While I was visiting my friend at the restaurant where he works, I happened to strike up a conversation with one of his co-workers. While discussing various topics, we happened to discover our mutual interest in comic books and graphic novels. It was then that she introduced me to a comic book series called Kill Shakespeare. I didn’t know what to think at first. I took Shakespeare during University and suffice it to say, I had had enough of Bill and his work. But she assured me it was an interesting take and that I should go pick it up. After working with fellow Word of the Nerd writer, Mark Driscoll, I adopted his method for trying to shows, comics or any other series that I might jump into. The method I speak of is “Three and Done.” If I can not get into the series by the end of the third episode, or issue, then I drop it. With Kill Shakespeare it only took one. The new take on the characters and the world that it takes place in was more than enough to keep my attention and have me read through all of the issues. If you haven’t picked it up yet, you should get to your local comic books store and pick up the series. It is also available for purchase through Comixology, under the IDW Publishing section.
So when I happened to be making my rounds at Fan Expo in Toronto, I stumbled upon the creators of Kill Shakespeare, who had a booth to promote the comic. After discussing at length of how much I enjoyed their work, I asked them for an interview for the website. Which brings me to this: Part one of my epic two part interview with Kill Shakespeare creators and all around awesome guys, Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery. So without further ado.
First off, I would like to thank you for doing this interview, I am a big fan of the book. So first things first, where did the idea for Kill Shakespeare come from?
It was a joke, originally. About nine years ago Conor and I were sitting around brainstorming (aka goofing around and coming up with the craziest notions we could think of) ideas for video games, and the Tarantino films Kill Bill vol. 1&2 came up in the discussion. We then joked around with the idea of replacing the David Carradine’s character with another Bill and… voila!
After that we started to put together what became Hamlet’s quest as well as picked out the characters who we felt had the most potential for our tale. Then it was a matter of the “what if’s”. What if Hamlet never got back to Denmark? Would he still be dedicated to vengeance if he wasn’t seeing Claudius every day? What if Juliet didn’t die in the crypt? Who would she be?
Did you have to do any research prior, or were you both already well versed in Shakespeare’s work?
We did some, but we were cautious of digging too deeply into the canon and then, inadvertently, making the story inaccessible. Mostly I had been exposed to Shakespeare through high-school. I had a minor in theatre in University but we didn’t do THAT much Shakespeare oddly enough.
Much like Conor, I’ve been a fan of the Bard since early high school. I’m fairly familiar with most of his ‘big plays’ and that gave me enough knowledge to start conceiving the concept and story with Conor.
Do either of you have a favorite play?
I know that a lot of people dislike the play but I do enjoy Romeo & Juliet. The structure is as sound as any other. However, my favourite play is Othello. Most of Shakespeare’s tragedies (which I seem to be drawn towards more than the comedies or histories) involve fantastical elements but Othello is just pure human emotion – one perhaps preying upon the insecurities of another to get what they want. Chilling.
I’m with Anthony. I used to like The Tempest the most, but I’ve switched allegiances… wait… does that make me Iago???
Obviously, Shakespeare has brilliant characters and many different archetypes working in each play. How did you decide each characters’ role in the book?
They sort of jumped out at us. We knew we wanted to use characters that were well known, again to make sure this project was inviting to those who wouldn’t consider themselves Shakespeare scholars, and so Juliet, Iago, Lady M[acbeth], Richard III – they all sort of jumped to the front of the line…
Yeah, the last character to join this motley crew was actually Hamlet. In the first pass we actually had someone from today’s modern world discover a portal to this Shakespearean universe. However, the tone felt off (it was feeling more Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure instead of our desired Lord of the Rings) and we figured that we should stick to exclusively using Shakespeare’s characters. And went with the most complex of them all: Hamlet!
What made you choose Shakespeare to be a wizard/new god? And why did you both choose Hamlet as the protagonist?
It was right in the title: Kill Bill, which then became Kill Will, which is now Kill Shakespeare. We liked the concept of having all of these characters on a quest for their Creator and having different relationships with the belief in him. Much like towards’ world and the belief/non-belief of a higher being.
And as Anthony said below, Hamlet came later in the game, but he was the perfect character to force into a massive choice like this one – given that he is so cautious in his decisions. Also, given his issues with his father it made sense for him to butt up against the father of everyone… (or IS he???)
Was there a character that you really wanted in this book but who just didn’t fit in with the story you were telling?
Gosh, so many. I love secondary characters and giving them a robust part in the tale but Anthony kept making me murder them all… probably for the best….
In a very early treatment of our story we had Shylock in the tale. It was a small role and could have been a lot of fun but the scene wasn’t necessary and we also knew that as perhaps Shakespeare’s most controversial character it might take away from some of the other characters. Perhaps in a future version.
Shakespeare’s work is loved and respected around the world. Has there been any backlash from critics or fans over certain characters?
I think that the most contentious character interpretation we have is Juliet, who is now eight years older than she was in the original play (she survived her death and has been living with the guilt of the death of Romeo since). She’s now very active and is a rebel leader. For the most part people have enjoyed our take on the character – especially female teenager readers – but a few have said that we should have replaced her with other characters that might be more suitable.
We haven’t had too much criticism. There has been more nit-picking than outright disapproval. I think people who are BIG fans of Shakespeare recognize that the Bard is constantly being revitalized and that our series is in that trend – more extreme certainly, but Kill Shakespeare isn’t dismissive of Shakespeare. As we like to say: “We come to praise the Bard, not bury him.”
Did you find it difficult taking characters from the Romances, Histories, Tragedies and Comedies and putting them into large story?
Sometimes. Anthony worked really hard at making sure we found the humour. I found it easy to get caught up in the character arcs, which are all pretty heavy. As for the Historicals? We decided that many of those didn’t fit into this story but would be great for expanding the genesis of the worlds. We have the outline of a story that shows how Shakespeare first came to this world and also how Caesar’s assassination affected the Bard.
Our story is a little heavy on characters from the tragedies and we could perhaps have put in more comedic characters but that would alter the tone.
The world you have created has a lot of fantasy elements in it, and rightfully so, as a lot of Shakespeare’s plays have similar elements. But there are a lot of plays that are grounded in some form of realism. How did you balance the fantastical with reality in your book?
Conor and I come at the project from different experiences with fantasy stories and storytelling. Conor has always been a fan of fantasy since he was young while I’m only a recent convert. It makes a great partnership as we are able to keep each other in check – not too much fantasy to make it incomprehensible for those that don’t like too many elements on the genre, but enough to make this a unique and magical world that is different from anything else out there.
I think all of Shakespeare’s work is a balance between “human” moments – times when he stops and has characters question the key essence of what it is to be alive and the love, lust, treachery, cross dressing and double crossing elements that are crowd pleasers. So the magical elements balanced naturally. Most Shakey fans are pretty used to magic and fantasy though, the two crossover a fair amount.
That concludes Part One of the Interivew. Check back tomorrow for the second half, as we talk about stage productions, the possibility of a cinematic adaptation, and future endeavors.
NERD IT UP!!!