First Comics News: Carlos, for fans who might not have heard of you before, tell us a little about yourself.

Carlos Raphael:  Hi folks and fans! My name is Carlos Raphael, and I’m the publisher of Champion Comics. I’ve been living around the peripheries of the comic book industry for 35 years. First, as a young teenager creating my own comics out of typing paper, colored pencils, and staples, and xeroxing them using the machine of a friend of my parents.

Then, as I graduated from high school, I had some near misses and minor publishing efforts in the 1990s, under the Champion Comics banner, and others. Then, I took about a decade off to explore other life experiences. I got married, and my now ex-wife persuaded me to get back into publishing comics. The fruits of that rediscovery is American Revere. The character and storyline have been worked on for the past seven years. In that time, I’ve produced the American Revere Comic-Con Special #1, Champion Comics Presents: American Revere #0, and American Revere #1. It’s been a long and sometimes perilous journey, but we’ve finally found our stride and the beginning of a new exciting road to the future. We have Team SupremUS #0, Thorvald the Viking vs. Taranis the Thunderlord one shot, and soon, Samael the Hell Machine #0, Wonder Comics #1, as well as The New Remarkables #1.

My dad was in the military, and my mom was a hairdresser. I was alive during the fall of the Soviet Union, and as a child of the 1970s and 1980’s, at the height of the Cold War, living with the presumed threat of nuclear war, with yearly bomb shelter alarms, and with TV shows like ‘The Day After’, the fall of the Soviet Union was a celebration for all. But like all things, life is cyclical, because now we have Putin, Russian aggression, and Ossuary is Russian!

1st: Carlos, I took a look at the Black Dahlia art and the other links as well. I take it in the interview, that we are focusing on Black Dahlia. The character looks interesting, and the story has an interesting premise! How did you come up with this character? And what, aside from the part of the art and the part of this script that we can see, can you tell us about her?

Carlos:  How did I come up with Black Dahlia? So, while working with Oliver on world-building (I’m a partner in Coalition Comics, the publisher of the Power Company), and in our partner thread on Messenger, we’re constantly sharing character and reference art. Guys like Roy Johnson (the Sentinels) and Rodney Lockett (All Winners Society) have massive amounts of ‘toys’ in their toy box, just huge worlds, so I felt I needed to keep up. I had just a handful of characters that have existed for 40 years but with not much expansion. So there was a Gilbert Monsanto ARENA feature for street-level vigilantes. I realized I didn’t have many of those. There is Night Demon, but his guns aren’t traditional weapons, so I decided I needed a street-level gun-toting vigilante in my ‘toybox’. So I started with the name Terminus, and I started building a character around the name, with a sapling origin. I just wasn’t feeling it. I slept on it, and when I woke up in the morning, the idea for the Black Dahlia came to me. I furiously began writing notes on my iPhone, which is my SOP for pretty much all my ideas. That’s when I came up with her codename, her real name, her motivations, and the saplings for her story. It was also when I came up with her main adversary, the Russian merc code named Ossuary. At that point, I reached out to Oliver and started bouncing ideas off him, and we started working on designing her look. Usually how he and I work is, that I’ll throw story details, sketch art, photographs, as well as physical descriptions at him, and then like that computer in the 1980s movie Weird Science, the immensely talented Mr. Dela Cruz sends me reference art. We tweak it back and forth until I give him the final okay.

Carlos:  So, back to Valeria. She joins the military and rises in rank to Special Forces Weapons Sergeant. She does this to help her gain some structure in her life and some discipline. She experienced some tragedy as a young girl. She was molested. She has PTSD.

She witnessed a murder. She had trouble in school. All this by the time she reaches high school. So she dives headfirst into her military career, and she is given the nickname Dahlia by her trainer and commanding officer at JFK Training Center, Felix Sterling. He becomes her mentor, and he is intrigued by her almost Jekyll and Hyde personality. Her penchant is for justice and protectiveness, but also her potential to cross the line, and to let her anger overtake her.

This is why he was always telling her “Stay a Dahlia, because when you become a black dahlia, you’ve crossed a line that’s difficult to come back from. You lose sight of who you are, and you become a shadow figure, and that’s not who you want to be, because a shadow figure may have form, but it’s dark and contorted, and without heart. You’ve got heart. You’ve got compassion.”

Fast forward a few years, and, on a mission, she stumbles upon an illicit arms deal that she inadvertently witnesses. She is familiar with the participants. She is stunned by what she witnesses. She is discovered, and the order is made to silence her. So, enter Ossuary. She is ambushed, beaten, and left for dead. She survives. She goes undercover, as a vigilante, all the while gearing up her plan for revenge against those who deemed her expendable, and who wanted her dead. She gets help from the only person who knows she’s alive, and that’s her childhood friend Florence ‘Flo’ Weathers, a digital information specialist and computer scientist. With her assistance, she begins her covert journey for revenge, redemption, and justice, but in her own extreme way. Hell hath no fury … What trauma did she experience as a child? Who did she witness getting murdered? Who did she see, in that arms deal? Who betrayed her and their oaths? Who are the targets of her rage? The answers to all these questions start with issue #1, and Oliver and I are extremely excited about presenting this comic to Kickstarter supporters, and then next year, into comic shops. The ‘She is…Black Dahlia’ Kickstarter is currently LIVE at…she-isblack-dahlia. Thank you for the support!

Valeria De Leon grew up in Hialeah, Florida. She was raised by her father, who served in the United States Army and then as a high-ranking civilian contractor and translator. She is very close with her two grandparents, and her aunt (my real-life grandmothers appear in the comic as Valeria’s grandparents, as well as my mom (R.I.P.), who appears as Valeria’s aunt. With my grandmothers, and my abuelas, it’s the fulfillment of a promise from when I was very young, and making homemade comics, and they both asked me to draw them in my books, and with my mom, it’s a tribute more than a promise. It’s my way of keeping her visage alive for all time since we lost her back in March.

1st: Carlos, I’d like to take a moment to express my sincere condolences on the loss of your mother.

Carlos:  Thank you. I appreciate the sentiment. It’s a daily process, and still difficult to deal with, but the family is doing as best we can, including my father.

1st: I like Black Dahlia’s costume, or, as she might refer to it, her uniform or combat garb. There truly are not enough black main characters in comics, and I always love to see new ones! The outfit is top-notch! Who designed it?

Carlos:  Black Dahlia most definitely regards her garb as her uniform. She wears that special forces emblem proudly. As for who designed the uniform, that would be me bouncing ideas, sketches, and photographs of artist Oliver Dela Cruz, and coming out with the finished reference. I wanted the skeletal design for a reason. Ossuary is a bone collector, and he wears a necklace of finger bones of his victims, and he even took one of Valeria’s fingers, so this is her way of saying “I’m a skeleton. I’m a skeletal frame of rage. Come and get me.”

1st: I like that phrase: “I’m a skeleton. I’m a skeletal frame of rage!” I’m not messing with her!

Carolos Raphael: As a trained weapons sergeant, Black Dahlia is adept at using firearms, and as a trained martial artist, she is adept at self-defense, hand-to-hand combat, and knife play. She has no superpowers, and so, for her to survive in a world of supras and testosterone-fueled killers, she needs to constantly hone her god-given skills.

1st: I’m a student of history, and that is a continual, daily, heavy interest of mine. One thing I have high hopes for with this series, having seen some covers and some interior pages, is that I am hopeful that the series has a smattering of world-based history or a proponent of the same in it. Although, that said, the series looks pretty exciting, any way you slice it!

Carlos:  As a former history teacher, with a degree in political science and history, and as a student and enthusiast of history, there will most certainly be moments based on real-life socio and geo-political events, locales, and storylines. Different timelines are covered, even in issue #1, and we get pulled deep in the intrigue and dark matters, as we discover so much about Valeria’s background, her father’s career, and her military career, not to mention her future path as a ghost of justice.

1st: So, I’ve seen on your webpage your name is Carlos Raphael, and I’ve also seen your name listed differently. Which is correct?

Carlos: Carlos Raphael is my pen name. It’s in honor of my grandfather, who was Sgt. Carlos Raphael Luna. I prefer my real name not to be printed publicly. I prefer to be known professionally as Carlos Raphael, with my real name appearing only for legal indicia purposes.

1st: Are both Black Dahlia and American Revere both new Kickstarter, or has American Revere, the title, been out now for a while? I’m guessing it has since you showed me all the coloured pages for the first issue of American Revere # 1. And it looks like # 2 is now in the works, in addition to spin-off titles. This title looks exciting also, and, my, my, what a huge plethora of new and interesting characters, most all of which look to be…supervillains! Thanks so much for these advance looks, if that is what they are! Are your comics all Print On Demand? And if so, from what website?

Carlos:  American Revere #0 (which you did not read) was released in 2013. This was the first official Champion Comics release. This was followed by the American Revere #1 Kickstarter, which was successful. The Kickstarter version included the first appearance of Team SupremUS, which was a team put together from a Kickstarter original character cameo tier. You have to read the AR standard version, which excludes Team SupremUS, for copyright reasons. American Revere #2 is currently not in production, due to what I felt was an underperforming post-Kickstarter, so I pivoted to Team SupremUS #0, which was first released as a FAN Edition and then as a full-length.
I was able to get permission and license to use many of the original Team SupremUS characters from the original team from American Revere #1, and then it spun out into the #0 issues, with art by uber-talented artists Fish Lee (part 1) and Aditya Rachdian (part 2).

1st: By coincidence, I actually interviewed Mr. Fish Lee, who you mentioned, fairly recently, for First Comics News, also. He is quite a talent, as well!

Carlos:  Unlike Dahlia, Team SupremUS is pure unadulterated superhero action-adventure FUN! It’s my homage to those amazing comics from the 1980s and 1990s that I grew up reading and worshipping. The X-Men, Justice League (Giffen and Dematteis), Alpha Flight, Cyberforce, and even Youngblood.

This book was so successful, and sold so well, that I came up with the idea to release the new Remarkables #1. That was a superhero team that included most of my most popular characters, pulled together by agent Aja Marley to combat world threats, and even street-level disturbances. That was a resounding success! We successfully funded it in two hours, and we ended up with $6,000 in revenue, and just a couple of weeks ago, they debuted in comic shops worldwide with Antarctic Press’ EXCITING COMICS #38. So I’m very proud of that comic book, and we’re currently putting the wraps on the previews and covers for issue #2, which will go to Kickstarter later this year.

1st: I’ve bought a handful of issues of Exciting Comics, but they are hard to find in stores locally, where I live. I like them. I haven’t seen # 38.

Carlos:  The stakes ramp up exponentially, as the Children of RA are a force of darkness to be reckoned with. We also have Dahlia coming out, Thorvald the Viking FAN Edition, Shadow Kings in cooperation with Iron Gate Comics, Pandora’s Army, our first all-ages graphic novel, and Trapdoor: Arachnid Assassin FAN Edition. Lots of really awesome books are coming out by the end of 2024. Most of the Kickstarter books are print on demand through Kablam printers, and the new Remarkables #1 and #2 and the Night Demon #1 will be released via Champion Comics to comic shops in 2024 via offset printers TBD.

1st: What can you tell our readers about the history of your comic book company or companies, and how you got started? And you a writer as well as an artist, or-?

Carlos:  Champion Comics as an ideal started out in late 1982 when I moved from Michigan to Whidbey Island, Washington. My brother bought some travel comics, and a buddy of mine gave me a Thing and She-Hulk team-up as a gift before we left. That reignited my love of comics, after taking 4 years off to collect sports cards. So as something to do in my new home, I started making comics out of typing paper, ballpoint pens, colored pencils, and a stapler. I called it ‘3 Brothers Comics’, and my first comic was called Electron Brothers (now known as Metalmorph and the Royal Breed), and we shared them with the neighborhood kids. After that, it was Thorvald the Viking, and the Super Legion. I made these comics with my brother Ernesto, for the next three years. We eventually learned to xerox these books, and pass them out to friends and family. In 1985, my brother and I had a falling out over content, so we decided to “break up” 3 Brothers Comics, and I created Champion Comics. That was the first time I ever used that name for comics. I would have stops and starts, close calls and failures with the brand, including through art school in 1990-1991, and university through 1998.

It was during my time at CWU that I met Jason Metcalf. Jason and I began collaborating and creating characters together from 1993-1997, including making several ashcans and merchandise, under the Champion Comics banner. After graduation, we went our separate ways, as Jason went on to work for Image, Marvel, Zenescope, Valiant, and others, I got married, raised a family, quit comics, and then got divorced. In 2008, I got remarried. My then-wife would go through my sketchbooks, and she pushed me to create comics again. She was very supportive, as I wrote a script for American Revere, and I  decided to try again. Though we divorced two years later, in 2010 (my second), the wheels were set in motion, and I put out an ad in digital webbing for someone to help me with American Revere #0. I hired Mac Radwanski, and modern-day Champion Comics was off to the races. In 2013, I released American Revere #0, the first Champion Comic proper, and then American Revere #1 followed in 2018, with the rest of the titles to follow.

Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my partnership with Coalition Comics. We have published the Power Company for the past 7 years, with 4 issues, 2 handbooks, one trade paperback, and our first annual is coming out next month. I wrote the first two issues. My partnership has been a blessing and it’s been very successful, with Rodney Lockett, Roy Johnson, John Jones, Eric N. Bennett, Dan Hoins, Mike Spagnola, and Henry Eshleman. I’m currently Art Director and EiC. As for my position within Champion Comics? I’m the CEO/publisher/and head writer.

1st: If I may ask, who did the art for the cover of Thorvold The Viking, by the last (surname) of Arroza? And what, if anything, can you tell our readers about this artist? It’s a striking, well-done cover! Also, under the signature on the cover, ‘Arroza’, it says ‘After Simpson.’ I take it, then, that this is a Tribute cover? And if so, what cover is it a tribute to?

Carlos:  Erwin J Arroza is a Filipino (from the Philippines) artist who has done cover work for a multitude of my titles, including Antarctic Press’ EXCITING COMICS #39. The cover features the new Remarkables, and it won’t be the last time you see Arroza art on a Champion Comics cover. As for the cover, it’s after Walt Simonson, and it’s an homage to Thor # 337, the first appearance of Beta Ray Bill.

1st: I wasn’t positive, but I thought it may have been a tribute to that Walter Simonson issue of Thor, although I didn’t remember the issue number. I have the whole Simonson run of Thor in my own collection. The Simonson run of Thor, decades ago, was remarkable!

1st: Has Thorvold The Viking Versus Taranis The Thunder Lord comic one-shot comic already come out, or is it (also) a current Kickstarter? I just now finished reading all 27 pages of this full-colour (like the Black Dahlia comic) wonder, and I greatly enjoyed reading it! It’s really rather well done, both in terms of writing, illustrating, and colour work. It reads as though Taranis The Thunderlord is somehow a brother of Thor, God of Thunder, and thus, son of Odin. Is that correct?

Carlos:  Thorvald v Taranis has indeed been out for a while now.
It was a buy-in add-on to the original American Revere #1 Kickstarter from 2017, and it was released as a Kickstarter FAN Edition in 2018. Leo Gondim was the artist, and Tristan McDonald provided the colors. It was written by Eric N. Bennett of Steel Wold and Taranis fame, and I plotted the book. To this day, it’s the only Champion Comic that was written by someone other than myself. Eric did a magnificent job on it.
Thorvald is the grandson of Odin, not Taranis. Taranis is Celtic, and Thorvald is the Norseman. His father was the King of the Norse, but Loki had a beef with him, and so he placed the curse of Dygve on him, and so Thorvald walks the earth unable to die until the curse is lifted.
For most, this would be a blessing. To watch all you love go through the cycle of life and death over and over, for him, it truly is a curse.

1st: I’d like to also know for the benefit of both myself and our readers, when will The Black Dahlia # 1 be out in stores, or orderable from online, and where will it be orderable online from? And, by the way, I like the name of Taranis The Thunderlord’s weapon, ‘Skyspanner.’

Carlos:  So, Dahlia will be delivered to Kickstarter backers by the end of January, at which time it’ll be turned over to Antarctic Press for a comic shop release, later in 2024. After January, Dahlia #1 will be available for purchase at my eBay store, as well as the website. The first two Champion Comics solo comic shop titles released will be New Remarkables #1 and The Night Demon #1, in 2024.

1st: I enjoyed chatting with you, Carlos!!!

You can find Carlos online at…

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