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AICN COMICS Q&@: Russ Sheath talks with creative team Andy Hartnell and John Royle about DANGER GIRL: MAYDAY #2, available from IDW this week!

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Q’s by Russ Sheath!

Andy Hartnell & John Royle!!!

Russ Sheath here. I'm an unashamed Danger Girl fan, and any opportunity to talk Danger Girl with its creators is an opportunity not to be missed. The story of an all female team of secret agents, the original DANGER GIRL series was a smash hit for writer Andy Hartnell and one of the artists who came to embody the Image style of comics, J. Scott Campbell. That was almost 20 years ago, and since the original series DANGER GIRL has lived on in a series of miniseries and one shots, each written by Hartnell and accompanied by a superstar artist.

DANGER GIRL: MAYDAY is no exception, as Hartnell is drawn by uber-artist John Royle (DANGER GIRL/GI JOE, DANGER GIRL: TRINITY), an artist whose high octane, eye-melting art has rapidly become a favourite amongst comics and Danger Girl fans alike. MAYDAY picks up the reins where the previous miniseries THE CHASE left off, but (spoilers) with the return of a fan favourite Danger Girl character, and introduces some new characters into the mix in a story that is trademark Danger Girl. I was lucky to catch Andy Hartnell and John Royle to talk about MAYDAY and what the future holds for Danger Girl.

RUSS SHEATH (RS): With MAYDAY and with THE CHASE before it, there seems to be an effort to make more of a connective narrative to DANGER GIRL stories, as opposed to the one-shots and miniseries we'd seen before. Can you tell us a little about that, from a creative and storytelling perspective, and why you've chosen to develop the Danger Girl universe?

ANDY HARTNELL (AH): Part of that comes from our editor, Scott Dunbier, who’s been with us on DANGER GIRL from the very beginning. Scott’s been encouraging us to develop new stories while he maps out the next year or so of the schedule in advance, just kind of loosely so we know where we’re headed. It’s been easier to link the stories together that way. Some of the earlier one-shots and minis were created mostly because an artist we wanted to work with would become available, and we’d create a story for that opportunity without really thinking about if it would fit into the DANGER GIRL continuity or anything like that. Those were fun to do, but the last few series like TRINITY, THE CHASE, and MAYDAY have felt a little more rewarding as they’re making the Danger Girl Universe feel a bit richer.

RS: How would you like to see the DGU evolve? Do you have a master plan?

AH: We do have a plan for the next year or two. We’ve been working out some details for the next couple of series. What I’d like to see happen are some stories that are a bit longer than 4 or 5 issues at a time. I’d really like to have some extra pages to build the core characters a bit more, develop their relationships, share a little more backstory, and still have pages left for the action and adventure that people are expecting from Danger Girl. So there is a pretty exciting plan in place to freshen up the series and expand the universe in the next year or so.

RS: John, this is your third (?) DANGER GIRL project - how does it feel to be back in the saddle?

JOHN ROYLE (JR): I feel very at home with Andy and the girls, because thankfully each series we have done has had a lovely response from the DG fans so there is a slight pressure to not drop the ball and top the last one.

RS: This series, MAYDAY, sees the return of a classic Danger Girl character (spoilers)--was it always the intent to see Natalia return at some point, and why now?

AH: There was and there was not. For several years, J. Scott Campbell and I would say, to each other in private, that Natalia Kassle is done. She died. Then we’d bounce some ideas back and forth about how she could return. She’s a very cool character, and she had a great role in the original DANGER GIRL series, so to bring her back just for the hell of it and have her doing the exact same thing as before would kind of crap all over her rise and fall in the original series. There’s gotta be an entirely new struggle for Natalia, and this series is really her first step in that new journey.

RS: John, what is it about Danger Girl, for you, that keeps you coming back for more?

JR: It's one of my all-time fav comic series and for many years I dreamed of working on it someday I have to pinch myself that I'm working on my dream series. I enjoy drawing beautiful sexy women and I love 60s Bond movies! When I was working on Spider-Man strips for Panini I was always asking for team-ups with the female characters. DG to me is a sort of perfect mix of Bond with a touch of Charlie's Angels mixed in. Andy really is a joy to work with and good fun. Eeshwar and Rom on inks and colours are also fantastic and add their talents to the series; it's a real team effort.

RS: There have been a raft of reoccurring new characters turning up in this new series--are you getting to exercise your creative muscles, designing new characters for the series?

JR: Yes, I enjoyed designing the new characters with Andy's suggestions on things to bring to them. Each character we pretty much got within a few design versions. I also enjoyed that we got to get some Hammer characters in the scenes. There's a bar scene in issue three that I snuck in a character from the first series in the background as I thought it was somewhere he may turn up and a bit of fun to have him in there.

RS: You’ve also been adding to Danger Girl's cast of characters, this time with the titular 'Mayday'. Has it been important to add more characters and flesh out the DG universe?

AH: Some of these new characters have been on standby for years, April Mayday being one of them. She was actually very close to being in the original trio of Danger Girls, but for one reason or another didn’t make the cut. If I remember right, we had five field agents on the original team, April being one of them. But then we brought it down to the three field agents – Abbey, Sydney and Natalia – because we began to develop the supporting cast of Valerie, Johnny, Deuce and Agent Zero. I guess we just didn’t want to push too many characters all at once when the series first started. But now it’s pretty exciting to think of all these new characters slowly joining the universe and coming to life.

RS: MAYDAY (spoilers) sees the return of a classic Danger Girl character. How was it drawing the 'classic' Danger Girl line-up? Presumably you were a fan of the original series by Hartnell and J. Scott Campbell?

JR: It's awesome! When Andy and I were talking about a follow up DG series from DG/GI JOE I suggested bringing Natalia back, as she one off my fav characters and I wanted to also draw more Hammer characters from the original series. Andy said that that was the story that J.Scott Campbell wanted to draw if he ever drew any more DG stories, so that idea sort of got shelved. I guess Andy must have sweet-talked him into letting us do it. I'm so glad he did--I'm having a ball on it!!! This series really feels like a sequel to the original series and a continuation of the story.

RS: You have John Royle returning, who is rapidly becoming 'Mr. Danger Girl' from an art perspective. How is it working with John?

AH: I’ll tell you a story that John doesn’t even know, and I don’t want to embarrass him, but it’s a pretty funny story. I remember back when we were planning the DANGER GIRL/G.I. JOE crossover and our original artist had to bow out at the last minute for personal reasons. We had to find a new artist fairly quickly, and Scott Dunbier and I were checking out TONS of guys to draw the book. So one day Scott sends me a link to John’s work. Just a few pin-ups and a few sequential pages. I think a few of the pages were Indiana Jones pages? Anyway, Scott had really sent THREE guys’ samples over, and I immediately said “Let’s try this guy John Royle”. And Scott says “I already contacted him. I knew you would pick him”. So everything works out with the schedules and everything, and John starts doing layouts. And one day I send John a copy of J. Scott Campbell’s cover with Cobra Commander on it and John emails me back and says something like “I love it! Who’s that cool-looking guy with the mirror mask and helmet?” And I’m thinking “Umm…dude? That is COBRA COMMANDER. Do you not know the character?" And then John sends me some questions about the script, and he’s like “Who is this FLINT guy?” And I call Scott and I’m like “John Royle is doing our big G.I. Joe crossover and he just asked me who Cobra Commander is. We are dead.” Scott laughs and tells me to fill John in on G.I. Joe.

So I did, and I have to tell you that John probably had the fastest crash-course in G.I. Joe that anyone’s ever had. And if you look at that book now, it’s probably the most accurate to the original “Real American Hero”-era source material that anyone’s ever drawn. And then I’m like “Oh yeah, maybe because John was born, raised and lives in England, he wasn’t exposed to the Real “American” Hero G.I. Joe like we were in America." And then John says “I know everything about Danger Girl, but because I was born, raised and live in England…”. So anyway, just knowing that little bit of backstory really tells you how incredibly talented John is to be able to pull that book off. The Joe fans were so happy with how well he did their favorite heroes and villains, even more so than many artists who’ve known the Joe characters their entire lives.

So to answer your question, I love working with John. He’s a fun guy with a great sense of humor and is very hard working and extremely talented. We’re really lucky to have him with us. I hope he gets a laugh out of that story, because he was just absolutely brilliant with his work on that series.

RS: You don't seem short of high concept, large scale action in this series. Has there ever been a point when you've read an Andy Hartnell script and thought 'how the hell do I draw this?”

JR: Every issue! Hahaha! Every time Andy sends a script I'm excited, as I know it will be cool, but also nervous to read it as many times I think “oh my god it's brilliant, but I can't draw that.” Then I sort of leave it for a day or so, and images start to pop up in my head and then I sort of take It a page at a time and get through it. Working out the layouts is the hardest part for me; once they are done I relax more, as I have an idea where I'm going with it.

RS: Is J. Scott Campbell still involved in the DANGER GIRL projects?

AH: Campbell is and will always be involved with Danger Girl. I’m sure he’ll be creating new art and characters as we move into the next phase of the book, to the adventures that we’re planning for the next year or so.

But until then, MAYDAY is really moving into gear with the third and fourth issues being released in the next couple months. The ending of it really sets up where the entire Danger Girl universe is headed next.

DANGER GIRL: MAYDAY # 2 is out this week from IDW. Follow IDW @idwpublishing

Check out John Royle's website for original art and much more, here.

You can follow Russ Sheath's blog Russwords here and @russellsheath on Twitter here.

Editing, compiling, imaging, coding, logos & cat-wrangling by Ambush Bug
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G

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