“Wampus is a shapeshifting alien sent to Earth by a cosmic power, the Great Mind, for the purpose of spreading chaos, so that from the ruins of this Earth can arise a new world where humans worship the Great Mind and evolve into creatures like himself.” – Hexagon Comics
Wampus volume 3 (released this month, October 2022) continues the story of Wampus; A story that started in 1969, then published by French publisher Editions Lug and created by Franco Frescura and Luciano Bernasconi.
This volume 3, along with volumes one and two (reprinting the original Editions Lug material) have been published by Jean-Marc Lofficier’s Hexagon Comics.
Jean-Marc is Known for his magazine writing (at Starlog, Cinefax Heavy Metal, House of Hammer, and Starburst), Guidebooks (Doctor Who), animation (The Real Ghostbusters and Duck Tales), Comics (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Doctor Strange, Teen Titans, Blue Beetle, Arak, Fury of Firestorm, Hellraiser, Tongue Lash to name a few in addition to many comics for Hexagon), Pulps and Science Fiction (too many to list), comic book translations (too many to list) and other fun adventures in creativity
Not only is this an interview with Jean-Marc, but I was also able to interview Wampus artist and comic legend Luciano Bernasconi (thanks to Jean-Marc and translation help).
Jean-Marc, the story of Wampus is important to French comics as well as pivotable to the textual weave of the Hexagon Comic universe. He is a major threat on a cosmic level. So much so, Wampus affects the entire timeline of Hexagon. Catch readers up to speed on why Wampus is important to French comics and the Hexagon universe.
When I first met Thierry Mornet in 2000, and we discussed the notion of my relaunching the old “Lug” characters in a single universe, Wampus was of course at the top of my list. Zembla and Ozark had already been relaunched by Thierry and Jim Lainé, and I was already at work on a new Kabur series.
I submitted a plan for a 12-issue “Strangers” mini-series which featured Wampus was the main villain – a little like Darkseid in the DCU – and brought back the updated versions of Tanka, Jaleb, Homicron, Starlock, Phenix, etc. In the end, we did not go ahead with that plan, probably because it was too ambitious, although I recently reprinted this plot in a French book called Strangers: Annotations.
Instead, we went at it piecemeal: separate, individual series featuring Wampus, Phenix and Dick Demon, plus a series of one-shots (now collected in Strangers 0) that brought each of the characters back individually. It is only after we had done all these things that we launched Strangers, but of course, by then, the plot was substantially different. As a result, Wampus was no longer its major villain.
The stand-alone Wampus series, a direct sequel to the original 1969 series, nevertheless allowed me to bring back some of the other characters, such as Sibilla, Bob Lance, CLASH, Kabur, etc., and at the end, introduce a Crisis-type event that would explain away any continuity problems between the “old” stories and the new ones, especially the passage of time. In our fictional universe, 5 or 10 years at most have passed, while in reality, 30 years had gone by.
Given all the reasons you just stated, how does it feel to continue in Frescura’s place in writing Wampus’ adventures and working with the original, legendary artist and Wampus co-creator, Luciano Bernasconi? For readers unfamiliar with these characters and creators, this, in many ways, working on Wampus is like being the next creator to write any major Marvel character in the 60s after Stan Lee, while keeping Jack Kirby or Ditko on as an artist!
This is a fair comparison, except that at Marvel, a whole crew of new writers came in right after Stan Lee stopped writing everything: Roy Thomas, Len Wein, Gerry Conway, etc, etc. There was no interval of time. In our case, virtually most of the Lug characters had appeared in the 1960s and 1970s, with a few exceptions before and after. I had bought Zembla #1 when I was 9, and Wampus and its companion Marvel title Fantask (which published Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and Silver Surfer) in 1969.
By the time I was handed the task of relaunching this universe, thirty years had gone by, as I said. These were characters I had read as a child, and in my teens. But no one had kept them alive since. That is probably what was so unique. But you are right to point out that to have an opportunity to work with the very same artists – not just Luciano, but also Franco Oneta – who had created them in the 60s and 70s was truly a magnificent and memorable opportunity. I consider myself incredibly lucky.
Wampus is a villainous and cosmic-level bad guy. It is wild to think that there was a villain led title in 1969. A Cosmic level bad guy at that! French genre fiction has often featured villains over heroes. Who did it first? French comics or American?
Well, the French have a long tradition to star villains in their popular fiction. I think it probably began with Paul Féval and his saga of the Black Coats (published by Black Coat Press) which tells the story of a powerful international criminal empire in the 1800s, led by a Moriarty-like character who may well be immortal. Then of course in the early 1900s, we had Arsene Lupin the gentleman-thief, and Fantômas, a masked sociopath and serial killer. Fantômas inspired Diabolik and Kriminal, who were very successful. So why not Wampus?
In England and America, you prefer heroes like Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, Doc Savage, etc. There are exceptions, of course: Fu Manchu or The Saint, but even he is really a hero in disguise. The one true anti-hero I can think of, in American comics, was Sub-Mariner, but he’s been softened over the years.
I’d argue that from his viewpoint, Wampus is not a villain; he is a missionary, a religious fanatic. Think of Tomas Torquemada. Wampus hates mankind for what he perceives to be disgusting weaknesses, like love, charity, mercy, etc.
Is Wampus a male, female, or something else?
Either. Both. It doesn’t matter. Initially, he is a human being (or possibly an alien being) who has been transformed, first into the intermediate humanoid stage that is that of The Other, then into a full-blown “Wampoid”. Sex doesn’t really enter into the equation. Since the Wampus we saw in the comics was the doppelganger of Jean Sten, he was male, to begin with, but in a forthcoming season of Strangers, we have a “female” Wampus, except you can’t tell the difference.
The hero in Wampus is Jean Sten. Let’s talk about Jean. Jean’s role I think, is in a way, overshadowed by Wampus. What should readers know about the hero in Wampus? To Jeans’ credit, he’s just a normal guy and he’s taking on a major bad guy. A cosmic level threat.
Jean Sten (like Jean Vlad in The Other, a sequel to Wampus) is – was – predestined. Each world has its champion whose job it will be to fight Wampus. It all starts with the duality between the Great Mind who is the power who created and directs the “Wampuses”, and the Universality who, in a less active manner, directs their opponents, Jean Sten, etc. This is not a Good/Evil or Order/Chaos duality, but one based on Emotion/Logic. Whoever prevails at the End of Time will give the direction of the next universe. There are rules: Wampus cannot use his eye beans to disintegrate Sten, for example. It must be a fair fight, even though Wampus’ powers still confer a distinct advantage; to him but in its own subtle way, the Universality also affects the course of events in such a way that Sten, if he proves capable, can defeat Wampus.
Now that Sten is gone to another Eart, one that was almost taken over by Wampus (Waki’s Earth), the threat is still present, as you shall see in Strangers season 5. But there is a new “Predestined” boy on Earth whose job it will be to fight a future Wampus.
Wampus is a tool for an even greater, more powerful evil than Wampus, the Great Mind. There has to be a story about this being!
Everything I outlined above is explained in Book 3. To be fair, it is mostly an extrapolation of the original concepts put forth by Franco Frescura in the original series. Think that, as far as 1969, in #3, he had “predicted” that the US would collapse under its own political and racial divides, and Wampus’ intervention was barely needed – just a touch of Q-anon-like manipulation here or there. Franco (like myself) was also a lawyer and a remarkable writer. This was an astounding prediction.
Very true. Hopefully, we don’t end up where Franco Frescura takes the story in real life. It had to be chilling to make that connection. How does it play in your continuance of the story?
I reused the setup for a short story crossing over New York’s Bronze Gladiator with Wampus. (It was odd that the two had never met at that time.) That story has been collected in STRANGERS #0. But to a large extent, I rewrote the timelines at the end of the WAMPUS series so that most of the bigger catastrophes he’d caused on Earth had never happened. I kept it purposefully vague, like they do on DR WHO when referring to past events from the old shows.
Hexagon characters have crossed over to American comics. Phenix and Sibilla appeared in Witchblade for example. There also was an interesting Wampus and Nexus crossover. Outside of super cool, what’s the story behind this?”
It was for a special issue that was designed to launch STRANGERS; Thierry Mornet needed additional short stories, and I came up with a few ideas, including that one. At the time I was busy working with Jay Stephens on the TUTENSTEIN animated series, and I was also repping Steve Rude & Mike Baron on a NEXUS project that never got made, so it was easy to put together, and it had high marquee value though neither NEXUS nor Jay were that well known in France at the time.
The first two volumes collect Franco and Luciano’s original stories. This third volume features 6 stories penned by you and art by Luciano. The fun doesn’t stop there. Storywise, other Hexagon characters appear. From Kabur, Dragut, C.L.A.S.H, the Time Brigade, and others. Wampus 3 also features a lot of guests including cover artist Ladrönn and epilogs with guest creators. One featuring Dragut by Dragut artist Jean-Marc Laine and another featuring Gallix by Nathan Lagendre and art by Marco Lataste. In context, this is an exciting event. Who are these guest characters and creators and why should readers care?
Oh boy. As I mentioned, this was the first saga – predating Strangers – that re-established and expanded the notion of the Lug, now Hexagon, shared universe. Think of it as DC’s Crisis, if you will. Because of its scope, it is natural to (re)introduce many of the “old” characters. The story begins today, then travels back in time to the Age of Kabur, then bounces back to the End of Time. So naturally, we meet many other Hexagon heroes during it, and the “epilogs” are short stand-alone back-ups that showed some of the effects of the passage of Wampus. (One of those was already published in Strangers #0.)
I asked Luciano this question as well: In your opinion, what is one thing that people are mistaken about or don’t understand about Wampus?
They usually miss the “missionary” aspect I mentioned above; many see Wampus as a monster comic, halfway between The Invaders tv series and Frankenstein. It is that, to some extent, but much more. It is not a misunderstood creature like The Hulk, or a “freedom fighter” like Sub-Mariner (to him, the human race is the enemies), and he is not even trying to take over the world, in the classical sense of the term like Dr Doom. He is trying to convert us. I think that aspect is somewhat occulted by the more sensational aspects of the comic.
Special interview with Luciano Bernasconi.
This interview received translation assistance from English to Italian and Italian to English.
Luciano created or co-created Wampus, Kabur, and Phenix, Ami Barry, L’Autre, Billy Boyd, Bob Lance, Saint-Germain, Frères Thunderbolt, Gladiateur de Bronze, Jean Girodet, Jeff Sullivan, Kit Kappa, Sibilla, Starlock and Waki, in addition to many others. His amazing work spans from the 1959 to present day.
Well, I am satisfied with the work I have done.
How did it feel to come back to Wampus to finish the story with Jean-Marc?LUCIANO
I felt a lot of excitement returning to telling new adventures of one of my favorite characters.
The word Wampus means a strange, objectionable, or monstrous person or thing. I think you nailed the character by the definition! Wampus is very distinct in design. Unique. What is the story behind Wampus’ design?LUCIANO
At the time I was sent an original sketch of the character which I refined considerably.
What is the significance of his eye design? Potentially, the coolest eye design in comics!
I don’t know. I saw it as an integral part of the character as a whole and it made him more recognizable in his various transformations.
Wampus transforms into a lot of different creatures. Were these creatures in Franco’s script or did you create them?
No, all that was already in the scripts I was given.
Who did you model Jean Sten after?
There is a little of Jean-Paul Belmondo about him, especially at the beginning.
In your opinion, what is one thing that people are mistaken about or don’t understand about Wampus?
Maybe they see him as a character like THE BLOB but I think he is much more lethal because he is gifted with intelligence.
You mentioned in other interviews that Wampus and Kabur are your favorite characters that you had a hand in creating. How was it to have them together in the stories that feature them crossing over?
It was very interesting: the challenge was to make these two very different worlds meet.
My last question, might turn out to be my most interesting question: How do you want your creations to be remembered, I am curious, what wishes might you have for your character’s future adventures?
I’d like Wampus to be remembered as the ultimate expression of evil and perhaps he becomes even more relevant with current events … like what’s happening in Ukraine.
Thank you to both Jean-Marc and Luciano for the interviews.
Jean-Marc Lofficer, though his Hexagon imprint, has steadily rereleased Wampus in addition to the rest of Editions Lug, and its later day incarnation Semic creating an amazing archiving and creating continuance of the new French superhero comics to the present day.
Jean-Marc then translates his Hexagon work into English and releases them through Hexagons Website and on Amazon (You can find Wampus volume 3 here on Amazon.) Comic stores, wise to the great things happening at Hexagon, can order Hexagon Comics at a 40% discount directly from Hexagon or through Ingram, the company’s distributor.