Issue #2 of writer Mark Russell and artists Richard Pace, Leonard Kirk, and Andy Troy’s Second Coming debuts this week from AHOY Comics, continuing to follow Jesus Christ as, at the prompting of his Heavenly Father, he becomes acquainted with the ways of the world by rooming with the superhero Sunstar, who’s not quite the “turn the other cheek” type as is the Son of God.
As we noted in our interview with Russell, the road to getting Second Coming into the hands of readers has been a long one and not without controversy, but it’s heartening now to see such a funny, dynamic, and poignant book get the positive attention it rightfully deserves.
A huge part of what makes Second Coming such a joy to experience is the art from Pace, Kirk, and Troy, as their collaboration works to seamlessly incorporate a wide range of elements—life on Earth, the landscape of the Afterlife, superheroic derring-do—and make them all work—and work well—to create a cohesive story.
Misters Pace, Kirk, and Troy spoke with me about making Second Coming come to life, their process in making Mr. Russell’s words translate to the comic’s page, and their favorite parts of working on such a unique book.
FreakSugar: Second Coming is an engaging satire that has a ton of comedy, action, and heart. How did the three of you become involved in the series?
Richard Pace: I’d worked with then Vertigo editor Molly Mahan doing covers for Imaginary Fiends. She liked my work and thought I’d be a good fit for Second Coming. Originally it was going to just be me with the very talented Lovern Kindzierski on colour art.
When we got the book back and were moving to AHOY Comics, I had the chance to look at the book and reconsider the artistic choices. During the gap, Curt Swan’s birthday was celebrated on all the usual social media platforms and I had one of those “ah-hah” moments. If the scenes with Sunstar had that sort of classic superhero feel, then the transition between the divine and the mundane world would have more impact and, hopefully, establish how more human the issues facing even the superheroes in this story.
Andy Troy: Several months ago, the awesome Tom Peyer told me that AHOY had a project coming up that might be somewhat controversial and asked if I’d be okay with being a part of it. I love working with Tom and I don’t really have a set of rules as to what I will or won’t work on so of course I said yes!
Leonard Kirk: I joined after the project had already left DC and was picked up by AHOY. Richard gave me a call, explaining that he and Tom Peyer were wanting a bit more of a “classic” super hero kind of look to the art for the Earthbound pages and asked if I was interested. The timing was actually perfect. I have been mostly exclusive with Marvel for about a decade and juggling projects between both Marvel and DC could have raised some difficulties. With the shift to AHOY, the door for me was wide open.
FreakSugar: The series is a unique kind of book. It has a superhero, but it’s not exactly normal superhero fare. How do you approach a comic like Second Coming?
Richard Pace: Getting Leonard to redo my finished pages for issues one and two and finish for the rest of the series from my layout is the perfect situation to do this. Luckily, Leonard is also as invested in the humanity and gesture of the characters, so I think, despite the clear difference in how we finish our drawings, the characters “act” consistently.
Andy Troy: With colors, a lot had already been established and I loved it so it was easy to follow in that direction.
Leonard Kirk: I took a cue from some of Richard’s pages and simply tried to make things a little more “normal” or, at least, as normal as possible with a superhero comic. Sunstar is bigger and stronger than everyone else, but his costume has wrinkles and, sometimes, you see stubble growing on his chin.
FreakSugar: Following up on that, what kind of creative muscles does Second Coming allow you to flex that you may not be able to in other projects?
Richard Pace: The superheroics are pretty muted in this series and call back to the silver age of comics. Fighting giant robots and intelligent gorillas is par for the course here, and Leonard’s line echoes that time while being wholly modern.
Leonard Kirk: That’s a tough one to answer. I suppose one thing I get to do is be a little more graphic and less restrained with the subject matter. I don’t need to concern myself with trying to tailor my work to a general audience. I can just draw what is needed for telling the story without worrying about restrictions.
Richard Pace: I feel lucky in that Second Coming is playing to my strengths as a storyteller and artist. I get to draw the strange and try and make it feel grounded.
FreakSugar: Andy and Richard, the colors on the book are pitch perfect, with the palette change between Heaven and Earth really setting the tone. What was the process like for deciding how to color the comic?
Richard Pace: I colour all the scenes set in Heaven, the Biblical past, or dealing solely with the divine/infernal characters. The palette I use for these locations are inspired by both renaissance art as well as surrealist paintings. I want to get earthy, saturated colours with a sense of light with these pages.
Andy Troy: Richard wonderfully colors the Heaven scenes so to help differentiate those from the Earth scenes I felt they should be natural and relatively realistic. The art is so fantastic that coloring it is a breeze!
FreakSugar: The pencils and inks for both locales also bring such a wonderful atmosphere to the book. What was the process of how you wanted both Heaven and Earth to look like in the book?
Leonard Kirk:.For my part, I’m mostly just focused on Earth looking like Earth and leaving the phantasmagorical for Richard in Heaven.
Richard Pace: he design of Heaven was left to me, which was a wonderful gift. It’s an afterlife for a world where all the superhero stuff happens, so I’m populating it with aliens, animal-headed angels, sentient animals, giant purple dinosaurs, and more. Earth, especially Urban City, is supposed to feel like a more run-down Metropolis from the 60s. That was Mark’s direction, and it’s a great one.
FreakSugar: Can you walk us through the decision making in how you wanted the cast designs to be for Second Coming?
Richard Pace: I like the idea of casting an actor or three as a major character, then drawing them a number of times from reference, then drawing them more from memory until there’s a learned take on the character that isn’t anywhere near a likeness, but a type that you can make perform with your drawings. In this case, I started with Jon Hamm for Sunstar, George Harrison as Jesus, and the great Scottish actor Bryan Cox as God.
Leonard Kirk: Richard has already done much of the heavy lifting in designing Second Coming, but starting with issue three, I get to have a little fun throwing in some of my own ideas. Mostly, my designs revolve around secondary characters and I take most of my cues from the script. If the character’s appearance is a punchline, my design is more likely to be a bit silly. If the scene calls for something more serious, then that’s the direction I take.
FreakSugar: All of your styles really complement one another’s skills wonderfully. What was your collaboration with Mark like as the book came together?
Richard Pace: I feel Mark’s trusted me to tell the story from his script and there’s been very little pushback to my changes or additions. There was some concern over the fruit in the Garden that we had to talk out, but everything else has been very minor. I’m lucky in the amount of space Mark gives me to make his script into the best comic I can.
Leonard Kirk: I haven’t really had much communication with Mark, not with the first few issues, anyway. Much of the work on scripts, designs, layouts, etc. were wrapped up for those chapters well before I was brought in. I imagine I will have more contact with Mark on later issues, as the series progresses.
FreakSugar: As I said, Second Coming mixes so many different tones and ideas. What has been your favorite part working on the series?
Andy Troy: The charming interactions between Jesus and Sunstar!
Leonard Kirk: After doing so much of my own artwork, from start to finish, for so many years, it’s a bit of a treat to work with someone else’s designs, layouts, pencils, etc. It’s fun to see how someone else might establish a setting or place characters, for a change.
Richard Pace: I’ve favourite parts in every issue, and I’m grateful the move to AHOY is allowing us the make something this unique.
FreakSugar: Is there anything you can tease about what we can expect in the coming issues of Second Coming?
Leonard Kirk: More cow bell.
Richard Pace: Issue two has the gag we had to fight to hardest to get in the book.
Second Coming #2 goes on sale tomorrow, Wednesday, August 14th, from AHOY Comics.
From the official issue description:
The book everyone’s talking about! When a weirdo stalks and threatens Sunstar’s girlfriend, Jesus tries to prevent the superhero from succumbing to rage—but God has other plans. Plus AHOY’s customary offerings of illustrated short prose fiction.