MEFCC Interview – Kill Shakespeare
In the first of several posts about the upcoming 2nd Middle East Film and Comic Con, Shadowhawk interviews the creators of the Kill Shakespeare comics from IDW Publishing, Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery. There may even be a post-Con follow-up!
Q&A with Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery
Shadowhawk: Let’s start with the basics first: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Anthony: Let’s get the boring stuff out of the way first – I’ve produced two feature films in Canada, done work in television, served as a music manager (helped to represent international superstar Nelly Furtado amongst others), and now served as the co-creator and co-writer of Kill Shakespeare… Now the fun stuff – I’m a born and raised Canadian that doesn’t really like hockey (what?), don’t really care for the unofficial meal of our country, poutine (what??) and don’t say “eh” and “a-boot” at all (okay, I can’t guarantee that part)…
Conor: Well, I like hockey so I balance out our Canadian card but I agree on the poutine – I’m getting too old for that many carbs. I was born in Quebec but je parle un petite peu de francais, and now live in Toronto with my wife. My boring stuff doesn’t hold up a candle to Anthony’s – that guy’s a rock-star! I have however worked in film and television as well as in print and broadcast journalism with a personal highlight being a six-month stint as a reporter in Ghana.
Shadowhawk: What made you decide that you wanted to get into comics?
Conor: Kill Shakespeare really. When we were trying to figure out where this project fit the comic medium seemed perfect for it. I always loved comics as a kid so it was nice to do something in a medium I really respect. There is a real link between the two mediums, both rely on the written word but are ultimately visual and unlike film both comics and theatre don’t try to hide their “performance” aspects. You see the artifice of the lighting change in stage just as the comic page gives you all the panels – both remind you that there are guiding hands bringing you to where the story wants to take you.
Anthony: I was never a huge comic reader as a child. It wasn’t until Conor worked at The Silver Snail, a top comic shop in Toronto, that he started to give me comics to read and I really started to see the possibilities in the medium – the freedom to come up with big stories that really take advantage of our imaginations. I can now safely say that I’m hooked – I absolutely love writing for comics and I’m trying to read as many comics as possible.
Shadowhawk: How did you come up with the idea for Kill Shakespeare and what were your plans for it?
Anthony: It was a dark and stormy night… Actually, I believe it was a sunny spring day ten years ago when Conor and I first conceived of Kill Shakespeare. We were just brainstorming silly ideas – stuff we always have done – and the title Kill Bill (the Quentin Tarantino films) came up and we quickly imagine what would happen if that revenge story had “Bill” Shakespeare at its centre rather than David Carradine. Eureka! We had the idea right then and there!
Conor: After that we started to play the “what if” game. “What if Juliet lived, who would she be? What if Hamlet never gets back to Denmark, is he doomed to be bloody minded? What if Iago wanted redemption, could he convince Othello to accept him again? Those types of questions helped us form the story.
Conor: It’s been fantastic, but also challenging. I find the creative work takes a lot out of me emotionally sometimes. That’s just the type of writer I am so I have LOTS of sleepless nights agonizing over whether I’ve put together an issue correctly. So the alone time is sometimes tough, but that is MORE than made up for by the community of comics. The fans, fellow creators, Anthony, store owners – these are all people I get to interact with who fill my heart with joy.
Anthony: I was having a conversation the other day with someone who asked me if I regretted – even just a bit – leaving the music industry to work on this full-time. I answered the question without hesitation – not at all. Overseeing the launch and promotion of Kill Shakespeare over the last few years has been the best time of my life, and there’s still so much more to do!
Shadowhawk: Your favourite characters from the series?
Anthony: There are some great characters in our story (all courtesy of Mr. Shakespeare, of course) but I’m still drawn most to Hamlet. In our initial story he’s the one driving the action and faced with the biggest choices of them all. It’s great to be able to take someone perceived – incorrectly, I believe – as the “Melancholy Dane” and make him into an action hero of sorts.
Conor: Falstaff and Iago.
Shadowhawk: Since this is a co-written series, how do you divide the writing responsibilities?
Conor: Whoever yells the loudest generally gets to keep their line in – GRIN.
Anthony: I’ve never told this to Conor but I outsource my writing parts of the issues (and the play and screenplay) to a team of monkeys that bang away at their iMacs (I replaced their typewriters a while ago) throughout the entire day and after a few weeks they turn out my parts of the scripts… But let me warn you, the costs of purchasing all those bananas is really breaking the bank… But seriously, it’s a treat to work with Conor as co-writer. We both bring different skill sets and strengths into the work, which allows the story to become that much stronger.
Anthony: Seeing the artwork that Andy Belanger has done through the entire series is so incredibly humbling – his talent is the real driving factor in the comic series and something that we try to highlight with our stage show coming to Dubai. Andy’s done a superb job in the looks of the characters but what is even better is his attention to detail in the world overall – the looks of the pubs, forests, caves, etc. It’s these details that really make you feel like you can step into the world, Mary Poppins-style (without the dancing penguins, of course…).
Conor: Andy not only captured the vision, he exceeded it. He’s created something that only he can do and so much of what people think of around Kill Shakespeare is because of him. We’re really lucky. And as you said Andy’s work has only been amplified by the amazing contributions of Ian Herring and Kagan McLeod. And while we didn’t get a chance to work with those two guys on the new series, The Tide of Blood, we’ve seen great work from our new colourist Shari Chankhamma as well as been treated to Andy’s cover’s as well as work by Simon Davis and Nimit Malavia.
Shadowhawk: What about a fourth volume for the series?
Conor: Heck yeah! Anthony has a neat idea involving two of Shakespeare’s greatest, and my favourite, lovers and I want to take Hamlet back to Denmark to finish his story. I have a really great arc plotted out for that already.
Anthony: We toyed around with a number of possible ideas for a follow-up to The Tide of Blood. There are so many popular Shakespeare characters that we haven’t been able to include yet – it feels like we’re doing the Bard a disservice by not including them in our stories.
Anthony: We are often complimented for our success in marketing our series and I know that it’s something that I learned a great deal about from my time working with Chris Smith, Nelly Furtado’s manager, in the trenches of the music industry. Chris is one of the best marketers and salesmen I’ve ever met and he taught me a lot about branding, positioning, and execution. I’m so incredibly gratified to count him as one of our first investors in this project.
Conor: Being a journalist is helpful because it forces you to write to deadline and also gives you a good ear for dialogue as well as encourages you to write concisely.
Shadowhawk: What is an average day in the life of Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col?
Conor: I try to divide my day into segments for writing (both Kill Shakespeare and, gasp, non), answering e-mails (NEVER enough time – I have personal correspondence that’s YEARS old now. Mom, I promise I’ll get back to you soon), doing long-term strategy, research. I’m also trying to carve out more time to meet other people in the industry so I can learn from them.
Anthony: Seeing as how we live in Canada, we spend about half our days shovelling snow from the porches of our homes… No, the great things about working as a creator in comics means that no two days are alike. Some days are devoted almost-exclusively to writing, some involve meetings and planning, some are devoted to overseeing marketing and doing interviews, etc. I generally spend about 8-10 hours a day doing work. And, of course, once convention season hits (we’re in the midst of it now!) all of our weekends involve attending shows and doing promotion. The hours are long but I absolute love it – I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
Shadowhawk: What are your thoughts on the comics industry in general and where do you see it going in the next few years?
Anthony: One of the things that intrigues me the most is what digital technology will do with comics storytelling in the next decade or so. The introduction of the tablet has created a new format to read/consume comics and with this new abilities to tell interactive stories, choose-your-own-adventure story trees and experiences. We’re starting to experiment with this in the creation of an interactive graphic novel prototype for Kill Shakespeare and I want to see what else can be done.
Conor: I think the comic medium is in great shape – there is more work in more genres within comics than perhaps anytime since the Golden Age. I worry a bit that some of the biggest companies are focused to tightly on their current readers and are not thinking of ways to bring in new readers, but I suppose at the end of the day as long as there are lots of great comics out there then it doesn’t really matter who publishes them. And like Anthony, I’m also excited about the future of digital comics – the Comixology Submit program, which will allow people to digitally self-publish their books, is an exciting one.
Shadowhawk: How has your experience working with IDW been over the last few years?
Conor: IDW has been very supportive. We have a sort of unusual model with them, being an almost creator-owned title, and they treat us as well as they treat any of their big licenses which makes us feel welcome. Editor-in-Chief Chris Ryall is a great creator in his own right; the big men at the top, COO Greg Goldstein and CEO Ted Adams, give IDW the best business leadership in the industry; and our editor Tom Waltz is a dream to work with (and also a great writer – check out his amazing Finding Peace graphic novel). Finally, Alan Payne, the man who sells our comics across the world has done SO much to make Kill Shakespeare the success it is.
Anthony: I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention someone from IDW that rarely gets discussed, and that is the production team there. IDW has always been known for having strong design in their comics and that’s based around their talented squad there. One man in particular, Chris Mowry, has done the lettering and design work for most of our issues and always takes our issues and makes them so much better with his lettering and sound effects. It’s an unheralded aspect of the industry and I’m glad that we have Chris in our corner.
Shadowhawk: MEFCC 2013 is your second time in Dubai. How was your experience with the show, launched last year, and what are your expectations from it this year?
Anthony: I was blown away with how successful the show was last year! I knew that Dubai was a great place (I had been there a few years ago visiting) but I had no idea how much of an appetite they had for comics and pop culture. It just really reinforced that comics is an international language and since last year I’ve been telling artists and publishers to really look to the Middle East as a market with a lot of readers and talent.
Conor: For me MEFCC made the whole world a little smaller in the best possible way. My only experience with the Middle East had been a visit to Israel, my family had desperately wanted to see Lebanon, Syria and Jordan as well but the political tensions made crossing out of Israel difficult. Since that trip I’d always hungered to venture back and see the Arab world. Coming to Dubai and seeing how people all over the region flood in to share their love of comics and pop-culture is just another great reminder that people share so much more than we realize. MEFCC definitely means more than comics in my eyes.
Shadowhawk: Any exciting things we can look forward to from you and IDW at the event?
Conor: Well, some of you MAY just get to see a sneak-preview of the first ever appearance of the Kill Shakespeare Dramatic Reading outside of North America. We’ve worked very hard at bringing the graphic novels to life and we’re teaming up with Backstage Dubai, the foremost community theatre group in the region, to bring the play to MEFCC and to Dubai proper.
I can’t wait to see what director Gautam Goenka has in store for everyone.
Anthony: We’re really excited to have fellow IDW creator Sohaib Awan attend this year’s show with his newly-launched series Jinn-Rise, which he gave a sneak peek of at last year’s show. It’s a great comic series about genies coming to life in today’s world. In addition to Jinn-Rise, I believe that IDW is also releasing an MEFCC-exclusive Transformers issue. IDW will definitely have a large presence at this year’s show.
And that’s all we have for now people! There will be another interview tomorrow, with current Witchblade writer Tim Seeley.
I’ll be meeting Anthony and Conor at MEFCC this weekend, so expect some con-stuff that weekend as well!
You can read my review of the first two volumes of Kill Shakespeare here.
You can check out all the details for the 2nd Middle East Film & Comic Con here.
Shadowhawk is a regular contributor to TFF. A resident of Dubai, Shadowhawk reads, reads and reads. His opinions are always clear and concise. His articles always worth reading.