flexibility.
CW: With Lucha Libre, I’m a big fan of the El Santo movies and Lucha Underground. So a lot of it came from prior knowledge but it was quite fun to explore and study.
TH: Same. I tried to incorporate holds, some dives, some moves that a reader could pick up on.
CW: It’s all in there. It’s not too overt or spelled out but our love of the style will show.
TH: It’s not just a love of Lucha Libre, but wrestling in general.
TH: There’s a lot of characters that will be appearing that will be homages to certain well-known wrestlers as well.
Beyond the Luchador elements, how does the Hispanic background inform the story and characters?
CW: I’m going on my soapbox: I’m a big fan of diverse characters and plots and stories. Comics should reflect the world around us and should be open to all perspectives. We have a number of Hispanic/Latinx characters, a plot derived from a Luchador detective in a world of monsters and mayhem, and a number of other diverse personalities filling the pages.
It’s important to show and develop this world in a way that doesn’t mock or trivialize. We are fans of wrestling and Lucha, and we want to be champions of it with this book and with Agente and the other characters you’ll meet.
How would you say the story is different because it takes place in Mexico (I think?) rather than a place in the United States?
CW: It definitely doesn’t take place in Mexico.
TH: Without giving away too much, it takes place in a whole other reality where wrestling is ingrained into life.
CW: Yeah. Definitely not Mexico. Maybe not even in the U.S.
Do you plan to take this to a publisher now that the production has been funded?
CW: Yeah we do. We may have some news about that soon too but we are pitching it. We plan to just do the one Kickstarter and not do one per issue. We are Kickstarting the whole series but funding the first issue, if that makes any sense.
Yeah, I actually did the same a while back. It’s nice because if something goes really wrong with the project (and it did in my case) you can still fulfill the promised rewards
CW: It did for me as well on Solitary. Got through almost the full four-issue first arc, which was funded by the first issue Kickstarter, and the artist quit in the middle of Issue 4. It was frustrating but these things happen. Life comes up. Plans change.
Still, that’s a bummer. Mine didn’t even come close to the four issues planned on but I feel like that’s not as bad, somehow.
TH: Just wait till I leave on Issue 3.
CW: [Laughs] 12 pages in on the fourth issue is the worst time to quit.
Well, it worked out since you got a film deal out of it!
CW: Isn’t that crazy?
Any progress you can share on that front?
CW: A bit. Some of it is very hush-hush and early still, but the development deal is rocking and rolling. We had a pretty great email meeting about plans and where things are headed, and I’m really excited. I want to shout about it and tell everyone about every aspect, but I’ll just say I’m happy to report progress and things are moving forward. And after three years of trying to get to this point, it’s pretty astonishing.
It looks likely you’ll reach at least one of the Mystery Stretch Goals. Do you know what it unlocks yet?
CW: Yes. I’m hoping we unlock all of them so people get some amazing stuff added to the book and to their packages, but we are looking at pin-ups, additional variant covers, thumb wrestlers, extra prints and stickers, the works!
Any last words you’d like to share with readers about L.U.C.H.A.?
TH: I just want to say that potential readers/backers will get a kick out of the over-the-top story we have cooking for them.
CW: The story starts about a Luchador detective fighting vampires and takes a massive swerve that readers aren’t going to be ready for. It will throw them for a loop and I can’t wait to hear their response to that.
Matt Chats is an interview series featuring discussions with a creator or player in comics, diving deep into industry, process, and creative topics. Find its author, Matt O’Keefe, on Twitter and Tumblr. Email him with questions, comments, complaints, or whatever else is on your mind at [email protected].