Another CrossGen-fugee has recently resurfaced about as far away from Tampa and the world of sigils as one can go. Butch Guice is teaming with Geoff Johns and Kris Grimminger on the two-book Olympus
for Humanoids. We tracked Guice down for a bit more and some sneak peeks.
But first – a tease of the story…basically, hell breaks loose when a team of archeology students and a band of mercenaries are trapped together on Mount Olympus, and they both learn that there was more than a grain of truth in the legends.
“Geoff has been one of Humanoids’ biggest supporters from the very beginning of our US publishing program and we were always waiting for a gap in his schedule so that he could do a book for Humanoids,” editor Paul Benjamin told Newsarama. “As Geoff contemplated a 3-year exclusive contract with DC, we realized that we couldn’t wait any longer. He pitched us this fantastic story with Kris Grimminger, with whom he had just finished the first few issues of The Possessed
. It featured every great monster from Greek mythology, from Medusa to the Stymphalian Birds. I am a huge fan of Greek Mythology and their story and character ideas were great, so Geoff and Kris hit the ground running immediately.
“They finished the scripts for both books with about a week to spare before Geoff’s DC deal kicked in. After that, the search was on throughout the world for a great artist who would appeal to both an American and a European audience. Butch was always on our mind for the book, but he was busy drawing Ruse
for Crossgen. We began talking to Butch once he became available and Olympus
was a perfect fit.”
For Guice, turning to Humanoids after a run at CrossGen (Guice left CrossGen just prior to the layoffs and release from exclusivity status for the staff who remained) allowed him to work with a publisher that, had circumstances been different, he would’ve hooked up with some time back.
“I've been interested in working with Paul Benjamin and Humanoids for several years now,” Guice told Newsarama. “Humanoids' approach to their material, both in quality and design of product as well as the extensive worldwide market they've cultivated with a variety of genres, held enormous interest for me. After my resignation from the CrossGen staff, I contacted Paul and we started talking about possibilities. Once I read the two scripts for Olympus
, I knew it was exactly the type of thing I would enjoy drawing. Having it be written by Geoff and Kris was a very pleasurable bonus.”
And while this is Guice’s first non-CrossGen work since he left the company, the artist explained that with Humanoids, neither he nor the publisher were looking to pump something out as quickly as possible, just to keep his name, or word of the project out there.
“One of the things I appreciate about Humanoids is a willingness on their part to take the time to get it ‘right’ rather than ‘yesterday,’” Guice said. “We had design work to conceive, the project to determine, the usual contracts to sign, discussions to be had, etc.; none of which is necessarily of any interest to the outside world.”
But once he was on board, the script pulled him in to Johns and Grimminger’s world where myths are real. “I was very excited by the graphic demands expected within the story,” Guice said. “It's loaded with fast paced action, a time-lost and dangerous landscape, mythic - and in some cases, horrific - creatures, and some very strong emotional human drama. Geoff and Kris delivered on every page turn. By the time I was into the second book's script, I was turning pages of plot as fast as I could skim read.”
Like many children of the sixties, Guice grew up on the films of Ray Harryhausen, the legendary stop-motion animator and filmmaker, and, as the illustrations show, the influence played a role in his design work for the project.
“I took my exposure to the myths and the Ray Harryhausen films as a starting point, looked around online for other treatments of the myths done before, and then sat down and took the approach of trying to visualize these creatures as living, breathing nightmares,” Guice said. “I added old battle scars, bits of armor or clothing, tribal style markings, weird skin textures, etc.; really, whatever seemed ‘right.’ Early on in one of our discussions, Paul happened to ask me, ‘What is the skin texture of a cyclops? Is it like an elephant's hide?’ That type of imagining took hold and dominated my approach to the design work. Is the hair of a Minotaur coarse and thick, or softer and flowing? How does a Cyclops hold its head for best viewing out of its' single eye? That sort of stuff. One question would lead to another…and another…and another.
“My goal was to bring these mythic creatures as much into the real world we were depicting for the students and mercenaries as I possibly could. In the end, everything seems to work. These creatures are definitely not housebroken, but still very believable in a reality sense.”
For readers who will be keeping score of the creatures that show up in the story, take the Greek section of Bullfinch, and expect to everyone
. “I’m pretty sure we’ve got all of them by the end of the second book...in some cases, multitudes of all of them...and they all apparently got up on the wrong side of the bed, in our story,” Guice said. “There are some pretty extensive battle scenes filled with hordes of cyclops, centaurs, and all manner of nasty things in the back half of the tale. It should be pretty crazed by that point, but I can't wait. How often does an artist get to cut loose on this type of subject matter, especially in comics these days?”
Guice has nothing but good words to add about the publisher as well. “Humanoids has been terrific...really, far better than just terrific,” the artist said. “Everyone I've encountered so far has made this an extremely enjoyable assignment, in every aspect, and I would enjoy continuing my association with the company for many years to come. Hopefully this is only the beginning of the adventure...”
And currently, Guice is still hip deep in the project, loving every minute of it. “My contribution to the first book - of two - wraps in March. We're then scheduled to start work on volume two almost immediately, so I've still got months of Greek myths and bikini clad damsels to play with on a daily basis. Life can "tough" like that sometimes...”