#Newcomicsday is 9/2
This week sees the release of SKULLKICKERS, VOL. 6: INFINITE ICONS OF THE ENDLESS EPIC, the final collected edition of writer Jim Zub, artist Edwin Huang, co-creator Chris Stevens, colorist Misty Coats, and letterer Marshall Dillon's sword & sorcery series. SKULLKICKERS leaves this world as it entered it: with its tongue placed firmly in cheek and demonstrating a magnificent grasp of not just genre tropes, but the best way to blow them into smithereens. Issue #100, following on from #33, was the final issue of the series, and it brought all the sub-plots to a head. Now that the final collected edition is on its way, there's no better time to take a look at Huang's art in the series. He chose several of his favorite pages from the series, and now you can see his process from pencils to inks to finishes, with colors by Coats and letters by Dillon. On top of that, enjoy an interview with Zub and Huang about how SKULLKICKERS began and how they feel now that they're done.
Image Comics: Edwin, one hundred—er, thirty-four issues is quite a run. What's the biggest change you've noticed in your art since you began?
Edwin Huang: My lines got a lot cleaner and simpler as time progressed. Economizing my lines helped with the cel-shading look we tried to achieve. I'm very happy with my current approach to line work and I hope it carries over to future projects.
IC: This is the first cover to SKULLKICKERS, and probably served as a first look at the series for a lot of your fans. What can you tell us about this cover? Did you have many discussions with Chris Stevens about what it needed to "say"?
Jim Zub: This cover illustration was done really early on and I think it reflects the roots of our series in the bloodier short stories Chris and I did for POPGUN. I like that the red pops right off the page and that it's so iconic. We used that skull outline shape as our trade dress for the majority of the series just based on this cover, so clearly it left a mark.
We wanted something graphic rather than just the typical "main characters posed for action" kind of cover. I think that was all I said to Chris when we were coming up with the look for it.
IC: Metatext was a big part of SKULLKICKERS, as you rolled out alternate versions of your heroes, and even a bar-slash-nexus. What does metatext and breaking the fourth wall bring to the series for you?
JZ: There's a legacy of cartoon/comedy characters breaking though the fourth wall and communicating directly with the audience. It's a time-honored tradition and I thought we could cut through a lot of the pretentiousness of high fantasy by talking to the audience with that kind of irreverent, self-aware tone.
SKULLKICKERS was a love letter to sword & sorcery, but one that marinated itself in the ridiculous conventions of the genre. I love fantasy because it is so crazy. I wanted to dive headfirst into that and have fun with it.
IC: Here's the last SKULLKICKERS cover, for the long-awaited issue #100! Can you tell us a bit about the last cover of the run, and what your goals were with it?
JZ: Getting Chris back to do our final cover was a must. I dogged him for weeks until I broke his resolve. Then, once he'd committed to it, I gave him the brutal task of showing our boys fighting as many creatures as possible, a real whirlwind of monster mashing. No surprise, he delivered the goods.
IC: First page, final issue. How long did it take you two to finish this issue? Did you decide how it was going to end long ago, and it was just a matter of executing an idea, or was it a difficult issue to finish?
EH: It was the last time we saw the Baldy and Shorty doubles/clones, so it was pretty tough picking my favorites to draw in. The composition was all Zub's idea, so it was pretty straight forward for me.
JZ: This one took about twice as long as a normal issue just because we were both slammed with other work commitments and convention travel. Even though the issue was packed with difficult scenes, I think everyone on the team delivered their best right up to the end.
SKULLKICKERS was pitched as a mini-series that would hopefully become an ongoing and when that extension actually came to pass I sat down and planned out the majority of the story. Quite a few small elements changed in the middle but the ending, with its metaphysical literary claptrap and big picture sarcasm on the fantasy genre was exactly what I hoped for.
IC: Jim, what's your favorite aspect of Edwin's work?
JZ: Seeing Edwin's storytelling skills grow in leaps and bounds over the past five years was a thrill. He started off with solid skills and I really put him through the wringer in terms of clarity, facial expressions, unexpected pacing, and massive fight scenes jam-packed with characters. He never wavered and after 34 ludicrous issues he's finally free of my machinations (until our next series together). ;P
IC: Misty Coats served as colorist for the series. There's a remarkable difference between the first and last issues, as the colors get brighter and bolder over time. What's your working process like with her?
JZ: Misty came on board so strong right from day one. The first two pages of issue 1 are the test pages she did to get the gig. That's how strong she was. She stepped up, knocked it out and just started delivering the goods. Like Edwin, her skills grew over the years and she really embraced the colorful, dramatic, animation-influenced style of the series. Misty's colors made it all pop. SKULLKICKERS #17: