Cyber Force: Artifacts #0 was published at the end of 2016. It contained three short strips, created by the Runners-Up of the Top Cow Talent Hunt.
This year the strips were reprinted in the Cyber Force Rebirth: Artifacts Vol.3 TPB. With the final Cyber Force Rebirth TPB coming out next Wednesday, I thought it would be a good time to look back at the eight page strip I contributed to the issue.
The two pages visible below were released as part of the preview.
I wrote a strip called ‘Weaponeer’ featuring the Cyber Force villain called Aphrodite IV. She is a cyborg designed for assassination missions. This character is of course an earlier model of the protagonist featured in the Aphrodite IX series.
You will likely recognize the artist as the excellent Jim Towe, who has now gone onto draw other series such as Youngblood.
Panel 1. This panel features the character of Francesca Taylor, the main villain of both the Cyber Force Rebirth series and Aphrodite IX. She is the head of CyberData Industries.
The tanks to the left of the page are a little nod to Witchblade #134 – #136; a story arc which featured Aphrodite IV called ‘Almost Human’. In the first issue of that story arc Aphrodite I, Aphrodite II and Aphrodite III are seen in similar tanks.
The tank here is marked ‘V’; which indicates that the character inside is Aphrodite V, one of the main players in the Cyber Force Rebirth series. I meant this to indicate that this story starts slightly before the Cyber Force Rebirth series.
Panel 2. Anton Sengh is a new character created for this story. I imagined him as a modern day warlord. I was a little inspired by the character of Khan Noonien Singh from Star Trek but there were other influences as well. For a while in the script his name was Singh, but there is a character by that name in the ‘Almost Human’ story arc, so I wanted to avoid confusion.
The name Sengh came from The Phantom comic strip. The main villains in that strip are a group of pirates called the Singh Brotherhood, a name that was later changed to the Sengh Brotherhood in the comics.
I wanted to create a character who was dangerous. Not only strong, but intelligent.
The Consortium are the group that created the early Aphrodite cyborgs. In ‘Almost Human’ the Consortium’s lab is raided and their technology stolen.
CyberData continues the Aphrodite project and are seen in full control of the program well into the future. The Consortium are never mentioned again.
This created a story dangler. So, I asked myself, what would have happened to the remaining members of the Consortium?
The answer was obvious. CyberData would send the newly acquired Aphrodite IV to track each of them down. They would be unwilling to let anyone else have access to the technology, which was vital to their plans.
Panels 3 – 6. The image in my head of Aphrodite IV casually leaping from a helicopter and swimming to an exotic island was too cool to pass up.
When I pitched the strip to Ryan Cady at Top Cow I actually offered two versions. One was more realistic and set in an FBI building. The other was more comic book-y and set on an exotic island.
I’m glad he went for the latter, as I think the end result was a lot more fun.
As a cyborg, I wanted to sell that Aphrodite IV cares little for modesty, so she casually undresses on the shore.
Panel 1. Cyber Force was of course created in the 90’s by Marc Silvestri as one of the first books for Image Comics. That’s why on the island you will see a few references to comic books from the 90’s, such as guards with cybernetic arms.
Panel 2. Paying attention? This is the computer room storing all the data provided by the rogue scientist and given to Anton Sengh. This will be important later.
Panels 3 – 4. Fight! What is a comic book without a little action?
Panel 5. Aphrodite IV goes down rather easily, doesn’t she? It’s almost like she threw the fight on purpose.
Panel 6. Super chunky wrist manacles! Another reference to 90’s comic books.
Panel 1. Welcome to Anton Sengh’s grand audience chamber. I wanted to show off the wealth of the pirate lord through the luxury present in this room.
We meet the man himself, appropriately sitting upon a throne.
In the room are numerous lackeys, showing that Sengh is a man who commands others. This also presented the artist with a fun chance to design some interesting background characters.
The red curtain also hides another important element of the story.
Panels 2 – 5. Aphrodite IV is questioned and beaten, which as a cyborg, does little to intimidate her.
Along with tying up a story dangler, I really wanted the chance to explore the character of Aphrodite IV.
I was struck by when in Uncanny X-Men during the ‘Sisterhood’ arc the character of Lady Deathstrike is referred to as a murder doll.
That description fits Aphrodite IV perfectly. She is not a human being with feelings. She is an instrument of death. As such, she takes the most direct path to accomplishing her goal. Which, in this case, in locating the scientist Arlo Willis.
He steps forward at the end of this page.
The quickest way to Arlo Willis was getting captured and taking a beating, which is exactly what Aphrodite IV did, and it brought Arlo right to her.
Panel 1. Some exposition delivered by Arlo Willis. While I love continuity, you never want to assume that a reader knows everything that has gone before.
By having Arlo deliver an explanation to Anton Sengh, I neatly explain who Aphrodite IV is to anyone unfamiliar with the character.
As a formerly respectable scientist, I wanted Arlo to feel out of place. Which is why he’s still in a loose shirt and tie.
He doesn’t belong among these mercenaries.
Panels 2 – 3. More exposition. And clarity on what exactly Aphrodite IV’s mission is. She mentions here that she has new handlers, which are of course CyberData, although that isn’t overly relevant to the plot.
Panels 4 – 7. We get a little back and forth between Aphrodite IV and Sengh, allowing some of the villain’s character to be explored.
There is also further evidence of Aphrodite IV’s inhumanity, as she allows blood to dribble down from her broken nose.
She continues to be direct, knowing subterfuge gains her nothing. She’s here to kill the scientist. She knows it. They know it. And she’s ready to get on with it.
Panels 1 – 3. Aphrodite easily breaks out of her manacles, having strength beyond that of a normal woman. She explains that getting captured was a ploy to get her close to the scientist.
She also picks up a knife. This detail isn’t important here, but I needed to give her a weapon to use later in the strip.
My love of old Marvel Comics probably shows through here, where characters are frequently talking about “playing possum”. I couldn’t resist sneaking that line in.
Panel 4. Anton Sengh tells his men that he wants to handle Aphrodite IV personally. This fits with his character, but it’s also necessary to explain why his henchmen don’t simply overwhelm her.
With a strip only eight pages long, I couldn’t have bad guy after bad guy trying to take Aphrodite IV down.
But by creating an arrogant villain like Sengh, that gives a credible motivation for him wanting to take her on by himself.
He’s showing off.
Panels 5 – 7. The reveal of the battle armor. Aphrodite IV is a powerful character, as I have already established in the strip, so she needed a credible threat.
When I first pitched the story, I suggested having another android for Aphrodite IV to face off against. After all, that’s what the Consortium scientists were designing.
However I was told, and rightly so, that there wasn’t enough room to introduce another villainous character in a strip only eight pages long.
So, I needed a way to upgrade the threat of Anton Sengh. It needed to be technological, because Arlo Willis was there, providing technology.
A battle suit seemed like the most logical option.
Panels 1 – 6. This is the big fight between Aphrodite IV and Anton Sengh. And Sengh does manage to rip through Aphrodite.
I felt like it was important for him to draw blood, to show him as someone who is truly dangerous and a real threat.
Panels 1 – 2. And Aphrodite gets a grip on Sengh’s neck, bringing the fight to a close.
Panel 3. Sengh offers a deal. He knows that Aphrodite can kill him easily but then his men will blast her down, stopping her from completing her mission.
Sengh may be brash and arrogant, but he’s smart enough to know when he’s beat.
If you picked up the print edition of this issue, then you will notice an error in this panel. The line “You are truly a worthy adversary, but ending my life won’t get you what you want” is given to Aphrodite IV, when it should be spoken by Sengh.
Aphrodite wouldn’t evaluate anyone as a worthy adversary, it isn’t how she thinks, but to Sengh, worth and honor are of prime importance.
Sometimes things simply slip through during the production of comic books.
The errors were corrected for the digital copy and in the trade paperback.
Panels 4 – 5. Sengh quickly agrees to give up the scientist. He values Arlo Willis, but not more than his own life.
Panels 1 – 2. Aphrodite quickly takes care of Arlo, with the knife she picked up earlier. As a writer, it’s important to remember to introduce elements such as this knife here, earlier on in the strip.
Aphrodite’s method of dispatching Arlo is quick and with minimum effort, maintaining the idea that she is direct in her action.
Panels 3 – 6. Aphrodite tells Sengh that she deleted the data from the computers earlier. I made sure to include a panel on Page 2 where she discovers the computer servers, setting up this reveal here.
She departs, but I leave it open as to whether Sengh will return, in case another writer wishes to use him in the future.
Anyway, I hope this has been an interesting read, and gives you some small bit of insight into my process.
If you haven’t read the strip yet, please go pick it up.
Cyber Force Rebirth: Artifacts Vol.3 is available now (as are Volume 1 and 2).
Cyber Force Rebirth Vol.4 will be released on the 19th of September, 2018.