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Cat Fight! A Chat With Andrew Wheeler & Ilias Kyriazis

Among the many Pride themed comics, graphic novels, and anthologies of 2022 was a series titled Sins of the Black Flamingo. Travis Moore’s and Tamra Bonvillain’s cover art with a proud and defiant barechested Sebastian Harlow, AKA the Black Flamingo, partnering with writer Andwew Wheeler signaled something a bit different. Sins became a peak comics experience for many queer readers. Wheeler returns this year in the new limited series titled Cat Fight! with artists Ilias Kyriazis, Auguste, and Dennis Yatras, and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou’s impeccable lettering! Wheeler and Kyriazis were gracious with their time to talk about Cat Fight with me.

Gay League: Hello Andrew and Ilias! Thank you both for taking the time to do this interview with me! It’s a pleasure to meet you, Ilias! Andrew, we talked close to a year ago in the lead up to your Marvel Pride story and Sins of the Black Flamingo with Travis Moore and Tamra Bonvilain so it’s wonderful to have another opportunity like this with you. Looking through the Diamond Previews order catalog last month and discovering Cat Fight was a very nice surprise!

GL: “John Wick meets Kill Bill, meets CATS?!” is an attention grabbing opener for the synopsis. Andrew, what’s the genesis of Cat Fight and how long has the story been in the works? How did the two of you meet?

Ilias: I have a history with IDW and I was brought on to the project after it had been pitched. As for actually meeting Andrew, I’m waiting for my first “post”-Covid American comic-con so I can have a story of that happening. Comics, right?

Andrew: Great to talk to you again, Joe! I love the outlaw thief archetype and I wanted to tell a story that embraces the glamour of that idea. I also have a lifelong love for Eartha Kitt, so her performance as Catwoman in the Batman TV show provided some of the inspiration for the character of Felix’s grandmother, Kitty Midnight, and the story took shape from there! I brought the idea to IDW about a year ago and IDW brought Ilias on board, knowing he could perfectly capture the action and spectacle that the story calls for!

GL: One of the subjects we talked about with Black Flamingo last year, Andrew, was your love of globetrotting locations. Last year was Miami which certainly became a presence of that story. Cat Fight’s first issue begins in Venice and ends in Amalfi. Where else does Felix Lamarr travel?

Andrew: One of the elements I love in old school action-adventure movies, like Hitchcock or classic Bond, is that they were a way for audiences to travel the world before air travel became affordable. The romance of travel has very much been on my mind after the lockdown years, so I see Felix’s adventure as a chance to “escape” to the places I wish I could have visited!

I had a long list, but for the logistics of the story I narrowed it down so that half the action takes place in Europe, half takes place in Asia, and we have a whole lot of the rest of the world left to explore in future stories! There’s also a subtle cat motif to the action throughout the book, so that guided some of the location choices!

GL: On a sort of related and awkwardly worded note, I really appreciate how the notion of “globetrotting” was extended to the creative team in that everyone on the creative team seems to live outside the United States. Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou as letterer should be a familiar name to US readers though Auguste and Dennis Yatras as inker and colorist respectively are, I imagine, almost certainly new names to American readers. How did they come on board?

Ilias: Auguste and Dennis are two cartoonists I knew from the Greek comics scene. They’ve done a bunch of comics as a duo and I wanted to collaborate with them for the longest time. So when I was approached to draw this book, I knew this was the right project to bring them in. Unless I’m mistaken, this is their first American work.

GL: Rogue, scoundrel, gentleman thief, flamboyant are words that can describe both Sebastian Harlow and Felix Lamarr. You’re not interested in telling stories about characters who steal just for the sake of stealing. Harlow stole to keep an important magical relic out of the hands of Nazis. Lamarr has a code of ethics that was taught to him. Could you talk about this code? Is Lamarr (or will he be) a “hero of the natural law” in the same or similar way as Robin Hood is usually seen as? I’m also interested in knowing how you’re using the idea of family by birth and by choice and secrets in Cat Fight.

Andrew: My writing is always informed by queer identity and queer history, and those are present in both the ideas you mentioned; family isn’t necessarily something you’re born into and law is not necessarily moral. Kitty understands these things much better than Felix does, and she sees an ethical code as being much more important than any law, but she also understands how that leaves a person exposed. Felix isn’t quite as wise, and doesn’t appreciate either birth family or found family!

GL: Ilias, I’d love to know what drew you (no pun intended) to want to draw Cat Fight. Was the opportunity to draw various locations an attraction for you? Seeing your depiction of the Piazza San Marco, its bell tower, and Doge’s Palace made me smile because it instantly brought back memories of a long ago trip. Your visuals really encapsulated the history, character, and decaying underbelly of the city as well as the decadence of its upper class that the script called for. What have you found to be the most rewarding and challenging aspects of visualizing the characters and the script?

Ilias: First of all, thank you! As for the locations, most of the credit must go to Auguste and Dennis. I’d be too embarrassed to show you how loose my pencils were. As for my part… I’m a simple person, I liked the kicking, the jumping and finding ways for Felix to lose shirt buttons while doing all that. Oh… and the cats!

GL: Does music play a part in either of your creative processes? If Cat Fight were to have a sound track what do you imagine it would be?

Andrew: My processes are too erratic to ever be described as habits. Sometimes I make a playlist. Sometimes I shuffle. Sometimes I forget to put on any music at all. Any playlist for this book would begin with Eartha Kitt growling her way through “I Want To Be Evil”, though.

Ilias: I’m very bad at this. I drew the whole book while listening to video essays about movies and games and “music for studying” compilations.

GL: Any upcoming projects once Cat Fight has wrapped up, about which you can tease readers?

Ilias: I’m finishing up a graphic novel I wrote and drew and it’s a “I’ve been thinking about this for ten years” type of comic. Ask me again when it’s announced.

Andrew: Nothing I can talk about, though my Marvel Unlimited story about Negasonic Teenage Warhead wraps up soon, and that has been an absolute pleasure to write!

GL: Where can people find more information and keep up to date with your work?

Ilias: My webpage is iliaskyriazis.com but you can find me on Instagram, Twitter and TikTok as @iliaskyriazis.

Andrew: My new website is launching soon at andewwwheeler.co.uk. I’m on Instagram @wheelergram and on Twitter for as long as that lasts @wheeler.

GL: This has been wonderful, Andrew and Ilias! Thank you so much and thank you too, readers! Cat Fight will be in comic shops on May 31st, a day before Pride month starts. Give your comic shop the Diamond order code MAR231589 to see if you can pre-order a copy.

Many thanks to IDW’s PR team for this opportunity!

April 13, 2023
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