Image Watch – Talking Outcast With Paul Azaceta

By David Dissanayake

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Outcast, the new Skybound/Image Comics horror series from Robert Kirkman, Paul Azaceta, and Elizabeth Breitweiser hit stands a couple weeks ago to almost universal acclaim.  A really well constructed neo-horror story of demons and possessions, Outcast is off to a very promising start with its double-sized first issue. It is decidedly different from Kirkman's perhaps better known horror book The Walking Dead (you may have heard of it), yet it is still on par in terms of its quality and execution.

I had a chance to have a really fun chat with series' artist and rising star Paul Azaceta about all things Outcast, and here is how it went:

David Dissanayake: So how did you and Robert Kirkman come to work on this project?

Paul Azaceta: Basically, Robert just kind of emailed me and asked if I was interested in doing something monthly with him. Of course I was excited but Robert and I have actually kind of known each other for years, just because he's been with Image and I've done a couple books with them, and also through the comic book community and mutual friends, and we've known each other for years.  We actually spoke a few years ago about doing something maybe for Marvel briefly. We've always had a kind of acquaintance.

I guess when this came up he thought as an artist I would fit the kind of story he wanted to tell.  I was very excited to get to work with Kirkman and all, but I was a little nervous because this is my first monthly book – I've only done arcs – and this is much more of a big commitment.  But after he told me what it's about and what he wants to do with the story, I couldn't say no.  It's been a lot of fun.

DD: So refresh our readers on what the story is about, in case they haven't read the first issue.

PA: It's a horror book about possessions and exorcisms, so it's a little different from the other horror books that Kirkman has done before.  It's about a character named Kyle Barns who has been plagued with possessions by demons, and all this weird stuff is happening in his life ever since he was a child.  It comes to a boil, and I don't want to give away too much, but it's about Kyle becoming proactive in trying to figure out what the heck is going on after playing a victim for his whole life.  It all leads to fun stuff and fun comic book moments.

DD: What is the working relationship like between you and Robert in terms of the creative process? Does he give you full scripts or do you do plot first, or something in between?

PA: We talk on the phone a bunch and he answers any question I have and he's told me what is coming up and what we're doing.  Before he hands me a script he tells me what he's trying to do with it in terms of tone and all the other stuff.

It's basically full script, but he lets me play around, and it's not written in stone.  He lets me change things if I need to, but the scripts have been pretty tight and I've enjoyed it very much.  I haven't really changed much.  I'll show him thumbnails and see what he thinks.  It's kind of a back and forth.  It's fun.  It's a good creative relationship, I think.

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DD: Now I'm curious, you said this is your first monthly book, so I'm wondering if this is any different as opposed to what it was on your Graveyard of Empires book or something like that. How do you approach the board on this project?

PA: My approach to it is a lot different. Actually since the first issue is double sized, it took longer, but outside of that it actually took me a little longer than usual to get that one done.  All I was thinking about was that I was nervous because this is going to be monthly for however many issues who knows, and if I draw this house I'm going to have to draw it a thousand times.  I actually drew a floor plan of Kyle's house.  There is a lot more planning so I don't run into problems later so I don't draw the kitchen over here when it was over there before or other weird logistical problems like that.  Just with designing I took a little more time to avoid problems, and so far so good.

DD: Will you be doing- I guess you could call it the Saga Model- where you do five or six issues in a row and then take a month or two off to recharge and get working on the next arc?

PA: The plan is right now to do as much of the first couple arcs as straight as possible without taking a break at all.  It depends on where we're at and how far ahead we are.  We've had plenty of time and we're  pretty ahead, but with monthly books before you know it things get screwed up for whatever reason.  Then after that we'll probably fall into the for lack of a better term Saga format of doing an arc, taking a month off when the trade will come out that month so there's something on the shelf.

I'm going to be the only artist on the book, and we're not looking to do fill-ins.  As long as I don't lose a limb or something, I'm going to finish it. It's just a question of doing it in a way that my wife still knows what I look like and I'm not hiding in my cave the whole time [laughs].

DD: I'm curious, in terms of your artwork, when you look back at some of the comics you were reading growing up or some of the artists you really like, who would consider to be your big influences?

PA: First and foremost is always Alex Toth.  I grew up in the 90's so it was a lot of Todd McFarlane and Rob Liefeld and the whole Image thing.  All those guys were huge and I loved them, but then I discovered Alex Toth and everything shifted for me as far as my artwork and what I liked in my tastes.  I guess I matured in a way.  It's just a different sensibility and I was starting to get more into the subtle things in blacks and whites, and that's in everything that Toth does.  It just kind of opened my eyes.

From there it just lead on into people like Mike Mignola and others who do that kind of stuff.  As far as American artists, definitely Toth and David Mazzucchelli, but there are a bunch of Italian and European artists I have .jpeg files of their untranslated stuff.

I always look for naturalism, I guess is what you would call it, rather than just realism.  The subtleties and the graphic shapes of things.  Any artist that fits into that turns me on artistically.

DD: Last question: what comics are you excited about right now? Is there anything out or coming out soon that you're stoked to read?

PA: Not to sound nepotistic and just promote Image, but a lot of Image.  What Rick Remender is doing with Deadly Class I've enjoyed recently.  Wes Craig is doing a phenomenal job with the art on that book, and Lee Loughridge on colors.  The whole package is just f#^%ing phenomenal.  I'm super excited that Stray Bullets  started again.  The Chirs Samnee and Mark Waid Daredevil stuff.  I've known Waid for a little bit now and I just love everything he does.  Oh, and Thor.  The Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic stuff is amazing.  They're just the perfect people to be doing that book.  They both look like Vikings too, like they should be from Asgard.

This second printing of Outcast issue #1 (Diamond Code MAY148172) will be available on 7/30.

Outcast issue #2 (Diamond Code MAY140719) will hit shelves on 7/30.

David Dissanayake is a Senior San Francisco Correspondent at Bleeding Cool.  Give him a shout on Twitter @dwdissanayake or come say hello to him at Mission: Comics & Art in San Francisco.