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The Mighty Cho - Part 1

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Frank Cho continues to see his status climb as a mainstream superhero artist with his assignment on Mighty Avengers with Brian Michael Bendis.  He stopped by for a chat on the book and how life in the House of Ideas has been.

BROKEN FRONTIER: This is your second ongoing (or at least regular since Shanna was a mini) book at Marvel, which says that your profile is increasing by leaps and bounds over there... Was that something that you always wanted, to increase your profile with more mainstream and superhero work?

FRANK CHO: Yeah.  I have always been a big fan of superheroes although I came from an independent background my first love was always superhero comics.  So it’s starting to fall to where I’m doing what I loved in the first place.

BF: In terms of Marvel specifically, how did you initially become involved with them?  Did you approach them or vice versa?

FC: Again everything seemed to happen by accident.  There was no grand design.  I was very happy doing Liberty Meadows and it turned out that Axel Alonso was a big fan of mine and he approached me about doing some work for Marvel. 

So Shanna happened, then the next thing I knew I was doing some issues of Spider-Man and New Avengers and now here I am as the regular artist on Mighty Avengers.

BF: You’re working with Brian Bendis on this book, how has the experience been working with someone like that?

FC: It was intimidating at first, because Brian is one of the biggest writers in the business right now.  (And rightly so because he writes some great stuff.)  I had a mental list of things I wanted to do with a superhero book, and especially with Avengers, a team book.

So I thought I would have to really sell myself to Brian and it was actually the opposite.  Brian turned out to be so wonderfully receptive to my ideas.  I was so prepared to go into a debate [laughs] and on the other end is a guy who says, “Hey, do whatever you want!”  It slightly disarms you.  But I was delightfully surprised at how Brian is.  He’s so laid back and receptive to any input.

I was extremely lucky.

BF: Any chance you could talk about any of those ideas without spoiling anything?

FC: Not really [laughs].  Brian and I agree that our Mighty Avengers should be dealing with global threats.  They won’t be dealing with any street level criminals.  It’s really gotta be a massive alien invasion or something that will affect the entire nation and global community.  These are Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, so we wanted all the villains to be just as powerful as or even more powerful than the Avengers.  So that was the real big key issue that we wanted to establish early on.

BF: Going into the team themselves, who were you looking forward to drawing the most when you started?

FC: Who did I want to draw the most?  Probably Ms. Marvel and Black Widow [laughs].  I’ve done Ms. Marvel covers for the first 5 or 6 issues (the sixth was bumped for a Civil War crossover so it’ll show up later).  And for some reason I grew very fond of Ms. Marvel as I was doing them.  To me she’s a very iconic character; I see her being the equivalent to DC’s Wonder Woman for Marvel.

And Black Widow because she’s a hot Russian spy [laughs].

BF: You do have a knack for making your women incredibly attractive [laughs].

FC: Well, I could make them ugly but c’mon, this is comics.  It’s a visual medium [laughs].  You don’t see Hollywood putting ugly people on screen.

BF: Have these characters remained the most interesting and fun for you?

FC: Oddly enough, Ares has really started to grow on me.  I see him as this big hulking brute, a cross between Wolverine, Punisher, and Hulk all rolled into one and he has become very fun to draw.

BF: You are illustrating the first arc, then taking a break before coming back for the third one...

FC: Yes.  Angel Medina will be coming on board to draw the second arc, but I won’t be taking a break per se.  I’m going to be jumping directly from the first six-issue arc to the third story arc.  I don’t want people to think I’m getting lazy [laughs], because I’ll be on this book for a year.

BF: Is that how long you plan on staying?

FC: I don’t know actually.  Right now we’ve mapped out the first 3 storyarcs and I’m sure that Brian has the 4th, 5th, and 6th arcs already mapped out and outlines.  So right now my focus has been to complete the first arc then to jump to the third.

I would like to stay on as long as possible.  But there is always a burnout factor.  So I’ll stay on as long as I can and as long as I’m having fun. 

And with the stories and scenes that Brian has been coming up with I think most people will be pleasantly surprised with how well it reads and what kind of book it becomes.

BF: In terms of mapping out the next couple of arcs, this book seems to come right out of Marvel’s Civil War, did you see that as an advantageous time to jump in with a new book and idea like Mighty Avengers?

FC: Not just advantageous, it’s logical.  Marvel did a great job of not forcing a second Avengers title; it just made logical sense to have two teams.  The aftermath of Civil War has split the superhero community in half.  So, like with all conflicts that divide a group, you really need to tell both sides of the story. 

Therefore New Avengers is obviously the underground group and Mighty Avengers is the government sanctioned, or actually at this point, internationally sanctioned superhero team that Iron Man is heading.

BF: Artistically, your work is always very clean, bright, and always seems “happier” in a sense.  Did you feel that this team and these stories will take advantage of your particular look and style?

FC: Absolutely.  Brian told me straight up that the reason he picked me for this book was because my stuff was exactly as you said.  It’s clean, bright, and has a real air of optimism.  So Mighty Avengers, as this government sanctioned team, needs a clean happy superhero look.  And with New Avengers, he went with Lenil Yu because that stuff is gritty and darker to highlight the underground nature of that team.

I have been looking at a lot of Lenil’s stuff and it’s just fantastic too.  Talk about raising the bar!  Every time I draw a page and think it’s pretty good I see Lenil’s stuff and think, “Oh crap, gotta go back to the drawing board and make it more dynamic.”  He is just a fantastic artist and I’m a real fan of his stuff.

BF: Actually, that reminds me of a funny story.  I was speaking with Matt Fraction a little while ago about his current slate of Marvel work and one of the things that he mentioned to me about working with Ed Brubaker on Iron Fist was that Ed inevitably will spill secrets about Captain America and his other work, effectively spoiling secrets for Matt.  While he didn’t get real angry about it, he did express some distaste that these secrets were in some way spoiled for him.

Does that end up happening to you as well, considering you’re working with Brian Bendis?

FC: Like finding out the ending of a movie before you see it?

BF: Exactly.

FC: Yes and no.  I do kind of wish I would have naturally found some things out by reading the books, but I’m also part of the creative process/machine so I do need to find things out.

Actually it’s not too bad, but I am surprised how the whole story (at least my end with Mighty Avengers) has started to snowball into something much bigger.  Brian basically has this big epic mapped out in his head and as a co-plotter my part is to throw him all sorts of crazy different scenes in which, if he likes it he’ll start plugging in the holes in the outline.

Brian has already built the foundation of the house, I’m just helping him put up drywall and that sort of thing.

To be continued tomorrow...

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