Fabrice Sapolsky talks to Byron Brewer about INTERTWINED #4, on sale in January from Dynamite. Cover by Gerald Parel.
BYRON BREWER: Juan Jin has become the Spirit of the Earth! … Yet here on the earthly plane, he is still wanted as a POI for a murder by the authorities and is being pursued by the Triads. What exactly does being the new “Spirit of the Earth” mean? To Juan Jin? To the rest of us?
FABRICE SAPOLSKY: That’s a very good question! At first glance, getting these powers makes Juan’s life more complicated. But it’s a process. He has to go through hell to figure out himself what he wants to do with his life. Again, becoming a Spirit of WuXing isn’t something that happens to everyone. He was chosen. And through exceptional circumstances. For the world, Juan becomes this being who masters everything organic. Everything that comes from the land. He communicates with the Earth, he’s very powerful.
BB: Fabrice, if you would, tell us a little more about the “Spirits,” whose pantheon (for lack of a better term) Juan Jin has just joined, and whom he mistrusts at this point.
FS: In our story, the Spirits of WuXing have been around forever. First in Asia, then the world. They’re the ones who keep the universe balanced through its five elements (Metal, Water, Earth, Wood, Fire). For generations, one Spirit would die (in battle or of natural causes) and would be replaced by a younger one. Challenges have been many. But for the first time, in this generation, a Spirit is murdered by another Spirit (as chronicled in the very rare issue #0). And we’ll finally learn why. The reason will shock you! And it’ll also propel the series into a very different place. From an action/adventure series to a more social/diversity conscious one.
BB: What is the Golden Dragon the Triads seek? Why is it of such import to them?
FS: The Golden Dragon is one of the 5 artifacts the Spirits possess. It’s like a Green Lantern battery, to make it simple. Except you don’t recharge your power here. The essence of your power, your spirit is there. The Spirits can function without them. But if they’re all gathered in one hand, they can be used to control the universe. The Spirit of the Earth, who died prior to our story, gave the Golden Dragon to Lady Xia. Because he trusted her. He would always leave it to her when he was spending time in the United States. That explains why she has it in issue #1. And she gives it to Juan because she picked him up as the new Spirit of the Earth. Lady Xia is behind everything (or almost everything). I have to add that the Golden Dragon, or the Black Tortoise or Vermillion Bird didn’t come out of my imagination. I borrowed them to have them fit in our story. In Chinese tradition, the Golden Dragon or Yellow Dragon is tied to the Element of Earth.
BB: The Spirits are certainly being overly helpful, or at least trying to be, to our hero. Is there some unknown motivation behind their offers of assistance of which readers are unaware?
FS: The remaining Spirits, led by Lady Xia aka the Spirit of Water, have an agenda. I think it’s clear by issue #4 that their intention has always been to restore balance in WuXing since Nei Chang, the Spirit of Metal, has crushed it. One problem at a time. They first decided to pick themselves the new Spirit of the Earth, then to deal with the Spirit of Metal. But when you play with the elements, there’s always a price to pay…
BB: Thus far, Intertwined has certainly been a character-driven book. When you plan issues, do you concentrate on character first and then where that takes the plot?
FS: It really is a character-driven book. There’s a McGuffin in the story. A revelation that justifies the entire story to even exist. And this revelation (and its consequences) happen in issue #4 and #5! What came first was the reason why I made this book. And I’ll talk more about it next month when people have read issue #4 because it’ll become clear that there were some issues I wanted to talk about. Without giving too much away, let’s say that since I came to live in the United States, I discovered how much communities can live in the same streets, in the same buildings without knowing each other. That melting pot doesn’t really exist. That rejection is easy. And when you get here, you have to identify as something and try to hang with “your people”. That’s not how I was raised nor how I want to live. I strongly believe mixing people from everywhere enriches us. Intertwined is a kind of Trojan horse. A Kung Fu fiction that conveys a vision where lines are blurred and we only see people. I’ll take a moment to talk about Bruce Lee who has been an incredible inspiration for Fred and myself. His philosophy. The way he saw the world. Bruce was born in the U.S. but had hard time blending in in the 1950s and ‘60s in that America. He was also very much Chinese, as reported by the people who knew him and his family. But he saw people behind colors. He believed in humankind. I see so many people talking about ethnicities here. I’m not ignoring the challenges nor negating anything. And I strongly support those who fight for inclusion and equality in rights. Bruce Lee was ahead of his time. He understood that wherever you come from, whatever you looked like, you’re a human being first. A talent. A brother. A sister. A son. A daughter. A mother or a father. We set the action in 1971 because the world was very different obviously, but also more optimistic, despite so many terrible things happening. We’ve lost a lot of that optimism. But I don’t think we have to give up on it. On the contrary, we have to work harder to give a much more open minded world to our kids. Writers… creators… we are dreamers. But we’re also deeply rooted in reality. Fiction proved centuries ago that it could plant seeds of ambition in people’s minds. We went to the moon. We did great things. Humbly, Intertwined brings a little something to the table. Something of our own experiences in life.
BB: With issue #4, on sale in January, we are approaching the penultimate issue of this series. Looking back, has the story unfolded pretty much as you intended. (All writers know how characters and stories sometimes take over, lol.)
FS: I’ve been pretty much following my initial plan here. There have been some differences, some scenes originally taking place in an issue and moved to other ones. But it’s pretty much the same structure from day one.
BB: How awesome has Fred Pham Chuong been with the art on this book? Do you guys work closely together?
FS: You said it: awesome. Fred is just an incredible storyteller. We speak nearly every day. We sometimes change the script together. He makes me a stronger creator. We lift each other up. And I want to also mention our color artist, Veronica Lopez. She’s been with us from the beginning and we feel blessed she lends her talent to the series.
BB: Fabrice, can you tell us a little of what readers can expect in Intertwined going forward?
FS: Revelations! More Kung Fu! And the dramatic return of Juan’s Haitian friends.
And GREAT covers by incredible French artists! Gerald Parel drew the cover to issue #4, Roland Boschi is doing #5 and the mighty Olivier Coipel is closing the first story arc’s cover with #6. To my knowledge, it’s the first non-DC, non-Marvel cover Olivier has done in a very, very long time. Not to be missed!
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