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“Could only be done in comics”: Phillip Sevy talks creator-owned Dark Horse series ‘Triage’

The sci-fi series from Dark Horses deals with space, superheroes, and the search for identity.

Science fiction seems to be a genre that flourishes in the comic book format. Case in point, Saga, Descender, On a Sunbeam, and a million other titles demonstrating the mounds of crossover appeal. That’s part of the reason I was so interested in Phillip Sevy’s new series Triage, which comes out September 4th in comic shops. The series is listed on the Dark Horse website as science-fiction, fantasy, and action/adventure, and based on the first issue alone, Triage earns high marks in all three categories.

The new miniseries — written, drawn, and colored by Sevy — is an exploration of identity with plenty of action mixed in. Sevy cut his teeth on illustrating licensed properties such as Tomb Raider for Dark Horse Comics and it appears his first foray into creator-owned comics could be a monster hit. Recently, I got the opportunity to speak to Sevy about the upcoming project, the series’ inspirations, and his process, among other things.

AiPT!: Thanks for taking the time, Phillip. Triage is a creator-owned series where you do it all — what is it like doing every aspect? Do you need to approach things differently?

Phillip Sevy: I’ve always felt that as a collaborator, my job is to take what’s come before (usually a script) and find the best way to execute it and elevate it then to make it easier for what comes after (colors or letters). Having almost complete creative control over the book, I still have the same goal in mind, only it’s not as linear. I can move back and forth along the production line and change/improve things as I go. As I’m penciling a page, I can (and have) rewritten the dialogue or even the page if I find a better way to do it. While coloring, I can go back and tweak an aspect of the line art that wasn’t working. It’s a holistic approach to making comics that I really love. That said, it causes me to put a lot more pressure on myself. The collaborative nature of comics is amazing and I love it. Doing nearly every role myself (shout out to my amazing letterer Frank Cvetkovic who works wonders on this book) means I have no one to fall back on and hope they make me look better — ha! I realize that I have to put 143% percent into this book because there’s no one I can share the blame with if it doesn’t meet readers’ expectations.

AiPT!: Hypothetical, you’re in an elevator with the dream director who could make Triage into a major motion picture. Who is the director and what is your 30-second elevator pitch?

PS: I mean, let’s shoot for the stars – it’d be Lana and Lilly Wachowski! They’d be amazing not just because no one can handle imaginative, philosophical, visual sci-fi like they can, but because they always manage to find the heart and humanity of the stories they tell (Cloud Atlas or Sense8 anyone?).

A woman realizes that the person she’s been working to become is actually not who she is at all. While trying to sort through the remains of her old life to find a new one, she’s pulled into a multi-dimensional quest to save all of existence alongside an upstart superhero and a hardened battle commander. But what can you do to save the world when you don’t even know who you are?

Promo art for Triage #1.
Credit: Dark Horse Comics

AiPT!: How long has Triage been percolating in the background, be it your mind or on page?

PS: Shockingly, not as long as one would think. Less than a week before SDCC last year, I decided I wanted to have something extra in my back pocket to pitch around. I had been wanting to do a few different types of stories for a long time (superhero, post-apocalyptic, etc.) and I found a really fun way to combine them. I had a rambling paragraph of an idea and a handful of character designs. My amazing Tomb Raider editor, Megan Walker, wanted to hear some creator-owned pitches and that was the first one I pulled out. She really dug it, asked me to formalize it a tad, and then send it over. It was approved a few weeks later! It was a different and exciting process to take an initial idea and expand/construct it into a full story in a short period of time — both really difficult and really exciting — but it’s caused me to put so much of myself into the story that it’s something I care deeply about.

AiPT!: There are a few themes at work with Triage, from superheroes to trippy sci-fi. What inspired this story?

PS: There are two aspects to that — surface and emotional inspirations. On the surface, what got me excited about the project initially (and what makes it fun) – is that I wanted to do a comic that was so comic, if that makes sense. I absolutely love this medium. I love all the insanity that comics can accomplish in a story. You can stretch story and genre boundaries in ways that no other medium can. I don’t mind comics that are basically pitches for TV/movie — there are some really great comics in that category — but I wanted to tell a story that was purely made to tell a story in ways that could only be done in comics. I love superhero comics, post-apocalyptic stories, and imaginative sci-fi — so I created a crazy story that allowed me to explore all of those things.

Secondly, on an emotional level, Triage is about the bewildering confusion and loss that comes with a loss of self-identity. Who are you and how do you define yourself when everything you thought was special about you isn’t? I’ve gone through some very difficult experiences in the last few years that were all centered on this idea and informed the emotional core of this story. While the crazy genre aspects of this story make it exciting to draw, it’s this emotional core that keeps me fueled and going every day for months and months, working on the book.

AiPT!: What is more important: thorough back story pre-thought out or thorough plotting of the story itself? I imagine with a couple of important characters like you have here it could make you lean one way or the other?

PS: Yeah, that’s a great question. I tend to fall somewhere in the middle, actually. I feel great plotting comes from character — and subsequently, the way you explore great characters is through how the plot tests and pushes them. I tend to flip back and forth as I write (especially in the outline phase). I’ll write characters until I get stuck, then switch to plot (using the character information to inform plot choices) until I hit a spot where I’m not sure what should happen next — but I now have new avenues to explore my characters.

AiPT!: Are you a collector? What might we find on your shelves?

PS: Ha! Oh yes. Horribly so, my wife might say. Beyond 20+ long boxes, bookshelves full of trades, I’ve got a shrine to all things Saga next to my desk (I own every issue, trade, hardcover, toy, etc.), I have a giant stack of Marvel Legends figures (mainly their X-Men and Spider-Man lines), and I made the mistake of falling into the Hot Toys hole the other year. I don’t have a large collection (because those things are so expensive!) but I’ve got a handful and have a wish list I salivate over on a regular basis. I’ve also slowly been collecting original art as well as a killer sketch collection of crazy ’90s Cable commissions.

AiPT!: If you had to describe Triage in 3 words, what would the adjective, color, and sound be?

PS: Crazy. Neon. Boom.

You can purchase Triage #1 wherever comic books are sold starting September 4th.

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