Creative Visions: Jai Nitz and Andy Diggle Talk UNCANNY's Criminal History
Our week of creator-on-creator interviews with Dynamite Entertainment continue today with a chat between Jai Nitz and Andy Diggle. Diggle’s newest series with Dynamite, Control, was just announced at New York Comic Con, but it’s actually his second work with the publisher, as he started with Uncanny earlier this year.
A concept developed with Dynamite as a company-owned book, Uncanny #4 hits comic shops this week. Nitz and Diggle talk about the series, its crime movie and book influences, and what else is coming from the writer in the future. Nitz also has a release this week, the finale of Green Hornet: Legacy with the 42nd issue.
Jai Nitz: Andy, you’re known for crime caper thrillers like The Losers, Snapshot, and Thief Of Thieves (and even Adam Strange!). What are the three most underrated crime movies or books?
Andy Diggle: Edward Bunker's No Beast So Fierce is probably the best crime novel I've ever read. An incredibly immersive and compelling piece of work. Bunker did time for armed robbery, so the novel has an almost autobiographic air of authenticity. Weird footnote: Bunker went on to play Mr Blue in Reservoir Dogs.
On the movie side of things, there are two kinds of people: those who love Shane Black's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and those who haven't seen it yet. Sadly it never found the audience it deserved on the big screen, but it's an absolute delight.
And to complete the "underrated" trifecta, I'd say Sam Raimi's A Simple Plan. I haven't read the Scott Smith novel it was based on, but the film is absolutely heartbreaking. Raimi's best known for low-budget schlock and big-budget comic-book adaptations, but A Simple Plan is a wonderful, human, bleak little crime story. I loved it.
Bubbling under: Bound, Blue Steel, Leon/The Professional, The Guard, In Bruges.
Nitz: You’re also known for your runs on Hellblazer and Lady Constantine. What are some underrated supernatural movies and books that you look to for inspiration?
Diggle: I don't necessarily look to underrated sources for inspiration. When you're adapting or continuing pre-existing characters, what's gone before has to be your touchstone. For me, the original John Constantine stories in Swamp Thing were the inspiration for my Hellblazer run. I wanted to take the character back to that sharp-dressed, cocky little spiv that he used to be back in the '80s. Give him his edge back. Unfortunately, they undid all that the moment I left, but I was pleased with the way my stories came out. John Constantine was the best character in comics, period, and it was an honor to write him.
Nitz: Uncanny is your first foray into working at Dynamite. What brought you to Dynamite?
Diggle: I'd spent most of the past decade exclusive either to Marvel or DC Comics, and I wanted a change. So I reached out to Image, Dynamite and IDW, and I'm pleased to say they all welcomed me with open arms. The fact that Dynamite were talking about starting a "crime line" was a particular draw. There's been a rising tide of successful crime comics over the past few years, and I saw the chance to tell the kind of stories I love without corporate mandates bending them out of shape.
Nitz: Uncanny has received rave reviews and great sales figures for a brand new property. How did you initially approach writing the book?
Diggle: It evolved somewhat as I was developing it. Initially I had thought of this rather broken and pathetic lead character, a down-and-out loser. But as I started fleshing out the backstory and the wider world he'd be exploring, I figured it might be more fun initially to present him as a superficially successful, confident, alpha male anti-hero... and then strip it all away from him, revealing that everything we though we knew about him was a lie. He's living off other people's stolen skills and lives. He doesn't really have anything of his own. So we take it all away from him, and then build him back up into something else.
Nitz: You’ve had some amazing artists in the past (Jock, Leinil Yu, Leonardo Manco). Talk about the art team of Aaron Campbell and Bill Crabtree on Uncanny.
Diggle: I'm lucky to be working with them. Aaron's noirish style really sets the tone of the book, and his characters live and breathe. That's all you can really hope for as a writer.
Nitz: Issue four is out this week and the first arc is coming to its conclusion soon. Will there be more Uncanny from Diggle/Campbell in the future?
Diggle: Yeah, I'll be on the book at least until issue 12.
Nitz: What other projects do you have currently and in the near future? And can we expect any more collaboration between you and Jock?
Diggle: I just got back from New York Comic Con, where I locked down several new projects for next year - various several creator-owned stories plus an ongoing company book. Nothing I can announce yet, but watch this space!
Jai Nitz is an American comic book writer who has written for Dark Horse, Marvel, DC, Image, Disney, Dynamite, and other publishers. He won the prestigious Xeric Foundation grant in 2003 for his self-published anthology, Paper Museum. He won the Bram Stoker Award in 2004 for excellence in illustrated narrative for Heaven’s Devils from Image Comics. He also works as a professor at his alma mater, the University of Kansas, teaching courses on comic books and film. He lives in Lawrence, Kansas, with his girlfriend and two sons.