Smash Pages Q&A: Rich Tommaso on ‘Spy Seal: The Corten-Steel Phoenix’

The creator of ‘She Wolf’ and ‘Dark Corridor’ discusses the first collection of his all-ages series ‘Spy Seal.’

From The Cavalier Mr. Thompson to Clover Honey, from 8 1/2 Ghosts to Dark Corridor, Viking’s End to She Wolf, to the Eisner Award-winning Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow, Rich Tommaso doesn’t just jump from one genre to another, but plays with tone and approach, style and color, and the result is an expansive body of work.

Spy Seal is a different book for him, but in truth, almost every comic he’s done has been a departure in some way. It’s an all-ages story about a spy who is, well, a seal. Set in the 1960s in a world populated by anthropomorphic animals, it owes a lot to Tintin and any number of cartoons. It’s a very different book than I admit to being used to from Tommaso but I was charmed by its inventiveness and world building – not to mention the fact that Tommaso is clearly having a lot of fun. Image just announced that Tommaso will be returning to his crime fiction roots early next year with Dry County, before returning with another Spy Seal series in the fall. With the collection, Spy Seal: The Corten-Steel Phoenix out next month and Tommaso was kind enough to answer a few questions about how he works.

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Tommaso’s ‘Dry County’ launches in March

New crime series set in the 1990s features a young Gen-Xer looking for his missing girlfriend.

Rich Tommaso, creator of Spy Seal and She Wolf, heads to Miami for a new crime series set in the 1990s.

With the next Spy Seal story, “Flight of the Golden Bells,” now slated for the fall, Tommaso turns to Dry County, which stars “young Gen-Xer Lou Rossi” in a story of love and crime.

“Lou Rossi wants to grow up—he’s finally of legal age to drink, so all he needs now is a steady day job and a serious relationship,” said Tommaso. “He seems to find the latter in Janet Laughton, while out doing his laundry one night. But the drama that comes with his involvement with her turns his new, ordered lifestyle upside down, having to deal with kidnappers, teenage gangsters, threatening letters and Janet’s dangerous ex-boyfriends.”

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‘Spy Seal’ enlists Joey Weiser’s ‘Ninja Fukuroh’ as a back-up feature

Rich Tommaso takes Weiser up on his offer to draw a back-up story for his new comic.

Back when Rich Tommaso started talking about Spy Seal, before it became an upcoming comic from Image, he shared several images of the character online that drew rave reviews from fans and fellow creators. One of those creators was Joey Weiser, creator of the really fun Oni Press graphic novel series Mermin, who offered (perhaps jokingly) to draw a back-up series for the comic:

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Tommaso’s childhood creation slides into comics this August

‘Spy Seal,’ created by Rich Tommaso when he was 13, takes on snipers, assassins and more in a new series from Image Comics.

Remember creating comics when you were a kid? Y’know, guys like Web Man and Tarantula Kid, who were basically Spider-Man crossed with Batman and Robin, or Captain Fantastic, who had all the powers of the Fantastic Four? Not everyone imagined blanket ripoffs of other characters; Rich Tommaso of She Wolf and Dark Corridor fame created Spy Seal, a seal that’s also a spy, and in August, the character finds his way into his own comic.

“It’s wonderful and surreal to be working with material that I created as a 13-year-old kid,” said Tommaso. “I’m enjoying doing a spy story too—it’s a genre I’ve never explored in my adult career as a cartoonist.”

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