|ANTHONY DEL COL & CONOR MCCREERY
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DF Interview: Methinks ‘twas Del Col and McCreery who did kill Shakespeare
By Byron Brewer
Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo?
Probably lurking somewhere in Kill Shakespeare: Backstage Edition, the hardcover volume on sale in early 2015 that collects the entirety of the first 12-issue arc of the award-winning series.
Filled with never-before seen art, sketches, a brand new back-up story, and fun annotations by top Shakespeare scholars, Backstage Edition is a must-have for both fans of the series and those looking for a thrilling new comics adventure.
To get the 411 on this special book, Dynamic Forces met with writers Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery at a pub west of London. Between whoopee cushion sounds and the ol’ fake dog-doo on the floor, here is what the scribes told us.
Dynamic Forces: Let’s go back, guys. From its inception as an idea, how did the original 12-issue Kill Shakespeare limited series from IDW Publishing come into being?
Anthony Del Col: About ten years ago Conor and I were brainstorming cool narratives that could be told in the video game medium and somehow the Kill Bill title entered the conversation. In a span of a few seconds we expanded it to Kill Bill Shakespeare and thought it could be a tale in which all of the Bard’s characters hunt down their creator to get revenge. It was our Eureka! moment and we immediately started to conceive what the story could be.
Conor McCreery: We wrote a film treatment first, and then a HUGELY overlong screenplay. But that work paid off because as we realized that comics were the correct medium for us that HUGE screenplay became a map for the issues. I remember going through this 180-page monster and drawing lines through the page where I thought an issue break might be. In the end, while we made a LOT of changes, the main spine of the story stayed the same.
DF: And the choice of characters?
Conor McCreery: A lot of that came from playing “what if”. What if Juliet lived? What if Iago wanted redemption? The characters that seemed to have the juiciest “what ifs” were the ones that appealed to us the most. We also wanted to use characters, at least for main roles, that were well-known and therefore accessible for readers less familiar with the Bard.
Anthony Del Col: It was actually the lead character, Hamlet, who was the last main character that entered our tale. We toyed with taking someone from today’s world and having them interact with these characters but feared it would become too jokey or meta and instead realized that our lead should be Hamlet, perhaps the greatest character ever written.
DF: Do you think a working knowledge of Shakespeare’s works as they really exist helps or hinders a reader of your comic?
Anthony Del Col: We’ve conceived and written it so that little-to-no knowledge of Shakespeare is necessary. One of our goals is to shake the cobwebs off of the perceptions of these characters and shine a new light on them in order to get new audiences and readers excited about our world and those within it.
Conor McCreery: But at the same time we tried to stuff in tons of Easter Eggs for the Bardolaters out there. Our new book, Backstage Edition, actually annotates all the references in the first two trades. I think we’re at 250 or something. So yeah, if you like Shakey there are some treats for you.
DF: I love how you guys flesh out these literary characters and historical figures – from Kill Shakespeare to your Dynamite offering, Sherlock Holmes vs. Harry Houdini. How much research goes into these types of comics?
Conor McCreery: A dash of Google, a pinch of Wikipedia…
Anthony Del Col: A pinch of Wikipedia, a dash of Google…
DF: From the start, Anthony and Conor, you have been co-creators and co-writers. Can you explain your creative process?
Anthony Del Col: All creative teams have different processes but Conor and I will sit down and brainstorm the full story together at first – the character arcs, the key plot points, the cliffhangers, the different acts, etc. With all brainstorming, sometimes it’s done quickly, sometimes it takes a while.
Conor McCreery: Then we usually send one of us away to take a stab at a first draft while the other guy functions as a story editor. Then at the end the “editor” usually does a dialogue pass so that the stories have a similar voice to the reader. Although our biggest fans can usually pick out which of us wrote what.
DF: You obviously have fun with these characters. The dialogue between them is sometimes wittier than the plot they are involved in. Who is the funnier between the two of you guys? (laughs)
Conor McCreery: It depends how you like your humor. Anthony is a master of puns and wordplay while I tend to be a bit more surreal with what I find funny. But when we get on a roll with each other it’s a lot of fun. I’d say Arrested Development meets Monty Python.
Anthony Del Col: (Tries to answer but the sound of the whoopee cushion he has just sat on drowns out his reply…)
DF: I never really thought of Hamlet as an action hero, but he certainly is in Mask of Night #4. What is it about being on a pirate ship that turns the ordinary man into a swashbuckler?
Anthony Del Col: We’ve been making more of a point to make Hamlet more active as a character. Often people think his biggest flaw is inaction but we counter that he’s actually the most active character in his original play.
Conor McCreery: As for your original question – ropes, man! Ropes! Anytime you feel confident that if you grab a nearby length of nylon that that will let you go swinging across the poop deck, you gotta do it!
DF: Is the 2014 volume of Kill Shakespeare the swan song or do we have more adventures ahead?
Conor McCreery: We’d love to do at least one graphic novel a year until we get old and grey… or some younger, smarter writer pitches so many great ideas that we just hand the keys to him or her.
Anthony Del Col: In addition to the comics we are looking to expand Kill Shakespeare into other mediums, namely television. We’ve worked out a series bible on what could happen in a television series and are in talks with key players in Hollywood to see if we can bring this world to life on the small screen.
DF: Talk about working with artist Andy Belanger.
Anthony Del Col: He always inspires us with his ability to grow a beard like no one else… No, in all seriousness he’s been the amazing third member of our team. When we were casting a net out to find an artist he was the one that jumped right out at us immediately with his love of horror and storytelling prowess and we knew we had the right fit.
Conor McCreery: Andy is an amazing visual storyteller. He’s fearless with his layouts and he has a theatrical bend to him. He’s more up on the plays now than we are. He’s passionate as well and challenges us to be better in our work. Now if he could only draw horses, he’d be the perfect partner …
DF: Breaking news! A board game is coming out based on Kill Shakespeare. What can you tell us about it?
Conor McCreery: Well, the first thing I can say is that it is shipping as we type this, which is super exciting. K.S. the Board Game is what is called a semi-co-op, which means you play with your friends as the heroic Shakespearean characters AGAINST the board (co-operative). But at the same time only ONE of you can win in the end (the, uh, ‘semi’ part.) It’s got a lot of meat to it – it’s definitely a game for game players – it’s a lot more intense than Sorry or Candyland.
Anthony Del Col: I can’t wait to play our first “Beat the creators at their own game” event, lose handily, and then be mocked relentlessly…
DF: More intense than Candyland, you say? Hunh. Sooo, Conor and Anthony, is there anything about this great series of books I have not asked about that you would like to tell readers?
Anthony Del Col: Whoopee cushions not included…
Conor McCreery: But rubber chickens and fake dog-doo are totally included (rubber chickens and fake dog-doo may not be available at your local comic store).
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery for taking time out of their busy schedules to answer our questions. Volume 4 of Kill Shakespeare: The Mask of Night will be released next month. Backstage Edition is currently slated for early 2015 release.
Anthony and Conor are also the men behind Sherlock Holmes vs. Harry Houdini! Get your copy of the New York Comic Con Exclusive edition of issue #1 RIGHT HERE!
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