Sometimes all it takes is an introduction.
Springing out of a introduction between mutual friend Mark Millar, Jonathan Ross and Tommy Lee Edwards became quick friends and collaborators with their first project Turf coming out over the past 12 months. The five-issue Image series pitted flappers, mobsters, vampires and aliens against each other and at each other’s throats in a Prohibition era street story. The ambitious story displayed was a unique blend of creativity from Edwards’ assured linework to Ross’ penchant for dialogue (funny enough, he does that for a living!)
With Turf’s final issue hitting shelves early this summer, an oversized hardcover compendium of the work is set for release on July 20th. The oversized tome contains concept art, behind-the-scenes photos and pin-ups from comics greats such as Jim Steranko, William Stout, Michael Kaluta, Dave Gibbons and Duncan Fegredo. With Turf out of their hands, the pair are already dreaming up a new project titled Golden Age and larger plans with Edwards’ studio the BLVD.Newsarama: With Turf #5 on the shelves and a collection coming July 20th, what’s it like to have it all done?
Tommy Lee Edwards: Right now I feel relief. It was hard to imagine being done with Turf while I was working so hard on it. It seemed like a never-ending battle for me. It's the most complex series I've ever done, in terms of setting and characters and length. The storytelling, layouts, locations and interweaving character arcs. Just so much to get a handle on and make clear and engaging for the readers. The research involved. The long hours and sleepless nights. It was just very tough. Jonathan and I were very ambitious with Turf, and I definitely got in over my head with wanting this be the best work I've ever done. I really underestimated the amount of my life a truly creator-driven book like Turf would overtake. But I don't regret it at all, and am so glad that Jonathan and I have come together as friends and creators. Being done with Turf also makes me very happy for Jonathan. He's a life-long comics fan, and has worked very hard to become the excellent writer he's become. He's got a lot to be proud of.
Jonathan Ross: I like the look of the whole thing of course. Tommy has rally taken the script and given it so much more. I've always loved his style, and he clearly has an affinity for this period and these sorts of settings. But really each issue has topped the sat in terms of the quality the story telling and the art.
On a personal note, the elements I have enjoyed writing - and seeing brought to life - the most, are the character beats. In Turf #4 it was Susie phoning home. In Turf #5 it's the stuff AFTER the battle I most liked writing and now most enjoy seeing on the page. No spoilers!!Nrama: I think I can say without spoiling anything that Turf #5 ended up being one long fight scene essentially. What’s it like doing that not just for 22 pages but in this extra-sized page count?
Edwards:Issue four had all the elements coming together, and now number five is the huge pay-off. I was enjoying drawing characters together for the first time: Eddie, Squeed, Vaseli, Stefan, and Vivian. There's some fantastic stuff with Susie and Pete O'Leary. And the Old One! Now all those readers will know why that tree was shaped like a hand haha.
I just watched Takeshi Miike's 13 Assassins. The last 45 minutes is an epic battle scene. Everybody gets what they deserve. The audience and the characters. This is because the the characters and story-lines are so well developed. It reminded me a lot of Turf. So much care is put into setting everything up. All the separate pieces converge and the epic finale hopefully proves to be gratifying and entertaining.
There are 26 story pages in each previous issue of Turf. In order to give every aspect of Turf it's just desserts, we decided to lengthen the last chapter to 35 pages of story. We didn't want to cheat anything, especially the readers. I kind of hate stories where everything is conveniently resolved and quickly wrapped-up. So we went the other direction and decided to give the audience nearly twice as much content as the typical comic for only $2.99.Nrama: This comic is bursting at the seams with ideas and characters. Most of the main characters would be great in their own series – do you have a favorite? And is there some more than others you’d like to explore in a spin-off series?
Ross: Not really. I really liked writing them all. I like the way Tommy made Pete look. Eddie is fun, and Squeed of course. I don't really want to think about spin-offs. The ending is set up as if it's leading to a sequel but that was more of a joke really. I just think it's funny when films that probably aren't going to get a sequel end on a note of heart-breaking optimism. The sequel I have pitched to Tommy, if we ever want to do it, takes place 13 years later. But we have no plans at all to do it at the moment.
Edwards: If there is a main character, I think it would be Susie. Eddie is definitely my favorite hero in Turf. O'Leary is maybe my favorite to draw, just ahead of Stefan. I just really love all these characters and the arcs they make. O'Leary is a police officer, and is definitely the most evil person in our story. Gregori is a vampire, but wants peace with the humans. Eddie is a low-life bootlegger and pimp, but eventually becomes a hero we can all root for. Although some of them don't quite make it through issue 5, there are several characters we could follow into a spin-off series, and we will probably see a bit of that down the road. Jonathan and I also have crafted a wonderful idea for the Turf sequel, which would take place years later.
Nrama: You’ve thrown out a variety of crazy things in here Jonathan, but which would you rather be – an alien like Squeed, a vampire like the Dragonmir brothers, or someone like Eddie Falco?
Ross: Human for the win.
Edwards: Boy I dunno. Maybe a vampire, so that I could have that whole immortality thing.
Ross: I don't want to be a vampire and live forever, I'd get bored. Also, what if you get stuck with the Twilight kids for a century Ick. And I really don't want to be an alien because I like having a penis. So human all the way.
Nrama: For every issue, and especially this last issue, you’ve been able to get some great variant covers. What’s it like to be able to enlist these guys to help out on your project, and just how did you do it?Edwards: Jonathan and I both reached out to artists we respected, most of which are close friends. It's just an honor, and there's a fun personal side to every variant Turf cover. We've been huge fans of guys like Steranko and Kaluta for many years. I fell in love with Gibbons' work when I was in junior high, and I was lucky enough to color his Turf cover. I have some of Josh Ellingson's art on my wall. Same with my pal Duncan Fegredo. JP Leon and Bernard Chang are studio-mates of mine. David Lafuente is developing a project with Jonathan right now, thanks to me getting him to do a Turf cover. It's gonna be cool having all these contributions printed together in the Turf hardcover this July. It's all just so great.
Ross: My heroes are the artists from the sixties and seventies. So to have Steranko and kaluta in particular was just beyond my wildest dreams. I'm going to try and persuade Ditko to do a Golden Age cover! Wish me luck....
Nrama: You’ll need it!
How has doing Turf and writing these scripts changed how you look at comics? What do you think you’ve learned – as a reader and as a comics scripter?
Ross: Yes without a doubt I've learned. I really don't think there are any hard and fast rules. Some people found Turf #1 too wordy, and it was verbose, but I like the way that LOOKS as well as reads. I can't think of another team better then Tommy and John Workman to pull that off either. But I think we squeezed a hell of a lot more story and action into our five books then in most mainstream titles. You learn by DOING, so I hope that the next few books - and I have three planned right now - all read smoother...Nrama: We’ve read that you’ve been in talks with Matthew Vaughn about doing either a Turf movie or one about your next project, Golden Age. What can you tell us about those conversations and what the plan is currently?
Ross: Golden Age is more or less sold. Matthew is just fine tuning the deal for us.
Edwards: Now that the X-Men First Class film is complete, things have calmed down and we can focus a bit more on moving forward. We've got a few things in development on TURF right now, in various different media.
Ross: Turf is out there and we have taken a lot of calls but it’s a BIG project so it doesn't look likely to happen soon. Which is fine. I wanted to make a comic, not write screenplays!
Nrama: Wossy, you’re doing this at a time when you’re taking a break from your TV work and preparing for a new interview show on ITV later this year. Any chance we’ll see some comic guests on the show?
Ross: Probably not. The new show is going to be on a Saturday night, at 9. With the exception of Stan Lee there are very few names that a non-comic audience have heard of. However with so many movies about superheroes I guess we'll maybe have a few stars or directors on, but few actual creators.
However, one of my other new business ventures for next year, if it happens, would have a LOT to do with comics - and other cool stuff. I'll keep you posted. This year I'm at SDCC with Tommy talking Turf and maybe Golden Age. Next year I hope to announce this new thing - a global venture that I think you'll like a lot!
Nrama: With all these projects from Golden Age to a potential Turf sequel and a bunch of unannounced-but-teased things, which of those is the next big thing on your plate?Ross: There's another superhero series with a twist that I am writing now. Book one is being illustrated as we chat. I have it structured as a six-parter but it keeps changing. All new characters, all new setting, one big high concept at the heart of it. Very excited about it. Then there’s a science fiction series on the cards, hopefully with David La Fuente when he finishes at Marvel this summer. And Golden Age with Tommy, that is in pretty god shape. I have the story arcs plotted and a lot of the characters mapped out and know more or less what the first ten books will look like. It deals with ageing and wanting to be useful and valued in a society that tense to throw people away once they hit 65. Apart from having older characters at the heart of it, it's got next to nothing in common with Welcome to Tranquility or Kingdom Come. Very different animal indeed.
Nrama: What about you, Tommy?
Edwards: Beyond a bit of film and advertising work, I've got some new Star Wars paintings to do for Random House. And then Golden Age...! It's going to be an ongoing series. Much of the writing and designs are done. To help keep a regular schedule (unlike Turf), we've got back-up stories planned with the help of our favorite artists. There may be a fill-in one shot here or there done by the likes of our Turf cover artists. And I'm going to have a few issues in the can before the series is launched. Jonathan and I learned a lot on Turf that I'm looking forward to implementing on our new projects. The best is yet to come.