Kurtis Wiebe has traded rat queens for space queens in the new Dark Horse series Bounty. The new ongoing series turns life as a bounty hunter into a WWE-style celebrity fest with consequences.
Co-created with artist Mindy Lee, Bounty stars a pair of Dirty Pair-esque sisters - Nina and Georgie - who are on the run from corporations they've stolen from and tracking down bounties to stay one step ahead.
With #2 due out August 3, Newsarama talked with Wiebe about his new creator-owned series, the nuanced future universe he's set it in, and the extraordinary lengths to keep the book on schedule.
Newsarama: Kurtis, the first issue of Bounty drops readers right into the middle of a thriving world with a lot already going on. Was that the goal, to start in the thick of it and have readers learn along the way?
Kurtis Wiebe: The first issue was really meant to give a feeling for the world the characters live in and to show where and how their lives changed. I also wanted there to be a feeling of their desperation, how it’s made their day to day quite different and the dynamic that’s shifted between the sisters in particular. We’ll get to know each character in more depth with every issue, and ultimately what led to their capture.
Nrama: Bounty really seizes the idea of world-building here. How much thought did you put into aspects of the world outside of the main thrust of the story?
Wiebe: A lot of what you see on the page is Mindy’s take on some basic ideas that I have. Everything is designed by her. From the ship they fly (The Heretic), to their costumes, to the stations they fly to. It’s all from her mind.
I have basic ideas about the world, what has led the galaxy to the place it is now. It will be touched on in future issues, but the galaxy has just survived a very long war between powerful corporations. It was a conflict that spanned the entire galaxy and affected an uncountable number of lives.
Nrama: And the business of being a bounty hunter is gone through in-depth here. Is that something you'd been thinking of for a while, even before Bounty came about?
Wiebe: It was the first piece of the puzzle. I wanted to treat hunters like celebrities. In a lot of ways I treat them like WWE stars. They wear crazy costumes, people get super excited to see them in public and some of them even live stream their hunts. It’s a quasi-reality show in a lot of senses.
They also enjoy a lot of ‘diplomatic’ immunity in that their work allows them to ignore certain laws laid down by various corporations. Of course, it’s dangerous work, so not many people pursue such a career, and it often invites a very certain type of person. Which we touch on as well throughout Bounty.
Nrama: How would you describe Nina and Georgie?
Wiebe: In a lot of ways, they have noble intentions, but hubris was their undoing. In the current timeline, they’re broke, there’s tension between them. They try to work as a team but it hasn’t been the same since they lost everything five years in the past.
Georgie and Nina used to be very close, but there’s an emotional gap between them now, a point that is emphasized in Bounty #2. They can work extremely well together when they’re tight, but the past few years have taken a toll.
Nrama: Their sisterly bond is something - is there someone you're basing that on, fictional or real life?
Wiebe: I’m quite different from my family in a lot of ways. In my personality and beliefs, mainly. But at the end of the day, it’s rarely come between the close relationships I have with them. We’re also a very interesting build, in a lot of ways. My oldest sister is born by my parents but me and my two younger siblings are all adopted. It’s a hodgepodge, but despite all the differences we’re quite close.
I know where I come from inspires my stories, it’s a recurring theme in my work, the idea of found family.
Nrama: Will readers get to see more of Nina and Georgie backstory as time goes on?
Wiebe: Every issue reveals more about why the Gadflies were caught and more about where each character comes from. I finished scripting Bounty #7 last night and the entire last ¾ is all Vivian and her mysterious past.
Nrama: In a letter to retailers, you said that Bounty came in part as a reaction to people who liked Rat Queens but wanted something they could share with their children. How did you approach that without infantilizing the story?
Wiebe: In using themes that I think everyone can relate to. Family, the good and the bad, and also struggling with where you’re at in life. For the Bounty team, it’s once having had everything and now having nothing. You’ll learn where Nina and Georgie came from, a rather hard place, and how being so close to that place again is the most difficult part of losing their Gadflies identity.
Nrama: So you’re seven issues into scripting this bookdespite the #1 just coming out. How important is for you to get ahead to maintain a monthly schedule? And how many issues is this charted to be?
Wiebe: Mindy is close behind with issue 6 putting the final touches on that issue, so we’re making awesome time. Dark Horse has been so supportive, giving us a lot of time to develop the project so that when it came out we were already well into it.
Having Bounty come out on time is massively important. Retailers need to have the confidence that you’re going to deliver on the date they ordered. They’re taking a chance on your series and you can’t leave them hanging. It’s crazy that we’re already done the first arc before the first issue is a week old, but we’ve been lucky to have a long time to create it.
Right now we’ve mapped out 10 issues in two arcs. Each arc is directly connected to each other, but the second in particular turns expectations on its head and takes the story in a direction people likely never would’ve guessed.
Nrama: For this you're working with Mindy and colorist Leonardo Olea. How did you connect with them?
Wiebe: I found Mindy Lee on Tumblr, actually. One of her Bladerunner pieces appeared in my feed and I fell in love with her work. I followed her and after seeing a handful more of her art I reached out and asked if she wanted to do comics together. Rest is history. I’d already done some developmental work on Bounty when I reached out, but I knew she was the perfect person to make it really come to life.
Leonardo came on board later on when we had finished a few issues already. He’d done work with Dark Horse before and his test pages immediately won us over. He recognized the bright, colorful world we’d been wanting. I think with a futuristic cyberpunk world, it’s easy to make everything dark and grey, so it was refreshing to see he got it right away.
Nrama: Bountyis your first work for Dark Horse after establishing yourself with several creator-owned projects at Image. Why'd you choose to branch out to Dark Horse?
Wiebe: My editor at Dark Horse now, Daniel Chabon, had reached out to me a few years ago and asked if I had anything to send his way. I had a few pitches but nothing that felt right or was ready to send, so when Mindy and I put Bounty together, I sent it over to Daniel to get his thoughts.
What I love about working with Dark Horse is they make my job so easy. The support team there is incredible and you feel valued as a creator. To know I am able to focus entirely on the writing and that there will be a team to make sure the rest is taken care of, it’s a huge weight off the shoulders.
Nrama: Big picture, what are your goals with Bounty?
Wiebe: To create a cast of characters that readers grow to love. At the outset, I wanted them to feel almost a little bit like characters you’ve seen before. So that certain assumptions would be made. At the start of the story, they’re very closed off; from each other and the rest of the world. As the story progresses, they open up more and become more real, and the reader will uncover their true identities along with the rest of the crew.
There’s some heartbreaking stuff coming up, but it’s also going to be a fun and funny story. I want to keep things light, the action dangerous but not brutal, and overall something that feels good after it’s been read.