Coming early this 2018 is a new series called VS. Written by Ivan Brandon (Black Cloud, Drifter)with art by Esad Ribić (Secret Wars, Uncanny X-Force), painted colors by: Nic Klein (Drifter), and designed by Tom Muller, VS looks absolutely stunning even from this very early preview of the series (a glimpse of the book can be seen at the bottom of the page).

The synopsis of VS is this: “War has become a spectator sport. Privately funded armies of superstar soldiers march into battle for fame, profit, and the glory of their sponsor nations. When a new generation of soldiers arrive, top gladiator Satta Flynn is about to discover how fleeting the limelight can be—and how punishing.”

We had a chance to talk with some of the creative team about this new series. Check out our interview with Ivan Brandon and Esad Ribic below!

Even just in the synopsis of VS, it seems like there’s a lot to be said about the current political climate and where things feel like they’re going. Was that something you actively took into consideration while working on the series?

Ivan Brandon: We’ve been working on this idea for a while, but it’s funny (sad!) how the real world will seem to be harmonizing with you. There’s definitely a lot of the state of the world seeping into the book.

Esad Ribic: Yeah, but you can get reasonably succesful in predicting stuff if you extrapolate current processes into the future, stuff tends to follow its logical course based on demographics and technology. Of course you try to pick predictions that are good metaphors for whatever you want to say.

Ivan, where did you draw inspiration to build the world as a writer? And Esad, as an artist, how did you build the looks for the characters?

IB: I’m inspired by Esad, most of all, but also watching the world advance on these parallel paths where fiction crosses violently into reality. When I was a kid we were headed towards this shiny pretty future but human decency is determined to drag its feet. The science pushes on while the people arguably move backwards. Somewhere in the middle of all that is a fertile breeding ground for SPACE GLADIATORS.

ER: There’s a trend for 2 centuries of cities growing and the countryside emptiying up, so we took it to the logical extreme of there being like 8 megacity/states around the world with the rest of it collapsed, since they get all they need from orbit and don’t really need states around them anymore. So you get a couple of different “utopias” and the rest of the world is real fucked up, plus you have an ice age, too!

Was the story of VS something you developed together as a team or did one of you approach the other for this project?

IB: We’d been very loosely talking about a couple things and a couple years ago I was wandering through Europe alone when I had a little bit of an epiphany and called Esad up to tell him about it. It was the loose bones of this world that could encapsulate the other ideas we’d been discussing.

ER: Yeah, we’ve been throwing shit at eachother for years, and some of it sticks!

What drives you both as storytellers? How do you push yourselves as creators to grow?

IB: Attention Deficit Disorder. I maybe accidentally grow because I lack the attention span to stay where I am.

ER: Inability to word my thoughts well over drinks in a bar, so I try to make my points in books. Not sure it’s more succesful, though.

With an entire series about profiting off of war, it seems as though Esad has his work cut out for him with some potentially big scenes. I’ve heard people say that it takes a minute to write “and then the two armies fight” but then the artist is responsible for bringing that epic scene to life which can take countless hours. Ivan, was this something that you took into effect when building the story? When you have a story that is so dependent on depicting huge scenes, how do you personally work to be considerate of your creative partner? And Esad, was this something you thought about yourself?

ER: Scale takes time, more scale: more time. Simple! This world is complex, and we went through a lots of aspects of it, so there were a lot of busy backgrounds. Mise-en-scene is, for me, almost the most important part of it.

IB: Over the years I’ve watched him work and seen his process and I know that his sense of scale is undaunted by any move on my end to keep things simple. Believe it or not, Esad adds twice as much as I put in there. My script style is fairly loose, I try to leave him enough room to add or simplify. Writers don’t love to hear this, but ultimately it’s the artists’ choices that tell the story to the reader.

And just a follow-up to the previous question in a more general way… what makes a great partnership between writer and artist when it comes to working together?

IB: Esad’s such a monster talent that it takes everything I have just to TRY to keep up, and he’s still lapping me around the world while I circle the office park. I put what I think are my best ideas at him and then he sends me back these literally humbling fully realized environments that make me want to quit my job and just watch him draw. Hopefully we’re listening to eachother. Certainly we’re trying to entertain each other. For me, most of all, this is a chance to have fun with a friend.

ER: Dunno, it’s easier to work with some writers than others, but that doesn’t necesarily mean the books are better. I guess it’s more how each of us responds to the other’s shortcomings. I guess it’s harder for the writer becouse he starts from nothing. Then I see what he did, and then he adapts, and then i adapt, and then….It’s like a dance! And only when it’s done you know if it was good!

So far within the series, what has been your favourite part of working on VS? And what have been some of the biggest challenges for each of you?

IB: Getting our schedules in sync has been a challenge. Getting his art makes up for anything else that’s going wrong in a given day.

ER: Favorite part is building the world. Biggest challenge is deadlines, doing two books at the same time is something I’ll never try again.

What is something that you want readers to really take from this series?

ER: Hope they contemplate the world a bit better than before.

IB: I hope it’s fun, first and foremost. Deep in that fun we’ve hidden a world that might be worth a third and fourth look.

In a time where fans are clamouring for creators to tell really rich and diverse stories, is that something you actively take into consideration when working on a book?

ER: Since the inhabitants of our world got compressed from all its other parts, you get diversity even in each individual character. I tried to draw it in the way that everybody’s kinda mixed.

IB: I grew up with a single Immigrant mom in a world where almost no one spoke english until I was old enough to shave. The only world I’ve ever known is a kaleidoscope of different cultures and shapes and ideas. It’s always important to me to reflect that in stories. I don’t really know how to think any other way.

And finally to finish things off— what goes on your dream pizza?

IB: Right now: spicy salame and honey.

ER: Everything except the dough, I’m trying to lose weight!

That’s it for our chat with Ivan Brandon and Esad Ribic. VS is out on February 7, 2018 so make sure you pre-order your copy today! Take a look at our preview of VS below:

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Stephanie Cooke
Stephanie is a Toronto based writer and editor. She's a comic book fan, avid gamer, movie watcher, lover of music, and sarcasm. She is a purveyor of too many projects and has done work for Talking Comics,, Agents of Geek, Word of the Nerd, C&G Magazine, Dork Shelf, and more. Her writing credits include "Home Sweet Huck" (Mark Millar's Millarworld Annual 2017), "Lungarella (Secret Loves of Geek Girls, 2016), "Behind Enemy Linens" (BLOCKED Anthology, 2017), "Home and Country" (Toronto Comics Anthology, 2017) and more to come. You can read more about her shenanigans over on her <a href="">personal web site</a>.

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