Peyer, Rahner, the Pirate, and the Pioneer: Galveston
It may seem pretty far-fetched to throw together a famous pirate and a legendary cowboy to make a comic book story, but in the case the new Boom! Studios comic Galveston, it's not fiction -- it's history. Pirate Jean LaFitte and Texas legend Jim Bowie not only knew each other, but were close friends.
Writer Tom Peyer, most recently seen as on The Flash, is teaming up with pop culture journalist Mark Rahner to craft the story of what happens when gunfights meet swashbuckling in Galveston, a six-issue mini-series beginning in October with art by Greg Scott.
Newsarama talked to the writers about the notorious historic figures they're depicting and what kind of story readers can expect to read in Galveston.
Newsarama: Mark, what is your background, and what got you interested in writing comics?
Mark Rahner: I've been professionally insolent for some time now. I write about pop culture for The Seattle Times -- which includes movies and smart alec interviews with celebrities who are used to better treatment. I've also been a crime reporter, Child Protective Services emergency worker and other unpleasant things. And I've been reading comics since I had to sneak 'em through the basement window as a kid.
NRAMA: How did you two get together to do a comic?
Tom Peyer: I answered a craigslist ad. "Valerie" turned out to be Mark. After an initial awkwardness, we became friends.
MR: I've known Tom was a pathological liar ever since I picked him up at the Greyhound depot that night I was looking for strays.
NRAMA: OK, then, where did you guys get the idea for this comic?
TP: From Boom! Mark Waid called and he said, "Did you know that the notorious pirate Jean LaFitte and the Texas legend Jim Bowie actually knew each other?" And I said, "Whoa." And he said, "It's not really up your alley, you probably wouldn't want to write it." And I said, "You don't know me." And he said, "Yes I do." And I said, "Obviously you don't."
NRAMA: Well, that gives us the basic premise. What's the story?
TP: It's a fable based on the personalities of these two larger-than-life men. LaFitte and Bowie are thrown together by misfortune, and they have to build trust, which is hard, because they both have big egos. They're both used to being in charge, and they come from wildly different social spheres. But there are points at which they meet. They admire guts and nerve, and they display them in abundance. And they both regard violence as pretty sweet. So that helps.
MR: A hyper-violent revenge story with a cowboy and a pirate who are very different but find that they work well together -- while constantly giving each other crap.
NRAMA: Tell us about the main characters -- who are they and what are they after?
TP: LaFitte was a pirate who tried to set himself up as a respectable community leader. He stole a mansion on Galveston Island and outfitted it like the Bat Cave, complete with rooftop cannons. He was greedy, obsessed with social standing and, in our version, loveable. Bowie similarly worked very hard to control the public's perceptions of the myth he was creating. He came from some money, but he was a skillful frontiersman, a very gutsy fighter, and not at all a luxury addict.
MR: Not a lot was written about -- or by -- Bowie. Most people just know that there's a big-ass knife named after him and that he died at the Alamo. But he was unstoppable, excelled in battles where he was outnumbered, and wasn't at all above a shady deal.
NRAMA: So what are they going to run into along the way?
TP: Cowboys, Indians, pirates... maybe we'll throw in some ballerinas, army guys and astronauts. And comics people! Everyone loves comics people!
MR: They're also going to run into a lot of betrayal that hardens them in their later years and instills a sense that life is cheap and everything's just business.
NRAMA: Is there a villain in the comic, or are cowboys and pirates enough villainous material?
TP: There is villainy, but a lot of the struggle will emerge from personality clashes between effete pirate and the butch Texan.
MR: There's no worse villain than people who were so close that they might as well have been family.
NRAMA: It sounds pretty rough for these guys. What's the tone of the comic -- is it a more serious Western type story, or is there an aspect of fun here?
TP: We're trying to make it a fun ride seasoned with shocking violence. Insights into history, politics or the human condition will not be tolerated.
MR: Brutish, gritty, cynical, and with no redeeming value at all. There will be no mistaking Galveston for one of those Johnny Depp movies.
NRAMA: How has it been working with the artist, and how has the art affected the overall storytelling/tone?
TP: Greg Scott is terrific; you can see for yourself at http://gregscottart.blogspot.com/. It's a little early to say there's been much back and forth, conceptually, but we're thrilled to have him.
MR: Actually, he's slightly better than we deserve.
NRAMA: Mark, are you working on any other comic book projects?
MR: Yeah, in fact, this career crossover started with a horror-western project I've been working on called Rotten, which I hope to perpetrate on you after Galveston. It's highly objectionable. I've also got a short Cthulhu story coming up for Boom! After that, my goal is to be blackballed.
NRAMA: Tom, how are things going on Flash?
TP: My Flash run ends after six issues; #243 is the last one. It was fun and an honor and we all parted friends.
NRAMA: Do you have any other projects coming up?
TP: Marvel Apes! Karl Kesel has written an outrageously action-paced and funny miniseries in which all of your fave Marvel Heroes are apes--and always have been! BUT IT'S IN CONTINUITY! I'm doing these messed-up backups that'll fill you in on the Official History Of The Marvel Apes Universe! And it's not pretty!
NRAMA: Can we expect more projects from the two of you together?
TP: Jeez, can we finish this one first?
MR: We were going to adopt a child from a village in Gabon. Does that count as a project?
NRAMA: OK, then, let's get back to this one. Anything else you want to tell people about Galveston?
TP: Do not use this comic to cheat history class. You will fail.
MR: But do bring it to school, because detention is fun.