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DF Interview: Jay Faerber, Brian Joines, Ilias Kyriazis give their heroes Secret Identities

By Byron Brewer

What happens to a superhero team when their enemies aren't just attacking them from all sides, but fighting them from within? In February, a team of creators join forces to bring you Secret Identities, a new series released through Image Comics.

Co-written by Brian Joines and Jay Faerber with artists Ilias Kyriazis and Charlie Kirchoff, Secret Identities tells the story of the Front Line, a crew of heroes that banded together to protect the Earth from an alien invasion. Although their mission was successful, the Front Line still has a nemesis -- and he just joined their team!

Complicated? Duh! Thus, Dynamic Forces met en masse with Joines, Faerber and Kyriazis to reveal some … well, some secret identities.

Dynamic Forces: Guys, tell us how you got together to produce Secret Identities. Where did the idea originate for this new team book from Image Comics?

Jay Faerber: I'd had the idea for the basic premise -- a mole infiltrates a super-team -- for awhile now. I got my start at Image with the super-team book Noble Causes, but over the last few years I've been working in other genres, and was getting the itch to do a super-hero book again. I've been friends with Brian Joines for a long time now, and thought it'd be fun to write the book together. I approached him about doing something, we kicked around some ideas, and eventually settled on my old concept. Ilias and I had briefly worked on a pitch for another book that never went anywhere, and once Brian and I nailed down the concept, he was our first choice as artist.

Ilias Kyriazis: Jay, you had me at “superhero team book”! The Secret Origin story is that I know Jay because Yildiray Cinar (of Superior Iron Man) introduced us. I know Yildiray through Mahmud Asrar (of All-New X-Men). And I know Mahmud because he contributed a pinup on a Greek superhero anthology, called Blast comics, I edited ten years ago. And it all comes full circle since one of the Secret Identities heroes is based on one of the Blast ones.

Brian Joines: Yeah, Jay reached out to me to work together on a book, with Ilias already in mind as the artist, which I had NO problem with at all.  We kicked around ideas and settled on the story about a mole on a superhero team, which I loved because I grew up on them and hadn’t written a regular superhero book in over ten years.  So the three of us put our heads together to assemble the team, Ilias worked his design magic, and here we are.

DF: Can you tell us a little about the division of work among you guys? Who does what and when?

JF: Brian and I usually talk a bit (via email, most often) about what an issue should be about, then one of us will take a pass at a beat sheet or an outline -- just a rough list of the scenes that comprise the issue, so we can see how the issue will look. We'll pass that back and forth a couple times, then we'll divide the script up and each take roughly half, divided up by scenes. So I'll take pages 1-3, 7-10, 14-17, and Brian will take 4-6, 11-13, 18-20. That kind of thing. It depends on how the scenes lay out. Once we have a full script, we send it off to Ilias.

BJ: Exactly. We both have characters we tend to gravitate towards so if one of those characters is prominently featured in a scene, the appropriate one of us will lean towards that. Then we’ll spot-check the script as a whole, make sure the voices all sound right and the scenes flow together smoothly, and then Ilias takes over.

IK: I get the script from the guys (full script, with a Marvel Method scene every now and then) and I start to draw. I've been VERY happy with the trust they've shown me, they really encourage me to be as creative as possible! Thanks, guys!

DF: Tell me about the protagonists. Can you run down their names and powers, et al?

JF: We each brought different characters to the table, so we'll talk about them in that order.

PUNCHLINE is a wise-ass with super-strength. In her civilian identity, she's a struggling stand-up comedian.

RUNDOWN is our speedster. He's a scientist in his civilian identity, and there's more to him, but it's best that you discover that in the book itself

GAIJIN is an alien creature whose ship crashed in Japan, and she was raised by a Japanese crime family.

IK: LUMINARY is the team leader. She's also America's super-powered, light-manipulating darling and the daughter of the President of the United States. The fact that her first super hero team is based in Canada doesn't win her a lot of fans in the White House. Also, while everyone around her seems happy to ignore it she's more troubled than she seems to be.

HELOT I usually describe as a heavy metal album cover come to life. A hard as nails, Spartan-LOOKING cyborg warrior on the run from his slave-masters. He doesn't really care to be any of these things, especially the “warrior” part.

BJ: THE RECLUSE is a part dark urban vigilante, part pulp hero adventurer with a spider motif and an ancient curse hanging around his neck.

VESUVIUS is a former Roman Centurion caught in the blast at Pompeii who was dug up a few centuries later as a creature made of molten rock. 

Finally, CROSSWIND is the team mole, on the surface a cheery, slightly naïve hero with wind powers, but in reality a scheming sociopath looking to bring the team down.

DF: Who did the character designs? Some of these guys look awesome visually!

IK: Thanks! I did the designs with a lot back and forth. All three of us had to enthusiastically agree on each character otherwise I kept fiddling. Some of them, like Gaijin or Recluse, I got with the first try. Others, like Crosswind or Punchline, gave me a really hard time. I have at least 30 variant Punchline costumes we have to use at some point.

JF: Yeah, Ilias was really patient throughout this process. When we pitched the book to Image, Eric Stephenson immediately accepted it, but he had concerns about two of the character designs -- Crosswind and Punchline. So Ilias diligently worked up a lot of variations for those two.

BJ: Crosswind and Punchline may have taken the longest to work out, but we went back and forth on a number of the looks, particularly Vesuvius and Rundown, who I think may be my two favorite designs in a book that’s overflowing with great designs.

DF: How and why do these heroes first ban together? Who is their initial big-bad, their “Loki” if you will?

IK: They're living in him! The good thing with your opponent being an alien techno-giant is that you can use his dead body as a high-tech headquarters. Complete with alien parasite bugs to be your support staff. They even make great tea.

JF: Yeah, we'll learn exactly what brought the team together over the course of the first year of the book. When we meet the team, they're already together. But we'll learn that they were individual heroes who came together when a giant alien attacked Toronto. Ilias has come up with a fantastic design. It's one of the coolest super-team bases I've ever seen.

BJ: It really is.  I’ll admit that when I first heard about the idea, it gave me pause, but Ilias absolutely sold me on it and now I can’t imagine them in some satellite orbiting the Earth or something like that.  And like Jay said, we’ll learn more about the origins of the team’s formation as we go along.  Sometimes the best origin stories are the ones you learn after-the-fact.

DF: As my granddad used to say, there is a fox in the henhouse here. Tell us about the mole.

BJ: Jay and I talked about this quite a bit during the initial planning stages of the book and decided that knowing the mole and telling his story would make a great selling point for the book. Otherwise, it might come off as a season of 24 with tights.

JF: It'll be evident in the first issue that Crosswind is a mole, yes. That's one of the hooks for the book -- how long can he keep the team fooled? Who is he working with? Can he constantly pretend to be a hero without actually becoming one? These are all questions we'll have a lot of fun playing with.

BJ: And we’ll see the steps Crosswind will go through to maintain his role with the team. It can lead to some pretty hairy situations for both him and the other members.

DF: Aside from this inner turmoil, who are the villains they will face?

IK: My favorite villain team is the Five Stages of Grief (Denial, Anger, etc). We only see them briefly in #2 but I keep bugging the guys to bring them back again! And not a villain but an antagonist, Rey De La Luz, is a DELIGHT to draw! One of the designs I'm the most proud of.

JF: There's also a radioactive zombie called the Example in issue #3. We've got a nice variety of bad guys, with different looks and motivations.

BJ: There’s a couple we’re just starting to build towards that I’m excited about. What’s great about our cast is that their backgrounds are so varied, you never know what’ll come creeping out of the woodwork to face them.  That said, the real villain of the book is the one working right beside them.

DF: Is there an inherent difficulty in handling multiple characters?

IK: Maybe a year from now I'll be signing a different song but now I enjoy the variety. I want each one of them to have his or her own body language, clothing style, etc. As an artist, my goal is to make these characters look like real people. Super-people, yes... but not action figures.

JF: The only difficulty is trying to make sure everyone gets the spotlight at some point. We're not the kind of team book where the team is together every issue. We spend a lot of time with the characters on their own, or in smaller pairings. So some characters don't appear in certain issues. But over time, cumulatively, we want them all to get the attention they deserve.

BJ: Exactly. Jay and I are both devotees of Alpha Flight and one of the things John Byrne did there was to spotlight issues on one or two characters in-between large events involving the entire team.   That helps to stress that, if the team comes together, it must be over something big.

DF: What can we expect from the book going forward?

BJ: A little darkness, a little lightness, and all the grayness in-between as we unravel these characters, get to know them, see what makes them tick…and then watch as Crosswind tries to use that knowledge to bring them all down.

JF: You can expect to find out who Crosswind is working for. You can expect to learn that every one of these characters has some sort of secret they'd rather their teammates not know. You can expect to see some incredibly inventive page layouts from Ilias. And most of all, you can expect the unexpected!

BJ: I had no idea you were going to say that.

Dynamic Forces would like to thank the creative trio of Jay Faerber, Brian Joines and Ilias Kyriazis for taking time to answer our questions. Secret Identities #1 hits shelves February 18th!




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Updated: 07/21/24 @ 11:40 am






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