Hey, thanks for dropping in this week. What I have for you this time around deviates from the norm? so be prepared.
ATR will be thrown at you in two parts this week. This first part is a short installment with some goodies I sincerely hope you enjoy. Expect part 2, which is me yammering about Emerald City ComiCon and the fun had while I was there, within a couple of days.
Unorthodox? Sure. But I like to think that this column is anything but orthodox.
Wherein Mr. Ellis Angers France
Warren Ellis is no stranger to All Th?Have I said this before? Probably. Anyways, Ellis pops up in here pretty frequently. However, when I was given a chance to ask him some questions regarding his upcoming historical-based comic Crecy, I jumped at the opportunity. I?m pretty much a sucker for anything cool and history oriented. It also allows me to feel that I didn?t waste my time in college.
Well, not completely.
- : Warren, first off I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for writing a graphic novel based on one of history’s greatest battles. What drove you to do undertake this project? Why produce a comic of the Battle of Crecy?
WE: I’ve wanted to do a historical project for years. Specifically, a British historical project, and specifically a straight piece of reportage rather than a fiction. And Crecy is, as you say, one of the great English stories. These are the stories we used to tell each other in drinking halls, and it’s nice to keep that alive, even as a curiosity. It’s just a brilliant story. The French response to Crecy says it all: that the flower of French aristocracy was destroyed at Crecy by “men of no value” — by which the writer meant ordinary Englishmen, peasants, the common people.
ATR: How much research did you do for this? Is historical accuracy something you’re taking into consideration? From what little I’ve seen so far, it seems that humour will play a large role…
WE: It does, because I want the telling of it to be alive, rather than a textbook, you know? I did a fair amount of research — you’d be surprised at how comparatively little is written about Crecy, or at least how little is still in print or circulation. I’m getting it as broadly accurate as I can without burying the thing in extraneous detail. The book’s a peculiar shape as it is. What I wanted to do was capture the breathing guts of it, as opposed to the usual English history of kings and overviews, or the academic immersion in minutiae.The chief works influencing Crecy are also kind of odd. One is Mike Loades‘ excellent TV series Weapons That Made Britain. I fell in on the episode about the longbow, which discusses Crecy in detail, with information I’d never seen before. Although I obviously knew the story of Crecy before that, it was that programme that really set the machinery turning. And then, last year, I saw a storyteller using the name William of Berkeley, who also told the story of Crecy and really made it live. Walking away from that, I knew I had the book — Loades’ on-the-ground explanation of the elements of the battle plus William’s archer’s-eye-view of the battle. The research that followed was just to bolster the structure.
ATR: Will this book focus on few characters and how they fit into the story of the Battle of Crecy? If not, in what way are you going to present the story from a character perspective (if any)?
WE: As I say, the book’s a peculiar shape. We have a narrator, William of Stonham, who speaks “to camera” all the way through. He’s a footsoldier, one of the 7500 archers in Edward’s army. He knows things he shouldn’t — he’s half-in and half-out of the story — but he allows me to view the battle from its most interesting perspective, which is that of the ordinary longbowmen.
ATR: Are we going to see some of the “stars” of the battle, like Edward III, King John the Blind, Edward of Woodstock (known these days as The Black Prince), the ill-fated and quite unfortunate Genoese mercenaries, or any others?
WE: We see Edward, and the Black Prince, and even glimpse Philip (Philip the Fortunate, they called him, the poor stupid bastard). And, of course, the mercenary crossbowmen from Genoa, who have a very bad day. But, as I say, we’re shooting from the view of the archers. The English army was some 12000 strong, and they’d only have caught glimpses of their king. The archers were on the sharp end. Even the mounted archers, mostly professional soldiers and landed men, were further back. Crecy was fought and won by the common man, and that’s what I show.
ATR: How long have you been wanting to do something like this? And can we expect more like it from you in the future? If so, what other historically based things would you like to work on?
WE: There’s a historical fiction I’ve been wanting to do for years, which I’m hoping to finally place at a currently-interested publisher this year. I love history, near and far, and there are a bunch of things I’d love to do one day. I’ve always wanted to do something about the Warhol Factory years. And Tesla, but that would have to be a huge book. Also, one day, a book about the Roman withdrawal from Britain and the descent into the Dark Ages. There was a Viking/English battle north of here that went partly unrecorded, which is unusual, and there might be a story there. Alfred the Great interests me, too…
ATR: How has it been working with artist Raulo Caceres? I notice his art is very detailed. Is this something you strived for where the art was concerned?
WE: Absolutely. I wanted a real sense of environment, and the historical elements had to be accurate. There’s a long tradition of historical comics in Europe, of course, and a European artist only made sense. Raulo is nailing it.
ATR: How do you think both English and French readers will take to the Crecy graphic novella?
WE: Oh, the French will hate it. The narrator is of course a blatant English xenophobe, and all the French people die horribly. That said, Crecy was long an embarrassment to the French, so I imagine any French reader with a historical awareness will get what’s going on. I mean, you do have to shave bits off the story to make it “English.” Any Welshman will tell you until the sheep come home that the Welsh taught the English about longbows. The best longbow yew comes from Holland, and the archers probably used the Mediterranean draw where the third finger is present but loose. That, too, is English — England has always been a fusion culture, the country has a habit of digesting its elements. Some of its most famous kings, like the Henry of Lion in Winter, didn’t speak a word of English. The “Englishness” of Crecy is its own little bit of black comedy.
But the French still talk shit about our food, so fuck them.
ATR: Okay, since I have you here, I have read two other interviews with you about your upcoming superhero comic, Black Summer. For those readers completely unfamiliar with Black Summer, could you please give them a brief summary of what it’s all about?
WE: Oh, God. Briefly, it’s about a masked man who crosses an ethical line and kills a President in pursuit of justice, the threat he places America under and the jeopardy his old team-mates are thereby thrown into.
ATR: William Christensen of Avatar stated “I’ve always said I’m not going to publish superhero comics at Avatar until I can do them better than Marvel and DC.” Would you say that that Black Summer will be “better”, or will it be something completely different and unique…?
WE: Not for me to say. I will say, though, that the lack of continuity or company-ownership constraints means that every action has consequences, and there’s no status quo to return to. At Marvel or DC, you know that characters will come back and stability will return. In Black Summer, anything could happen.
(Steve Note: I decided to follow up with William Christensen on this and here?s what he had to say:
?Black Summer is the sort of hero book that I have an interest in reading. I couldn’t care less if Booster Gold is dead, or Triplicate Lass is now Duo Damsel. The huge weight of continuity can be a giant drag on Marvel and DC books. I’m not saying that to bash Marvel and DC. Believe it or not, I have been a big mainstream comics cheerleader over the years. I was a major contributor to Wizard for a long time, so I have a much better understanding of this audience than you might expect from Avatar’s EIC. But continuity can be a huge obstacle for the creator and the reader as well. If you think about what books are considered the best superhero stories of the past two or three decades, a couple books that are outside of continuity are at the top of the list.
But when I say that Black Summer is better, I mean that in my opinion it is just a superior comic. I am fortunate that I was able to provide just the right environment for Warren to create his magic here. A major creator on a superhero book with no continuity issues or other editorial restrictions to worry about – that doesn’t happen too often. Another example of a similar situation you could point to would be Millar’s Wanted. Warren is already considered one of the best writers of the past decade, but after the events of this summer and fall it will be apparent that he has done the impossible and raised his game yet again.
So Black Summer allows folks who have grown up with hero books to enjoy something with more substance. It’s a hero book with balls.
Trust me, we have the best parts of the masked hero genre, huge fights, massive explosions, but we have horrible deaths, real character drama, and actual issues of our society looked at in the terms of this fantasy world with masked heroes. There are so many mainstream books that have weak creative teams as well. No one can say anything negative about our top-flight talent on this book. We have Juan Jose Ryp, who is just a superlative artist and Warren Ellis, at the top of his game in this series, who can write rings around 95% of the writers in the field. Once every few years there is a book in the genre that makes everyone else step up their game.
Books like Watchmen, Dark Knight, Wanted, and now Black Summer.?
ATR: Will Black Summer be a superhero title that anyone can jump into, you think?
WE: That is indeed how it’s been designed. No foreknowledge necessary. Come in on the ground floor.
ATR: How has it been working with Avatar Press? They seem to be pulling out all the stops and big guns with current and upcoming titles. Are we going to see lots more through Avatar from you, Mr. Ellis? Also, is there ever a possibility of seeing you collaborate with some of the other great writing talent being published there? With, say, Garth Ennis, for instance… Or will it all be solo material?
WE: I don’t co-write. Hell, neither does Garth. There are two kinds of writers — the “kibitzers,” who talk around their stories with other people and shape it according to their conversations, and the people who sit in a room and hit a keyboard until it does what they want. That’s me.
I said that to Mark Waid, once, and he looked at me kind of witheringly and said, “OH, you’re a ‘REAL’ writer, then…!” One of these days I’m going to release a monkey with the shits into his house to have anal knowledge of all his toys. I have a ton of stuff coming from Avatar over the next year. In the next year, Avatar will become unrecognisable to people who think they know what the company does. It’s going to be good.
Memo to self: Monkey-proof the gaming room. Just in case.
This Has A ?Knights Fighting In The Shade? Factor Of Ten Out Of Ten.
Comicarchy in the UK: Tales From The Tooth
It?s been a little while since I showed any cool 2000 AD or Judge Dredd Megazine first-looks? Here you go!
From the Megazine, what you see here is Henry Flint?s artwork for an upcoming 3-part Judge Dredd story called The Gingerbread Man written by John Wagner starting in Megazine 261.
Ardent ATR reader Daniel Lundie sent his minions to contact my minions and the result was some Tales From the Plex 2 pages. Make sure to pick it up when it hits shelves April 22nd, which is also Daniel?s anniversary of his hatch-date, so it?s like you get a great comic and give a nice bloke a birthday present to boot.
I shall endeavour to bring you all more UK stuff soon! Always feel free to contact me concerning this subject: firstname.lastname@example.org
This Has A ?Plexian Zombie Monkeys Of The Reformation? Factor Of Nine Out Of Ten.
Your Friendly Neighbourhood Crypt-Keeper
I really don?t know if these images have popped up elsewhere, as I have been so damned busy, but I have acquired what you see below for fellow ghouls who enjoy Tales From the Crypt and are excited for it?s return.
The first issue, which will ship to comics shops in June, will include:
“Body of Work,” by horror author Marc Bilgrey (H.P. Lovecraft’s Magazine of Horror) and Mr. Exes (Abra Cadaver). The story reveals how two nosy and somewhat murderous neighbors discover the shocking inspiration for Jack Kroll’s outsider artwork.
“For Serious Collectors Only,” by Rob Vollmar (Bluesman) and Tim Smith III (Teen Titans). This tale explores how far Thomas Donalley-a middle-aged action-figure collector who lives in his mom’s basement-will go for an ultra-rare Japanese figure.
Introductory pages featuring the GhouLunatics by writer Jim Salicrup and artist Rick Parker (Beavis and Butt-Head). Cover by award-winning artist Kyle Baker (Birth of a Nation, Plastic Man, Why I Hate Saturn).
I?m counting on this title being worth whatever screams may come!
This Has A ?Nothing Else Splatters? Factor Of Nine Out Of Ten.
15200 Nights of Admiration
This Has A ?Now THAT?s A Painting? Factor Of Eight Out Of Ten.
Okay folks, I only have so much time and I need to get cracking on the next chapter in the epic saga this week?s ATR. For you Marvel and DC aficionados, there should be some stuff you?ll like as well as coverage of lots of other people and things I encountered at Emerald City ComicCon in Seattle. SBC had others at ECCC; please do yourself a favour and read Jason Sacks? and Caryn Tate?s awesome write-ups on the Marvel and DC panels.
I had all sorts of April?s Fools jokes planned, but time got away from me and so it probably wouldn?t be as fun the day after? Ah, well. Instead, I shall leave you with this jerk, who would like to remind you that his next comic in the works is going to kick your ass.
Or give me hell in my Steve?s Rage Cage forums!
Until next time, which is really freaking soon, dear readers?