|ANTHONY DEL COL & CONOR MCCREERY
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DF Interview: Anthony Del Col, Conor McCreery put the Bard undercover with Kill Shakespeare: Backstage Edition
By Byron Brewer
Every now and then, an idea comes along that’s such an easy sell that you wonder why nobody else got to it first. Anthony Del Col, Conor McCrerry and Andy Belanger’s Kill Shakespeare is definitely one of those, a massive team-up of William Shakespeare’s greatest heroes and villains, rising up to kill the playwright that controls their lives. And fortunately, it’s not just a good idea, it’s actually a really good comic book as well.
Now, thanks to IDW, the series is coming out in a massive, 400-page Backstage Edition, collecting the first 12-issue series, along with never-before-seen designs, sketches, art and — probably the most interesting hook for both new and long-time fans — annotations from Oxford University’s Katie Musgrave.
What else could a fan desire? Dynamic Forces went to the witty and (sometimes) amusing writing duo to find out.
Dynamic Forces: Anthony and Conor, you guys and others have been working on the Kill Shakespeare: Backstage Edition for almost four years, maybe longer. I know some things in comics to creators are labors of love, BUT …! Tell us a little about the long process you have been through to create this hardcover.
Conor McCreery: I feel like Shakespeare would have written a dozen plays in the time it took us to get the Backstage Edition up and running! Although to be fair, he only had to deal with actors – we had to wrangle academics. Thankfully we had the amazing and talented Katie Musgrave to help us find so many talented fans of the series and help come up with the book’s biggest bonus – a full set of annotations.
Anthony Del Col: We always imagined putting together our original story (the first 12 issues) into a leather-bound hard cover edition that would recreate how a classic book from the era would look – and it’s now come to fruition! Conor had the vision of having scholars parse through each of our issues and did a lot of the legwork, working with Katie as well as Dr. Toby Malone to put this project together. A lot of work also went into the design, working with Justin and the team at IDW as well as our in-house design guru, Keith Morris.
DF: Separate from the process, tell us as readers old and new what we will find in the Backstage Edition.
A: As mentioned, a crack team of academics from around the world went through every single panel of every single issue and pulled out each and every Shakespeare reference for the reader’s delight. But don’t fret – this isn’t just a book for academics!
C: There is also the never-before-seen pitch story we used to hook IDW and, as per Kill Shakespeare tradition, a brand new back-up story. This one was written by one of Canada’s top dramaturges, Dr. Toby Malone.
DF: I know you usually work as a unit, but individually can you tell me what some of your own contributions to this work is AND what you think of the finished product?
C: It’s funny I was re-reading the series and it is so hard to remember who came up with what idea. There are definitely some lines or “bits” that I think “Oh, that was probably Anthony.” Or, “I remember that. I’m a genius!” But overall it’s all blended together, which is what is supposed to happen.
If anything the Backstage Edition has helped me spot more of Andy [Belanger’s] unique additions. For some reason I have found so many background beats he added in the art that I had never noticed before.
A: I’ll give a lot of credit for this actual book to Conor and Katie Musgrave, who oversaw the compilation of annotations. As for the series itself, upon re-reading it I’m also impressed with the coloring job by Ian Herring. This was his first gig (he’s now gone on to an Eisner nomination and work on some of Marvel’s top series) and you can see his talent in so many of the panels.
DF: Besides the stories, is there any “extra” material from artist Andy Belanger?
A: Of course! We wanted to open up the vaults and allow Andy to walk the reader through his earliest design of the characters. We also publish a six-page story that he created for the pitch document for this series. It’s great to see how his work has evolved from the very first days to where it is in the most recent (Volume 4) series.
C: Andy’s discussions on the character designs were fascinating to me. There was so much that went into his thinking that I never knew about. It reinforced what a brilliant storyteller he is.
DF: Each of you: What is your favorite part of Backstage Edition?
C: Oh gosh. The annotations… the TWO ribbons for marking your place, the super cool cover design by Keith WTS Morris… it’s like picking one of your kids. But if I HAD to say ONE thing, I’d say how the high quality paper REALLY holds the colors. I think this version is THE best way to see what Andy B. had intended.
A: The ribbon! The ribbon! I always wanted a book of mine to be printed with ribbons – and now it’s come true! I can die a happy writer…
DF: What are some of the other goodies inside that might thrill older, more invested readers?
A: I think our readers and fans will like to see the original artwork that went into our first pitch for the series. It’s fascinating to see where the series began and where it eventually went. Also, the book looks amazing on the book shelf. To paraphrase the old expression, “Don’t judge a book by its cover… Judge it by its spine!”
C: I’d say the annotations (too). The depth and breadth of them are astounding. I think we found only ONE reference that they missed (and way more that they found that we, uh, forgot, were in there.)
DF: Conor and Anthony, when you first created Kill Shakespeare, did you have any ideas something like Backstage Edition was in the offing?
C: We had always dreamed of doing a deluxe edition since we first started. We wanted to present the first 12 issues as they were meant to be consumed – as one epic adventure. It just took some time to find the right ideas to make the book something special.
A: To paraphrase/alter a wise writer’s words: “It is the stuff that dreams are made on.”
DF: Finally, what would the Bard himself think of this stylish comic book?
A: I like to think that he’d be impressed with the look of it and our mainstream approach to the characters. I can imagine him mailing us a handwritten note of congrats (written with the finest of ballpoint pens with the feather on the end)
C: Then he’d try to sue us. But he DID say “kill all the lawyers,” so he kinda outsmarted himself on that one. Better Call Saul, Shakey.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery for taking time out of their busy schedules to answer our questions. Kill Shakespeare: Backstage Edition hits stores June 3rd, today!
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