Long John commission by Giannis Milonogiannis (colors by D. Bethel)

Adaptation is literally the key to evolution and survival.

However, adaptation isn’t only about moving forward; it’s about absorbing and interpreting what has come before, taking what you need, and making something new from the pieces.

It’s no secret how important the Prophet reboot from Image comics was for my development as an independent creator. It was––through its creative thesis––everything I wanted to be as a creator: bucking the writer/artist paradigm, blending prose and art as a creative process, and telling a story that challenged the tropes of a genre.

But that came later, once the trade paperback collections started releasing. What actually got me on board was the talent attached; first with Simon Roy and then securing me with the addition of Giannis Milonogiannis––two creators I’d found and who had blown my mind with their pre-Prophet work. Roy’s Jan’s Atomic Heart became one of those books I passed around incessantly, asking, “did you know comics could do this?!” Milonogiannis’ work with Old City Blues was much quieter but no less impactful. His work was a strange blend of manga and European-styled grit that actually pulled me away from an animation style into a world of creator-owned expression as I eventually discovered the works of Enki Bilal, Alejandro Jodorowsky, and François Boucq. But that trend started with Milonogiannis and his cyberpunk police comic, Old City Blues.

Representing old school Milonogiannis. #webcomiclife

Earlier this year, I saw through social media that Giannis opened up commissions and I jumped at the chance. A part of me wants to secure physical artifacts of those who inspired me as I head further into creator-owned independence: I have a book signed by Brandon Graham, I have a Prophet page by Simon Roy, and I had a giclée print from Giannis Milonogiannis, fully expecting that was as close as I’d get to having his work in my world outside of the books themselves.

To my surprise, he was willing to do commissions of original characters and, after a brief exchange with reference material and a link to the comic, he hammered out this wonderful Long John drawing in his own inimitable style.

Giannis’ “Old Man Prophet” print sits above my drawing table, alongside a throng of other art that constantly inspires.

What I received was a glimpse into the world of my characters but through the lens of a creator I respect and admire. It’s not the same as my own, but the differences make it better––not a look at what Long John should be, but what it looks like translated through another person’s hand. It proved (to me) that Long John is a transferable idea, one that can cross oceans and talents, and I love––more than anything––how Giannis captured the otherworldliness (and plain otherness) that the story embodies through its characters and setting. But hunting through the piece and seeing finding what choices he made––what pieces of the premise he absorbed and interpreted––is as fun as simply having the piece in front of me. It’s like hearing someone sing a cover of a song I wrote––it’s simultaneously instructive and validating.

What I received is an adaptation in the purest sense. It’s still clearly Long John and Hellrider Jackie, but in a style that is obviously not my own. In fact, it’s a style far from my own. This is Giannis’ version of these characters, hinting at the viability and applicability of, at the very least, the designs, giving them life in a manner of which I could ever give them––a different manner––and his work continues to inspire and push me forward, to break down even my own work, to reinterpret and reapply it to make something different and better with each step forward.

Giannis Milonogianni’s lineart for the Long John commission.

Giannis is currently drawing Ronin Island for Boom! Studios with writer Greg Pak. Be sure to also check out his webcomic, Old City Blues, with volumes 1 & 2 available for purchase through Archaia Entertainment/Boom! Studios. Old City Blues is also currently in a development deal with Hulu, with Kerry Washington set to star and Gore Verbinski attached to direct.