When you rummage around one’s basement, you would expect to find the typical flair: Christmas decorations, boxed up children’s toys, the water heater. In the Wills’ household, you may find something you didn’t expect when take a walk down the steep staircase.
Under the pipes and wooden floor beams sits an enormous sleek contemporary black glass table holding a 32 inch flatscreen TV, a Cintiq Wacom tablet, a Mac, and a large printer. The television has an Anime show paused on it, the distraction became too great. English subtitles demand too much attention. Daft Punk is now playing on the Mac.
The concrete walls are dressed up with framed Savage Wolverine and The Ultimates pages drawn by Joe Madureira. Former comic convention ‘swag bags’ and Artist Alley badges hang from the overhead pipes like moss on a Louisiana tree.
To the immediate right of the large table is a contemporary clear glass drawing table. In the light of a drawing lamp, a man sitting on a comparatively smaller leather deck chair is hunched over the desk.
“I’m in a Dungeon.” laughs Joe Wills.
Joe Wills is a particularly cheery, energetic young man. Joe’s warm personality and constant smile livens up the cool, damp basement. Joe is a St. Louis comic book illustrator and is a member of the artist collective, The Illustrata.
Comics have been a part of Joe’s life for years, ever since he picked up a copy of Spawn #16 drawn by Marc Silvestri. “I was hooked.” he says.
Joe got into illustrating his own comics with the St. Louis based anthology publisher, Ink & Drink with their anthology titled ‘Hammered.’ He is now a regular contributing artist to each new anthology.
In a perfect world, Joe would be already be illustrating an X-Men or Thor comic book. Now, he’s stretching his artistic chops by adapting bold superhero style to Seth Ferranti’s comic Supreme Team.
“I was approached at [Planet Comicon in Kansas City, MO] actually. I was introduced to Seth by [Stache’s] Jordan Williams, and the rest is Supreme Team history!” Joe laughs. “I was a little intimidated, to be honest. I was like, ‘wait what now? Dude is fresh out [of prison]?!’ But after talking to him, you can hear how much passion he has for the project and how much he wants this to be successful. It’s hard not to admire that.”
Seth Ferranti spent 21 years in the Federal Prison system serving time for a first-time non-violent drug offense, so the true-crime writer has lived in a world that can be compared to the Supreme Team comic on some levels.
Joe, on the other hand, isn’t part of that world. “I’ve never been in situation even remotely like what [the characters in Supreme Team] have been through,” he explains. “I am fascinated by some of their exploits and I see where the style and attitudes of some of the hip-hop artists of the early 80’s and 90’s came from.”
Even though it’s a totally different world than he is a part of, Joe understands that life. “It makes sense. I mean if you grew up in a poverty stricken area and saw people getting prosperous while doing what they pleased, why wouldn’t you emulate that? I get it. I don’t agree, but I get it.”
The subject matter of Supreme Team is gritty and hard edged. It captures the real life vibe of living in the streets and dealing with real crime. It’s not for everyone. But, Joe thinks that this explicitness is something that makes Supreme Team stand out. “I think there aren’t many comics out there tackling this subject, and it’s a story that has been patiently waiting to be told.” He continues, “Hip-hop culture has been emulated so much that it’s time that people really know where the style, the swag, and the feel originated from. I mean, hip-hop culture has been adopted into the mainstream and has been integrated, some would say appropriated, but that’s a whole other issue/conversation, but I digress.”
Joe has been an essential part of the Supreme Team creative team right from the beginning. Joe’s style (who is inspired by greats such as Stuart Immonen, Kenneth Rocafort, and Olivier Coipel) is the visual cornerstone of the comic. Some may argue that Seth Ferranti’s dialogue is what captures the essence of the era, but Joe’s art is just as important to create the mood and the visual appeal. Joe draws inspiration from the book “A Time Before Crack” by Jamel Shabazz, “And a TON of Pinterest” Joe adds. “My artistic focus in this project is to get it as accurate as possible.”
Joe feels Supreme Team is something different than what you would normally find on the comic book rack on New Comics Wednesday at your local comic shop because it’s a true crime comic about a previously uncaptured subject. “The genre is kind of a new frontier, I think. I haven’t really seen anything like Supreme Team on the shelves. I hope [people] love it!” Joe laughs. “I mean, I hope they come away a little more informed on the underside of the origins of hip-hop. I also hope they want more!”
Supreme Team has a campaign running on Kickstarter throughout the month of August. You can preorder your copy of Supreme Team #1, as well as exclusive Supreme Team swag, original artwork by Joe, and the Limited Edition Kickstarter-only Hardcover. Supreme Team is written by Seth Ferranti, illustrated by Joe Wills, and produced by Anthony Mathenia. Preorder your copy!