Name: Josh 'Dredd' West
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Peter Pan may be the boy who wouldn’t grow up, but World War II is no place for kids – as Pan and The Lost Boys will discover as Kurtis J. Wiebe and Tyler Jenkins reimagine a popular story from the past for an all new white-knuckle adventure.
“It’s a retelling of the Peter
Pan mythos set in the backdrop of the German invasion of France in 1940. It’s an action adventure story that is unique in its narrative but has a bit of fun with the characters and events from Peter Pan.” says Kurtis J. Wiebe talking on his new Image Comics series ‘Peter Panzerfaust’.
Swapping out Neverland for war-torn France, Kurtis is infusing elements of J.M. Barrie’s classic story about the boy who wouldn’t grow up with the second world war as it unfolds in Europe. Peter Panzerfaust follows Peter, a plucky and heroic young American lad, on his search around the world for Bell – with nothing more than her picture in a locket to remind him of his mission.
Kurtis’s love of Peter Pan began with the 1950’s Disney movie, but it was J.M Barrie’s 1911 novel ‘Peter Pan; the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up’ that informed his new projects direction. Returning to the darker tones and adult themes that Barrie weaved through his classic story about a boy who could fly.
“My first actual memory of Peter Pan was definitely the film, but as I went to research this project, both the history and the mythology, it was the book that I came back to. This retelling is inspired by the J.M. Barrie book and, not surprisingly, it is a much darker version of the story than the film.” Kurtis said, adding, “I’ll just say this, Mr. Smee was not a bumbling buffoon in the book. Not at all.”
Kurtis is keeping Panzerfaust grounded firmly in reality; so don’t expect to see tick-tocking crocodiles, mermaids and other such members of the fantasy realm popping up… though that’s not to say they are completely absent as Kurtis explains.
“We’ll be using all the major and minor characters, both protagonists and antagonists as well as recreating scenes from the book. All of these will be modified to fit the era and maintain a certain real world feel. There won’t be any actual fairies or mermaids in the series, but those aspects will be present throughout the series in a new, fun way… In ways you probably wouldn’t expect, either!”
Peter is obviously at the centre of this whimsical tale, and with so many different interpretations of the Pan character over the years, Kurtis had plenty of sources to draw from.
“The Peter I’m writing is a heroic character that never lets the hopelessness of a situation keep him down. I think there’s a compelling aura about him, even in the book, that inspires others to believe that his actions are what will see them through the day. That becomes more complicated in Peter Panzerfaust, we delve into what makes him act in a brash manner a lot of the time and it’s going to make him a much deeper character. Maybe he’s not plucky and carefree just because. It goes deeper than that.”
Other classic characters already confirmed to be returning to Kurtis’s reimagining are Hook (as a grizzled Nazi SS officer) and The Lost Boys, a group of French orphans Peter rescue’s from Calais in issue #1. In fact, it’s the family element and brotherhood found with the introduction of the Lost Boys that informs a lot of Kurtis’s storytelling decisions.
“It’s the most important part to me. Their friendship, their brotherhood, is the backbone to the story. What they will endure together and what they experience shapes these young boys into the men we will see interviewed as the series go on and that is the emotional anchor to all the high flying action. You will feel their joy, their sadness and ultimately their loss. It’s a fun story, but there are going to be some real moments of tragedy,” he says, while giving an insight into why he set the story in WWII.
“I’ve always loved the stories that came out of World War II; brotherhood, heroism, courage and sacrifice for the fate of millions. It doesn’t get any more epic than that and there was correlation between the story of Peter Pan and the history of the war that I found could be interesting grounds for a new series.”
Artist Tyler Jenkins echoes Wiebe’s love of stories from the era, and his excited by the challenge Peter Panzerfaust is presenting him, telling us;
“Truthfully, it has been a very fantastic challenge. Having watched thousands of war movies growing up, and reading about WWII my whole life, it is very, very cool to try and capture some of that. Movies like Kelly’s Heroes, the Dirty Dozen, The Devil’s Brigade, A Bridge Too Far…that is my inspiration.”
Kurtis is no stranger to Image Comics, in fact his highly acclaimed mystery series Green Wake wraps this week after he announced its cancellation last month. Speaking very frankly to Broken Frontier on the end of Green Wake and the industry in general, Kurtis revealed how he isn’t sad about the books departure, but instead excited by the doors it has opened.
“You know, the honest answer is that while it was frustrating to have to make that choice [to end the series early] it was a sort of blessing in disguise. Don’t get me wrong, I love Green Wake and am grateful for the opportunities it presented me, but I was in a really dark place in my life when I came up with the idea and the writing that came from it was also very sombre and sad.
“I’m not that person anymore, so it was becoming increasingly difficult to write. I’ve never been happier and that’s been coming out in my work and why I look forward to the lighter, funnier writing that will show up my current and future series’.
“As far as the current condition of the comic industry, well, it’s exciting. Image Comics seems to have the eyes of the world on them and there’s this really interesting buzz about independent comics in general. It’s bringing readers we wouldn’t have had two or three years ago. I’m hopeful that smaller creators like myself can still make an honest go of things and make enough money to keep doing it and bringing brand new, original stories to the market.”
“I absolutely love communicating in a pictorial language. I once heard Stephen King call writing “a form of telepathy”, and I think comics take that even further. If writing is like telepathy, then comics must be like a kind of temporary Mind Control. And I say that with my tongue planted firmly in cheek. I get to lead the reader through a wide array of emotion, just with a few ink scratches on paper. It’s pretty great.”
Broken Frontier has been celebrating 20 years of Image Comics, and while it’s easy enough to sit back and sing the celebrations of those titles that helped define the publisher all those years ago, it is also important to look towards those that are continuing to make Image the most exciting house of ideas imaginable.
Only three years on since its fantastic debut, Chew has moved from strength to strength, an incredible feat considering its almost universal fan and critical acclaim month in, month out. Initially centring on the Cibopathic Tony Chu, an FDA agent with the ability to see the past of anything he tastes, the book has since expanded to house a diverse cast that can only be described as borderline depraved. Humour, horror and move than a heavy helping of lunacy, what more could you want from a creator owned series?
As volume five of this runaway hit series hits shelves this week, we borrowed some time from artist Rob Guillory’s heavy schedule to talk about his influences, the development of Chew and how becoming a father has changed his work habits…
Josh West: This month Broken Frontier is celebrating 20 unbelievable years of Image comics, are there any Image books that hold a special place on your bookshelves?
ROB GUILLORY: I think my personal fave is a big hardcover version of Bendis’ run on Sam & Twitch. I really, really love that volume. Other than that, I have a bagged and boarded copy of Rob Liefeld’s Brigade from the original Image launch that I still have a massive soft spot for, since I think it was the very first Image comic purchased by a 9-year-old Rob.
JW: Lets take a trip back in time as I know many people are interested in your influences. Were you always into comics as a kid? If so, which side of the fence did you fall on – Marvel or DC?
GUILLORY: I got into comics at a really young age, thanks to a couple cool uncles of mine that were really big comic fans. They had this big collection of old stuff from the 60s and 70s, so I still have a soft spot for that stuff. I was definitely more of a Marvel fan back then, and I still am. DC heroes were always like your parents, whereas Marvel heroes were like the reader, flaws and all. And I totally connected with that.
JW: In a time when many artists are more than content playing it safe with capes and tights convention, you showed up with a style and vision that is completely unique and your own. From whom do you draw inspiration and how have you developed your art style over the years?
GUILLORY: Well, as much as comics were an inspiration for me as a kid, I think animation was a bigger influence. I was a pretty big Chuck Jones and Tex Avery fan, so a lot of my sense of humor and sense of character acting comes from their cartoons. On top of that, my comic tastes have been pretty diverse over the years. I love everything from Steve Ditko, John Buscema and John Romita Jr., to more contemporary guys like Jim Mahfood, Dave Crosland and Gabriel Ba, to Japanese Manga artists like Akira Toriyama and Rumiko Takahashi.
All of these influences sort of meshed into this way of drawing a story that is just very natural to me. It’s just like a handwriting. Back in 2001, when I decided to really give this comics-as-career thing a try, I just stripped down all of my drawing to simple, almost stick figure characters, focusing more on learning the fundamentals of storytelling than how to draw abs showing through spandex. And as I got the hang of it, I started experimenting more and adding new levels of detail. And over a 10-year span, my art evolved into what it is now.
I actually did a big post on my blog a while back, chronicling my style evolution. It’s pretty in-depth, with tons of embarrassing old art, but I think it’s helpful for young guys thinking about comics as a career.
JW: Chew, despite the quite literal horror that runs throughout, Chew is an inherently fun book, thanks in no small part to the easter eggs you plant in every issue! What inspired the idea, and just how far in advance are you planting seeds for future storylines?
GUILLORY: The Easter eggs were inspired by Jim Mahfood’s Stupid Comics and Dave Gibbons’ art on Watchmen. Mahfood would always give cool shout-outs and music references in his art that I loved. And Gibbons’ use of background detail- signs, notes, etc..- went a long way toward fleshing out the world of Watchmen beyond even Alan Moore’s script. It gave a new dimension to the story that begged for multiple reads and rewarded the reader for paying attention, and I like that. I want the readers to be able to pick up Chew ten years from now, and still find something funny that they’d never noticed before. It’s another way to give the reader the most enjoyment possible for their buck.
As for planting seeds for future stories… I don’t want to spoil the surprise.
JW: You pencil, ink and colour all of your pages right? How much do you fall back on digital tools and have you ever thought about bringing anyone in to collaborate with?
GUILLORY: Well, I have a color assistant, Taylor Wells, who helps me with color separations. Then, I work out the shadows and lighting, texture and effects work. It’s a lot of work, and I occasionally flirt with bringing in a full-time colorist, but I like finishing the page myself.
For me, each comic page is like giving birth. Drawing the page is the labor, and coloring it is like watching the work grow up and go to college. After all the sweat of drawing something from nothing, I really think it’s the joy of finishing the page that keeps me feeling fulfilled and pushing on.
JW: Has John scripted anything so far that it’s made you step back from the drawing board? Every issue you seem to push a new boundary in one way or another, and to say Chew hinges utter lunacy would be a gross understatement.
GUILLORY: The scene at the beginning of Chew #25, featuring the 80-year-old woman in a bustier, complete with c-section scars and liver spots was pretty close to “too far”. HA. But making her look that disgusting was really my fault.
Layman’s actually very sensitive as a collaborator. He’s always asking “Are you okay with drawing this?”, and I’ve never had to refuse to draw anything. Gross stuff doesn’t bother me, and we never throw in gross stuff just to be weird. Plus, neither of us are trying to make a political or religious statement with Chew, either. We’re both just trying to make the best comic ever, so that keeps us on the same page.
JW: You and John are about half-way through the planned Chew story right? What can fans expect in the coming months – anything you can tease for us?
GUILLORY: Yeah, we’re ending at issue #60, which should be in 4 years or so. I think the first half of Chew has been massive setup- introducing all these crazy characters, concepts and proving that they can work. I feel like the second half of Chew will be playing with the toys we’ve created in new ways. Lots of shifting of loyalties, heartbreak and death, all in the midst of still being a funny comic. The second half of the run is going to have some massive payoffs that I cannot wait to share with readers. I think they’re going to be shocked how many seeds we’ve been planting will bear fruit later in the book. We’ve been playing a way longer game than most people think.
JW: You recently became a father, has this changed your work habits? Have you a new found desire to draw something he can enjoy and read as well… or are you still more than happy drawing a happy-go-lucky cannibal and his cyborg partner?
GUILLORY: Becoming a father’s forced me to be more disciplined in keeping a work schedule. I can’t work all these crazy, random hours that I used to because it wouldn’t be fair to my son, who is a pretty big fan of mine. So it’s been good for my workflow and my general quality of life.
I think I’ll definitely be doing something kid-friendly for my son down the road, but I’ll never turn away from drawing these weird, more adult stories. I have a twisted sense of humor that way.
JW: Can fans expect to see your pencils turning up anywhere else anytime soon? I’ve been talking to people the last few days on Twitter and it seems there is a real desperation to see you on either a Spidey orTMNT title…
GUILLORY: I’ve got a few solo creator-owned things that I’m working on, but it’ll be a while before I’m ready to talk about them. And I’m pretty sure Layman and I will be bugging Marvel about a Power Man & Iron Fist mini when Chew’s done. And it’s no secret that I would love to draw TMNT.
JW: Finally, when young artists look back on Chew in 20 years, what do you hope they will gleam from your work on Chew – What legacy do you hope to leave behind?
GUILLORY: I’m hoping I leave a legacy of being the best, hardest-working, funniest artist in comics. I really want to be the Will Eisner of ridiculously funny comics. And hopefully, it inspires a few folks to chase their crazy dreams, no matter how silly they seem.
“If this Rob guy can do it with this weird-ass art, then I can DEFINITELY do it!” HA.
Comicsphere: To kick things off; are there any Image books that hold a special place on your bookshelves?
Shane Houghton: Image Comics has put out so many incredible books over the years! A few of my current favorites are Chew, Li’l Depressed Boy, Orc Stain, Skullkickers, and Elephantmen.
CHRIS Houghton: Yeah, Shane and I tend to read a lot of the same stuff. We also love The Walking Dead, but who doesn’t? Thinking back, I remember trying to collect all of the Boof comics from Image. They were bizarre but there was something pretty fun about them.
Shane: I also love Bone, and that was published for like, seven issues or something. Does that count?
Comicsphere: I’m sure we can let that one slide. So, Reed Gunther started life as a black & white indie before Image stepped in late into 2011. Was going after a publisher always the intention, or were you guys content doing the self-published thing?
Shane: We submitted Reed Gunther to Image after self-publishing three issues. We were realizing that self-publishing is incredibly difficult and that we were much better with the creative side of things, rather than dealing with printers and distributing. With nothing to lose, we submitted to a few publishers hoping they would like our book enough so we could selfishly unload the dirty work on them. Image was our top choice and we were thrilled that they decided to let us join their fantastic line up of creator-owned comics.
Chris: We couldn’t be happier to be with Image. They let us do what we want and are there to support our efforts. It’s a lot like self-publishing but on a bigger scale and that’s exactly what we like about it.
Comicsphere: We don’t tend to see many sibling creative teams in comics, what was your relationship like growing up? Do sibling rivalries ever really end, and what do your parents think of your creative venture?
Shane: Growing up, we had a blast creating and pretending together, and with creating Reed Gunther, I don’t think we stopped! Any rivalries we had usually lasted no longer than a day and a half. We have an older third brother and it would usually work that two of the three boys would team up against the other. But not for very long. Our parents are tremendously proud of us and have always been supportive of our creative endeavours. They are HUGE Reed Gunther fans! We have Reed Gunther bookmarks that we give away at cons and our mom carries a stack of them around in her purse to give out to friends, family, and complete strangers!
Chris: Our relationship as kids was always very strong between us brothers so it feels really natural to be working with Shane. I trust him and he trusts me and because of that we can knuckle down and get a lot of work done. I think Shane and I have always competed a bit but nothing more than healthy competition. And yes, our parents are incredibly supportive. Shane and I could’ve taken up underwater pole dancing and our parents would’ve still cheered us on.
Comicsphere: Where did the concept and world of Reed Gunther come from? Was it something you developed a decade ago as kids, or did one of you bring it to the table and let the other run wild?
Shane: Chris originally came up with Reed and Sterling, but shelved the characters after the publication his original story was in went under. I loved the idea of a bear-riding cowboy and revamped the characters, created Starla to round out the trio, and set them in the wildly strange world they live in. Mostly, we just create a fun and goofy book with all the stuff we love crammed in it—adventure, monsters, and mustaches.
Chris: The characters and tone has really developed over the years and I think it’s only been in last few issues that we’ve really hit our stride. The characters are really taking on a life of their own and it’s up to us to rein them in!
Comicsphere: Before Reed Gunther, when I thought of cowboys I tended to think of dusty western towns and horses… not a dude riding a bear, fighting off crazy monsters. What’s the creative process behind each issue? Where do you draw your inspirations?
Shane: Although Reed Gunther is set in the Wild West, we definitely embrace the “wild” side of that over the “western” part. Reed Gunther is an adventure book first and foremost, that just so happens to take place in the Old West. We love those old Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, tough-guy loner cowboy stories, but Reed takes his cues from tales like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and The Simpsons.
Additional inspirations (slash things Shane likes): The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, 30 Rock, Andy Richter Controls the Universe, Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs, Toy Story (1&3)… and burritos.
Chris: Yeah, that kind of tough John Wayne character never really did anything for me. He’s tough and stoic and good with a gun and those are all things I can’t relate to. I’ve always been a small, goofy, non-threatening guy (Shane too, as much as he’ll stare you down to try and convince you otherwise). Indiana Jones or even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were my kind of heroes. Exciting and heroic, but still fun and vulnerable. I love that!
Shane: Each issue starts out with a kernel of an idea. I usually get my best ideas while driving five miles-an-hour in Los Angeles traffic. I’ll jot down the idea and let it germinate in my head for a while. Then I’ll pitch it to Chris once I’ve figured out a good outline. Once he tells me, “Shane, you are the most talented and good-looking writer in the world. This script is brilliant!” I move forward. Without that EXACT combination of compliments, I will NOT move forward with my script. So if he wants to draw something, cough up the comps, knowwhatI’msayin’?
Sometimes I’ll start with a cool monster idea like a shark/crab combo, a reverse werewolf, or I’ll decide to bring John Henry back from the dead as a zombie. Once I’ve got a cool creature to fight, I’ll work in the “heart” of the story, whether it’s Reed realizing he’s too selfish, splitting up friendships, or giving tough-gal Starla an identity crisis. Sometimes Chris suggests something cool he would like to see in an issue like a monster or setting. In issue #8, the Starla issue, I had a great emotional story for Starla, but no monsters. Chris thought resurrected Native American mummies would be cool and BLAMMO! There they were.
Chris receives a complete script from me, then it’s on to drawing!
Chris: I read through Shane’s script and make notes and drawings to myself. I try to figure out the best way to “show” the story. Shane’s job is to write the story and my job is to tell that story. Shane sends me very descriptive scripts that are very fun to read and which really motivate me. I want the final product to give the reader the same feelings I get from just the script. I want things to read fast when they should and slow down when it’s necessary. I work out little thumbnail drawings of the characters actions and fit them into appropriate page layouts. After that’s done, it’s just a matter of putting in the long hours to draw and ink it before sending it off to our colorist, Josh Ulrich.
Comicsphere: You both have always had pretty interesting things to say on the position of all ages books in the comic market, and how they are oft misinterpreted as kids books. In your opinions; is there ever likely to be a divide?
Shane: I can only hope that one day All-Ages comics and Kids comics will raise up with torches and pitchforks in hand and have a very, VERY bloody and violent fight. With lots of sex and swearing. Whoever emerges from that R-rated battle can call their book what they want. Until then, we like to say that kids books are for kids and all-ages books should be for everyone (just like the words mean!). Unfortunately, retailers often don’t have an “all-ages” section and lump those books in with the “kids” books. I don’t blame them. Superhero books used to be all-ages, but are no longer. Without more quality all-ages books coming out, there may not be an “all-ages” section away from the “kiddie” books. We applaud the retailers who stock us in both the kids section AND the adult section. You guys rock.
Chris: Yeah, everyone seems to be a bit guilty of mixing up the two. It’s a fine line between what makes a story all-ages or for kids since all-ages includes kids in its definition. It’s all so confusing!
Comicsphere: Many readers have noticed that a handy ‘One Shot’ indicator has replaced the ‘All-Ages’ label on the cover. Has the change helped sales and general awareness?
Shane: I think our “One-Shot” star has definitely helped out. We started doing that on issue #6 to let folks know that certain issues are done-in-one, and that they can jump right in without ever having read a previous issue. I like when I pick up a book and it has a beginning, middle, and an end with twists and action and a little bit of heart. That’s what we’re going for with Reed, and the “One-Shot” logo let’s people know they’ll be getting a little dose of what they love about stories in every issue.
Chris: Comics seem to have a mentality that you can’t pick up issue #7 of a series, unless you’ve read issues #1-6. Usagi Yojimbo does a great job of keeping each issue self-contained enough for new readers and yet has a slightly over-arching storyline for the long-time readers. The sad part is most people don’t know that you can pick up any issue of Usagi Yojimbo or Jonah Hex, etc. and just enjoy that one issue. That’s why we finally decided to literally stamp “one-shot” on the cover of Reed Gunther as we’ve seen other series kind of do (Hellboy comes to mind). It’s helpful to us as readers and we only imagined our readers would enjoy that as well. Of course now I get people coming up to me asking, “What does ‘one-shot’ mean?” Haha, you just can’t win sometimes!
Comicsphere: This month the Fiends Forever arc wraps up, what can fans expect moving forward as we approach the one-year mark? Can you tease any future storylines!
Shane: After issue #10, we’re taking a little hiatus to work on some exciting new projects together. Issue 10 is not the end of Reed Gunther (as you’ll find out, things are JUST getting started!) but there will be a short break. As for future storylines, we’ve toyed with doing an all-Sterling one-shot, Chris wants to draw a story with lots of snow (probably so he has less to draw. What a slacker!) and I want to bring Reed Gunther to the White House. Regardless, the future of Reed Gunther is going to be exciting and hilarious!
Chris: Yeah, I want to take Reed and the gang into different territories. They live in such an exciting time in America. There’s so much to explore and so many odd places to go. We have so many ideas for RG issues. As for me wanting to do a snow issue? Heck yeah! Can’t a guy get a break? But watch, Shane will write it so that each snowflake is a monster or something like that… Hey, that’s not a bad idea…
Comicsphere: Can you tell us about any work you do outside of Reed Gunther?
Shane: Outside of writing comics (I also write for Peanuts and Casper’s Scare School), I work as a filmmaker. Recently, I’ve shot a web series for Comedy Central, I directed a promotional commercial for a video game controller company (which will air locally on New York TV!), but mostly I edit reality TV shows. I’m currently working on a Tattoo show that will air on TLC soon.
Chris: Besides working on Reed Gunther, I’ve been working in animation for a bit now. I was working at Nickelodeon on a couple of different productions (Fanboy and Chum Chum and Robot and Monster) and I just finished up working at Disney on a new production called Gravity Falls which will air this June. I’m also the regular cover artist on the Adventure Time comic book series.
Comicsphere: Lastly; would you like to see Reed Gunther cross over into any other mediums? I can’t help but imagine it as a glorious Saturday morning cartoon show. (Big question: would you have someone narrate Sterling’s thoughts, or leave him be as a mute?)
Shane: We’ve had lots of folks tell us how much they would enjoy Reed Gunther as an animated show. So would we! However, in comics, you can go from an idea to final product on the shelves in about three or four months. In TV or film, it takes much, MUCH longer. We’re definitely not against the idea so if anyone wants to fund a TV show, just let us know. As for Sterling, I don’t think he’ll ever talk. Except in Reed’s fever dreams.
Chris: Animation is great and it’d be a lot of fun to take Reed and his friends into that medium. There’s also a lot more money at stake and the logistics of it all are much more complicated than creating a monthly comic book. We’d love to see it happen one day but for now, we’ll continue to make comics. And yeah, Sterling will never really talk. Reed babbles on enough for both of them.