BYRON BREWER: This tale has been a very personal one for you, Fabrice. As we near February’s penultimate issue, #5, are there any aspects of your story that you would have liked to have shared but page count just did not allow it? Possible fodder for a sequel?
FABRICE SAPOLSKY: You know how writers are… We’re fighting with ourselves all the time to avoid cramming our pages and stories with too many details. To make the comics fully ingestible. The first story arc of Intertwined is an introduction to a new and rich universe. There’s a lot to show. On the one hand, I feel limited by the amount of information and subplots I can write. But on the other, I feel blessed that I have all that space. If you look at one of the industry’s best example, a classic — Amazing Fantasy #15 — you can see that the whole world of Spider-Man, including his origins, is told in 12 pages! THAT is truly Amazing.
So, of course, I would’ve loved to put more social background, to have more room to show the Spirits of WuXing in action. But we can always go back to it if there’s a demand. I think I said this when we first started doing these interviews, I can write 100 issues or more of Intertwined. I have so many stories I want to tell in that universe. The market today is tough. But I always keep in mind that Walking Dead didn’t exactly started as a success. You have to be persistent in the comic book industry. And it’ll pay off. I can’t tell, as of right now, what will happen beyond issue #6, but I’m sure I want Intertwined to continue.
BB: I know artist Fred Pham Chuong is every bit a part of the creative process for this book as its writer, by the writer’s admission. Would this have been a very different book, even thematically, had Fred not been the artist, you think? How close has your collaboration been?
FS: Let me tell you this. The story hasn’t changed much since I pitched it to Fred. But the execution made it different. And better. And it’s all thanks to him. Fred fought to get on board. And I let him make all kinds of suggestions. We talk a lot about the pages, the action. The direction. Sometimes, I add or tweak scenes after I get his feedback. But the story itself is the same. And Fred doesn’t interfere with dialogue. Intertwined could’ve had existed without Fred, but it works so damn perfectly thanks to him. He makes my work look and feel better.
BB: Will we ever learn about the murder of the Spirit of the Earth? What was behind it, and why?
FS: We’ve known who murdered the previous Spirit of the Earth, who happened to be Juan Jin’s uncle, since issue #3. Issue #5 brings the shocking truth: why was Da Wei murdered? And it’s shocking. It’s an “I am your father” kind of shock. You won’t see it coming. Issue #5 is VERY important.
BB: As of February, how is Juan Jin adapting to be the “new Spirit in town,” so to speak?
FS: He has a decision to make. He inherited these powers. He wasn’t selected by fate. He was selected by the other Spirits of WuXing. He wasn’t given a choice. Other heroes had a choice: Green Lantern, Captain Britain, Captain America… They were all given the possibility to accept being heroes or not. But Juan didn’t have the luxury to refuse an offer. So, with issue #5, and after learning the truth about how he was chosen, how his uncle was murdered, he has to decide: does he want to be a hero or not? Tough decision.
BB: The development of the reluctant Juan Jin into the hero we know he can be has been one of the most intriguing, realistic aspects of Intertwined’s many threads. By issue # 6, if you can say in a non-spoilery manner, will Juan Jin be approaching the greatness the Spirits themselves saw in him?
FS: Let me put it this way… As a reader, you might have many questions and issues about the Spirits of WuXing’s missions and actions. Juan Jin asks himself the same questions. And let’s say that in the coming last issue, he’ll get some answers and some challenges that will help him make his decision as to whether or not he wants to be a hero. And I think that’s something any of us can relate to. More than once we’re confronted with tough choices. Will be put ourselves first? Will we put our community, our city, our country first? Intertwined is entertaining first, but just like the comics I loved to read, I like that closing it, the reader can’t help to ask himself, “What would I do if I were in Juan’s shoes?”.
BB: Fabrice, have there been any books or movies that have influenced the manner in which this story has paced itself. It is quite unlike any comic I’ve read.
FS: Oh… That’s a tough one. I’m going to be honest, I don’t read fiction anymore because I rarely go to the movies these days. I can’t say I lost my taste for it, but I simply find TV series, Netflix, Amazon and all those new shows, more interesting. I can’t put my finger on something specific regarding pacing, I’m a mix of international influences, but I can say it’s all my fault if it’s the way it is (laughs). Sometimes, different is good, right? Why would I copy the same kind of comics that others are doing? Maybe it’s because I’m one of the very, very few writers on the American market who’s not American or British? I don’t know. I’m taking your statement as a compliment!
BB: Oh, it was. Very much so! … I seldom mention covers, but the cover for Intertwined #5 by Roland Boschi is awesome. Have you seen it?
FS: Hell yeah! I commissioned it! (laughs) Roland is an old friend. I always loved his Marvel work. We have been talking about making a book together at one point. Hopefully we’ll do it one day as he’s one of the best human beings I have ever met in this industry. Speaking of covers, I want to say something important. I think everyone — fans, retailers, media — knows how the U.S. comics industry works. Retailers order comics from a catalog, the Previews Catalog, and mostly, all they see of a comic are covers and a few lines to describe them. This can be frustrating when you’re a creator, though I completely understand there will never be a perfect way to present such an incredible amount of comics and collectibles in so little space. Anyhow, the market today is as it is. And covers are important. Most publishers put all their energy and efforts in the first two issues with big names and variant covers. Does that mean that other issues of a series are less interesting? No. But past #3 issues, there’s a temptation from the readers and the retailers to wait for the collected edition, the “trade”. I say: DON’T WAIT FOR THE TRADE! The single issues are vital to the comic book eco-system. Give floppies a chance! So, we thought about it, and after the first three issues of Intertwined, we decided, with our uber supportive publisher, to put big names on the cover for the last three. So, after Gerald Parel on #4 and Roland on #5, we’ll have Olivier Coipel on #6. One of the biggest names in comics today for our last issue. Who wants to miss that?
BB: Olivier Coipel, wow! … Any hints as to what lies before us in that grand finale issue, #6?
FS: There will be a major death in the last issue [on sale in March]. And if I tell you that I’m writing that issue with the Return of the Jedi soundtrack in the background, I might have told you too much … “It’s a trap!” (laughs).