On The Run With Livewire: Talking With Series Artists Raúl Allén And Patricia Martín

by Hannah Means Shannon

This December, Valiant introduces a major new solo series for one of their key characters, the person who arguably sparked the major events of Harbinger Wars 2, Livewire. Highlighted as a major player in the earlier series Secret Weapons, Livewire is a powerful psiot who can control machines and who came to build her own team of misfit psiots once discarded by Toyo Harada.

But in the aftermath of Harbinger Wars 2, during a time when she’s been branded a terrorist for her actions, we catch up with Amanda McKee as she’s very much on the run. Is she going to need help to make it through this time, and if she does, will she find any given the tide of anger and resentment against her?

Written by Vita Ayala (Supergirl, The Wilds, Suicide Squad) and illustrated by the Secret Weapons team of Raúl Allén And Patricia Martín, Livewire gives an interesting and complex character the spotlight she deserves, even if that might take us to some dark places.

Raúl Allén And Patricia Martín join us today to explore their work on the new series.

Hannah Means-Shannon: When you think of your original designs and presentation of Livewire, how do they compare to the way in which she appears in this new series? Does this reflect the harrowing events she’s been through in Harbinger Wars 2?

Raúl Allén & Patricia Martín: When depicting Livewire in this new series, our intention has always been to show her human side more than the larger-than-life superhero facet we are so used to seeing. While showing that side is necessary and also a lot of fun, anything that helps to add an extra dimension to Livewire is welcome. This is not to say you can’t do that while having the character dressed up in a superhero suit – we have seen plenty of successful examples of this, and it creates a very interesting contrast in itself. But the moment Livewire becomes a wanted terrorist, the best option for her is to keep a low profile, so we will see her out of the suit more often.

HMS: The preview of issue #1 that’s been released shows Amanda taking on a very dramatic “plane situation” that once again shows just how powerful she is. Have you ever done an aerial scene like this before? What were some of the challenges for you?

RA: I have been working as an illustrator for the last 15 years in addition to my work as a comic book artist, so I have encountered quite a few crazy and dramatic scenes.

Still, any new project is a challenge in itself. When working in comics, both Patricia and I have a similar understanding of how to tell a story. This is clearly the case where a blockbuster approach would be to throw in all the pyrotechnics and effects and to turn things into an absolute visual festival. We tend to lower the budget a bit because you know all those effects and CGI are not cheap… Jokes aside, the intention is to communicate first and create awe later.

PM: In this particular scene, which we all have seen in movies countless times, things move really fast and there are a lot of things happening at once. On the screen you can see an object fly by you and go off into the distance, so in a comic you have to suggest all of these things. I wanted to emphasize all those things happening at once through a layout that shows chaos and can be read in different ways and still work, while keeping the overall structure of the page working within the scene and the book as a whole.

HMS: Will we be seeing other members of the Secret Weapons team reunited with Amanda in the new series? If so, how might we find them changed by their experiences in the interim?

RA & PM: We are going to be seeing many characters throughout the story. The Secret Weapons team is an important part of Livewire’s recent history and a trigger to a lot of the things that have happened, so they are a part of the book in that sense. Whether we see them or not, you know Amanda shares an emotional connection with them.

Secret Weapons was a story about a team and everybody had their spotlight. Livewire is fully centered on Amanda and the inner journey she is going through. We can see how her actions have affected those around her, and the Secret Weapons team is no exception.

Also, everybody does want to see them return…

HMS: Valiant has often discussed the fact that their characters aren’t really heroes or villains, but can be pushed one way or the other. When you think of Livewire, what do you think are her most positive qualities and what are her most dangerous ones?

RA & PM: This is one the most interesting aspects of Valiant, because we all have different sides to ourselves, and depending on which one you feed the most, things are going to be very different.

Livewire has a strong sense of compassion. Her humanity is her best quality, but also her most dangerous one. Vita [Ayala] is great at blurring that line.

HMS: Do you have any specific visual strategies for conveying those positive or negative qualities to the reader?

RA & PM: You want to be subtle with this, otherwise you are spelling things out for the reader a little too much. And you don’t want that, you want everyone to experience the story on their own terms and complete what you have laid out for them. That way, Livewire automatically becomes a much more complex character – she can be seen as a villain or a heroine, or even as both at the same time.

HMS: Once in a New York Comic Con panel, Patricia said that she felt the Secret Weapons psiots “deserve to be in the Valiant Universe”. I was wondering if you could expand on that sentiment.

PM: Secret Weapons planted a seed, and I think we are all fascinated by what can grow out of that. Obviously, we became very attached to the characters and we have our own ideas of how they would grow as individuals and as a team.

HMS: It looks like Amanda will have to do a lot of “clean up” in her public role, where she’s been branded a terrorist, and in her personal life, where she has abandoned people. Are there going to be as many argument scenes as fight scenes in this comic? Which do you prefer to illustrate?

PM: Argument scenes are a great vehicle to see the emotional conflict in the characters and are usually perfect to play with the subtleties of how a character moves and makes gestures.  Raúl loves drawing portraits and facial expressions, and conversations are scenes that allow him to play with that.

We are going to see plenty of both. Vita understands that better than anyone and created a perfect balance between argument and fight scenes for this series.

Thanks so much to Raúl Allén and Patricia Martín for taking part in this interview!

Issue #1 of the new Livewire series will arrive in comic shops on December 19th, 2018.

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