@’s by KILL SHAKESPEARE’s Anthony Del Col, Conor McCreery & Andy Belanger!
LYZARD (LYZ): What were your experiences with Shakespeare prior to working on this series?
ANDY BELANGER (AB): Like so many of us, Shakey was force-fed to me in high school. However when we moved from Twelfth Night to Macbeth something clicked! The tragedy was something I had only ever really seen in The Empire Strikes Back. The idea of eliminating a happy ending seemed more effective and real to me. It became an important part of how I create. Jody Hill must be a Shakespeare fan!
ANTHONY DEL COL (ADC): I don’t have a major in English but have been a lifelong fan of the Bard. In high school I had not only a good English teacher (thanks, Mr. Cribbs!) but also the opportunity to see some of his plays performed on the stages of the Stratford Festival (the top Shakespeare company in North America). I’ve always been enthralled with how Shakey was able to combine larger-than-life characters and stories with some poignant, subtle moments. Such a great entertainer.
CONOR MCCREERY (CM): I was like Anthony in that high school really helped me take to the Bard. The big key was when Mrs. Thomson took our class to Stratford to see The Tempest. Watching Colm Feore leap about the stage as Caliban gave me a whole new appreciation for how kinetically amazing the Bard’s work could, and should be. I also had some exposure to Shakespeare through some of the theatre classes I took at Wilfrid Laurier University (thanks Dr. O’Dell).
LYZ: How did you come to choose Hamlet as the lead protagonist?
CM: Weirdly, Hamlet almost didn’t make the cut. We originally intended our lead character to be a contemporary figure – a cop who had lost his fiancée to an act of violence – but we worried that the audience would see the KILL SHAKESPEARE Universe as less real if they were identifying with someone from New York or Toronto. And hey, if you want to have a main character dealing with the pain of losing a family member, why would you go anywhere else but Hamlet?
ADC: Hamlet’s a character tough to write for as he’s often a passive protagonist. Whereas most lead characters actively look to do something, Hamlet doesn’t. He’d prefer to sit out some confrontations or decisions. As Darwyn Cooke wrote in his foreword to our first trade, he can sometimes be perceived as an “emo douche” but we like the arc we’ve created for him as the series has gone on.
LYZ: What research did you do for the series?
ADC: Conor and I intentionally elected to not do a lot of research when we started to conceive and write the series. We wanted to be able to create a story that didn’t require a Masters or PhD in Literature or Shakespeare to be able to get into our story.
CM: I’ve reread a few of the plays while writing my share but like Anthony I wanted to avoid being shackled to the minutiae of the Bard. We’re aiming to capture the essence of his plays, not necessarily the specific plots.
AB: For the creation of the look I chose to do a lot of research and watched a lot of films to get reference points. Roman Polanski’s Macbeth was my biggest inspiration as was Branagh's Henry V. One of the interns at my studio got me all 38 audio plays and I started getting into plays I had never read! I would listen while drawing and that’s where I discovered my love for The Tempest and the coffin scene from Merchant of Venice. I’m still going but it’s fun to draw Othello while you listen to the play. It gives me a greater depth to the character and I try to translate that into the drawing!
LYZ: Juliet is almost a Joan of Arc like character in the series. Did you find any inkling of such strength in the play?
CM: Well, we’re Star Wars fans so we wanted to have our Princess Leia! And if you look at Leia she sort of disappears a bit as an action heroine as that series went on so we wanted to make sure our main female character had a proactive 21st century vibe. And, talking source material, we’ve heard people argue (and we agree) that Juliet is the strongest character in her play. She’s the one who decides the agenda. Or, put another way, Juliet is active and Romeo is far more reactive – and we wanted to keep true to that active nature.
ADC: I believe that Romeo & Juliet is Shakespeare’s best-known play worldwide so it’s great to be able to put our own spin on one of its characters. We didn’t want a “damsel in distress” and she’s one of the most interesting characters to write and conceive.
LYZ: As for the artwork, the tone of the series can become incredibly dark, yet the colors remain bold and strong. What was the though process behind that?
AB: I’ve always enjoyed bold color with my work. So many horror comics just become mud after the coloring is finished and I didn’t want it to have a dark “Photoshop soup” feeling to it. I’m really influenced by the old Jack Davis EC Comics and it just seems to naturally translate into my pages. I love creators of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s – they are my go-to for inspiration. Buscema’s Frankenstein is the kind of stuff I dig! All those old Creepy publications are what floats my boat.
I feel like people in the industry are losing that skill, that discipline of drawing from the hand raw and replacing it with smoke and mirrors that come out of their computer programs. I’m talking, of course, about things like Google Sketch Up or Poser, those cheats that suck all the life out of the work. I use practically zero reference for KILL SHAKESPEARE and sure, maybe it shows from time to time when that little horse in the back kinda looks like my dog, but I can feel myself improving and my work developing its own unique look.
ADC: Our colorist, Ian Herring, has done a great job with the coloring of the series, ranging from the variations on smoke to some magnificent details in the various skies.
CM: One of the great things that came from working with Andy and Ian was learning from them about how to use color. We all knew we wanted something moody, but Andy and Ian were geniuses at keeping that from becoming generic. And of course they both showed a phenomenal knack for comedic art – Issue #3 may be my favourite.
LYZ: As for the writing, how do you two as partners work together as not to step on each other’s toes?
ADC: Conor and I work together to come up with the big picture story for the entire series as well as the major story beats for each issue. We would then individually take an issue and do the draft, pass it back-and-forth until it’s done.
CM: And then when I argue he locks me in the cupboard until I say sorry. If Justin Bieber or Robert Pattison end up as Hamlet in a film version that will have been Anthony’s idea and you’ll find my corpse in a pantry somewhere.
LYZ: What is the story leading up to KILL SHAKESPEARE, how long did you have the idea before it became a reality?
CM: It was something we came up with in 2006 during a brainstorming session. We were riffing off of Kill Bill and after deciding that Cosby, Clinton and Shatner were bad targets (too political, too political and waaaay too political), we decided to go after the Bard himself. Five years, nine investors, two jobs, and 11 issues later – here we are!
ADC: It was an idea we immediately loved but we were too busy to do anything with it immediately. But like Hamlet’s ghost, it kept on haunting us and coming back to us and we knew we needed to bring it to life.
LYZ: Both writers have worked in the film and television industry. Any plans on adapting KILL SHAKESPEARE?
ADC: Even before the first issue came out last year we were approaching by a number of film production companies and other parties in Hollywood. We told them that our first priority was finishing off the current series before we turn our attention to developing a film version.
CM: The two mediums are very different and we wanted to make sure we made the comic what it needed to be. While we are very proud of our idea, and obviously film and TV provide a more extensive delivery mechanism in which to reach people, we’re not eager to just pump out half-baked spin-offs. But we have been able to start working on a film script and we’ve made a LOT of heretical changes to the comic so, if nothing else, we’ve proven we’re willing to kill our babies.
LYZ: What was the challenge in making Shakespeare’s language more accessible?
CM: Losing the poetic nature of his work. We wanted to make sure the comic had its own rhythm and meter. I think early on we over-wrote a bit. Now I sometimes feel like we’re underwriting slightly. It’s a fine rope to walk.
ADC: The proper use of “thee” and “thou” proved to be a little difficult. We were fortunate that we had some scholars and teachers approach us early in the series and offer their help. We now pass each script through them to get their thoughts and notes on the language. Dost thou think it fine now…?
LYZ: KILL SHAKESPEARE was brought out over quite a period of time. Was there any allowance for fan input or were things pretty set from the get-go?
DC: We love the fact that we can get instant feedback from readers, critics and fans as the series goes on. It’s unlike most other industries and we really enjoy the opportunity to receive a feedback loop like that as we proceed.
CM: For the most part fans comment on the comic in broad terms, we haven’t received too much in the way of “do this” or “don’t do this,” but we read suggestions and criticisms closely and definitely we’ve made changes because of them.
LYZ: Look for KILL SHAKESPEARE’s 12th and final issue this month from IDW Publishing
Lyzard is actually Lyz Reblin, a senior screenwriting major with an English minor at Chapman University. Along with writing for AICN, she has been published twice on the subject of vampire films.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G