Victor Santos’ Polar started off as a humble idea over a decade ago. The simple black, white, and sometimes red comic featured no dialogue or lettering and the end product resulted in a highly-stylized neo-noir thriller.
A year after Santos began to publish Polar as a webcomic, the writer-artist partnered with the Portland, Oregon-based Dark Horse Comics to release three collected hardcovers of the webcomic.
The first collection, of which, serves as the inspiration of Polar, an upcoming original Netflix feature film. Based on Came From The Cold, the Mads Mikkelsen-starring action thriller is set to debut on the streaming giant later this week.
Mikkelsen — who plays the protagonist of the comics, an assassin that goes by the name Black Kaiser — is about as comic-accurate as can be, according to Santos. Speaking with ComicBook.com, Santos says he believes Mikkelsen fully understood the role as the character was meant to be.
“My biggest fear was the story would be turned into conventional action hero story,” Santos says. “But when you read or listen to Mads Mikkelsen interviews, you see he understood the character really well.”
“The Black Kaiser isn’t a good or bad person,” explains Santos. “He’s twisted and violent. He exists on the edge and Mads understands that.”
Once Dark Horse boss Mike Richardson brought screenwriter Jayson Rothwell on to pen a screenplay for Polar, it was but a matter of time before the movie found a financier. Shortly after Rothwell wrote the script, Resident Evil financier Constantin Films agreed to finance Polar before agreeing to a distribution deal with Netflix.
“It’s so surreal. You never really believe it’s actually happening even when you're involved in the process...” reflects Santos. “And then one day, you watch the trailer and blam! It’s real. You watch Katheryn Winnick say, ‘You tried to kill the Black Kaiser’ and then he’s there! It’s difficult to put all of the emotions into words.”
Santos did manage to have a hand in helping get the production off the ground, helping make suggestions on the earliest drafts of the script and casting recommendations. While the movie was in production, the Spain-based writer was too busy with other projects — namely two additional Polar graphic novels — to make the trek to Canada to visit the set.
Though he has yet to catch the film for himself, he’s been an instrumental part in publicizing the film with Netflix overseas. In fact, the creator will be hosting a premiere event in Barcelona in the days leading up to the film.
“When I saw the trailer, I recognized every frame,” mentions Santos. “I think it’s a faithful adaptation because Jonas Åkerlund respected the spirit of the book. I didn’t want a panel-to-panel adaptation. My intention with the Polar series was to play and expand on the storytelling tools that make comic books such a special way to tell stories. I think Jonas has the same intention with the film.”
In the wake of a film being produced, Santos and Dark Horse agreed to publish two additional hardcover collections set in the Polar universe — The Black Kaiser, a standalone introductory story of sorts and a capstone tale to the main Black Kaiser story titled The Kaiser Falls.
The Black Kaiser, in reality, isn’t a direct origin of the eponymous character. Rather, it’s actually a reprint of the first story ever featuring Black Kaiser, first published by a Spanish printer in 2009 ahead of the webcomic days.
With Santos recently reacquiring the rights for the story, he and Dark Horse made the decision to go ahead and canonize the events of the original graphic novel.
“The Black Kaiser is kind of the first presentation of the character as the best hitman in the world,” Santos says of the introductory volume. “We discover why he has a price on his head with a lot of secret agencies around the world.”
“We’re introduced to other Polar characters like Irina (Volume 1) or Ifrit (Volume 3). We also learn why he’s a retired and low-profile guy in Came from the Cold,” the creator continues. “Maybe it seems a little confusing (laughs), but the good part is each volume is independent, you can read it like a James Bond franchise story.”
As far as The Kaiser Falls volume goes, the compilation sees Kaiser as he retires to Florida — only to get involved back in his previous life before too long. According to Santos, Kaiser finds himself in trouble after his widowed housemaid starts being harassed by a local gang.
Not only that, Kaiser ends up the target of a rookie hitman new to the scene who’s looking for his “hunting trophy.” Santos says the new hitman involved in The Kaiser Falls belongs to a new, millennial generation of killers that uses technology to their advantage, trying to get bigger killers for the fame across digital media outlets.
In fact, if The Kaiser Falls ends up being the last tale involved in the Kaiser saga, Santos wouldn’t mind doing a spin-off of sorts with featuring this new generation of assassins.
“I love the characters, so it’s very possible,” Santos says about the possibility of spinoffs. “I think the format of the landscape books is over for those four books. I have plans for other books in the landscape style, but not for Polar.”
“But I love that universe of hitmen. I have the character Christy White, the Black Kaiser´s pupil, and I would love to develop her more,” he continues. “I also have this new universe of millennial killers, which I want to explore more. Their use of technology and social media is opposite of how the Cold War agencies operated. I definitely have plans for them!”0comments
Polar, the feature film, will debut January 25th on Netflix. ComicBook.com's Charlie Ridgely reviewed the film, which you can read here.
Volume 0: The Black Kaiser is currently scheduled for release on March 19th while Volume 4: The Kaiser Falls will be released on April 2nd, both through Dark Horse Comics. Volume 1: Came From The Cold, Volume 2: Eye for an Eye, and Volume 3: No Mercy for Sister Maria