Sentinels History

I’m often asked how the Sentinels series began or how Luciano Vecchio and I started working together. So, I thought it’d be nice to have this history page for those interested or anyone thinking about jumping into the comicbook world to read. It’s a long, but I hope interesting story!
The story behind the creation of Drumfish Productions’ Sentinels series began at the Actor’s Studio in NYC. Yes, the Actor’s Studio that has the show on Bravo. I received my Master’s degree there (in the graduating class right before Bradley Cooper). During down time and between classes, I would often sketch different ideas and characters. Sketching usually started as an exercise to help establish the world in which the character I was performing as lived in. It was my way of making the character real to me and also creating a visual that I could use to embed myself deeper into a character or other characters in the play. But the sketches I did always seemed to expand into the comic world somehow. I’d add a mask suddenly, change the skin color or give a character horns or something. It wasn’t planned at all, but subconsciously I guess my childhood interest in comics crept in there.

It was during those days that most of the Sentinels main cast members were drawn and created. Templar, Harlette, Serpenta, Firebomb and Rapture all were sketched out in one take. While others weren’t in their final forms that eventually saw print, but their looks were first dreamed up there too. By the time I graduated, I had dozens of character sketches and notes written in my sketchbooks. None of them were connected or had a story to them, but I think that became part of the uniqueness of the Sentinels characters and their diversity. 

History of Sentinels 01

Training at the Actor’s Studio and learning so much about story-telling, plot, dialogue and character creation, I decided to try my hand at writing. It also didn’t hurt that I worked fulltime at the New York Times and was exposed to writers and editors everyday. I tried writing a few short plays and began developing some comic ideas. They weren’t too bad, but I was also still acting and my focus was split between the two.
This was all before 9/11. Living in New York City at the time, like so many other people, I was affected by the tragedy. It was a life changing event in so many ways for everyone and it made me change my priorities. I decided to quit the acting business and focus solely on creating my own comic. It was with this renewed focus on my art that Sentinels was born. The epic storyline of the entire Sentinels series was created immediately and once it was plotted, I went back through my old character sketches and combined the two.
With characters, plot and storyline in place and a newfound dedication to make my dreams a reality, I began writing and drawing Sentinels on my own. Yes, I was insane and thought I could do everything by myself for a short while. For the next few months, I wrote, did layouts and designs and produced final pages for the first four chapters of Sentinels Book 1: Footsteps.
Fortunately, while at the Actor’s Studio, I learned that part of the process of being an artist is having the ability to step away from your work and to try to be subjective. I did just that and realized that as much as I wanted to make Sentinels work with my writing and drawing, it wasn’t a realistic goal and my art was just not right for the series.
I looked for an artist to collaborate with and had little success. At one point, an artist by the name of Jens Lund worked with me on the first chapter of the book. But Jens wasn’t able to commit to the series and I soon found myself left with the only option of drawing the series once again. Since I was truly determined to make Sentinels a reality, I picked up pencil and paper again and started drawing the series once more. Thankfully….during this time I had been in contact with my favorite comicbook artist, George Perez! George had been the artist on the book that inspired me way back (the New Teen Titans) and he was actually doing a commission of all the Sentinels characters for me to be published in the first issue (whenever it would come out!). As he was drawing he happened to tell another fan of his about what he was working on and told him it was for me. That fan was Marcus Mebes and he contacted me after speaking with George Perez and asked if he could see the art once it was finished. I told him sure and told him about the Sentinels series. He asked if I was looking for any artists for the book and said he had a friend who might be interested in doing some sketches.
Enter Luciano Vecchio!

Sentinels History 02

Naturally, I was impressed with Luciano’s art as soon as I saw it. He did a group shot of the Sentinels team for me and that was enough for me to ask him to draw a chapter of Sentinels Book 1: Footsteps for me. Luciano actually drew chapter 4 of that book before he drew issue 1. His energy and excitement gives his art life that few artists can bring to their work. I shared my outline and art for Sentinels with him and he became very interested. His interest really fueled me and I started writing like a mad man. Before I knew it, Luciano was actually drawing every chapter of Sentinels and wowing me with each page!
With Luciano located in Buenos Aires and me living in New York City, we communicated solely through the internet for the entire production of Sentinels Book 1 and 2. It was a difficult time, but I remember how it became easier the more we talked and became friends. Somehow, my Spanish got worse and Luciano’s English got better, lol. Our conversations became an almost daily thing as we worked on the book and it was around the end of Sentinels Book 2: Masks, that I started listing Luciano as co-creator of the series. His contribution was invaluable and he deserved to have that acknowledged.
We published Sentinels Book 1: Footsteps in December 2003 and pushed ourselves very hard to complete Book 2: Masks in time for summer of 2004, so that we could have it ready for the San Diego Comicon! It was at the Con that Luciano and I met for the first! It was an amazing experience and we sold a lot of books there. Luciano even gifted me with a hand-made statue of Templar he had made!
After the convention was over, we found ourselves a bit drained. Being so productive for so long burned us both out. We decided that we didn’t want to ever force ourselves to work on Sentinels. We wanted it to be fun for us. So, we both decided to take a short break and wait until our Sentinels energy returned and we would start collaborating again. In the meanwhile, Luciano ended up working on an OGN titled Real Clohe and I started to develop a few other series.

Sentinels History 03

While we were taking a break, we were approached by Bryon Preiss, the founder and president of ibooks about his company re-publishing Sentinels to a much wider audience. ibooks were one of the pioneers of digital publishing and won numerous awards for books they published. For a few months, we discussed options and plans and finally came up with a solution that benefitted both parties. Luciano and I were very excited. Bryon was a great guy with a vision for his company and titles that was unique and he welcomed us into the ibook family immediately.  Unfortunately, just as we were waiting for our contract to arrive, Bryon was in a fatal car accident and shortly after, ibooks closed their doors.
It was a sad time and after almost a year, we finally started to work on Sentinels Book 3: Echoes. But once we got started, we never stopped! Even after we completed Book 3 in November 2005, we seemed to have renewed energy and jumped right into working on the final book of the series, Book 4: Hope and released it in early 2007.
Luciano came back to the U.S. to visit again after we completed Sentinels. Naturally, I was extremely proud of the work we had done and I was very happy we had completed our story as we always intended. But I was also sad, because I wanted to keep going with it. I was going to miss the characters and collaborating with Luciano. We could have pulled the classic comic twist and somehow change the ending or revealed something the readers didn’t know and keep going. But we agreed we would never do that. Our story had a beginning, middle and end and we would leave it at that.
We did decide to continue the world the Sentinels lived in though with the third generation of the team in the Sentinels Anthology series (which you can read about on the Anthology history page).

And we’ve also had the pleasure of being asked to contribute or have the Sentinels appear in different books. Templar and Serpenta appeared in Philly #4 from Arcana Studios, Templar appeared in War of the Independents From Red Anvil Comics and Crusher, Phazer, Gospel and Flare appeared in Argo 5 #3 from Argo Comics. 

Not too long ago, another publishing company approached us about doing a colorized version of Sentinels and talked about aiming it at a wider audience (meaning the more adult content would be edited). We jumped at the idea of doing this and we were very excited. Unfortunately, the person who approached us left the company and we were unable to see the colorized version printed.

Sentinels History 04

But that didn’t stop us! Luciano set out to rework and color all of the original Sentinels pages from the first half of Sentinels Book 1. It gave the series dramatically new life that we are now in the process of figuring out how we want to present it to the world. Whether we work with a larger company and have them publish it or end of putting it out on our own, the new version will be seen soon!
Also recently, a toy company approached us about making Sentinels figurines. We loved their work and have collaborated with them on three different sets now!
This history wouldn’t be complete without mentioning all the amazing people we’ve met throughout our journey (and new ones we have yet to meet!). So, I hope you all know that without you, we could never have completed Sentinels. Your support means the world to us. Thank you!!
It seems that even though the Sentinels story ended, they still have a lot of life in them! Who knows what road we will travel next.
-Rich Bernatovech

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