A 20-year journey that led to this project.

ICON DEVIL: the first try
This project began many years ago, in 1986, when I was very young and hadn't broken into comics yet. I had been practicing and sending samples to various writers, artists, and editors at comic companies large and small. In those days there were the 'Big Two', Marvel and DC comics, and First Comics in Chicago was considered the third largest company at the time. I sent art samples to these and many smaller companies as well, getting rejection letters by the dozens. Some polite, some rude, some helpful, some simply form letters.
During my practicing, I came up with a few character ideas, some plot lines and happenings, and I decided, while I was waiting to break into comics with a large company, I'd self-publish a modest little black & white comic by myself, and see where it led. I called the book 'ICON DEVIL', for reasons I won't jump into explaining here, and my little company was called Spider Optics.
It led nowhere fast, I only published the first two issues. I knew nothing about self-publishing so, though I had good orders for the book, I made enough mistakes that I safely lost money instead of banking anything. But it did have its successes: first, it was chosen as the 'Pick Hit to Click' by the largest distributor at that time, who featured it on the cover of their order form. Second, it gave me a lot of experience of what to do and not do. Third, people loved something about it; though it never went anywhere, I was still receiving fan letters for over three years, people were intrigued with the very different characters, unusual writing, the whole general look and mood of the book was quite different. Click on the images below to see the covers to these two books, and a couple samples of interior pages. It ain't pretty, but it's my first published work, even if I had to self-publish it. I used my name Neil Hansen for the credits in these issues.

Icon Devil #1 Cover Icon Devil #2 Cover Icon Devil 1 interior page Icon Devil 2 interior page
FIRST COMICS: I get my chops
Simultaneous with the second issue of Icon Devil being published, I finally broke into professional comics. I'd long been writing back and forth with First's Mike Baron, who at that time was the biggest name in comics writing, having huge hits in Nexus, Badger, and writing a variety of other books for a variety of companies. He'd been giving me pointers and helping with my art, 'grooming' me but basically being kind and a huge help. We'd wanted to get me started on one of his titles, but there were none needing artists at that moment so First gave me the drawing gig for Whisper for a dozen issues.
It was hugely different from working on my own book Icon Devil. My drawing quality went down, simply because I was in unfamiliar territory, drawing someone else's vision, and drawing 'normal' people rather than the aliens and super-powered beings I was used to. And the killer schedule of drawing a book each month... First Comics is where I earned my chops for grinding out art, in a hurry, being a 'working artist' rather than creating at my own pace and when inspired. I did a dozen more books for them besides Whisper, finally getting to do some Badger books written by Mike. I improved steadily, but you still couldn't say my art was particularly exciting or great. It was three years of straight learning curve. Just lots of work and scrambling to learn and grow. Though the art doesn't stand out to me and I don't look back on it with particular pride or fondness, and it seemed of lower quality than the Icon Devil work I had done before it, I learned a lot of tricks. And one thing that stands out is: I really, really worked hard at trying to squeeze unusual angles into each panel, really tried to tell a story from a very interesting camera angle, move your eyes around. Below are more thumbnails to some covers and art from that First Comics period, roughly 1987 through 1990. Note that I used the pen name SPYDER for all my First Comics work.
Whisper #14 Cover Whisper #18 Cover Badger Goes Berserk #4 Cover Interior page from Badger #57 Interior page from Whisper #18
ICON DEVIL: the second try
Okay. It's 1989. I had gotten a couple years of comic book chops working with First Comics, and wanted to try my own thing again. I'd felt so good about the earlier Icon Devil stuff, and the fan mail and feedback, and felt so disappointed over my quality of drawing at First (though I was very happy with the experience and skills I'd developed there), and I was getting so much more interested in my own characters, that I tried to dive deep into Icon again.
I'd learned a few more things about self-publishing, and about drawing, but I was blinded to the next hurdle: writing well, and scheduling/pacing my work. So I was very extremely happy with the art I was doing on this new Icon Devil effort, and my dialogue was even cooler and edgier and original... but I had no idea where I was going with the story, what was to happen next. Just this rough idea in my head and trying to keep up with it all the time. The story literally fell apart as I didn't quite know where I wanted to take it; also, I was putting so much more detail into the artwork that it became impossible to keep to any regular publishing schedule.
So once again, I did two issues and then stopped. Once again I had good order numbers, but it wasn't quite paying a wage. Once again I learned some more things. My art made a huge jump up in quality, going from First Comics to self-publishing something I really loved again. Once again a lot of fan mail, even more critical kudos. And my black and white art effects, especially my unusual and wild use of white inks over the black inks, was really being noticed. Check out these samples from Icon Devil, volume 2, issues 1 and 2, and compare how far they've come in writing and art from the first time around, 3 years previously. Once again, back to using my name Neil Hansen for the credits, but still using the pen name Spyder to SIGN most or all of my work, like covers and pin-ups, etc.
Icon Devil vol.2 number 1 Icon Devil vol.2 number 2 Dominique interior page Marcel interior page Quietus interior page Mouse interior page
MARVEL COMICS: more chops
Now we're at around 1990. I've had two tries at Icon Devil, and 2 - 3 years with First Comics. Icon Devil has stopped again for the aforementioned reasons, and First Comics is in financial trouble and I can see the writing on the wall. With Mike Baron's support and also the help and interest of Carl Potts, a senior editor at Marvel Comics in New York, I land a Punisher book that Mike's been writing. It's different working for this huge company. It's actually nice being paid on time, and getting raises, and free paper and supplies and comics, and working on books that have tens and hundreds of thousands of copies each month, rather than a few thousand. I'll keep this brief:
I worked for Marvel until 1995. Got a lot more experience. Got good enough that I was being asked to do the covers for books that were drawn by artists who weren't quite as good, they liked my covers. Below are a few samples of my work for Marvel (and I snuck in one for Valiant Comics, as I didn't work exclusively for Marvel in this time), but the most important comment is: the exact same thing happened with my Marvel work as happened with my First Comics work: I wasn't as into the characters and books like I was into my own Icon Devil, so the drawings, though I was a real pro at this stage, still weren't 'inspired', to me. I missed the old Icon Devil days.
I tried a creator-owned project with Marvel, one I created, wrote and drew called UNTAMED, and it felt a little better, but still wasn't Icon Devil. Wasn't fulfilling, wasn't magic, full of inconsistency.
Somewhere in there I pitched Icon Devil to Marvel, and they accepted. But I just didn't feel ready to do it yet. I'd had two tries before, and I knew it still wasn't solid enough in my mind that I could carry it through. I pitched it again a couple years later. Accepted again. I didn't do it, again. Later on, pitched it to a couple more companies. They accepted. I didn't do it. I was starting to be offered top books to draw. I turned them down. Even James Cameron (yes, the movie writer/director) picked me out of the roster of Marvel artists and chose me to ask to draw a comic adaptation of one of his movies. I turned that down too. What was wrong with me?
I was unhappy with my life. It's a whole other story which I won't get into here. I've written about it elsewhere. Suffice to say, I let everything go, didn't work for a few years, starved, became ill, didn't think I'd ever draw again, or even live. Went through massive changes from 1995 through to now, 2008. But before we get to NOW, let's see some of that Marvel work. For Marvel Comics, I was using the name Neil Hansen again, still signing covers and posters with the pen name Spyder. I actually don't have copies of most of my Marvel work, but here are a few covers to those that I do, and a couple interior illustrations for Conan and Punisher.
Untamed #1 cover Untamed #2 cover Turok #28 cover Phantom 2040 cover Nomad #21 cover Punisher line art
Conan interior pageConan interior page 2 Punisher War Journal page Punisher Annual 3 page
OUT OF COMICS, ALMOST: changing years
At the end of 1995 I was so unhappy with my life I finally stopped comics, all other work, music, martial arts and my other interests, and went on a long inner journey to find out why. As mentioned, that story is for another time, I may eventually include a link to it here. I would dabble in art occasionally, but only for myself and not for paid comics work. This self-search lasted many years and is somewhat ended, now. The end of 1995 was the last time I did comics work professionally until recently. I wrote a Conan story, wrote an Xmen story, and don't know if either of them were ever published. I drew a Spiderman door-poster which, though not terrible, certainly wasn't good, reflecting my headspace at the time. Those along with finishing a Conan story I wrote and drew (which was published in an issue of Conan The Savage) were my final works that year of 1995, then I stopped completely. For a few years, I didn't think I'd ever draw again.
But things change and grow and I began to scribble a bit here and there in the early 2000's. Around 2003 I inked 3 issues of a comic for a friend who had just broken into comics, a young man I met while I was teaching a few comic drawing classes earlier. Then in 2007 I picked up an old acquaintance with Mike Baron and he offered me some books to do, most notably some Badger books he was now getting started with a new company called IDW Comics. It still seemed a little early for me to commit to comics, so I ended up doing three Badger pin-ups mostly as a favor to his friendship. They liked them and ended up using them as covers and paying me. Huh.
Lately on the internet I've been using the pen name BANNEN, and, keeping in tradition with my confusing use of multiple names throughout my career, I now sign everything as Bannen. Check out these three covers, all are now published. One thing of particular note: look at the style I have now. I'll talk about that more in the next short section, but notice how I'm much more fluid and inventive with things like hair, costume and light effects. If you take a look above at the previous samples for Marvel, Icon Devil, etc., you'll see much more sedate treatment of hair, clothes, basic inking techniques. Nowadays my work is much more free and expressive. Whatever that means.
Badger Complete Badger Saves the World Badger Bull
THIS BRINGS US TO: ONE LIFE, ONE DEATH: its time has arrived
That was a brief overview of the origins, the seeds of this new project. It has strong roots from the old Icon Devil it was (twice), from other skills learned through working on other peoples' books, and from the changes I underwent while doing my crazy spiritual search, to easing gently back into comics and art again in recent years. Now, read a short note about this project's development and read a short synopsis that outlines the main plotline of the story.
a Short Outline of the story