PRUETT TALKS DOMINO
By: Eric J. Moreels
Dateline: Thursday, July 5, 2001
X-Fan recently caught up with former X-Men Unlimited writer Joe Pruett to find out more about his upcoming Domino limited series with artist Brian Stelfreeze, set to debut in November.
"The basic premise is [that] Domino, for as long as she's been around, has never had a purpose," Pruett told X-Fan. "She's always been a partner (either with Cable or with X-Force) or a companion throughout her history. What is her story? What is her past? What will she be doing now that there's a new X-Force in town? With this limited series we hope to give her a focus, give her a purpose and give the reader a bit or an insider look at her. Will we give her an origin? I'm not going to tell. But there will be revelation(s) about this mysterious character that are to this point unknown. You WILL know more about her than you ever have before and by series' end the course of her future will be set."
Pruett also told X-Fan that the new mini won't tie-in with Domino's recent appearance in X-Force and her upcoming guest spot in the New X-Men 2001 Annual.
Last but not least, Pruett also revealed that he has a few more projects in the works at Marvel, but not for the X-offices. "I'm not saying I won't be doing anything there in the near future," said Pruett, "but nothing besides Domino for the foreseeable moment."
Interior pages (click for full-sized pages):
Domino - the girl with the big gun and black eye from X-Force. Superspy and occasional sex kitten, she hangs out with Cable, Wolverine and pretty much every mutant that has ties to Weapon X, Clan Askani and the Village People. She's definitely a popular gal. But while convoluted, her backstory offers little insight into the character. Writer Joe Pruett and artist Brian Stelfreeze hope to change that with Domino, a four issue miniseries from Marvel spotlighting the mutant super spy in May.
The genesis of the project dates back to days of “Counter X,” the X-title publishing move that shook up all the X-titles, Pruett says. "Actually this Domino project started out a couple of years ago," Pruett said. "Marvel was planning on having some huge month devoted to pushing the Counter X titles at the time. I was talking with Jason Liebig – one of my editors at Marvel at the time – and I mentioned to him that Brian Stelfreeze and I had talked at the Charlotte Heroes Con a few months earlier that we would like to do a project together and that Domino was a character we both agreed might be interesting. I hung up the phone with Jason and called up Brian and we agreed to do an over-sized one-shot for the Counter X month. Of course, the one shot turned into a four issue mini-series a short time later."
Pruett hopes to get to the core of the character with the mini. "We're going to touch on who Domino really is," Pruett said. "Does she even know who she is? Like most heroes of lore, there needs to be quest. There needs to be something to go in search for, something to challenge our heroine and something to achieve. Domino's going in search of her name--her real name. And what's the best way to do that? Why, find your mommy, of course."
Strong females have always been something appealing, Stelfreeze says. "I've always been artistically attracted to strong female characters," Stelfreeze said. "I'm definitely not a fan of the whole 'bad girl' attitude. That seems to take things too far. I like the contrast between strength and feminine vulnerability. I guess I've always liked Domino because she seems to visually personify these contrasts.
"I'm enjoying getting the opportunity to experiment. That's a nice thing about working on second-tier characters. This is particularly refreshing after working on Batman for a number of years, and having a phalanx of editors carefully scrutinize every line you draw. It's good to just be left alone."
Though known mainly for his covers, Stelfreeze is hoping to show off a bit with his interior work. "The truth is that it's still a work in progress," Stelfreeze said. "Single illustrations and sequential work are diametrically opposed to one another. One tries to stop the reader in their tracks, while the other attempts to move you along, so it's a totally different mindset. The thing that really helps me is to understand that cover illustrations are more about the drawing and interior work is more about the thinking. When I do interior work I try to thumbnail or lay out an entire issue before I start drawing.
"That's the thinking part of the job, the real work. After that, the drawing becomes automatic. Otherwise, I'd obsess over the details. Another major difference is the instantaneous gratification of doing single illustrations. I mean, I can finish a cover in a day or so and immediately have the satisfaction of a finished job. Interior work, on the other hand, is a much larger sense of accomplishment but it can often take months or years before you get it. It's quite different, but my artistic compass seems to be pointing me towards interior work right now and I'm having a good time with it."
Domino's look is one of the more unique designs in comics, Pruett says. "I always liked how she was visualized," Pruett said. "I thought it intriguing. There's something about a black eye and a purple outfit. Call me crazy. I also liked the idea that not much was known about her past life. As a writer, that leaves open a lot of story possibilities."
The chance to have complete visual control hooked Stelfreeze instantly. "My primary goal was to do a project and have complete visual control," Stelfreeze said. "As a painter you get quite accustomed to knowing exactly how to work should look from start to finish, and it's difficult to give up that luxury. It's very disappointing to do a project and feel satisfied with your work on the pencils or inks only to discover that you've been hacked to pieces in the coloring, separations, or even balloon placements. People don't see these disciplines as separate entities, but instead as one project. If ultimately the work is bad, then... it's just bad. I wanted to do a project with no excuses. Put up or shut up.
"I've become a bit of a preacher on storytelling. I'm always yelling about it and it's become an important part of portfolio reviews. All this, and I primarily do covers? It seems that it's high time I start practicing what I preach. Visual storytelling really seems to be taking off right now. After seeing movies like the original Blade, Matrix, and Spider-man, you can't help but want to jump into the fray.
"Domino is about inertia. Joe and I didn't necessarily set out to do a comic book, but more an action film. The character has always been visually interesting, that's one thing I have to give Rob Liefeld, but she's always been a bit of a mental automaton. On most occasions, she's just simply written as Cable or Wolverine with tits. We wanted her to have her own thing, make her more than just a costume and a black eye. We wanted her to not only have a body, but a mind and soul as well. We didn't necessarily want to change the character completely. Instead, we wanted to bring her more in focus. I think after reading the series, people will feel that they're seeing her clearly for the first time."
The combination of humor and action has made for a fun story to draw, Stelfreeze says. "Joe really went above and beyond," Stelfreeze said. "I think it's a sweet mixture of wisecrack and heavy drama. It's gone through three separate editors but we've been quite lucky that they all have understood the direction we wanted to take this train."
The creative collaboration has left Pruett hungry for another chance to work with Stelfreeze. "Brian has been a dream," Pruett said. "The work he is doing is just amazing – and so the readers will know, Brian is penciling, inking, coloring and co-plotting the series. His layouts and his design sense have flowed so perfectly with what I envisioned that I couldn't think of a more talented man for the job. This has been as close to perfect a collaboration as I've ever encountered. I can't wait for him to free his schedule up in a couple of years so we can work together again. Brian, if you're reading this, I love you, man."
Domino is arguably one of the more convoluted character in the X-Universe. Hell, she wasn't herself during her early X-Force appearances, thanks to the shapeshifter known as Copycat. But that shouldn't be a problem for those picking up the miniseries, Stelfreeze says. "I hope this doesn't upset the hard-core Domino fans who like all of that stuff, but we ignored most of it," Stelfreeze said. "Joe and I co-plotted the story and ultimately we decided not to bother with the cosmic ramifications of the character, but instead to concentrate on what makes her Domino. That convolution is what inspired the story. It's so complicated that not only do the fans not understand who she is, but she doesn't either. All of those stories are about massive events surrounding the character but not about the character herself. We wanted to do a story about Domino, a lost girl on an adventure to find herself."
As for where in continuity the book takes place, it's in the here and now, Pruett says. "I'd have to assume it takes place in current continuity," Pruett said. "Of course, we started working on this a couple of years ago and things have changed, but unless someone says otherwise, it's current continuity.
"She's been on the slim fast diet and toured with the surviving members of the Grateful Dead. I've also heard something about spending time on Marlon Brando's island. You'd have to ask her."
The fact that Domino is something of a clean slate personality-wise appealed to Pruett. "When a character without a richly-detailed background opens up all kinds of potential for a creative team," Pruett said. "For instance, I don't have to read 15 years of X-Men and Wolverine comics to make sure I get everything right when doing a character like Domino. Don't get me wrong though, I did my research. I read all the back issues of X-Force, Domino, Cable, etc. I could get my hands on. That's something I like to do with any character before I try my hand at writing him/her. You can't write what you don't know. But, for the most part, we had a free hand at helping to develop this character; helping to fill in the gaps, if you would."
Though there will be some cameo appearances, Pruett and Stelfreeze would like to focus mostly on Domino. "Something Brian and I wanted to do with this series is present the character alone," Pruett said. "Look back over her career and she's always had someone to lean on, a crutch in layman's terms. Even in her first mini-series she had Puck to help her out. She's always had Cable… excuse me, Nathan Summers/Soldier X...to get her out of a tough spot. Then there's X-Force. Need I say more? No, this series, it's all about Domino. About going on her own. About being her own person. Nathan makes an appearance for all of a panel. Siryn pops up for a page or two, but, by the large, this series is named Domino and, by golly, it's going to be about Domino."
As for more Domino stories, both creators are leaving the door open. "She's a great character to write," Pruett said. "I loved my time with her and would love to make it a more serious relationship. Without a doubt. If Marvel wants to continue onward then I'm ready. Just give me a call. Heck, Brian and I have already plotted out a second story-arc. Bring it on!"
"I would most definitely like to do more with her, especially now that I have her completely figured out," Stelfreeze said. "She's just a fun character and it's hard not to think of her in different situations. Yeah, I definitely think I'll get back with her at some point. She's almost like that little bunny in Monty Python and The Holy Grail. Small and cute, but if you attack her... Runaway! Runaway!"
The action scenes made creating the visuals more fun, Stelfreeze said. "Domino kicking ass," Stelfreeze said. "Joe created a bunch of situations where the tension just builds and builds, then she totally cuts lose in these giant action set pieces. I enjoyed thinking of different ways to illustrate the timing and movement. Coloring was a nice aspect also. It was really nice to think of different ways to give the book a cinematic feel through color composition. Also, I have to say that I truly appreciate Marvel's level of trust. They really allowed me all the time I needed to do my best work. I had a great working relationship, and still do, with each of the editors on the project."
While characters like Batman are more nuanced, drawing Domino is a bit more gradual, Stelfreeze says. "Domino differs quite a bit from most of the other characters I've worked on primarily in reputation," Stelfreeze said. "Batman is a great character visually because all you have to do is make suggestions. Everyone knows that Batman has 100 different ways to handle been given situation so the character gets by a menace alone. Just a panel of Batman squinting while a thug holds a gun to his head immediately tells the reader a story. I don't have to show him disarming the guy. I can just show the guy holding a broken arm on the next panel and the reader will fill in the blank for me. You can really take advantage of the established histories of most of the big characters, but Domino doesn't have any of that. Instead of looking at this as a handicap, I decided to make this part of the visual storytelling. I try to face the action sequences in a step-by-step fashion. You actually get to see her make the moves.
"I'm really taking a hint from Japanese animation and the latest round of Hong Kong style action films. I'm staying away from montage sequences were you have to assume what's happened. I'm showing everything. I'm also trying to make everything work together to tell the story, not just the pencils. Like establishing locations with color keys and delineating action with the shape of panels. One thing that is nice is that she's color neutral. Her skin is white, and her new costume is black and gray. This allows me to place her gracefully into any color composition, and with her flesh being so light, it automatically makes her the center of attention."
Overall, Stelfreeze is pleased with the final product. "I'm totally happy with it," Stelfreeze said. "We pulled off some really cool things and I can't wait to see people's reactions to some of it. I think the series will move Domino little farther of the list of favorite characters. I think this has effectively changed the way I'm going to do comics in the future. I love the treatment I got from Marvel and that's going to make it incredibly difficult to work for anyone else. In my opinion, this is definitely my best work. Of course there are things I've learned along the way that may improve the next project, but as far as this one is concerned... I have no excuses."
If readers are looking for a book that's fast-paced with a touch of espionage, Domino might work for them, Stelfreeze and Pruett agree. "It has the spy-adventure action that's been missing from the last few James Bond movies," Stelfreeze said. "It's an incredible ride with something different around every corner. You don't have to bring any luggage from previous stories; you don't even have to know the character, just sit back and enjoy the read."
"The art is great, the story is a lot of fun, and there's explosions in every issue," Pruett said. "What more could you want?"
"All I have to say is this: Watch your back and never trust anyone over 30. Oh, and bring a respirator. The action's fast and furious and it's going to leave you breathless."
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