Whether it be out of idle curiosity, concrete hard times or a malicious streak a mile wide. In the recently released one-shot Pilot Season: 39 Minutes (preview here), writer William Harms (Impaler) and newcomer artist Jerry Lando follow a group of ex-military types who plan it out – and figure out the only way to do it is rob the bank and the town that comes with it.
Pilot Season: 39 Minutes’ release last week kicked off this year’s line-up of Top Cow’s Pilot Season titles; a line-up of one-shot that could turn into the starting point for a full limited series should readers vote for that title to win the contest. In our conversation with Top Cow Publisher Filip Sablik earlier this week, he went into detail about this year’s line-up and the unique release schedule – a book per week for five consecutive weeks. These ‘pilots’ are flying in tight formation, with readers left to decide who wins the race.
But to know who to vote for, you have to know who the contestants are. Newsarama will be covering each of the books in-depth, and we’re starting it off with the first one off the starting line: Pilot Season: 39 Minutes.
Newsarama: How would you describe the book, William?
William Harms: 39 Minutes is a crime book about robbers who not only rob banks, but entire towns. They target small, isolated communities, hit them hard, kill anyone who stands in their way, and then vanish before the authorities from the outside have time to respond.
Beyond that, it explores the relationship between real soldiers and military contractors, and who gets the short end of the stick. Hint: It's not the contractors.
Jerry Lando: I think it's a book that's in the same vein as movies like Heat or even The Town, with an interesting back-story about how the main characters are connected to one another. I think it's a great story and hopefully we'll get to see how it unfolds.
Nrama: How did the idea for 39 Minutes come to you, William?
Harms: I was at lunch one day, and it occurred to me that the hardest part of robbing a bank is the getaway. There's cops all over the place, alarms blaring, the whole nine yards. So I thought, what happens if you kill all of the cops? Then there'd be no one standing in the way of your escape.
From that point, it was figuring out the characters, why they're doing what they do, and who's trying to stop them.
Nrama: I’m not a police officer, so you can be truthful – how much have you thought about robbing a bank?
Harms: My goal in life is to rob banks and then retire to a nice, warm beach in Mexico!
I did some research into banks, how they respond to robbers, how the police respond, things like that. But the bank robbing is really just the springboard to the story about how these men end up doing what they do. That's the interesting part of the story.
Nrama: The guys doing the robbing are apparently ex-military. Can you tell us about them and why’d they do this?
Harms: They got caught up in some bad events in Iraq and took the fall for it. These men have lost everything -- their self-respect, their families, their identities as soldiers, the whole nine yards. And robbing banks is a key part of them reclaiming at least a small portion of what they've lost.
Nrama: And it seems to stop them, the government is bringing in their XO from their military days, who’s serving hard time in the military prison of Leavenworth. Can you tell us about him, and why the government thinks he can bring his former subordinates down?
Harms: His name is John Clayton, and he's being punished for doing the right thing in Iraq. The government brings him in because he knows the robbers better than anyone else. There's more to it than that, though, in that some of the forces involved in the Iraqi incident have their own plans for Clayton.
Nrama: Jerry, I haven’t seen your name in comics before; can you tell us about your comics work up til now?
Lando: This is my first professional job-anywhere. I was thrown into the fire so to speak since I hadn't drawn a 22-page book before, and it was a learning experience for me as far as working out a schedule to turn in artwork in a timely fashion.
Nrama: So you’re jumping into comics and signed on to do a book where you get to dream up the characters from the ground up. Since it isn’t superheroes with brightly colored costumes, how’d you go about making each character unique looking?
Lando: Well, with Clayton you really only see him in his prison uniform for most of the story so that wasn't a stretch. With Bishop I tried to give him a different look so that he stands out a little more than the rest of his crew. Otherwise it would be a little more difficult for the reader to distinguish who is who when all of the bank robbers are wearing the same gear for most of the story. Bill Harms also recommended giving Bishop some facial scars which would also help the reader recognize him with his ski mask on.
Nrama: Entering this book into the annual Pilot Season contest seems like a big deal. What’s it like for you on the inside?
Harms: It's been awesome. I also write Impaler for Top Cow, and Matt, Filip, and Phil are great to work with. They're very open to ideas and their feedback is spot on and are always looking at ways to help you improve the story. This is my first Pilot Season book, and hopefully it won't be my last.
Nrama: Are you going to be doing anything to rally readers to vote for 39 Minutes?
Harms: I'll start by asking people nicely to vote for me, then resort to bribes, and finally fall back on threats of violence!
Is 39 Minutes capturing your attention this "Pilot Season"?