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The Hostage: How artist Sal Abbinanti melds Brazilian culture with mysticism in new Kickstarter project

By Jeff Spry
hostage hero

A new Kickstarter campaign for writer/illustrator Sal Abbinanti's startling graphic novel, The Hostage, has just launched and it's steeped in the intriguing culture and vibrant colors of Brazil — and SYFY WIRE has an exclusive preview to share alongside comments on the artistic process from its visionary creator. 

The Hostage presents the heartbreaking tale of a group of street kids abandoned by society. Slowly dying due to neglect from poverty and gang violence, the kids unite to summon a mystical spirit who will hopefully protect them and avenge the deaths of their close friends.


For over two decades, the Chicago-born artist has been dreaming of delivering a fantasy graphic novel influenced and inspired by a trip he made to Brazil when he was in his early adulthood. Now this passion project is coming to fruition in a deluxe crowdfunding endeavor presenting a 115-page, full-color graphic novel set in the shantytowns of Rio de Janeiro.

When Abbinanti was 25 he spent six months hanging out in Rio de Janeiro as a starry-eyed, college student who ventured south for a Brazilian holiday of samba, nightlife, and beaches. The extreme level of poverty, suffering, and death in Rio was something he never forgot and this project acts as a tribute to the country's interesting culture and the kids living in the ghettos.

Abbinanti is well known in the art world as an official representative for comic book legends Alex Ross and Bill Sienkiewicz, and also as the life-model for many masterworks by Ross, including his heroic portraits of Shazam. 

Included in the Kickstarter campaign are limited edition lithographs from Alex Ross, Bill Sienkiewicz, Jeffrey Alan Love, Sanjulián, Geof Darrow, and Eric Powell, as well as tiers with original sketch cards, postcards, and bookmarks by Abbinanti. It expects to ship sometime in June of 2021.

hostage 7

"It’s an enormous sense of accomplishment to have The Hostage finished and about to be in tangible printed form," Abbinanti tells SYFY WIRE. "The project has lived in my head for such a long time, so to have it come together and be able to reach people through my art is extremely exciting."

The delirious artwork showcased in The Hostage immediately makes it one of the more provocative enterprises of the year, and here Abbinanti takes us through his studio techniques for one of the book's key page spreads.

Hostage process 1

"I have an old drafting table that was gifted to me by my late Mother-in-law Emiko," he tells SYFY WIRE. "It is big and bulky, old school and wonderfully inspiring to work from. I start with small thumb nail drawings, I have some great old paper that I bought in Lucca, Italy that is off white, old school and very inspiring to work with. I don’t use computers or Wacom tablets. I like standard Strathmore 3 ply cold press board that has teeth to it. I rule and cut out my boards myself."

Hostage process 3

"The layouts I constructed for this book are not traditional in the comics sense," he explains. "I’ve been an admirer of folks who push boundaries with their art and I continue to challenge myself and try things every time I create. The key for me is to not be afraid of trying anything. Bill Sienkiewicz gave me some art advice once and I never forgot it “Always try and surprise yourself.”"

Hostage process 6

"Then comes the shading and the color. Markers can be an effective way to bring a kinetic energy with broad strokes and lines," Abbinanti adds. "Watercolor paints are also a great medium that lends itself to improvisation in art. I like to push the water around and lift things up a bit when you want to create subtle backgrounds and blends. 

"I put pencil to paper right away once I know what I’m after and then lay some watercolor right on top of the graphite to get some textures. Place some water on that then lay some watercolor paint on that. Let it dry or rush it along a bit with a hair dryer then use some big pens and markers atop that. Go in with some white out pens and spatter it a bit with a toothbrush. A double page spread is mostly about the layout and vibe of what you’re after." 

Hostage process 7

Abbinanti's crowdfunding campaign is currently active and concludes on February 25, with various pledge tiers ranging from a digital edition available in both English and Portuguese, to The Complete Hostage Package, packed with an 11x17 original drawing by Abbinanti and a complete collection of lithographs by all guest artists.

Now enjoy our seven-page peek at Sal Abbinanti's The Hostage in the gallery below.

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