No One Left To Fight: An Interview With Fico Ossio And Taylor Esposito

No One Left To Fight is the upcoming comic from writer Aubrey Sitterson, artist Fico Ossio, and letterer Taylor Esposito. Published by Dark Horse Comics, No One Left To Fight explores what happens after the final battle is won and asks “What does a fighter do when there’s no one left to fight?” The first issue is set to release July 3, 2019.

I had a chance to chat with Fico Ossio and Taylor Esposito about the book. Stick around to the end to see a glimpse into Ossio’s art process.

Tim Midura: No One Left To Fight is heavily-influenced by manga. How do you bring that to Western comics?

Fico Ossio: When it comes to depicting human – or humanoid – characters, manga has a very distinctive style. You know…the big eyes, the angular faces. Most anime characters, especially shounen ones, are drawn this way. There’s also typically a big contrast between how stylized the characters are, and the more realistic backgrounds they appear in.

Well, we aren’t doing any of that! No One Left to Fight is drawn more in the American style. While we borrow manga design elements and how the characters look, our characters are drawn in a more western fashion.

The book is definitely influenced by manga, but we’re filtering it back through western and American comics!

TM: A fight comic is going to be sound effect heavy. What’s your approach to No One Left To Fight?

Taylor Esposito: Honestly, when Aubrey approached me about NOLTF, and he mentioned the DBZ/manga influence, I tried to look at some of that for inspiration, but once I saw Fico’s art, I changed gears a bit, and just decided, as much as possible, to just keep it to big over the top sfx. I just wanted chunky, almost bombastic letters, to match the energy the book is giving off.

TM: Vale has a championship belt. Did Aubrey force you to include that?

FO: Haha. Nope…but he definitely loves it! I actually designed Vâle simultaneously with Timór. And I already knew he was this champion, that he had saved the world, and I thought it would be so visually interesting if he had an actual belt like a medal! And of course, every time Timór sees Vâle, he’s faced with this reminder of his rival’s accomplishments.

TM: How does your lettering approach on this title differ from others?

TE: Again, just go over the top. Granted for the convos, I try to keep it subdued, and not distract from the story, but when it’s time to get crazy, just get right in your face, as appropriate, and match the sfx colors to Fico’s palette. One advantage is that, since Fico is on the full art duties, I get to see the colors while I’m lettering (not a given in this fast-paced age of lettering books) so I really get to match my work to his a lot better.

TM: No One Left To Fight features a wide cast of characters. What went into designing new original characters?

FO: It was a back-and-forth process with Aubrey. The first ones we did were Vâle, Timór and Krysta. We only had a vague idea of the story we were looking to build, but we knew it needed to center on this trio – they were definitely the toughest designs to crack. I took influence from a lot of my favorite manga and anime characters, then combined a Western design sense, as well as my own personal aesthetic. I love manga but I don’t draw manga – so I knew they needed to be different.

I also knew that Vâle needed to have a bit of a monk vibe. Big and beefy, but with an easygoing feel to him. Timór, on the other hand, needed to be the silent type, more like a ronin or ninja. That’s what I started with. Then I added more random and everyday elements, like Vâle’s jacket or Timór’s striped joggers and sneakers – they’re meant to break the mold and give the characters personality. And of course, I borrowed the bright, colorful hair from manga and anime!

Krysta isn’t the same type of fighter as Vâle and Timór, so I had to look for inspiration elsewhere. If she wasn’t gonna fight with energy blasts or focused ki, I figured we should build technological elements right into her design! That’s why she has a robotic arm, which, rather than being a choice or an upgrade, I thought would work best by making a missing arm part of her backstory.

The rest of the characters came to life organically as Aubrey and I went back and forth about the story and what we needed. The first three characters also served as inspiration, as we built on their appearances and the reasons behind them!

For example, all our characters wear googles or some type of glasses. That’s because in this world, cars have no roofs and typically no windshields either! There are a lot of elements like that – stuff that’s built into the larger world. It’s never just random! But honestly, we’ve put so much thought into things, that we’re probably not ever going to be able to explain all of it! Maybe in an Official Guidebook one day!

The rest of the characters were created to serve the story or just ideas that came from conversations with Aubrey. I think it’s the most fun part of the process! When you create all the characters yourself, you have so much freedom to explore your ideas! We had to pick and choose which ones would fit into this part of the larger story, but rest assured that we have a lot more to build on.

TM: Do you have to alter your lettering to fit Fico’s art style?

TE: I dunno if I’d say I alter it, but like anything I work on, I tailor my initial style guide to what I feel off the art and script. I’ve worked with Aubrey on a number of stories now, and even stories where we have the same art team, my style guide and approach differ. I like to think my lettering is a direct response to what the story is trying to say/convey. And, when possible, if Fico or Aubrey have a suggestion, I try to incorporate it and make it work. At the end of the day, everything is in service to the story, and in this case, the story is just an explosion of energy and color.

TM: Can you tell me more about developing the world of No One Left To Fight?

FO: In short: It was a ton of fun! First off, it’s a real personal, special experience to work on a creator-owned story – as a creator, it’s something you always dream about. Or it was in my case, at least. When I first started drawing it was always with my own stories and characters. To finally get a chance to do so as a professional is an amazing feeling. And even more so with a great partner like Aubrey! When you work with someone on something that you both love and feel inspired by, it’s impossible not to have a great time. And on top of that, Aubrey brought in Taylor, who has been such a valuable asset. It really is a great team!

TM: You use different color speech bubbles depending on the context. What goes into that decision?

TE: That was one of the requests from Aubrey. As you’ll see, the blue balloons are not necessarily what is going on, or what happened, and is a visual cue to the reader about what our characters have been through, are thinking, or even what is to come. I prefer to use black on white balloons for most lettering, unless there is a need for the change. A rule I keep with my lettering is if all balloons are special balloons, then none are special. We need a reason to differentiate balloons, otherwise its just chaos on the page, and not the good kind of chaos.

TM: The colors in the series are very vibrant and loud. What went into that decision?

FO: There were two reasons for that choice. First, we wanted the story to have an unexpected look and design. Just like Dragon Ball Z and other manga have a lot of random elements or characters that are completely out there – like the having a dog as the mayor of a city. So, every time I had to color something, I went with the opposite of what I’d normally do. Say I had to paint a tree…instead of green, I went magenta. After a while it evolved into a style of its own!

The second reason behind the choice was that we knew the story was going to touch on some deep, heavy issues. I think the contrast between a bright, colorful design and a darker story is a really powerful one.

TM: Can you talk about your lettering process?

TE: There isn’t much to it. Lettering is so second nature to me at this point, I barely think about it when I’m working on it. The choices I make are so instinctual, I know where I’m putting things before I really process it. Once the style is nailed down, and I’ve had a read through of the script with the art, I’m pretty much on autopilot. It keeps me from lingering on the book, as it would when reading it for the first time. I basically just leave on music or TV I’ve seen or heard a thousand times, and get into it. And before I know it, the book is done, especially on NOLTF, where Fico and Aubrey just leave me so much space, and the words are kept to what is necessary.

TM: You have a history of doing action books (GI Joe, Transformers). How do you approach a fight scene?

FO: Honestly, I’m much more comfortable with the sort of action that takes place in NOLTF. With G.I. Joe and Transformers, there’s a lot of internal logic that you have to work within. But here, we can really cut loose with massive, over-the-top fight scenes. This is something else that manga does extremely well, and another way that it’s influenced our work!

TM: Can you talk about your step by step process to create a page?

FO: I start with a loose layout. But since I’m also doing the colors, I already start placing them, as well as shadows. I do the brush strokes and all the energy bursts early to give me a better feel of what the finished piece will look like. For this promo piece, I really wanted it to look expressionistic and “raw.”

At this stage I clean up the layouts, separating the pencils to create a base for the inks.

My inking process uses three types of brushes. The first is pitch black but has a big range in stroke thickness depending on the pressure I apply. The second has more texture and is not so black – it has a more washed out feel. I try really hard to make sure my work doesn’t look like it was done digitally. When you can tell that work is all digital, I think it loses some of its personality. My third brush is for the little details – it’s like a small dry brush.

Again, since I’m doing the colors myself, I’ll often use some for different types of lines. Here, they work to separate the figure from the background.

For this step I get help from Danilo Guida, who does all my flats. It helps so much to have the different color sections already outlined and easy to select. Then I can just adjust for the tones I’m going for and start right in on the color work. It saves a huge amount of time.

On my first color step, most of what I do is adjust volumes for where the light is coming from. While I use Clip Art Studio for pencils and inks, I always use Photoshop for coloring. Sometimes I begin with the background, but since this was a simpler one, with more focus on our main character, I decided to start with Vâle.

Now it’s time for the background! It’s an image of Vâle powering up and his powers are mostly red and orange. So, both the light and the background are predominantly those colors, with the light reflecting on Vâle’s figure to make the entire image consistent. I also start adding some smaller details on our fighter…he’s been through a brutal battle and therefore has blood and bruises to show for it.

This step is all about placing smoke and other effects. But that can sometimes leave things too dark, which isn’t at all what I was going for!

The final stage! I adjusted the colors on all the effects, tweaked some tones, and made a few light adjustments, mostly to make Vâle stand out more. I also added some motion blur to give the whole thing a little more punch!

And to top it all off…our logo! That way everyone knows what this comes from!

This is something I’ve seen other artists share, especially colorists. It really shows all the work that’s done on the image. Even without the ink lines, you can see every piece of the drawing!

I hope you enjoyed this step-by-step as much as I enjoyed doing it!

The first issue of the five issue mini-series is set to release July 3, 2019!

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