Bill Willingham on His Coming Dynamite Days

Willingham on His Coming Dynamite Days

It’s taken five years, but Bill Willingham is finally writing for Dynamite Entertainment.

As Dynamite President Nick Barrucci likes to explain it, he offered Willingham a shot to write some Red Sonja stories back when the publisher was just getting that series off the ground, and finally – five years and lots of conversations later – Willingham will be writing a new project at Dynamite.

Not much is known beyond that – other than it will be big, Willingham will be joined by Marc Andreyko – and a “third” man as well, and the opening series (of a planned many) will run six issues.

We caught up with Willingham to try and get some more out of him, or at least try to figure out why he’s doing what he’s doing.

Newsarama: Bill, what led you to Dynamite in the first place?

Bill Willingham: I’ve known Nick for a long time, ever since we both hung out at Fat Jack’s Comic Crypt in Philadelphia, PA. This was when I was still trying to get my foot in the comics business door, and Nick was still just a young kid hanging out in the comic shop. Years later he reintroduced himself to me at a convention, explaining that he was the driving light behind Dynamic Forces. At that time we decided to do something together someday – but not right away, as I was still exclusive to DC Comics at the time. Since I am no longer exclusive to DC, now seems a good time to follow up on those “someday” plans.

NRAMA: It seems as if you've got a plateful as it is - why was it about this temptation that was too good to pass up?

BW: I do indeed have a lot on my plate just now. Then again, I can well recall those years, not so long ago, when I had next to nothing on my plate and no strong desire from any publisher to help fill it. Better to be busy than not.

NRAMA: After all, you do have Vertigo and other outlets to work at, you're building up JSA with Matt Sturges, other writers and artists would like to work with you at DC as well as any other publisher. Again, why Dynamite?

BW: Part of it is the desire to tell stories without jumping through a lot of hoops first. For all of the joy of working with any big publisher, big publishers come, by necessity, with big staff, big bureaucracy, big baggage. Getting any project at all going with a big publisher requires weeks, months, and sometimes years worth of pitching ideas, writing proposals, refining ideas in response to the publisher’s current wants (which can change from day to day), and then refining and redefining the story over and again, as any of a small army of other staff members wade in with their critiques, concerns and ideas. It’s a grueling process that starts on day one to rob a storyteller of his joy and desire to tell that particular story. In contrast, the “pitch” to get my project with Nick and Dynamite going lasted for the length of one phone call of perhaps 20 minute’s duration, after which everyone involved had the official word to begin actual work. Refreshing to say the least.

NRAMA: With this new project, it's been mentioned that you're going to be collaborating with another writer – Marc Andreyko - you've done that with Matt on Justice Society for the most recent example. What's the benefit for you?

BW: Given that the writer in question is Marc Andreyko, that should be enough to answer your question. He’s a wonderfully gifted writer who creates top-notch stories. No one collaborates on a story, in any medium, with another writer to make the workload easier. The old saw about collaboration being “doing twice the work for half the pay” is absolutely true. One doesn’t work on a story with another writer to save effort, one only does it for the joy of working with a writer he admires and dearly wants to work with. Marc fits that description perfectly. That’s the benefit.

NRAMA: What's the scope of the project?

BW: I suspect that’s still a closely guarded secret and one I shouldn’t discuss – yet.

NRAMA: You've stated it's not "a one and done" type of thing where you come in and do it and are out. You've stated you were looking to lay a foundation and stick around to maintain it.

BW: Yes.

NRAMA: You've done that so well with Fables, why start somewhere else?

BW: Because this isn’t a Fables story. It’s a different story.

NRAMA: And since it's super heroes and fantasy, where does one begin, and the other come in to place?

BW: I suspect it’s a pretty even mix of both. Note though, that all superhero stories are fantasy, even those cloaked in science fiction drag, so maybe calling it a superhero and fantasy story is redundant.

NRAMA: Dynamite has set up your announcement to be one that asks more questions than it answers.

BW: Yep. Evil litter suckers, aren’t they?

NRAMA: They have stated (to Newsarama) that they want to engage fans. What do you think of this type of "PT Barnum/Vince McMahan" promotion?

BW: I wouldn’t characterize it as anything PT Barnum like, and I have no idea who Vince McMahan is.

NRAMA: Especially since there's no hint yet of who your bringing with you, and who the third person's will be (we can assume the co-writer and artist).

BW: I have to confess, at this point I have only a vague notion of what information we’ve released so far and what we’re still holding back. It’s not really my department. What I can say is that some people involved with this project possibly can’t be mentioned because we (meaning Nick and company) haven’t yet jumped through all of the hoops involved with making sure that person is available and able to do it. That’s the often-frustrating part of getting any new project underway that I am more than happy to leave to others. I’ll worry about working out a good story.

NRAMA: This is an interesting build up. What do you think of the build up?

BW: I’m not sure I have much of an opinion about it. I want people to be interested in the project of course, but it’s early days yet. In the long run – and it’s always a very long run – any sort of build up needs to translate into getting warm bodies into comic shops, willing to plunk down their hard-earned money to buy the book when it comes out. And that’s still a good ways away.

NRAMA: When do you think the series will launch?

BW: I apologize in advance for the glib answer, but it will launch when it’s ready. It’s still far too soon to start speculating about release dates yet.

NRAMA: You've mentioned in another interview that you will design the characters, and "blood would spill" if anyone tried to stop you. What makes you so excited that you would design the characters?

BW: I started in this business as an artist, and though I am far too slow of an artist to continue in that role today, I still think of characters visually every bit as much as I think of them in the written details. It’s important for the characters to match what I see in my mind’s eye. Designing them visually insures that.

NRAMA: Now for a DC question. You've been writing Fables for over 5 years. Why not just expand on Fables?

BW: For many reasons. First, this isn’t, as I said, a Fables story. Second, there is nothing “just” (in the sense of “simple”) about the decision to expand Fables. I am expanding Fables. Every new story we start expands it. But this isn’t a Fables story.

NRAMA: Fair enough. What do the next 5 years have in store?

BW: More work telling the best stories I know how to tell, in various mediums, working with the people I admire – and of course I plan to shoot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.

NRAMA: Anything more you’d like to add?

BW: Yes. Once again I’d like to thank those who’ve read and enjoyed our funnybook stories, and who continue to pony up the money each month to do so. I hope you’ll consider giving this new project a look, when it comes out. Marc, Nick and I (and others, yet to be named) are determined to make it worth your while.

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