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DF Interview: Chris Warner thinks Barb Wire ‘is straightforward, kickass comics with some laughs’
By Byron Brewer
A while back, a comic book character named Barb Wire enjoyed a spurt of popularity, even gaining her own feature film. That time came and went.
But soon -- with a tweak here and there, and loads of satire -- the blonde bounty hunter will return to the printed page.
And this ain’t your daddy’s Barb Wire!
Written by original creator Chris Warner with art by Patrick Olliffe, the bombshell will headline a new Dark Horse Comics series. Dynamic Forces caught up with the scribe and got the lowdown on today’s Barb Wire.
Dynamic Forces: Gosh, Chris, this announcement at ECCC was a total surprise with the return of Barb Wire! How did this come about?
Chris Warner: No grand master plan, fulfilled prophecy, or dewy-eyed turning back of the clock to a simpler time—we just decided to do it, that simple. Barb Wire is a great character, I’m a great character, and great character is needed more than ever in these challenging times.
DF: You are Barb’s creator. Tell us how the character came into being.
Chris Warner: The original concept was a science-fiction action-comedy. Barb Wire was the singer of a galactic touring band, and like a lot of musicians, she had a day job as a bounty hunter. Mike Richardson liked the character and wanted to incorporate her into a line of books, so we worked out a deal, gave Barb a tune-up and a new haircut, and shoved her on stage. Three encores later, here we are.
DF: I know we are emphasizing the new iteration of the character, but how is Barb different from the character readers may have known … and well, how is she the same?
Chris Warner: Barb wasn’t broken, so I didn't fix her. I’m not a continuity enthusiast, so I don't worry about rebooting, or rehashing, or re-anything else that’s boring and no fun. Barb is still a bounty hunter, she still owns a rock ‘n’ roll club, still rides motorcycles, still gets pissed off at…well, just about everything. She’s still a tough, determined, complicated character who’s trying to overcome obstacles to make her dreams happen. Some of those obstacles can throw a car through a brick wall, or vice versa. I think anyone who picks up the book for the first time is going to get it, and anyone who read the book in the past will feel right at home. Barb Wire is straightforward, kickass comics with some laughs. You know—a smart, funny thrill ride with heart.
DF: Barb is a bad-ass bounty hunter, true. Can you tell us a little about the storyline as you have it planned thus far? Any familiar names among either her clients or her victims?
Chris Warner: We’re talking about matters of national security here, so you’ll understand my reluctance to reveal information that would be of aid and comfort to the enemy, but suffice it to say there will be skip traces, perp fights, drinking at the Hammerhead, bar fights, smartass remarks, argument fights, motorcycles, vehicle fights. It’s like Downton Abbey. With fights. Spoiler: the first-arc antagonist is a huge drunk.
There will indeed be some familiar characters: Barb’s brother, Charlie; dopey bass player Alonzo; gang kingpins Mace Blitzkrieg and Wolf Farrell; radio-talk voice Barry Braunschaeur; and other characters as I remember them. And there are new characters, not all of whom are huge drunks.
DF: Say, things still the same around Steel Harbor?
Chris Warner: Same rotten town, same rotten town smell, but times have changed. The Harbor is having a bit of a rebirth, and gentrification is altering the landscape, for good and for ill. Life is change, and change isn’t always good or always bad, but you either deal with change or change deals with you. Did the Sphinx in Mystery Men say that?
DF: How has your experience as an editor influenced the way you approach comics as a writer, or has it?
Chris Warner: Hopefully I’m a little better with deadlines than I used to be! On a technical level, I’ve loosened my tie a bit. Back in the day, my scripts were very dense, providing a lot of information and instruction on how to set up shots and the like. Even though I drew comics for years, as a writer I’m not the artist—duh!—and I have to give the artist room to breathe. And artists are going to do whatever the hell they want to anyway—why fight City Hall?
On a far more pretentious level, I’ve become militant about stories being about something real beyond all the whizbang. There has to be a core non-genre idea at the foundation of the story, something readers can relate to on some fundamental level, to make the story resonate. I’m not talking about some tedious civics lesson—the story is meant to entertain the living s**t out of you, but I want it to have a little substance. As little as possible, but a little.
DF: What does artist Patrick Olliffe bring to this table?
Chris Warner: Dessert, usually a nice fruit tart, sometimes a bundt cake. He’s very thoughtful. As an editor, I worked with Pat a few years ago, and he was awesome—talented as hell, a great guy, and can tell a story with pictures, which is hard to come by in mainstream comics. He’s also one of the best at drawing female action characters, and he’s really bringing Barb to life even better than I ever imagined, and I can imagine quite a bit. Let me also shout out to cover artist Adam Hughes (who’s pretty good from what I’m told), and inker Tom Nguyen, colorist Gabe Altaeb, letterer Michael Heisler, and editor Randy Stradley, champions of the realm all. I’m in much better company than they are.
DF: Here is a question you probably have heard a dozen times since the ECCC announcement, but a valid one, I’d say: Why is NOW the right time for readers to discover Barb Wire?
Chris Warner: When if not now? Who if not us?
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Chris Warner for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. Barb Wire #1 hits stores July 1st!
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