“For those who self-publish, there is no better home than ComiXology Submit” Ricardo Mo & Alberto Muriel discuss digital comic Propeller

Propeller 2_coverSuper powers are a tricky business. For every vigilante who throws on some tights and embraces hero-dom, there are those for whom the moral battle of their new found powers create more problems than solutions. Propeller is a morally complex, Hitchcock inspired tale of super-powered intrigue from writer Ricardo Mo and artist Alberto Muriel. We put on our best trilby and try to find out more!    

“In those first few days, when an idea expresses itself, it was simply “What if a hostage hijacked a bank job?””

Give us the quick lowdown on the story behind Propeller and the inspiration behind the story?

Ricardo Mo: Propeller is the Hitchcockian tale of a man who makes a bad decision and the forces that make him pay for it. And that’s the core which was there from the very beginning. What wasn’t there in the beginning was the superpowered aspect. Well, it wasn’t in the original idea, although it did get introduced pretty early on as a convenient way to both foil a robbery and become a robber within those few key moments. But in those first few days, when an idea expresses itself as me mumbling under my breath on the walk to work or in the shower, it was simply “What if a hostage hijacked a bank job?”

Lead character Rex’s powers are a pair of bracelets that he develops based on the work of World War 2 German scientists, how important was it for you to have a believable source for his powers rather than a toxic waste spill/radioactive spider bite/blast for an atom bomb?

RM: I wanted Rex’s power to be something he could actively seek out rather than being the result of some crazy accident, because I wanted Rex to be responsible for his own fate. He chooses to spend his entire fortune chasing what could easily be a myth. What kind of person does that? Also, “Nazi Science” might be kind of a red flag for a lot of people, but Rex just presses ahead regardless. Again, it speaks to the type of person he is – driven, focused, but also potentially reckless.

Will we learn more about Rex’s powers as the book develops or are they just a means to an end for telling the story? And what exactly are his powers – is it just the super speed?

RM: There’s definitely more to learn. Rex spent months in solitude learning how to harness this new power, but he still doesn’t grasp its full potential. In time, he’ll realize he’s capable of things he never imagined. That being said, his power is very specific and in some ways limited. While it could easily be interpreted as super-speed, Rex isn’t actually going anywhere. He’s teleporting the objects and people he pushes from their existing location to another of his choosing. So in essence, he PROPELS them across a room or maybe even across a country. Or a hundred feet straight up!

If you had the power bracelets for the day, what would you do – would you use them for good or evil?!

Alberto Muriel: I suppose that I would do things that some people think are good and other people think are bad. I would try to act according to my good conscience in order to sleep well. By the way, I´m not sure I’m brave enough to use the bracelets and become the new protagonist of “The Fly”.

RM: I’ve got this vision of Alberto now with a pocket full of flies, deliberately pushing them and people at the same time to make dozens of Brundleflies. And that’s exactly what I would do with the bracelets.

Propeller 2
“[It’s set in] an alternate reality where we never moved on from that 1950s approach to gentlemen’s attire and décor.”
How did you and Alberto team up and what are your respective backgrounds in comics?

RM: This is my first comic, so my background is non-existent. I have written a lot of scripts that will never see the light of day though. And some that hopefully will… someday.

AM: I had been working for IDW Publishing and Kickstart Comics drawing comic books (G.I. Joe, The A-Team), graphic novels (Heavy Water) and covers (Ghostbusters). But I wanted to do something different, and I looked for a writer via the Internet. When I worked for the US comic industry my task was to receive the script and draw it. The work with Ric is more collaborative, if we have a complex scene we discuss about it. And all of this by Internet, we don´t know each other personally!

The characters have a very 50s look and feel with all the trilby hats and old movie theatres, yet the book is set in modern days, was that important for getting across the Hitchcockian nature of the whole story? (Is that also why the book is in black and white, not colour)

RM: The monochrome was half-style decision, calling back to the movies of the 1950s, and half-financial. We suspected there might be a printed version of the comic at some point in its future and, at the time, I was seeing vastly reduced prices for black and white. Ever the penny-pincher!

Propeller was always going to be set in the modern day, but that didn’t mean it had to look exactly like the here and now. If you want a visual representation of the modern world you can get a pretty accurate one through your window. If you’re already primed for a bit of escapism, why not go the whole way and immerse yourself in a slightly less familiar world – an alternate reality where we never moved on from that 1950s approach to gentlemen’s attire and décor? Also, Batman: The Animated Series made it an acceptable approach.

You mention Hitchcockian a lot, is that a key influence for the book and which of his films inspire you the most (and which do you recommend to fans to check out?)

RM: Hitchcock is the primary influence for the book, from the leisurely pace to the cat and mouse conversations. Dial M For Murder, for example, has these long, fixed scenes with a couple guys just batting dialogue back and forth. But their words are so deliberate. They’re testing each other for weaknesses, inconsistencies – it’s just as much a power struggle as a couple of muscled superheroes breaking buildings with each other’s bodies.

Propeller 1 cover
“For those who choose to self-publish, either through preference or lack of options, there is no better home than ComiXology Submit.”

As for recommendations, everyone should consume as much of his filmography as they can find. And I should probably take my own advice, as I have some glaring omissions.

You’ve released the book via ComiXology Submit can you tell us a bit about your experience publishing it like that and how has a digital release helped spread the word about Propeller?

RM: It’s still early days, but so far the ComiXology Submit crew have been incredible. We called them into action two days before release of the first issue, when we suddenly realized a dozen proofreads had failed to spot a missing page. And they dealt with it in such a way that none of our readers would’ve been any the wiser, until I spilled the beans here.

For those who choose to self-publish, either through preference or lack of options, there is no better home than ComiXology Submit. I seriously doubt this interview would be happening if our book wasn’t available for purchase on the platform. It’s a huge opportunity for anyone willing to put in the work and help find that readership.

Finally what next from you both? How long will Propeller run for and what will you be working on next? Will you be returning to the world of Propeller or is that a give away for the ending of a future issue?

RM: When a rookie writer like me is fortunate enough to find an artist like Alberto, you grab hold with both hands and never let go. So, for as long as he’ll put up with me, we’ll have more comics in the pipeline.

AM: I´m very satisfied with our work in Propeller. Maybe Ric is a rookie, like he said, but I’m learning and evolving with our collaboration. So I´m glad to continue evolving myself and our method of work. I´m sure we can do more and more interesting comics… and that will definitely include more Propeller.

Propeller #1 and #2 are available from ComiXology for £0.69 per issue.