The Oral History of Fear Agent – Part 1

 

Turn back the clock back to the evening in June 2007 in a hotel room in Charlotte, North Carolina. That was the first time I ever read Fear Agent. Conor, Josh and I were attending Heroes Con and Conor had picked up the first two trade paperbacks. Josh was reading volume 1, so I grabbed volume 2 to see what it was about. About 15 minutes later, I turned to Josh and said something along the lines of, “Holy shit, this is fantastic!” Josh heartily agreed and thus began the reign of one of the few titles so universally appreciated and loved by iFanboy.

Today, almost six years later, the Fear Agent Omnibus, Vol. 1 has finally been released by Dark Horse. After wrapping up the series a year ago, I was curious what the series creators, writer Rick Remender and artists Tony Moore and Jerome Opeña, felt about the entire experience. I caught up with them a few weeks back. We had a very long conversation, going back to the origins of the title, the ups and downs of the run and ultimately what it’s like to be here today, with the series wrapped and collected in a high end archival edition. What you’re about to read is part one of three in the Oral History of Fear Agent, my little addition to the legacy of one of the finest creator owned comics of this century.

The Origin of Fear Agent

After several years of toiling at independent comics, Rick Remender and Tony Moore have the initial discussions that will ultimately lead to the creation of Fear Agent.

Rick Remender: Tony had just done a piece, a sci-fi cover for a comic book, that had a dude in a rocket that crashed on a moon fighting some kooky aliens, and I was in my office looking at EC Comics and we were talking EC Comics, and I was drawing a lot myself from Wood and Will Elder and those guys at the time. Looking at Tony doing this stuff got me crazy excited, and I was like “Whoa. Nobody is doing science fiction right now!” It had completely dried up, especially this kind of pulp, crazy, science fiction.

Tony Moore & Rick Remender

Tony Moore: It was for Rob Zombie’s Spookshow International, I think. Yes, I’m pretty sure that’s the cover he’s talking about. He called me up and was excited about it. We started kind of shooting the shit about EC and I was less familiar with the sci-fi stuff. I was a lot more familiar with the horror stuff and the crime fiction stuff, but I hadn’t really delved that deep into the sci-fi stuff from EC. We started culminating this thing together and kicked around the few ideas…it was probably within like a couple of days, we had Heath Huston more or less figured out. It was a fairly quick conception.

Remender: It was a lot of back and forth. We were just talking on the phone a lot and putting together the pieces. I wrote up a story which once we knew what the adventure would be like, I called Tony and we cooked up his back story. Then I went back and worked that into the story and put together the first outline. I think that outline hit the first twenty-something issues that ended being made. We talked that stuff out of it, went back and forth, and once the outline was sort of polished, we got to work.

The idea was to just be untethered in imagination and to be able to do something that was grounded in a character that you cared about. The adventures that he would go through would be any amazing, cool, science fiction ideas that we had. We wanted to work in time travel and dimension hopping, doppelgangers, and every kind of wonderful sci-fi trove we could. We understood the important thing had to be Heath and his story and who he was.

Moore: It’s the kind of guy that you can put through the ringer over and over and over in all these different ways…we were looking at guys like Mignola, like the way he constructed Hellboy was a really great kind of touchstone for how we needed to approach Heath.

Remender: There was mega arc to it. I think that the thing with Charlotte [Heath Huston's wife] became the heart. It became the B-story that was always kind of bubbling there and the thing that moved Heath through it all because that’s the other problem. When you’re putting a character through the kind of things we put Heath through, what keeps him going? And this back story that we didn’t end up telling until the third arc, it was the heart of the thing, it was going to be his love for his once normal life that he had obviously idealized and was haunted by.

What’s In a Name?

With the concept of what would become Fear Agent and the character of Heath Huston established, it was time to name the comic book.

Remender: The title itself, Fear Agent, came from a pile of CDs on my desk. I had Agent Orange on top of Fear and I remember looking at those two things together. We had been discussing having fear in the title and I wanted it tying back into his origin story. I had a Mark Twain quote on my desktop that said something about that courage isn’t the absence of fear, it is the ability to ignore it and fight through it. I’m bastardizing the quote at this point, but the basic gist of the quote is courage is not the absence of fear but overcoming it, something like that. That was something that I had put on my desktop to kind of keep myself going when comic books didn’t really seem to want me around.

Jerome Opeña: The word fear was in a lot of those great old pulp titles too so it kind of lends itself to immediately conjuring those images too.

Remender: That was something that I thought was apt to the Heath situation, that he would be somebody who fought fear. That quote kind of fed into the one and to use the word fear and then the albums sort of stacked up on my desktop and the name was sort of born from those two things, kind of perfectly aligning themselves.

Launching Fear Agent

With a name, concept and character, the question of where to publish Fear Agent is addressed.

Remender: We had been talking to Image Comics while we were developing it, so they were definitely going to be the launch company. That was never in question. I had Sea of Red and Strange Girl moving forward at Image. This was going to be the next thing I did there.

We opened fairly strong in the market. Indie books at that point had taken a real crash. In 2002 and 2003, you’d seen a real–I don’t know if it was a resurgence–but you’d see horror books take a nice climb up the ladder. Tony and I had both done a lot of that stuff. I had done my monster mash-up, XXXombie story, and Doll and Creature and then obviously I think Tony did something with zombies. The market was seeing some constraint for that stuff but not for a lot of the other indie stuff.

While we opened, I think, at like 12,000 or 13,000 [issues sold], the book then goes to 7,000 and 8,000 [issues sold] and that’s just barely enough to really keep the ship sailing. While the reaction was positive, the numbers said early on that this was going to be an uphill battle, which is a lot of fun knowing that you’ve got 30 to 40 issues of story you want to try and get through. But I think we all loved what we were doing and so it was just important to get through it and to keep the book alive no matter what and that was sort of the mission statement moving forward.

Introducing Jerome

With Fear Agent launched, Remender and Moore search for a third member of the creative team.

Jerome Opena & Rick Remender (former X-Force editor Jody LeHeup in the middle)

Remender:  We knew early on that there was going to be rotating artist and so after going through a few people and getting things moving, we settled on Jerome Opeña.

Opeña: I had done one issue of Strange Girl and then after that, Rick asked me if I wanted to work on Fear Agent and I said “Yes, of course!” because I honestly didn’t have really anything going on at that time. It looked like a really cool project; sci-fi stuff. I love all that kind of stuff, and so I jumped on from there.

Remender: At that point in time, Tony had double books, he was doing The Exterminators and Fear Agent. I think by issue four, Jerome was already in there polishing up the pencils and lending a hand.

The book absolutely would not have continued or existed in the way that it now does where it not for Jerome buckling down and hopping on issue four. We weren’t making a whole lot of money, so it really was a labor of love for everybody involved. I think the fact that we were able to not only get it done, but the fact that it looks as stunning as it does, is sort of a testament to how in love with the subject matter that we all were.

Opeña: On my part, I also was trying to keep some semblance of Tony’s mood and feel that he brought to the book. Readers, some of them, can get mad about the artist changing. That was in the back of my mind but it wasn’t exactly something that I was like, “Okay I’m not going to do it.” It just kind of happened through just working on the book, it just kind of happened organically.

Moore: I think we just got really lucky that we kind of come from similar schools of thought when it comes to cartooning and rendering. I think that we had such sympathetic styles that it was just kind of a natural fit.  I guess on that front we just got really lucky.

 


Tune in tomorrow for part 2, where we hear about Jack Davis and other collaborators, the Fear Agent car, the move to Dark Horse and more from the Oral History of Fear Agent

Comments

  1. I’ve been waiting a long time for this Fear Agent Library to be released, this makes excellent reading while I’m waiting for my copy to come in the mail!

    I’d love to see more articles like this about other creator-owned work, it’s definitely nice to get some behind the scenes info.

  2. Grandturk says:

    I have the last trade of Fear Agent and I don’t have the will power to make it more than 1/2 way through. I don’t want it to end. As long as there’s still a couple of chapters for me to read – it hasn’t ended!

  3. boostergold4 says:

    The omnibus is already sold out everywhere!!! Amazon no longer list it available until after Christmas and my LCS said they cannot order any more at this time!!!! Noooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!

  4. WheelHands WheelHands says:

    What a coindcidence! I just asked for the first trade for Xmas (Omnibus was too expensive for a gift). I’ve always had a feeling I’d love this book, just never got around to it. I hope I love it at least half as much as the iFanbase seems to.

  5. vmars vmars says:

    I’ve had this preordered from amazon for months now and it still hasn’t shipped…

    • Will Magnus Will Magnus says:

      Next week my friend…next week.

    • Conor Kilpatrick Conor Kilpatrick (@cskilpatrick) says:

      Comic stores usually get books a week before Amazon.

    • daddy_ak74 daddy_ak74 says:

      Conor, can I still order this from Amazon?

    • daddy_ak74 daddy_ak74 says:

      I meant the first printing, Amazon doesn’t specify the printing for pre-order

    • Conor Kilpatrick Conor Kilpatrick (@cskilpatrick) says:

      @daddy_ak74: Good question. I assume that since Remender has been on Twitter saying that the book is sold out then that means that the first printing is gone. But I have no idea.

    • daddy_ak74 daddy_ak74 says:

      @Conor Kilpatrick: Thanks for getting back to me, I had heard that the book is sold out as well. It is not listed on InStockTrades and I wasn’t sure if the HC listed on Amazon was a reprint.

    • @daddy_ak74: I remember when the Arkham Asylum HC first came out in ’89 and I passed on buying it right away. And it proceeded to sell out before I realized I wanted to have it. I continued to pass on the several TPB printings that came out later because I was holding out for the 1st print HC. Fifteen years passed before I finally just broke down and bought the anniversary edition and afterward realized how foolish I was for waiting so long to read this great story, all because of being OCD about what print it was. Ironically, a lot of those early TPB printings that I passed on are “worth” almost as much as the original HC now.

      Each to his own, but if you pass on this Fear Agent HC on Amazon just because of the possibility of it being a 2nd print, you may be passing on it entirely, and live to regret not getting one when you had the chance.

    • Conor Kilpatrick Conor Kilpatrick (@cskilpatrick) says:

      Remender on Twitter:

      “We sold out of the entire print run of FEAR AGENT vol.1 HC last week. If you can’t get one today the next print run will be out in April.”

    • @Conor: So that either means what Amazon has is still first print (it says “this item will be released January 9″) or else Amazon is just wrong about the release date.

      In any case, FEAR AGENT Vol 1 is available for immediate purchase on the Midtown website at 15% off cover price. This would be a first print fo sho.

    • Firevine Firevine says:

      Thanks for the info on when Amazon gets books, Conor. I might should go ahead and preorder book two, as I am a stickler for first prints.

    • rwpos rwpos says:

      FYI on the Amazon front, I ordered this a few weeks ago from Amazon, and the other day they informed me that the book would not ship until early January. However, they just updated my order today, to revise the delivery date to December 19, so they may have more books on hand than originally thought available.

    • Paul Montgomery Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

      I received the same email from Amazon just now, promising delivery by the 19th instead of the previously estimated 28th. I pre-ordered back in June. Never saw anything about a delay to January, actually.

      Next week!

    • gyme gyme says:

      Pre-ordered mine when it first went up on Amazon and am giddy to say it showed up yesterday. Having never ordered a “library edition” before I didn’t know what to expect. This thing is simulateneously massive, beautiful, and dang heavy. Can’t wait to dive in.

  6. J-Nel J-Nel says:

    Mine just shipped this morning, this was a nice little appetizer for what’s to come…

    It’s pretty rare and lucky for me to get into a series this late in the game, when things have wrapped up, the issues and trades have sold, and a more deluxe format of the story gets rolled out. I read the 1st trade just over a month ago after it had been sittting on my stack for awhile. You can imagine my joy when searching for Volume 2 to no avail but coming across the solicit for the omnibus/library edition… Can’t wait to blast off!!

  7. All I want for Christmas is peace on Earth and Fear Agent Vol.1 Omnibus.

  8. I love Agent Orange and Fear! This omnibus is what I plan on buying myself for my birthday later this month.

  9. rossco says:

    Getting my copy tomorrow from my LCS ! Looking forward to reading it !

  10. FearAgent89 FearAgent89 says:

    Great arrticle! Now I know the roots of my user name!

    • rwpos rwpos says:

      Funny. And I’ve used FEAR Agent as my Xbox Live gamer tag for years, and I have yet to encounter anyone who seems to recognize the reference to this series, which makes me sad…

  11. diebenny diebenny says:

    Good stuff. I’m looking forward to part 2!

  12. Even though I have all the original issues, I pre-ordered the first library edition as well because Fear Agent is something special. Like Hellboy, The Walking Dead or Bone, Fear Agent is one of the best creator owned books I’ve ever read.

    I had pre-ordered the first Image issue back in 2005 from my LCS just based on the concept alone. I had never heard of Rick Remender, and barely knew who Tony Moore was at that time. I think I had read a blurb in CSN about this upcoming series and decided to give it a shot. I had no idea it would be this good.

    Just found this interesting article by Josh back in 2008: “Watch Out for Jerome Opeña”. Man, was he ever right. From someone no one had heard of, to drawing Avengers #1, Jerome Opena is huge now.

    http://ifanboy.com/articles/watch-out-for-jerome-opena/

  13. Neb Neb says:

    Cool oral history. I ordered mine off Instocktrades.com, but got a look at one in the LCS the other day. Oh man, is it big, bulky, and beautiful. Can’t wait to get mine.

  14. boostergold4 says:

    Just found a copy at another LCS in my area !!!! Whahooooooooooo!!! Thank you Boarderlands!!!