After initially being announced several years ago, Man Plus – a creator-owned project from André Lima Araújo (Avengers A.I., Spider-Verse) is finally set for release this July. I was fortunate enough to be able to review the first issue a few days ago, and was absolutely blown away by Araújo’s technology-heavy sci-fi epic, a series that I agreed “not only manages to stand out from the crowd, but actually pushes its way to the front of that crowd, screaming in your face and demanding your attention.”
Well, given how impressed I was, I simply had to find out more about the series and the creator behind it, and was incredibly fortunate to be able to sit down and have a chat with André about his background, the creative process behind the series, and the rise of the independent sci-fi scene.
Here’s how the conversation went;
Big Comic Page: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us André. Now, before we get into Man Plus, can you tell us a little bit about your background and what led you into the world of comics in the first place?
André Lima Araújo: Hey guys, it’s my pleasure. Ever since I remember, comics have always been a passion of mine. Even before I could read, either my mother would read the balloons for me or I’d go through the books, just looking at the pictures, making up the dialogues myself.
I’ve also always been interested in creating my own stories and comics seemed to be the perfect medium for my needs, so it was a natural progression.
I took a degree in architecture and worked for a year as an architect, but by the end of the studies I met C.B. Cebulski from Marvel. Until then I hadn’t really tried to get published, but he liked some of my pages and opened the door for me. We kept in touch as I started to invest all the free time in getting better until I was good enough. So came my first professional gig in comics, FF #22 for Marvel.
BCP: You have a very distinctive visual style to your artwork. Who would you say your main artistic inspirations are?
ALA: I read all types of comics: European, American, Japanese, cartoony, realistic, etc. As long it’s a good comics, I’ll read it. So I pick up on things from all styles. There are, of course, pretty obvious Manga and European influences, particularly through creators like Moebius/Jean Giraud, Katsuhiro Otomo, Masamune Shirow, but many other artists inspire me in many ways: Frank Quitely, Jean-Claude Mézières, Don Lawrence, Vicente Segrelles, Hiroaki Samura, Naoki Urasawa, Akira Toriyama, Kim Jung Gi. In terms of books, everything from those creators inspires me: L’Incal, Blueberry, Akira, Domu, Ghost in the Shell, Appleseed, Storm, The Mercenary, Valérian Et Laureline, 20th Century Boys, Blade of the Immortal or Dragon Ball, among a million others.
Other mediums can also be a great injection of creativity, like movies or videogames. 2001: A Space Odissey (and basically anything Stanley Kubrick did) Ridley Scott’s Alien or Blade Runner, any Quentin Tarantino or Christopher Nolan movie and many others are all things that just make me want to come up with my own stories. And games like Oblivion, Skyrim, Mass Effect, The Witcher, Fallout, basically games where you can explore very detailed worlds, work great as storytelling and world building/lore references.
BCP: Moving on to Man Plus; this is a series that people have been eagerly anticipating for quite some time now. Was there any specific reason behind the long waiting time for it? Was it down to your workload, or did you want to make sure you’d got it ‘right’ before finally releasing it?
ALA: It was simply a schedule question. I worked on a version of Man Plus on 2012, for which I drew ten pages, that got me two things: an immediate job at Marvel and the interest of Titan on publishing the book. Titan was still adjusting their comics division then, so when it came the time to produce the actual comic book I was already deep in Marvel work and we had to wait for an oppening.
Needless to say, when that happened, nothing of that first version survived. I wrote a new story and took a break from Marvel work to draw it.
BCP: Tell us a little about what to expect from Man Plus. What’s the basic outline of the story?
ALA: I’d define it as a cyberpunk procedural action/thriller. The story takes place in Olissipo City (a fictional city in Portugal) in 2042 and is about a malfunction android that engages in a violent fight with a team of military cyborgs. What’s behind the confrontation will be at the heart of the investigation, led by Captain Rodrigo and his Special Operations Force.
You can expect a lot of detailed action scenes, taking place in a living city, with many cool characters, technology and concepts but also hopefully interesting themes and questions regarding the relationship between man plus technology.
BCP: What characters in particular should readers be looking out for when the pick the book up in July?
ALA: I think there are many cool characters to keep an eye on: obviously Rodrigo, who is the main character, and the android, who is at heart of the plot. But Chief Elsa, Rodrigo’s boss, and Nü Jùrén, a huge military cyborg lady will also be very interesting. And on issue two we’ll be introduced to one of my favorite people from Olissipo, but I won’t spoil anything here.
BCP: Olissipo City is very distinctive from an architectural point of view. Did you use any existing buildings or cities as reference points when you were putting together its layout?
ALA: Olissipo City is a very dynamic, international city so the references were very eclectic. I used Lisbon, Tokyo and New York as basic references for the layout of the city, which I think I visible right away on the first age, but any urban vista or building that I find interesting is saved to my reference folder, which I usually go through when working on layouts or penciling.
Works of fiction are also used here of course. The art of Syd Mead for Blade Runner, conceptual art for videogames like Deus Ex and many assorted imagery from my tumblr feed etc, serves as inspiration.
BCP: The fusing of man and machine plays a pivotal role in this series, and is something you’ve tackled before in some of your previous work. Would I be right in saying this particular aspect of sci-fi is something of a passion for you?
ALA: Indeed. I’ve always had ideas for cyberpunk stories when I was young and Man Plus started fleshing out when I was studying architecture. But at the time I felt I didn’t had enough substance in me to inject into the story. Fortunately, I found that substance during my master thesis, where I wrote about architecture as technology, an extension of Man, based on the writings of John McHale and others. I became very passionate about his ideas, which seem to fit this book perfectly. In fact, Man Plus is a term coined (as far as I know) by McHale, on his book The Future Of The Future.
BCP: From a design point of view, there are definitely a lot of interesting visuals at play in Man Plus, particularly when it comes to the bio-tech enhancements that so many of Olissipo City’s inhabitants have. You’ve spoken before about your desire to ‘understand’ what you’re drawing, rather than just adding guns and gadgets because they look cool. Was that important to you when it came to putting together the character designs for this series?
ALA: Absolutely. Just looking cool is not enough for me, I prefer to use everything to flesh out the world I’m creating, so I try to give things a purpose. One can say that it is an obsession of mine, but I think it is worth of the investment because in the end we’re left with a world full of things to explore.
Since you can only add so much into the story and I wanted to make the interaction between the characters and the world as natural as possible, not everything is explained in detail. However I thought it would be nice to share some of those ideas with the readers so I wrote many notes regarding the technology we’ll see on the book. Some of it will be printed as extras on the issues and the collection later on.
BCP: We seem to be living in something of a ‘golden age’ of sci-fi comics these days, particularly on the independent scene. What do you think Man Plus has that will help it stand out from the rest of the pack?
ALA: I think that the amount and quality on creator owned comics these days is amazing and I truly believe that it will only rise. Sci-Fi comics in particular have a lot of good stuff out there, but the fact that we have all these authors letting loose already makes them quite different one from another. I think Man Plus will stand out in the same sense for a start. The conceptual references, coming from people like John McHale, Marshall McLuhan or William J. Mitchell, will help bring a different flavor to the genre. I’d also say there are some nice sequences and action set pieces that will be interesting to follow, as well as cool designs all around.
BCP: What kind of advantages – and drawbacks – did you find when it came to filling both the artist and writer roles on Man Plus?
ALA: Drawbacks, only the time consumption of writing, drawing and overseeing the whole project on my own, but the freedom that it allows me is priceless. When I write and draw, I get total control of the story and I can do anything I want, not only in terms of plot but also of narrative, layouts, sequence planning, designs, etc. It is my favorite way of working.
BCP: And finally, what else can our readers hope to see from you in the future? Any other projects looming on the horizon?
ALA: I’m currently working on Spider-Verse for Marvel, so we’ll have that and Man Plus on the immediate future. After that, I have no shortage of ideas, but you’ll have to wait and see.
BCP: Thanks so much again for your time, André. It’s very much appreciated.
ALA: Thank you guys, this was a lot of fun. And don’t forget that Man Plus #1 (of 4) comes out in July 8.
As André said, Man Plus #1 goes on sale from Titan Comics on July 8th, but if you want a little sneak peek of what we thought of the issue, check out our Advance Review of issue #1.