A couple of weeks ago, we posted the teaser trailer for IDW Publishing’s Kill Shakespeare, a new series that aims to group all of William Shakespeare’s greatest characters on a quest to find their creator. It’s been causing quite the stir amidst the comic book community, and the book finally hits shelves this Wednesday.
I got the chance to speak with co-creators and writers Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery about the progression of their story and hopefully, its future. You can also check out our review of Kill Shakespeare #1!
CraveOnline: Well Conor, Anthony, to start – thanks for your time today! First thing’s first: for those uninitiated, what’s the concept behind Kill Shakespeare?
Anthony Del Col: Kill Shakespeare is an adventure series in which all of Shakespeare’s greatest heroes… and all of his greatest villains… are pitted together in a quest to track down a reclusive wizard by the name of William Shakespeare. Actually, they’re pitted against one another. It’s a cross between Fables, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Northlanders.
Conor McCreery: Anthony nailed it right on. This is an epic story for everyone. Whether or not Shakespeare is your thing this story will grab you.
CraveOnline: That’s something I picked up from the first issue. It’s accessible, regardless of knowing Shakespeare or not. That said, you’re fooling around with Shakespeare! It’s clearly out of adoration, but is there any sense of trepidation covering such coveted ground?
Anthony Del Col: Well, we’re so confident in our writing abilities that we’re even BETTER than Shakey… Just kidding, of course.
Conor McCreery: We do worry a bit, but we have to hope that fans see this for what it is. An homage to the greatest writer of all time.
ADC: We’re both HUGE fans of the Bard.
CM: But, saying that, we do think we are writing a story that Shakespeare would be a bit jealous of (or at least admire).
CraveOnline: How did you guys come together on this book?
ADC: Conor and I first met about 8 years ago and immediately started to work on various project together – children’s animation, feature films, etc. We came up with the idea for Kill Shakespeare about six years ago. We were brainstorming ideas for video games and thought that a game that put all of Shakespeare’s characters together would be a great one. We then decided that it work best in the comic book medium.
CM: From there we started raising money, we always have treated this as more than just a creative venture. And once we had the financial backing, we worked very hard on the creative so that we could woo some publishers. That paid off in NYC a year ago when at the comic convention there we walked away with five expressions of interest.
CraveOnline: You wooed IDW, it seems!
CM: Indeed, Anthony sold them on 5 words: "The Justice League of Shakespeare".
ADC: Which Conor was amazed by, since he thought I didn’t know anything about comics…
CM: [laughs] He’s been learning behind my back.
ADC: We chatted with a number of publishers and IDW seemed like the best fit. From a creative and business standpoint. We were very impressed with how the company was growing (evidenced by their newfound "Premier" status with Diamond).
CraveOnline: So this has been in the works for a while, in one form or another. How did Andy Belanger get involved?
CM: We brought Andy on board after searching through a whack of local talent. He impressed us a) because of his talent, b) because he was totally into the idea after we met him (and is not a huge Shakespeare geek) and c) he has a great sense of story and is also a business minded artist. We knew he understood what we were trying to accomplish.
CraveOnline: Well, the art is great. Real quick – what’s the publishing format for the book? Is it ongoing, a mini-series, an ongoing series of mini-series?
CM: A 12-issue maxi-series.
CM: But Anthony can hint at some of our… broader plans…
ADC: Yes, we’re currently slated for the twelve issues. But we have a whole trilogy mapped out – we roughly know what’s going to happen in a second and third series. And, if this first series is successful, we have a great world to play in – a Kill Shakespeare Universe. There is a lot of potential of creating spin-off series (like the "Othello Chronicles").
What we’d really like to do is open it up and have others get involved along the way – to encourage people to join the story and grow it out. We’d like to eventually create an open source storytelling system. But we’re probably getting ahead of ourselves…
We’re also in discussions for additional products – a tabletop RPG game, a mobile game/app. And we’ve also been approached by some film companies. But our major emphasis at this time is the comic book series. We’re spending all of our time on that at the moment.
CraveOnline: All before the first issue’s release!
ADC: Well, people really like the idea and concept. It’s amazing how many people really do like (or have an appreciation for) Shakespeare. Most everyone we speak to have a particular favorite character or play. They always ask us what characters we’re using to see if their favorite is included.
CraveOnline: Is that intimidating for you guys, having all this hype built up around you?
ADC: Well, I don’t know if we’d classify it as THAT much hype. We’re still an indie title in a world of large Marvel and DC brands. But we’re really focusing on telling some greet stories with some great characters. We’ve been quite aggressive thus far in trying to spread the word about the book – reaching out to retailers, media, customers, fans, Shakespeare groups, academics, etc. As you know, the comic industry is a tough one and we think that once people read the first issue they’ll get into the story.
CraveOnline: That said, judging from issue #1, the overarching plot seems to be Hamlet’s desire to resurrect his father, taking place just after Hamlet kills Polonius and is being sent to England by his Uncle. Was it a conscious decision to make Hamlet the anchor?
CM: Not really, no. Hamlet sort of put up his hand and told us he’d be the main character. As we brainstormed ideas he just kept dominating them. And I think that is because he may be one of the most complex characters ever written, and certainly he’s arguably the best known of the Bard’s characters so it just made sense. Anthony?
ADC: Indeed, Hamlet was the best fit for this story. He plays the role of the relunctant hero, and really, who’s better to be an indecisive character than perhaps the greatest of all-time?
CraveOnline: How deep into Shakespeare’s ‘character roster’ do you plan on going? Any particular personal favorites you’re itching to write?
CM: Caliban! We’ll go fairly deep, but already there are so many great characters that we may not be able to fit in. It’s tough because you want to use "the greatest hits" but where does the story get too busy? And where do you cut off your nose to spite your face by leaving no good ones left for future stories?
CraveOnline: That’s true. I suppose you’ve got to resist that temptation to indulge yourself for the better of the story.
CM: Kill your babies!
ADC: Shakespeare created so many great characters that it’s tough to leave some on the cutting room floor. We selected those that work best for this particular story. And what was interesting was how some started out as small within our story and grew bigger. For example, Iago originally had a smaller role but as we were developing the tale his role became bigger and bigger. It’s because he’s such a fascinating character but also that it worked for our story.
CM: Characters always write themselves and Iago simply wouldn’t stay where we had put him. Typical Iago…
ADC: … Always snaking his way into the picture…
CraveOnline: It’s fascinating how that works. Especially considering a major part of this series is the characters finding their creator. The sense of characters being alive is a remarkable thought, and it sounds like you guys are hitting that nail on the head. Now, Shakespeare is obviously known for his comedies as well as his tragedies; can we expect the more comedic characters interacting with the more downtrodden ones?
CM: Oh certainly, wait until issue #3. FALSTAFF!
ADC: Falstaff has been so much fun to create. More importantly, our artist Andy LOVES drawing him!
CM: He’s one fat bastard…
ADC: There are some great comedic moments with him.
CM: He’s very fun to write.
CraveOnline: In some ways, it looks like you guys have found a loophole of sorts! A creator-owned work, but yet you get to play in this cast of characters created by one of the ultimate storytellers, making them your own. Just an observation, and I wish you guys the best of luck. Is there anything you’d like to add?
CM: Well, we’re out on the 14th!
ADC: At comic stores across North America. On the 15th in the U.K., and on iTunes April 20th. As we noted at the start, this is a fun adventure story that everyone can get into – whether you like the Bard or not. It has action, adventure, bloody violence, love and lust, comedy, wittiness, double-crossing and cross-dressing. An adventure of Shakespearean proportions.
CM: And the last thing, from me anyway, is that I think people are really going to see how Shakespeare is both mass-culture and so smart. We hope this comic has all the jolts, pratfalls, and shocks one wants in good pulp-y fun, but also talks in an interesting way about what makes us who we are, about what makes us human. So it is like Shakey – both high and low culture all at once.
ADC: If Shakespeare were alive today we think he would be in comics – and film, games, tv, mobile, etc. He was the greatest entertainer of all-time.