|CHRIS PASETTO, CHRISTIAN CANTAMESSA AND LUKAS KETNER
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DF Interview: Kill the Minotaur: A fresh twist on an ancient myth from Chris Pasetto, Christian Cantamessa and Lukas Ketner
By Byron Brewer
Athens lost the war to Crete. Now, they pay tribute to King Minos by sacrificing their best citizens to his unearthly Labyrinth. Conspirators believe Theseus can be the hero they need to end the mad king's bloody reign ... but no one on this world has ever encountered anything like the savage Minotaur!
Writers Chris Pasetto and Christian Cantamessa (Red Dead Redemption) and artist Lukas Ketner (Witch Doctor) reinvent the most fearsome beast of all with Kill the Minotaur, a horrific tale of heroism from Skybound and Image Comics.
Want more info? We did too, so DF sat down with the writers and artist to discuss the new series.
Dynamic Forces: Guys, tell us a little about this coming series, Kill the Minotaur – how it came about and how it made its way to Skybound.
Chris Pasetto: Kill the Minotaur is a fresh twist on the classic Minotaur myth. We treat the myth as a glamorization of what really happened. In KtM, the real story of Theseus and the Minotaur isn't about some square-jawed boy scout who straps on his sword and sandals, goes out to kill the evil monster to serve the forces of good. It's about people who aren't very different from people today, despite the fact that they lived thousands of years ago. However, for those familiar with the myth, the Minotaur is very different from what you might expect.
How it came about? Christian and I sort of fell in love with Skybound when we made the movie Air with them. We had a skeleton story for Kill the Minotaur, and we knew it would be a perfect fit for a comic. There was a Comic Con event for Air and I spoke with Robert Kirkman. Super nice guy! He was incredibly receptive to us working with Skybound on a comic, and steered me right over to Sean Mackiewicz (Skybound's editorial director). That kind of kicked the whole thing off.
Christian Cantamessa: Chris and I started developing this idea almost immediately after writing Air, but things really kicked off after pitching the concept to Robert and Sean. What was super exciting to me was to explore a new way of telling stories that I had never tried before, comic books, and everyone at Skybound really guided us and supported us to make this into a reality.
Lukas Ketner: Sean first floated me the concept after it was already in development at Skybound, and I was immediately excited. I’ve never seen a really different take on the Minotaur myth, and I definitely got what Chris and Christian were going for right away. I really wanted to do this from the beginning, right after I saw the look/feel document. The possibilities for the art side were huge, and I saw an opportunity to create some really cool designs that would scratch more than one ‘artist itch’.
DF: Aside from the obvious (mythology), is there any particular inspiration for the book?
Chris Pasetto: Well, the Minotaur myth has been one of my favorites for a long time. So 99 percent of my personal inspiration came from a deep love for this primal story and my desire to craft a cool new take on it. Outside of that, there are probably a lot of different influences that came into play at various points in our discussions. For instance, we talked a lot about interesting group dynamics of characters under stress, looking at great examples like The Walking Dead, Alien, Cube. I think in all of those it's painfully clear that the group could probably deal with the problem if they weren't so ... human (also a big theme in Air). They're flawed characters, they're arguing, they're selfish and stupid. The horror vibe increases exponentially due to that group tension. We were definitely trying to capture the same feel of those stories in KtM.
Lukas Ketner: Ditto, “Theseus and the Minotaur” was my absolute favorite Greek myth as a kid. My elementary school librarian is still simmering with malice someplace for all of the Greek mythology books I never returned before graduating sixth grade. Heh, I think I started sketching the same day I received the “you interested?” email from Sean Mackiewicz before even waiting for a reply. Films like The Thing, From Beyond, and The Fly were big influences. A few real-life aspects of biology had big impact on the designs, creatures and the environment as well.
Christian Cantamessa: Obviously I agree here. I’ll just add that I grew up in Italy where I was completely immersed in Greek and Roman history, mythology, theater, etc. Those archetypal forms of storytelling really are the basis of all writing. And the myth of Theseus and the Labyrinth is basically one of the “blockbusters” of the era, so it was exciting for me to explore it again, with a different perspective.
DF: What can you tell us about the world you are creating here?
Chris Pasetto: Our version of ancient Greece is definitely more grounded and gritty than the traditional Hollywood version. We wanted KtM to deliver an air of authenticity, transporting you back to that time period. But at the same time, we wanted this to be an enjoyable, relatable story for a contemporary audience. So we used the myth and a lot of historical source material as a stepping-off point to create something that people today could see as different but still feel a connection to.
As far as the "world" of the Labyrinth and the Minotaur, Lukas and our colorist Jean-Francois Beaulieu really breathed life into those elements. They're epic and wonderful and grotesque. Of course I mean the Labyrinth and Minotaur, not Lukas and Jean-Francois!
Lukas Ketner: I’m a little grotesque. S’coo.
Christian Cantamessa: Without giving too much away, we have taken the classic elements that everyone knows and loves, and we have built around them a more modern story that resonates with us as writers in this day and age. You could almost see it as an origin story, if you will, how the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur came to be.
DF: Tell us about your protagonists, and what challenges they face in this “universe.”
Chris Pasetto: Not to give too much away, but the Minotaur is really just one challenge that our protagonists face. It's why the title "Kill the Minotaur" works so well. Because there's much more for these characters to overcome than one monster. Theseus - the main protagonist - he's pretty fun for me to write. The hero you've heard stories about, that square-jawed boy scout? Theseus is NOT that hero. He wants to be that hero, or more importantly, he wants to get a reputation as that hero. That's probably the biggest challenge he's got to overcome, his pride and want for attention. As a side note, characters like Theseus with a big ego are also fun to beat up and knock down.
Christian Cantamessa: And the Labyrinth … it sounds cliché but for me it is as much as a protagonist as the other characters in the comic.
DF: Can you tell us about your collaboration, the process for the series?
Chris Pasetto: Christian and I have worked together for years, since our time together on Red Dead Redemption. We've worked on videogames, short films, feature films, and now comics! The process for KtM was pretty simple: write, get feedback, revise... repeat. I think what's cool about our process is that Christian and I constantly push each other and don't pull punches. Sure there's compromise, but if one of us thinks something can be better we speak up. At the end of the day the reader doesn't give a sh*t about anything other than the book in his or her hands. So egos and feelings get put aside so that we can write the best story that we possibly can.
Christian Cantamessa: Chris and I have a tried and tested way of doing things, and something I really enjoy in our process is that we share a passionate excitement for a lot of the same stuff. Movies, games, books… For me it is invaluable having another person that I know and trust and that can validate my initial instincts - or utterly trash them. Also, we keep each other on track, which really helps to get those pages written!
DF: Lukas, visually, what has been your favorite part of doing this new series thus far? What has been most challenging, if anything?
Lukas Ketner: My favorite part was anything bizarre and squicky. Mainly the Labyrinth stuff. I can’t watch a surgery video without passing out, but for some reason action and gore is still fun for me to draw as well even though battle scenes take a lot of planning. The most challenging part was actually the historical stuff, and history buffs might spot some liberties. Ancient Crete, for example, doesn’t really have as much extensive real-life reference to pull from as most assume. That, combined with the fact that we chose not to have all of the female characters in the famous Minoan clothing that left breasts exposed led to my mining quite a bit from the Mycenaean civilization for the Cretans. The Mycenaean armor details are a bit more fascist-looking, for example, and I wanted Crete to really read as an occupying, oppressive force (you’ll notice in the story that Crete is well-kempt while Athens is kinda underfunded and defeated. Crumbling statues and such). The architecture for Crete is mostly on point historically, but I had to reinvent some of the larger set pieces. Lots of low ceilings in ancient Crete that weren’t quite selling the scale of some of the more dramatic scenes (like the dining hall in the first issue, and an actual Minoan amphitheater might have been built a bit more no-frills).
DF: What can you tell us about designing the characters – and the world/universe – for Kill the Minotaur?
Lukas Ketner: What was really cool about KtM art-wise was the wide-open door to explore a lot of imagery that was decidedly NOT fantasy and/or myth, but to also try to keep it in a visual realm that the characters would still interpret the events as such. There’s even a good reason as to why this is later in the series. I think the story illustrates that there’s more to the myth than was understood in ancient Greece, but without spelling it out for the Theseus and the other characters. Or the readers!
DF: Chris, Christian and Lukas, are there any projects current or near-future you’d like to tell readers about?
Chris Pasetto: Christian and I have got a bunch of other concepts in the early stages of development - nothing set in stone at this point. And we're talking quite a bit about the future of KtM - how we want to continue these characters' journeys, continue to twist and bend classical myths. We hope that readers love Kill the Minotaur and give us the opportunity to do that!
Lukas Ketner: Likewise, I’ve got some very cool irons in the fire, but nothing has emerged from the Labyrinth far enough to strike fear quite yet. I just finished the sixth and final chapter of Kill the Minotaur after the holidays, so I’m only just now trying to set a schedule for my next book, which I hope to announce later this year.
Christian Cantamessa: Like Chris said, we are keeping pretty active in the worlds of games, film, VR… but we have fallen in love with the process of making comics and it’d be really great to continue exploring the world of Kill the Minotaur.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Chris Pasetto, Christian Cantamessa and Lukas Ketner for taking time out of their busy schedules to answer our questions. Kill the Minotaur #1 from Skybound and Image Comics hits stores June 14th!
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