Yesterday, in Part 1 of our conversation with Michel Fiffe, we talked about just about everything else except his work. Today, in Part 2, we take a deeper dive into all things Copra, including some newly discussed influences, the challenge of approaching accessibility in a “jumping-on point”, and what’s come to for these rascals in Copra.
A couple of years ago, you published Zegas with Fantagraphics. Is that ever something you might want to return to or does the avant-action medium of COPRA scratching all of your comic-making itches currently? Do you feel like you can do and say more in that specific mode?
Fiffe: I feel bad talking about Zegas at thing point because for the longest time I thought I could return to it. There’s just no way I’m able to give it the attention it needs. Zegas might return in a different form, who knows, or it might rest as it is. I’m glad and I’m proud of what I managed to produce.
Copra Versus, talk to me about the expansion of that world…did that series unlock anything new for you in terms of how COPRA‘s universe operates? I know your process tends to be (still is?) one of just putting it on paper and moving ever forward, were those origin stories always in the back of your mind though as these characters were initially being designed?
Fiffe: I started Copra Versus as a secret origins-type of companion title to the main COPRA series, with each issue directly informing whatever upcoming story in the main comic would be. With my schedule going off the rails, I had to work on the remaining Versus issues all at once, and as its own whole.
Those last three issues of Versus especially struck me, as they came in the midst of your work for hire, and there was something especially experimental about them visually. I know Ditko is one of the largest looming influences of your career, and so perhaps that foreknowledge is running through my head as I think about them, but they sort of reminded me of his late period self-published work with Robin Snyder. There was this similar “stripped down to its basic component parts” ethos that I couldn’t shake. Was that intentional? Am I imagining it?
Fiffe: A few specific things inspired me, for sure, but you nailed it. Ditko’s stripped down approach to shapes was a big thing for me that year. Still is, it’s still something I always think about. I was also really intrigued by the way Chuck Forsman would draw a room, for example, with a few lines and that room would still have weight and mood. Same thing with the work of Kyoko Okazaki. That economy of imagery is beautiful, and it’s something I don’t think I’ve earned. But Versus was set up to be a place where I could experiment with these sorts of things.
Furiously googling Kyoko Okazaki, I’d love to hear more about the impact manga has had on you creatively. I know you’re a huge fan of Kentaro Miura, but that storytelling influence is definitely there, particularly in how you approach action and even some of the body-horror elements of these characters, am I wrong?
Fiffe: Oh, I love Helter Skelter. Pink, as well. The quantity of Manga I’ve read and own is modest but it’s all been super inspirational. I used to do even more body horror stuff, now that you mention it, and there were traces of Suehiro Maruo in all of my work back then.
On the subject of Versus, is that something you’d ever do again? Pulling together another spin-off? Or was that something that detrimentally piled up your workload?
Fiffe: No time soon. I would love to branch out and develop 5 new spin-off titles, but I’m best served by focusing on one book at a time.
Similarly, I kind of wonder what you think of the canon-aspect of other creators playing in your toybox. I know Dieter VDO’s backups were totally non-canon, but Tim Hamilton has spun off quite the epic out of the events of COPRA #25 with his “Disciples 12” storyline in Rabbit Who Fights. While I don’t expect Amsterdamn to ever show up in COPRA, do you consider those worlds linked at all? – I have to say, personally, it’s a bit fun to think so.
Fiffe: Really hate to disappoint you, Kyle, but not in the slightest. No connection at all.
Could you see more COPRA spin-offs with other creators you admire in the future one day? I know you have to concentrate on the here and now, of course.
Fiffe: I scratched that itch when I ran Bloodstrike, and when I ran the back-ups in Savage Dragon for a year. It comes in waves, my urge to edit.
What made Image the place to take this next evolution of COPRA? Had you been eyeing a publisher in the lead-up to that or was it just sort of a perfect match post-Bloodstrike: Brutalists? OR was it simply a circumstance of Tom (Adams) and Tucker (Stone) leaving publishing?
Fiffe: Yeah, I had good, solid relationships established at Image and honestly, they’re the most natural fit. I really needed to get back to making COPRA and not worry about self-publishing, plus they’re best equipped to deal with single issues, which is how I envisioned COPRA’s continued existence. I owe a great deal to Tom and Tucker, who supported this book from the get go. Single issues just weren’t in their game plan, and I blame them zero percent. Wednesdays are a specific hustle, but it’s one I’ve been wanting to try for a while.
I have to imagine, as somebody who is from the same generation as me, the idea of having an Image #1 has got to be a little overwhelming in a few different ways. It’s the house Spawn and Savage Dragon and the others built after all…does that increase the pressure you put on yourself in any way? Does it change anything at all?
Fiffe: Sure, it’s a big deal! Of course! But I can’t think about it too much because the comic itself isn’t fundamentally different. My chops are better and sharper from my time away, but I’m still just trying to make own personalized comic. It happens to have an Image “i” on the cover these days.
What’s the publishing plan at this point? Monthly? I’ve been assuming, perhaps in err, you’ll take breaks between Rounds ala the Saga team, or are you just going to push on through month to month? How’s that monthly grind caused you to adapt in all aspects of making this comic?
Fiffe: Monthly’s the goal, even if I have to take a minute between arcs. So far, though, no break has been scheduled. I’m all in, brother.
How much time are you spending at the table these days? Has this new ongoing monthly schedule caused you to sort of re-evaluate your working hours? You’ve always been your own boss, but I guess you have to worry about FOC dates and the like now with a little more frequency.
Fiffe: I’d rather worry about FOC dates than international shipping rates. My time at the board is basically the same, meaning almost all the time.
You’ve published 31 issues of COPRA proper, along with 5 issues of Versus, and 1 issue of Negativeland (your other spin-off), relaunching at a new #1 makes perfect sense given that you’re at a new publisher and broaching a newer/wider audience. How did you approach the thought of accessibility with 37 comics of history in this world’s past?
Fiffe: I wanted to make as compelling and inviting a comic as possible, no matter what its history was. Hey, the first Daredevil comic I fell in love with was issue 256. I might’ve been a DC kid, but Ann Nocenti had me hooked for life.
I grew up the same way, our jumping-on points were whatever you could find on the rack, really. But, when writing your dialogue at this point, is exposition at least something you try to keep in mind. Obviously, you’ve got a story that needs telling in the larger sense, but do you feel the temptation to make relationships a little more explicit than you might had you been on Issue 32 instead?
Fiffe: That’s the unique balance this time out, which is that it’s undoubtedly Issue 32, which is to say it picks up directly after Issue 31. It’s not a reboot or anything. But even though we’re deep in a story, I wanted to treat it like a First Issue, like a solid introduction. Artful exposition goes a long way. It doesn’t have to be this clunky, obvious thing. Never underestimate the readership’s capacity to not give a shit about every nuance you think you’ve written. They’re bright and they’re not gonna suffer you.
How are you structuring the arcs are they’re coming up? Does this initial storyline with the team on the run have a specific issue count attached? Do you foresee another arc of stand-alones like we saw in Round Three at some point?
Fiffe: Not an entire arc but I definitely have a few more solo stories waiting in the wings.
Bit of a non-sequitur, but in recently re-reading the whole run of COPRA this past week or so, I was reminded of the fact that you’ve got one of the more diverse casts in comics. I don’t think you get much credit for that, but between Gracie, Sonia, Changó, Zoe, Flo, Jaquio, Castillo, it’s a cast of varying ethnicity. I’d like garner your thoughts on how you’ve aimed to reflect your own background into this series, if that was even a priority at all.
Fiffe: It was quite important. I wanted a diverse cast because that’s naturally appealing to me. I definitely don’t shy away from incorporating Hispanic, and specifically Cuban, details into a few characters, but I don’t feel comfortable pointing that out because I figure it’s obvious, it’s there if you want to see it.
Okay, now let’s really dig into the meat here for those folks that have been along for the ride and want a taste of what’s to come (feel free to be as guarded as you want here for fear of spoilers):
Wir: Things aren’t looking too good for Patrick, having been on the receiving of a sniper shot from Castillo. Provided he survives, which looks a little uncertain though he does pop up on Issue #2’s cover, what kind of journey can we expect for everybody’s favorite Iron-suited funk metal fan?
Fiffe: I don’t wanna use the word reanimation, but I might’ve been inspired by my time in Extreme Studios, hint hint.
As an aside, does stoner Steve from “Palomar” play much of an inspiration there? I know the key touchstone has always been Haywire, but I can’t shake the visual similarities as well some parallels in homelife.
Fiffe: Good call — Steve was definitely a visual influence. Him and a little bit of Tobey Maguire from Fear and Loathing.
Guthie: Ochizon seems to be constantly in the background, how far off are we from another confrontation there? The idea that this team is any possible shape to rally together for that fight seems so dubious right now.
Fiffe: It’s been a distant threat that I’ve been building up to for years. Believe me, no one’s wanted that conflict more than me, but I had to naturally get there. Timing is everything.
The Am Rhein trio: Our favorite squabbling ex-couple are true fish out of water now, will we get to see much of how they adjust to life as among the last survivors and Am Rhein? And Dy Dy is such a ticking time bomb waiting to go off, is it possible she already knows more than she’s letting on?
Fiffe: That trio is another pocket that I look forward to developing. It’s a really unique dynamic they have going, and I can’t wait to see how the bigger story affects them.
The Face of Revenge: Lloyd seems to have basically recovered from Jaquio’s surprise attack, and at some point will be free to resume his single-handed pursuit of Boomer and Sonia. Are we headed to a situation where they may have to be strange bedfellows with a greater threat on the horizon?
Fiffe: Lloyd’s a pretty single-minded guy, so it may not even get to that point. His resolution may come sooner that we expect.
Gracie: Her self-actualization continues to grow with every arc, and she’s quickly becoming the most level-headed member of the team. Do you see her as a possible leader of this squad at some point? Or does she have another journey ahead of her?
Fiffe: I don’t know about leader, but she’s got a big journey, absolutely. I’ve brought her the point I imagined her getting to since the earliest issues.
Castillo: The twist of issue #31 remains absolutely gutting. Is the Castillo we know and love gone for good and is Klaus all that remains or is there a possibility we might see a struggle for control of his body? I can’t imagine Zoe is going to take all of that lying down given that their relationship just blossomed.
Fiffe: What are we if not just a bunch of data swimming around some skull face? As long as the body’s moving…
Relatedly, of all the villains that are out there, it seems like ARM is the most immediate threat. I know we got a taste of their background in the Versus spotlight issue, but might we learn more about their leader Cres and what’s driving him to do the things he does?
Fiffe: If readers missed out on that second Copra Versus issue, they’ll get to see a brand new side of the ARM, which was featured in way back in the 4th issue. It’s almost like a reunion.
Vincent and Xenia: What can you say about where the mystical duo is headed after vanishing upon completion of the helmet, which has driven so much of the conflict of the entire series?
Fiffe: Oh, they’re off on their own thing. There was good reason to have them go the way they did. But really, c’mon, having a teleporting sorceress would’ve made it too easy to get around.
Jaquio: My new favorite character! Quite a bit of Mark Shaw Manhunter in there I take it, but I really like the idea of this scraping, desperate member of the team that no one seems to like. Was the intention to create a sort-of hapless member of Copra? The Dan Hibiki of the team if you will. I love Dan, I need to admit.
Fiffe: You know how there are some people you just don’t like? On paper, they’re fine, and there’s nothing offensive when you see them, but they just bother you at the core? I wanted to explore that kind of character. “I don’t know why he bugs me but he does.”
What can you tell us about new friends and foes we can look forward to? Any significant teases you’re okay sharing?
Fiffe: Got a few new faces but yeah, it’s mostly about orchestrating all those plot elements into one big climax. It’s all leading to something that has kept me invigorated even thinking about it.
And lastly because I know fans have asked a bit, will readers see much of a difference in terms of cover and paper stock or was Image pretty accommodating to align with the previous volume’s physical product?
Fiffe: There will be a slight difference in that we’re using a different printer, especially with the single issues, but I wanted to approximate the collections and we succeeded. I’m super happy with the results.
There you have it, friends! Lots to look forward to next week. COPRA #1 hits stands (and digital) on October 2nd. Come take the ride with us on the best adventure comic out today. It’s a fresh jumping-on point, can’t beat that!