Vanguard Comic Review
Creator: Dan Butcher Twitter: @THE_MrHades
I have read many great webcomics, but it seems to be an unusually difficult task to find a superhero web-based comic. Vanguard Comic is not only a superhero comic in its truest form, but also fantastically illustrated with an incredibly detailed and thought-out storyline. I have read every page of every issue and have not once been disappointed. In my best attempt to sum up this comic, I would say that essentially, Vanguard is a comic about a team of meta-humans employed by the government to protect the British nation in superhero-type missions. But, how about we let the creator, Dan Butcher, tell you first hand about Vanguard and his creative process:
Megan Markey: Let’s start with a little bit of your personal background. You’ve been the artist for multiple comics. What’s your background in art?
Dan Butcher: I started, as I imagine a lot of comic artists do, by drawing/creating characters and comic strips at an early age. I studied art through school, etc. and ended up with a degree in Illustration and Design. Once I left university, I went into animation and then into graphic design, which is what I now do as my ‘proper’ job.
I kinda put drawing comics on hold while I studied in university but upon leaving, I got back to it almost immediately. A really big help in getting my skills up to par was the comic book art forum, Penciljack (www.penciljack.com). I’d thoroughly recommend anyone looking to improve their art, regardless of what level you are at, to visit that forum and start posting your work for constructive crits. You’ll get some great feedback and if you follow the advice of the members, you’ll do well.
MM: How did you originally get involved in comics? When did you decide to move into the writing aspect as well?
DB: After posting art on Penciljack for a while, I really fancied taking a crack at drawing a webcomic, as many other members of the board did so already. I was unsure if I had the chops to both write and draw, so I teamed up with David Brett Andrews and I fleshed out ideas on paper he had for a superhero called Relik.
After firing ideas back and forth, we started posting pages of the comic, called ‘Retake’ about a month later over at Drunk Duck (http://www.drunkduck.com/Retake/4987573/). We were shortly featured on the front page and the comic went from strength to strength.
I’d started drawing Retake as an exercise in not only keeping up a two-page-a-week web comic, but as reason to keep drawing/working on my art. At the end of five issues and the end of the mini-series, I left Retake. It’s still running under its current incarnation, Relik. Over the years of drawing Retake, I also worked on other titles such as Heroes Unite and Heroes Alliance, both community projects on Drunk Duck.
As Retake drew to a close, I felt I could take a crack at doing a webcomic on my own, so I re-worked ideas and characters that I’d had bouncing round for years and Vanguard was born.
As well as the aforementioned titles, I’ve also had the pleasure to work on Reynard City (http://reynardcity.com/)- drawing & colouring about four issues in total, Curse of the Black Terror (http://theblackterror.com/?p=376) and the most excellent Mallville Rules (http://www.inkbot.net/mallville_rules_s5.html).
MM: I love that Vanguard is a true superhero comic. How did the idea of Meta-Humans develop for these characters?
DB: Weirdly, the idea behind Vanguard started when I was working on a totally different story concept. As I fleshed out this other idea, the Vanguard story just seemed to have more ‘legs’ to it. I put the other tale on the back burner and put everything I had into Vanguard.
It’s weird that even though this is a superhero comic, the lead characters have yet to go into action in costume!
After reading the ‘Ultimates’, watching the Nolan Batman movies and with other writers putting a more realistic spin on the genre, I thought I’d tell my story in a similar style. I decided to set the story in the future, giving me the ability to alter world events and political climate as I saw fit. I had the idea that scientific theory/research had evolved to the point that through genetic manipulation, people could be given ‘super powers’. The metaphor being that Meta-Humans, as they are known within the Vanguard Universe, would be treated like weapons of mass destruction, especially with the ‘Alpha-One’ enhancement, as this would essentially create a superman for your nation. The process is extremely expensive, very dangerous and heavily regulated. Similar to a country’s ability to manufacture weapons grade plutonium - you don’t want the wrong people to develop that tech.
I also bounce ideas off of my lovely wife, who is a great writer, and she generally helps me cut/keep elements/dialogue within the script.
MM: There is much military action as well as geography incorporated into the comic. Do you spend time researching military equipment/cities or is it primarily fabricated?
DB: Being that the story is set in a ‘real world’, albeit in the near future, I wanted to keep everything as factually accurate as I could. I’m always reading newspaper articles, researching locations and keeping an eye on global politics, with the thought in mind of how I can use this in the script. Readers have commented that some of the world events portrayed in Vanguard are virtually being echoed in real life. That’s a bit concerning, as I wanted to show the world/society in general in steady decline within the story and to see some of those elements playing out on the news is a little worrying.
With all the weapons and equipment, again, I have researched as much as possible, looking at future technology and arms and incorporating them into the story. For instance, the armored suits the mercs in issue two wear are based on a project the United States ran called the ‘Future Force Warrior’, all about ‘teching-out’ infantry soldiers.
With regards to location, in the current issue, two of the characters are in Zug, Switzerland. I stumbled upon it while reading a newspaper article on my journey home from work. I was looking for a place to set the sequence you can currently see playing out in the comic. It’s a strange place. It’s a town with a population of 25k people, but is home to the headquarters of 29k international businesses.
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