Mark Kidwell on Frank Frazetta's 'Freedom'

Frazetta's Freedom

Next week, Image Comics and Frazetta Comics introduce Frank Frazetta’s Freedom. For Frazetta Comics, the one shot is an expansion that brings its first “Frazetta Western” to fans with a story written by Mark Kidwell with art by John Cboins (Shadowline’s Graveslinger).

With the release of the issue imminent, Newsarama spoke with Kidwell again to get more details about the project.

Newsarama: Mark, we touched base with you and artist John Cboins on Freedom a couple of weeks back. Now that the book is set to launch, is there anything else readers should know about the book?

Mark Kidwell: Yeah, a couple of things. Freedom as a one shot is a complete story, with a definite beginning, middle and end. It’s peppered with indications of a much deeper back-story that rounds the characters out so that by the time you reach the conclusion, I think you’ll feel you’ve known these two guys from the start of their careers. It’s designed to tell a much broader tale in a limited number of pages.

Frazetta's Freedom, page 1

Also, now that I’ve edited the book (about a dozen times), the impression of dark, gallows humor feels even more evident to me. It’s pumped full of action, attitude and character as well. I pushed hard with the script to try and breathe real life into these characters and John Cboins’ moody, painted artwork takes what I did with the dialogue and amps it up past ten. The finished product has a real western grit to it and the written and visual interplay of real historical fact and bent-truth fiction mesh pretty well.

Oh, and there’s a tiny in-joke in the book for Don Knotts fans. See if you can find it.

NRAMA: Was it difficult to interpret the Frazetta painting into a Western story that introduced original concepts while still staying true to genre formula?

Frazetta's Freedom, page 2

MK: Not at all. In fact, the whimsical feel of Frank’s original painting titled “Freedom” led me to try and create something outside the norm in Western drama. That image, of the smiling mustachioed guy in the (extremely) non-traditional striped, sleeveless T-shirt surrounded by naked, fawning babes kept posing a question to me. I kept thinking…What the hell is goin’ on there? It didn’t fit standard western stage dressing and made me want to explore the possibilities of working the odd nature of the image into a workable story. By its very nature, the image screamed for something new.

What we try to do with the scripts, art and concepts based on Frazetta’s masterworks, is live up to the power of the images we’re expanding upon and create original, entertaining tales and mythos for today’s comic and fantasy audience. Freedom expands on the formula, embracing western fans into the Frazetta fold.

Frazetta's Freedom, page 3

NRAMA: So readers can expect plenty of good, old-fashioned Western action like gunfights, saloon brawls, etc.?

MK: Yep. There are gunfights, saloon scenes, hangings, muddy streets…even a trip to a bawdyhouse. All the classic Western stuff is there. The story even takes place in Deadwood, in the Dakota Territory, before the area became two states. A classic, real historical location for the not-so-real action that unfolds. As I have mentioned before, I’m a ravenous fan of Western film, so Freedom was my opportunity to play in that genre. I played as hard as I could and squeezed as many genre mainstays in there as possible.

Especially the use of Colt Dragoons, the coolest looking handgun in the history of

weaponry.

NRAMA: Not to mention one of the heaviest. Those things were often used as clubs as well as guns. Moving on, can you give us some scoop on the characters in Freedom?

page 4

MK: Sure. First and foremost, you’ve got the central, pivotal character of Aloysius M. Pendrake, former dentist and secretly, astounding gunfighter. He’s over-educated and narcissistic, fleecing the action-starved multitudes of the East coast by writing a series of dime-novels based on the true (and not-so-true) adventures of his own legendary creation, the famed gun-slinger, The Freedom Kid. The Freedom Kid himself, a happy-go-lucky bull of a man named Flash Feeney, rides along with Pendrake, reveling in the fame and the hype, but suffering from lack of ability with a gun. Together, they’re a potentially lethal mix of doofus and con-man; a powder keg just waiting to explode.

And with the help of an aging prostitute and the dark denizens of Deadwood, the fuse is lit.

NRAMA: And actions ensues. Finally Mark, you’ve dipped into the Frazetta universe a couple of times now. Any news you can give us on upcoming projects with Frazetta Comics – or other work you have coming up?

MK: Oh yeah! Of course, I want everyone to go out and pick up Freedom this month. I’m proud of the book, story and art and am anxious to get others’ impressions on the one shot.

Frazetta's Freedom, page 5

That said, I’ll plug the upcoming Dinosaur romp Tyrannosaurus Rex. I wrote the script based on a story concept tossed around between Jay Fotos and myself and the artwork will be provided by one of the coolest, most talented guys I’ve met in the comics industry, Mr. Jeff Zornow. Most folks know Jeff from horror related stuff like Halloween, Cryptic Magazine and Gene Simmons House of Horrors. He has submitted some dinosaur concept art and Jay and I have both been blown away. The story is way out there, dismissing factual pre-history in favor of an over-the-top, and whimsically violent approach to giant thunder lizards. We’ve got cave men, cave women in fur bikinis and more dino-battles than you can shake a club at. The book is going to be fun, with amazing art, tons of action and a few laughs tossed in for good measure. As the ads say…These ain’t your Granddaddy’s Dinosaurs!

Then, I’m working on a series project that needs to stay kinda hush-hush for now. It’s something new in the world of mainstream comics though, harkening back to the classic Pulp era of fantasy storytelling. I’m working closely with Jay Fotos and Tim Vigil on the project and from the initial mock-ups I’ve seen, the artwork is simply amazing. Can’t say much more about it, although I would urge you and your readers to sharpen your battle-axes, slide on your mighty winged helm and get set for another trip to the Dark Kingdom.

Meanwhile, big thanks again to Newsarama, Jay and Nat at Frazetta Comics, John Cboins and the good folks at Image Comics. Enjoy Freedom!

Also available now is Frazetta’s Moon Maid, Death Dealer HC Deluxe and The Fantastic Worlds of Frazetta Vol 1. Frazetta’s Neanderthal hits stores on April 22nd, and Frazetta’s Sorcerer is due in stores in June. For more on Frazetta Comics, visit www.myspace.com/frazettacomics

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