Aubrey Sitterson and Fico Ossio enter the Yeti Cave to chat with CBY contributor Lauren Smith about all things No One Left to Fight! The hard-hitting series is back and the trade for volume II is out June 15, 2022 from Dark Horse Comics.
COMIC BOOK YETI: Thank you both for taking the time to answer my questions! As someone who just read No One Left To Fight for the first time, I’m more than excited and grateful to chat with you!
How excited are y’all for the 2nd volume of No One Left To Fight to come out, especially in a time like this for the industry?
FICO OSSIO: Thank you for having us! And stoked that you enjoyed NOLTF! I’m obviously super excited for the release of Volume 2. The collections are my favorite format for the medium and I can’t wait for fans to have it in their hands.
AUBREY SITTERSON: The completion of NOLTF’s first saga certainly feels like it’s been a long time coming; there was a significant pandemic-induced gap between the first and second volumes. But, like Fico, I’m overjoyed for folks to finally be able to read this entire first foray into the FightVerse, as it lays the foundation for everything else we have planned!
CBY: For those that don’t know, No One Left To Fight is heavily influenced by Dragon Ball, Naruto, One Punch Man, and other fight manga. What made you, Aubrey, want to write your own fight manga? How is this world different than others?
AS: As you’ve probably guessed, I’m a huge fan of fight manga and, generally speaking, so is everyone else! These aren’t just some of the most popular manga, they’re some of the most popular comics [and,] more broadly, cartoons, video games…everything! But while fight comics are wildly popular worldwide, they come predominantly from Japan. Rather than just doing a pastiche or parody, we wanted to create our own entry into the fight comics genre, utilizing its tropes and idioms in conversation with the canon, but with an American comics approach and format. And that format – five 20-page issues collected into graphic novels – was our biggest hurdle to overcome, as we had to find a way to pack in dozens of volumes worth of world-building and soap opera drama without reverting to cumbersome exposition or endless eight-panel pages. Beyond the format, I think the biggest thing that differentiates NOLTF from other fight comics is the focus we place on our characters’ emotional states, using them as the catalyst for all of our explosive fight scenes.
CBY: Fico, what drew you to drawing fight manga?
FO: I wanted to team up with Aubrey for a creator-owned book. Well, actually, I always wanted to work with Aubrey but our paths didn’t cross…so we figured why not create the opportunity ourselves! After talking about it, we quickly realized fight manga was something we were both passionate about. So we started throwing ideas around and building out our concept. It was a lot of fun figuring that out, as we are both big fans of fight manga. And, as Aubrey said, we were excited about creating an American comic version of it!
CBY: For those that aren’t familiar with No One Left To Fight, what is this series about? Is it something y’all believe people that aren’t fans of manga in general will still enjoy? (As someone who isn’t the biggest manga fan, I believe it is :D)
AS: NOLTF is about what you do after your battles have been won, about finding out what’s next after you’ve accomplished your goals. Like all great fight comics, it’s about striving and struggle and sacrifice. Despite our title, our main characters are all constantly fighting, most of all with themselves, as they try to square their passions and desires and ambitions with the lives they’ve created for themselves. I think that’s something that anyone can relate to.
FO: I think the main thing that makes people enjoy [in] a story are the characters. Sure, genre and art are a big part too but, if you have a strong connection with the characters, you can enjoy something no matter what. And I think Aubrey did a fantastic job developing the characters in our book and I made an effort to draw them in a way that you could connect with their emotions just from looking at the panels.
CBY: I’ve heard many manga creators talk about how emotions and their depiction are so important to them. Is that something that speaks to you both about manga as well; how visual emotions in characters are represented?
FO: Speaking of…hehe. Well, yeah. Absolutely. Manga has such a strong and unique way of portraying emotions. It’s great. It was a challenge to still pack that power without all the tools that manga books have. But, as I mentioned before, hitting the emotional beats of the story visually was super important for us. And I think the whole process made me a better artist.
AUBREY: "Obviously, to write better dialogue, you need to listen to how people actually speak in the real world and also read voraciously to see how other writers have rendered that real world speech in fiction. But beyond that, I also think writers need to talk, to verbalize, not just to see how it feels to say these words and phrases and how people naturally construct sentences, but to absorb the [natural] rhythms of speech that are nigh impossible to teach or even properly verbalize."
AS: I think the struggle comes back to space. If you’re doing weekly chapters in a manga magazine with a bunch of other stories, you can really take your time with a bunch of big, silent reaction shots. Only having 20 pages per issue and needing to show off the gorgeous world Fico created while still leaving room for fights meant that we needed to be really selective in terms of our emotional beats. We had to choose our shots in order to capture that feeling.
CBY: Fico, how did you approach emotions and expressions on different characters' faces throughout this story?
FO: Well…a lot of selfies making weird expressions of course! And then making the best effort to translate those into comic panels! [In] the beginning, I leaned on reference pictures a lot, but, as we moved along with the story, in a way, the characters pretty much “instructed” me how to draw them. It’s a beautiful process. Comics magic!
CBY: How did you both go about creating and designing different creatures in No One Left To Fight, such as Fargie, who seems to be an actual badass cross between Mr. Krabs and Gary from Spongebob? Absolutely no dig- Fargie is awesome!
FO: That was all the excitement of working with Aubrey and having the opportunity to make a creator-owned book! It was honestly a lot of fun and just a continuous flow of ideas…you should see all the characters we have planned for future volumes! It was really collaborative, with both of us suggesting ideas, riffing, and building off each other. It's been an awesome experience. I don't think I've ever had more fun creating something.
AS: NOLTF was the first time that I developed something where we truly let the visuals take the lead. While we were still having top-level conversations about the plot, Fico was already designing characters, some we’d discussed and some we hadn’t. And because Fico’s design sense is so strong, immediately upon seeing the characters, we were able to see where they fit into the still developing story. It was such a huge departure from comics’ normal assembly line approach and it’s why the FightVerse is such a deep and immersive world: All of it – the drama, the fights, the plot, the world itself – flows from the characters themselves.
CBY: Even though this is a fight manga, there is such a huge emphasis on characters and relationships. Characters such as Krysta and Timor, have a defined relationship dynamic from the start that’s filled with their own levels of humor and love. How did you go about writing different relationships throughout this story, Aubrey?
AS: I mentioned it already, but I see the characters in NOLTF, once you get past their outrageous designs and martial arts prowess, as incredibly relatable. Their angst and neuroses, their humor and affection, these are things that we’re all familiar with and experience at different points in our lives; it’s why the series has resonated with readers the way it has. So, when writing characters in the FightVerse, I try to pull from my own experiences, thinking back to times that I’ve felt these emotions the strongest, channeling them and amping them up to an even greater degree.
CBY: Fico, how did you go about showing these relationships on the page visually between characters?
FO: Aubrey made that super easy for me. The characters were so well written and relatable that it was easy for me to add little details here and there or just the way they stand to portray and bring forward their personalities and make them feel real.
CBY: The dialogue in No One Left To Fight reads so natural and authentic- Aubrey, are there any tips you can offer on how to write dialogue, especially for peeps like me who really struggle with it?
AS: First of all: Thank you. Dialogue is something I think a lot about, making sure that there’s always what the characters are speaking and also what they’re actually saying, which aren’t always the same. I think that ambiguity is where real storytelling beauty lives.
Obviously, to write better dialogue, you need to listen to how people actually speak in the real world and also read voraciously to see how other writers have rendered that real world speech in fiction. But beyond that, I also think writers need to talk, to verbalize, not just to see how it feels to say these words and phrases and how people naturally construct sentences, but to absorb the nature rhythms of speech that are nigh impossible to teach or even properly verbalize.
CBY: Fight manga and anime offer intense, quick, action-packed fight scenes of course. As an outsider to the genre, this seems like a huge and daunting task to achieve not only in each panel of the comic individually, but all the panels seamlessly as a whole. Fico, how did you both go about designing fight scenes between panels and managing to make them look so seamless?
FO: What was most important for us was to first get to a point at which you cared for the characters and their struggles. If that foundation wasn’t there, it wouldn’t really make a difference how epic the pages or panels were, it wouldn’t pack a punch no matter what. But I think we achieved that and that’s why it all has such power. Sure, the dynamic layouts and super power moves have to be there too…I guess it’s about having all the components.
And I said before, being a manga fan and having read so much or watched so many shows…it was so much fun to FINALLY do that on our own comic book. It was a very rewarding experience.
CBY: The colors in this series are magnificent- the palette of neon greens, reds, and blues blends well with the gray and purple backdrops used throughout. Fico, how did you approach the color palette of this world, along with Raciel Avila’s assistance?
FO: Color was always a big part of how we wanted to handle the world-building in No One Left to Fight. It’s even impacted how I go about doing the line work for each issue! It’s also been a lot of fun getting to collaborate with Raciel, who has been a fantastic addition to the team on this volume; we had a great working process.
The color approach originally came from the idea to contrast with the deep struggles that the characters go through. I liked that idea and also felt it sort of plays a trick with the reader by not revealing what this story really is about. The colors then grew into their own thing and are almost like a calling card for the book!
CBY: When ending volume one, what led you to ending it on such a cliffhanger? What can we expect to come in Vol. 2, story-wise?
AS: Cliffhangers aren’t just a big part of American serialized comics, they’re integral to the fight comics genre! So, when doing a blend of the two, we had to make sure to leave readers with one every issue, especially at the end of the first volume. As for volume 2…you can expect even more varied settings and characters as our core cast continues their quest, now with new motivation. But you’re also going to see some colossal payoffs, some I guarantee that you won’t see coming, as well as a fight we’ve been teasing since our very first issue. CBY: In the upcoming Vol. 2, were there any new challenges you had to draw, Fico? What can readers get exciting to see? (without spoilers, of course!)
FO: Endings are tricky and, as opposed to how we closed the first volume, this one does bring an end to the first saga of our FightVerse. So it was a challenge to hit the “epic” beats we wanted for this saga. You will find a lot more of world-building and many new characters in this latest installment. Some will reveal a lot of our main characters’ backgrounds! CBY: No One Left To Fight Volume 2 releases June 15, 2022! After this release, are there plans for more No One Left To Fight?
FO: We’ve got a lot of ideas. We pretty much have sagas two and three laid out!
AS: We want to tell stories in the FightVerse until the characters and the creative team are all old and grey! Besides, as every fight comic fan knows, there’s one thing that any fight comic worth a damn absolutely has to get to, sooner or later: A TOURNAMENT.