Unlike most comics you might find at your local comic shop, the Centurion reads more like the YouTube series that writer/photographer/creator Chris Notarize has created over the years. Rather than detailed drawings or intentionally sketchy panels, the story of the Centurion is told through a photographic medium with real actors and settings. Though the tale of the government experiment-turned-hero-turned-vigilante certainly can certainly be compared to clear influencers like Captain America, the Centurion’s aesthetics provide a wholly unique way of visualizing the comic’s heroes and villains. Having created, written, shot, and edited the entire thing, Chris Notarile is certainly the man to ask about what went into creating the Centurion… and ask I did!
AP2HYC: I think the first question really needs to be about the aesthetics of the comic. Clearly the Centurion strays away from the images that most people tend to think of being synonymous with comics and I’m wondering what prompted you to make that stylistic choice?
Chris Notarile: When I decided to make the Centurion comic book, I knew flat out I wanted to create a comic style book out of photographs. I didn’t want to have the book drawn. I wanted to stand out as well as brand myself and my talented pool of actors who are featured in the book. Marissa Centrella has already played Kayla the Centurion in my webseries, “Phantom Faye”. So I thought it would be a good move to have her continue to play the part in a graphic novel form, so readers would have an easier time identifying Marissa as Kayla.
AP2HYC: Did you ever envision this in typical comic format, or was it visualized from the get-go as this pseudo live-action type of book?
CN: Like any creator, there is always the thought of, “Hey, what if this was illustrated? Aw, that would be awesome.” Then reality sets in and you remember, as good of an artist as you may or may not be, you’re not a professional and you don’t want to be dependent on someone else who has their own schedule and career to run. So, like any business man, I made the decision to do it myself. I always thought of myself as a talented enough photographer, so why not just try and make the book on my own? So yeah, that was pretty much the thought process.
AP2HYC: Normally when I ask people about creating books, there tends to be a division between the writer, illustrated, and letterer. YOU had a hand in literally every aspect of the Centurion so I assume this was a real labor of love kind of project. How long did it actually take to produce from start to finish?
CN: Believe it or not, it was really, really easy to make. I timed myself and I was able to edit 4 pages in under 5 hours. This included adding in speech bubbles, special fx and general editing/layout. Pretty much, before I just jumped into making the book I needed to have the following, my cast for the days scheduled, costumes and props (if any) and locations. Much like a movie, I equate that to pre-production which I can complete long before anyone even shows up at my door. So yeah, making a live action book (for me) is really, really easy. But to be honest, it’s also a labor of love that motivates me to work the way that I do. So perhaps this process might take a little longer for someone else.
AP2HYC: There are multiple settings, characters, and superhero scenarios, all of which were captured by film rather than pen. What was the process like of actually shooting each of the panels? Was it a, “knock it out in a weekend,” kind of situation or an, “X months later we’ve finally got it,” kind of process?
CN: It’s just like filming a movie. You call up all your models and actors when you are putting together a schedule and they give you their availability. Then you cross reference that with your calendar and then you book them. For example, I am working on issue #2 right now and I was able to do all of Mary Kolende’s (who plays Catalyst aka the Nuclear Woman) scenes in one day. She has 3 scenes in issue #2 but because we scheduled things properly, we were able to get them all shot in the course of a 6 hour day. On average, if I were to time it, a 4 page scene will probably take about an hour to shoot.
AP2HYC: Unlike artists who can redraw a panel at the end of a process if they feel it doesn’t fit, it seems as though the Centurion would have been far trickier to tweak due to the photography aspect. How much planning had to be done beforehand in order to ensure that there would be a slim-to-none possibility of not having the desired look in a panel upon putting the book together?
CN: Good question. I never go in blind. I’m not just randomly shooting my models from all angels hoping something works. No way! I actually storyboard the entire book long before we ever shoot. So when we are filming, I am constantly comparing my chicken scratch drawings to what I’m shooting, making sure that my models are posed right and being shot from the correct angle so the layout of the scene’s page is done properly. Its the best way to avoid reshoots and (knock on wood) I haven’t run into that problem yet. I chalk it up to the power of preparation. LOL. Though, when editing, I HAVE revised my pages a bit. When shooting, sometimes I look at my boards and think the reader might be able to benefit from an additional panel, so I take a few extra shots of things and then I add them. For instance, in the scene with Kayla and Ashley on the roof, I added the close up of Ashley handing Kayla the file as well as the panel of her giving the file back. These are minor things, but unless I told you, you would never know it was unplanned. But if you read the scene and those panels were missing, you might think the scene felt weird because there is no physical exchange of this file the characters are literally talking about.
AP2HYC: As far as the story goes, was this a concept that has been ruminating for awhile or is it one that kind of just came to you immediately one night and was instantly something you could picture from start to finish?
CN: Well I created this version of Kayla in 2013 for the webseries pilot “The Retcon Chronicles” (prior to that, she was just a superhero that I used to draw in the 7th grade) and then I continued her story in the 5 episode series, “Phantom Faye.” And while I have plans to continue that series, I felt that since I am literally trying to branch out and expand awareness for my company Blinky Productions Inc, I might as well have more to offer to my fanbase. I’ve kind of made a niche’ for myself as a guy who writes very strong female protagonists. It was always a goal of mine to begin with, so wanting to make a comic book about (LITERALLY) one of my strongest Blinky characters seemed pretty natural. The particular plot for the first 3 issues, entitled, “Wrath of the Nuclear Woman,” was just something that came to me after I set out to make a comic featuring the Centurion. I knew she needed to have a female enemy and I knew this enemy had to have powers that could rival her own. And I knew I wanted them both to have adjoining origins. So I just sat down and starting plotting.
AP2HYC: What sort of other projects/films/comics etc. influenced you while you were putting together the Centurion?
CN: It’s very easy to say that the new Supergirl show as well as the Flash were huge influences on this book. It’s incredibly pleasing to see quality modern superhero shows on TV that make you feel like they could actually exist. This was one of my goals for the Centurion, as well as all of my heroes. I want my audience to believe that they could possibly be real. That they could be your friends. Another influence of course are the Marvel films, specifically Captain America. He is as relatable as he is awesome. And since Kayla’s origins largely borrow from the Captain America mythos, it’s only proper that I try to follow in the footsteps of such a quality character.
AP2HYC: It has a variety of genres woven into it with the espionage/superheroes/politics and I’m curious as to whether or not something in the real world influenced the direction of the comic.
CN: That’s totally true. Current events always shape the story of almost anything. Just look at the politics and views examined in the Captain America or Iron Man films, or such books like the Watchmen and the Dark Knight Returns. Its very hard to avoid being influenced by the world around you when you are writing a story about a government funded superhero. But that was also the point. Kayla is and will always be created by our government. She is the Robocop to the ED-209 that is Catalyst, the Nuclear Woman, or Jack and Jill. I guess that is the best way to describe it.
AP2HYC: Lastly, at the close of issue #1 there was a fun drawing of the Protector. Does the the Centurion universe leave room for some sort of prequel or is his vanishing something that will be touched upon later in the series?
Be sure to check out Issue #1 of the Centurion when it gets released and like the comic’s Facebook page for any and all updates! Send us a Tweet or leave a comment below if you’re a fan of the series!