Across genre fiction, there are certain time periods and settings that are so burned into our collective imagination as to take on a mythic quality. Victorian London, Ancient Rome, The Wild West, and now 1950s Los Angeles, a time where the glitz and glamor of postwar Hollywood ran mingled with the seedy criminal underbelly of the city as gangsters like Mickey Cohen went head to head with cops taking justice into their own hands. Next month, BOOM! Studios gives us their own take on L.A. noir in Hit, an ongoing series written by Bryce Carlson and illustrated by hot newcomer Vanesa Rodriguez del Rey. To take you inside the world-building and design process behind bringing an iconic era to life, I caught up with the Cuban-born artist for a quick interview about her process and diving into the genre headfirst.
Nerdist: You’re dealing with some pretty brutal material here with Hit. Does drawing stuff like that wear you down or do you relish the challenge?
Vanesa Rodriguez del Rey: It might be morbid but I relish the challenge. It’s always fun to draw guts. It allows me to get messy with the ink. The first comic I saw was Simon Bisley’s Lobo: The Last Czarnian. It’s pretty violent, filled with severed limbs, entrails and blood… it was dirty and awesome!
N: L.A. noir seems to be a genre unto itself. How are you approaching the visual aesthetic of 1955 L.A.?
VRDR: I tried to economize my lines and compose with large shapes of black and white while keeping the energy of loose inks. I added a middle value grey tone for texture and for an extra layer to play with light. I feel that the lighting is what makes the genre. It is very specific and heavily used as a storytelling device, so I paid attention to the way I was lighting the scenes and kept it consistent. I glanced at the usual suspects: Alex Toth and Jordi Bernet, Weegee’s photographs, and films like Touch of Evil and Chinatown.
N: How much research did you have to do going into Hit?
VRDR: I’ve never been to Los Angeles, so there was plenty of research involved. Bryce had miles of reference files for me to use; he and Eric made sure I got the era right. I grew up in La Habana, Cuba, a city that got stuck in 1959, so I’m familiar with the cars, the architecture, the furniture, and even the fashion. The most I had to dig around for were the locations during that time period. Hit is based on actual events, so it is imperative that the environments are accurate.
N: Take us through your character design process. How closely did you work with Bryce Carlson, or did he give you mostly free reign?
VRDR: I’m usually given a description and I try a few sketches based on the style for the project, then I do a few poses and facial expressions. With Hit I was given specific photo references for the design of the main characters. I veered away from the reference a bit and simplified the design. Bryce was happy after the second try. One of the references was the most handsome of men, Paul Newman!
N: Ugh, yeah, he’s super handsome. What comics are you reading and enjoying right now?
The last book I bought was a used copy of Thickness #2 and #3, an erotic comics anthology by great indie artists. It was edited and published by Ryan Sands and Michael Deforge a couple of years ago. I’m enjoying Michael Deforge’s work right now; I think his designs and stories are clever and humorous.
Here’s the official solicitation:
WHY WE LOVE IT: We’re suckers for classic film noir, crime comics, and pulp detective novels. We love the secret history of law enforcement in our hometown, Los Angeles. Mostly, we love stories about good men making hard decisions in unforgiving circumstances.
WHY YOU’LL LOVE IT: HIT is a dark crime drama filled with murderers, rapists, and drug lords…and the men who will stop at nothing to bring them to justice. If you’re a fan of CRIMINAL, PARKER, and TUMOR, then HIT is the series for you.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Los Angeles. It’s 1955. It’s dark; it’s sexy. It’s dangerous. Everyone has an angle. And while infamous gangster Mickey Cohen rots in a prison cell, Los Angeles ignores the blackest parts of the city’s heart… where clandestine groups of LAPD detectives moonlight as sanctioned hitmen knows as “Hit Squads.”
And here are all the variant covers!
There you have it! What do you think of Hit? Will you be picking it up? Let us know in the comments below.