Published April 25, 2017

Unearthing Secret Warriors

Artist Javier Garrón opens up about the earth-bound Inhumans team!

Image for Unearthing Secret Warriors

In the wake of Inhumans Vs. X-Men, the former group has decided to go a variety of different ways. While most of the ruling class heads out to space in ROYALS, some of the younger representatives will stick around in the pages of SECRET WARRIORS by Matthew Rosenberg and Javier Garrón, debuting May 10.

The group—consisting of Quake, Karnak, Inferno, Ms. Marvel, Moon Girl, and Devil Dinosaur—will not only find out what it’s like to be on a mostly Inhuman-less Earth, but also what they need to do to survive an evil Captain America as Secret Empire sweeps across the Marvel Universe.

We talked with Garrón about balancing these very different characters off of one another and working with rising star Rosenberg. SECRET WARRIORS features a lot of established characters. How is it putting your own design spin on them?

Javier Garrón: First and foremost it’s an immense honor! And right after that, it’s so much fun! On one hand, these characters are incredibly loved by the fans, so you have a huge respect for their legacy and what they mean to the readers. I’m a big, lifelong Marvel fan myself, so I hope I’m bringing all that love and respect into the mix.

On the other hand, looking at them with a professional eye, they’re such great characters by definition that it’s really, really fun to make them move, act, and interact. And on top of all of that, getting to add littles touches here and there! Making them your own, even for a brief moment, characters like Ms. Marvel or Karnak, [to] act through them, is a pure delight.

I’m always very weary of changing them, trying my best to respect the iconic designs the fans love, but also trying to make them mine, in a pure egoistic way, as long as I can play with them. And that usually comes from their facial expressions and their body language, how they express themselves without even talking. Or what they wear when they’re not in hero uniform. Or where they are. Lighting, hair design, art direction, panel composition. The art should express graphically and complement what the text says without being redundant, so even reading the panels without balloons you could understand what is going on. And that’s the moment when they become a little yours, not even needing to change a thing about their most popular design but speaking through all the details around them. The original Secret Warriors team had something of a unified look. Was there any intention of doing that with this group?

Javier Garrón: Not at least for the first story arc, but not because it’s something that didn’t cross our mind. You plan something for the characters, story-wise, and then you build on top and around that, to make it believable. You start to make decisions on a creative level that make sense with that and contribute to tell that story. And in our particular case, for the first story it didn’t make sense to have them all suited up in official hero uniforms. It totally made sense with the original group, but we’ll have to wait a bit longer and see what happens!

I love character design—in fact it’s a mix between pure, sheer fun with a [slight] flavor of fear that comes from touching previously loved designs—and I’m totally in for that, but it needs to make sense, the story kind of needs to ask for it. Our heroes need to go through a little learning curve to start being a team, to trust each other and work cooperatively before the official merchandise [arrives]!

But, Devil Dinosaur dressed with a tiny spandex uniform? Logistically it may not be the best option for him to operate, but oh my god! Can you imagine how cute would he be? I would totally buy that! Many of these characters are used to working on their own. Does it take them a while to figure out how to work well together?

Javier Garrón: That’s a great question! Our initial story brings our heroes together for the first time, amongst extremely difficult circumstances—that is, the Secret Empire event—and with very different personalities and backgrounds, in some cases I must say quite opposite! The great thing about the story we’re building is that it gives each character some room to breathe and show herself/himself as the main story moves forward, but also allowing them to interact; it’s an artful triple juggling art that Matthew Rosenberg, our incredible writer, is accomplishing with perfection.

In a natural way of developing the story, these heroes won’t make an instant team the moment they meet. They’ll have to figure out what it is that makes them need each other, why the world needs them both as separate heroes and as a team. We have an amazing cast of heroes for the team, but it doesn’t feel like a natural fit in the first place, they don’t seem like they’ve been best buddies for a long time. They look more like people who wouldn’t actually hang around with each other if they had to choose. But that’s when the magic of the scripts [comes] in, and these awesome dynamics between the characters start to happen. Things start to build up. And, in my humble opinion, I think that’s way more fun, to be able to see how things grow and happen, instead of be given things already done. It’s certainly more rewarding as an artist and I think it pays off in a more satisfying way for the reader—which is ultimately what we’re all here for. The book features everyone from a huge red dinosaur to the shape-shifting Ms. Marvel. How is it composing them all in the same panel or splash page?

Javier Garrón: Well, you have to use a lot of tricks and scratch your head quite a bit! One of the main tools we have as artists is the use of perspective. Small objects seem bigger when they’re close to the lens of the camera—I mean, the camera of the mind!—and big objects seem smaller when they are far from it. The thing you have to keep in mind is leaving enough visual references in the panel so the reader can easily get that people didn’t suddenly get shrunk or enlarged, they’re just at different distances from the point of view and from each other. That’s really useful for establishing shots in battles for many reasons, not only for picturing the big characters alongside the little ones.

We have here people with very impressive powers, and to show the true epic scale of that you need space in the panel, that way you kill two birds with one stone! Or you can go for the visual gag, and while keeping a regular shot with the main characters doing their thing, make Devil Dinosaur bend desperately and try to sneak the nose in the background at least! Like saying, you know, “Hey! Hey guys! Hello? I’m here too! Come on!” How fun is it working with Devil Dinosaur and Lockjaw?

Javier Garrón: It’s insanely fun! Let’s take Devil Dinosaur. I mean, seriously look at him: he’s a giant T-Rex! He’s scary! But because of his relationship with Moon Girl we have instead this kind of giant red puppy. As a character, he offers a huge range of possibilities, from loyal mascot friend to destructive rage force, so you can do a lot of stuff with him. It’s not just a background prop, you know? Also, not being able to talk gives him a whole new level of silent discourse. You have to force his gestures and facial expressions to make him express what he wants, and that’s just so much fun. I can’t stop thinking about those “sad T-Rex” internet memes with the poor dinosaur trying to grab things, make his bed, or play drums but epically failing because of the tiny arms he has. That kind of visual silent gag makes an instant connection with the character, you feel more for him in less time, it’s incredibly useful as a storyteller.

Also, you get to draw people on a regular basis, and both present day cities and futuristic ones, weapons of all kind and shape, but dinosaurs? Giant teleporting dogs? That’s incredibly fun! Everything that goes a little off the normal is both refreshing and rewarding [on] a creative level. How has it been working with Matthew so far on this series?

Javier Garrón: Let me tell you, Matt is a genius! His scripts work on so many levels, and he manages to nail each and every one of them. As a reader I feel a bit disappointed when you finish your monthly comic from your favorite character’s series and you’re left with the sensation that nothing happened there, that those were 20 empty pages, and that’s something that won’t happen with SECRET WARRIORS. There’s so much going on! We have two alternate levels of main story, both present and past, set with a perfect pace; we also have the character’s own backgrounds and personalities plus the interactions they have. Plus all the people they find in their way and the villains they fight! Everything moves forward by the hand, so it is quite impressive. And the dialogue’ oh the dialogue! There’s so much fun in that.

I knew [Matthew] was an extremely talented narrator from reading his marvelous previous work, but he’s reaching new heights of awesomeness here!

There [are] so many great things about to happen in this series, but I can’t tell you! Because they’re warriors but, in the end, they’re secret! It’s going to be a rollercoaster of emotions, totally worth the ride, believe me.

SECRET WARRIORS #1 by Matthew Rosenberg and Javier Garrón sneaks out on May 10!