Ed Laroche wants to change the culture surrounding comic artists. With his storyboard background and cinematic visual style, the writer and artist definitely has the potential to turn his latest work, The Warning — a high stakes military action comic, out this week through Image Comics — into both an epic comic book run and a blockbuster movie.
Laroche learned his craft and the business at an early age. He self-published several graphic novels, including Waveform, Bad Summer, and Almighty independently before Joe Casey (Ben10 creator and Man of Action writer) encouraged Laroche to bring The Warning to Image.
SYFY WIRE recently spoke to the writer and artist about his process, why he prefers manga over mainstream comics, and why the sequential medium should be considered high art.
Where did you grow up and how did you get into drawing and creating?
Ed Laroche: I was born and raised in Los Angeles and summers my mother used to send me back east to hang out with my cousins and my extended family. I had a cousin who collaborated with a friend to make their own comics out in Jamaica, Queens back in the seventies. Originally I think what I wanted to try to do is kind of emulate what they were doing in the hopes that I could impress them.
I was an only child and I had a lot of time on my hands so I would draw and create my own heroes, and create my own stories. I learned a lot about comics from my cousin. Something he impressed upon me was how important it is to be able to tell who an artist was just by looking at the style of a comic. So the immense contribution of the artist in the comic book format was impressed upon me at a very early age.
Who are some of the artists that you feel like really resonated with you the most?
Pretty much all the good stuff. John Byrne, Frank Miller, Gil Kane, Bill Sienkiewicz, all these guys. And nowadays, I buy mostly manga. Like Tsutomu Nihei and Junji Ito. These guys are doing books now that I hope to one day. I hope to be able to get to that level of craftsmanship and skill and storytelling in my own work.
You have a unique perspective on what it means to be a comic book artist, can you elaborate on that?
I feel in the comic book world right now, there's no equivalent to Dada or surrealism or any of these movements that the art world have. With comic books, the concept of the art lifestyle is not fully developed. So, how I approach comic book work as opposed to when I’m storyboarding, (which is what I do to keep the lights on and the plates spinning) is different. I keep many sketchbooks and have kept sketchbooks for a long time, to jot down ideas. I jot down bits of dialogue that might be looking for a home later on, even song lyrics from music that I'm listening to at the time. It's an art journal. I am an artist, not just by vocation, but as a lifestyle. So that means that I have to be open artistically. I have a responsibility to learn about other artists and other art movements.
With comics nowadays, there's a separation between the writer and the artists. [It’s cheaper to hire] a lot of guys from overseas and yeah, they may be able to take a reference of New York or California, but if you've never really been here, you're not going to be able to get the little details that come across in authentic visual storytelling.
It sounds like working with Image was perfect for you because I hear they’re pretty hands off right?
Exactly, and in my case I've already done 350 pages of The Warning. I'm done. I mean, the deadlines I'm meeting right now are making sure that the color work is coming in because I got Brad Simpson on there and he's coloring issue six right now, and so from this point on, it's just like kind of team management. I did the whole book before I even tried to pitch it.
What was your pitch for The Warning?
Basically, The Warning is an alien invasion military action movie, but as if directed by Terrence Malick. So it's a tentpole action movie, but at its heart is an independent film. I really wanted to explore scale.
Who is the super soldier featured throughout that first issue, and did Dr. Lin have something to do with his creation?
His name is Joshua. And he wasn't born artificial, but now he's enhanced. For six months, this machine has been materializing in this city. So during that time different parts of the military come together to prepare for whatever is about to happen. So Dr. Lin is part of this genomic research facility where they were tasked to sort of augment certain soldiers [that meet specific criteria].
Sounds like a cross between Mass Effect and a little bit of Planet X conspiracy.
Nibiru! Yeah, exactly.
What was it like working with a team on The Warning? Someone else colored that one correct?
It's interesting, because I'm colorblind, so most of my stuff is black and white or really desaturated. What happened was, I'm a friend of Joe Casey, and he’s really big, like along with Steve Siegel, Duncan Rouleau, Joe Kelly, they’re the Man of Action guys. And one day I was having lunch with Joe and I decided to bring along a galley copy of The Warning, which at that time was maybe 250 pages or something.
I just needed to make it. If I wouldn't have gotten the Image deal, I would have printed 500 copies of a 350-page graphic novel, had a couple stores sell it out here and there, I would have been totally fine with that. But Joe was like, "No, no, no. Image has got to print this dude." Now, I've sent all my books through Image. I've never gotten a response. And Joe says, "They'll print this. I'm going to show it to the right people and everything will work out." Eric Stephenson saw it and he [pushed for] color. So then Joe recommended Brad. I've been working on this thing for, for like five years, to have somebody come on and work on it was strange for me.
I had to ask other people and everyone I showed it to loved it. I realized that this is what the work needs to be right now. I was very lucky that I got partnered up with Brad because he's amazing.
Are Joshua and his team contractors like Blackwater?
No, part of what I wanted to explore with the action, is sort of a tentpole movie in terms of the scale of things. Especially when it came to something like an alien invasion. Realistically it would be like multiple military, uh, agencies, all with their own bureaucracies kind of working together.
The Warning is kind of like my attempt to kind of define these super soldiers. They're not superheroes, because that whole genre is very well taken care of. But there's four super soldiers. You've met Joshua in issue one; in issue two, you get to meet the other two. The other people who survived the process. One is an Ethiopian IDF soldier. The other is a Chinese PLA soldier, and the other is a British RAF pilot. They're from all over the world.
If there was a mission where they're trying to deal with this alien threat, realistically, they’re not going to ever really be working next to each other because they're doing different parts of the mission. So you have a, a core, you have a core group of four soldiers, right? But they are part of a larger battalion or brigade called Gladiator Two Six.
Part of the reason why it's called Gladiator Two Six is because The Warning is based on a comic book I did in high school called The Gladiators, which came from this idea that I created back when I was a little kid when I used to go to New York and hang out with my cousins when I was a little kid. So it’s come full circle.
Issue 1 of The Warning is available now through Image Comics.