The Man With No Name's New Team: Lieberman & Wolpert
Gage on The Man With No Name
As was announced/revealed when we spoke with writer Christos Gage recently, his tenure on Dynamite’s The Man With No Name will wrap with the end of his six-issue arc, “Sinners and Saints.” So what, and perhaps as importantly, who is coming on with issue #7?Luke Lieberman and Matt Wolpert. Lieberman is a relatively familiar name to fans of Dynamite’s comics – he oversees the Red Sonja property, and has had a hand here and there in the red-haired warrior’s adventures, co-writing Red Sonja vs. Thulsa Doom and writing Street Majik, Red Sonja: Doom of the Gods and Red Sonja #33. He’s also a producer on the upcoming Red Sonja and Thulsa Doom films. As for his co-writer on the coming Man With No Name arc, Matt Wolpert is currently a staff writer on HBO’s Entourage, and has been in the writing departments of other shows, including My Name is Earl. We spoke with the duo to learn more about their upcoming arc (running from #7-#11) and time with The Man. Newsarama: Luke, we've spoken with you before, but Matt - can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you ended up here? Matt Wolpert: Well, Luke and I met at NYU film school and we have been working with each other on various projects ever since. Luke Lieberman: Poor kid was my roommate. MW: I work mostly in the television world, most recently as a staff writer on Entourage, which has been a blast. But I’ve been such a fan of comics since I was young and jumped at the chance to write one - especially something as compelling as “The Man With No Name.” In film school we just drooled over these Leone movies. They’re so good it’s stupid. So I’m really excited for this opportunity. NRAMA: Nick has said before that once word got out that he had the right to The Man With No Name, he become one of the most popular people in the industry with writers, that is, everyone wanted to get a shot at writing the character. For both of you, what drew you to this project? What's the attraction to both the character and the archetype? LL: Like Matt said, we've seen these films a million times. The Morricone soundtrack is the ringtone on my phone. You are talking about iconic movie making - Leone had a profound influence on the next generation of storytellers. The standoff at the end of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is one of the best endings in the history of film! End of discussion. There was definitely some lobbying involved. I think I just kept buying Nicky shots and pitching ideas at him until he relented and gave us the project. NRAMA: We've spoken with Christos Gage on how he worked within the "universe" that was set up in the films, and he told us it wasn't the easiest thing in the world...so how are you two approaching it? What chronology and timeline have you set for your story? MW: I definitely understand where Christos was coming from, it’s a constraint when you have a pre-established world you have to stay within the bounds of, but I tend to get my best material when I have limits. It forces you to be more creative. Our story picks up where Christos left off, a short while after the end of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, but we wanted to see what Tuco had been doing with all that money. LL: The only issue we had was that the three movies are not totally consistent, so we decided The Good, The Bad and The Ugly would be our bible in terms of continuity. We wanted to focus on the history of the relationships between the characters of that film. How did Tuco and Blondie first meet? What kind of evil was Angel Eyes up to back then? I remember the first time I saw that scene where Angel Eyes slaps around the whore - it was so raw and vicious. Leone never pulled his punches - neither will we. NRAMA: I think the mentions of Tuco give it away, but Are you going to be dipping back into the known characters, or breaking out on your own? LL: We are using the characters of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, but we’ve created a cool new villain. The villain took us a little while to concoct, because adding a fourth character and placing him on an even level with the others in this world is no small feat. He had to be a real bastard to stand out in this crowd. NRAMA: The movies have are very stylized and iconic in their own right, and much of that translation to comics comes down to the artist...but in regards to the story, how do you approach both The Man himself and the "world" to stay true to Leone's vision? MW: I think the visuals and the storytelling go hand in hand. The movies have such a stark and gritty look, and the story and dialogue are the same way. So translating that to the book was challenging, but a lot of fun. Leone would never use three shots to convey something that could be done with one, and we tried to adopt that approach in our storytelling style. LL: And the world these guys exist in is so harsh and amoral. The characters are an extension of that world – even the “good guy” is a pretty bad dude. But he still has a code that he operates by, unlike some of the others. MW: Tuco has a code too. It’s just “I’ld sell my grandmother for a shot of whiskey.” NRAMA: That said, what's on the definite "not" list of things in regards to the character? Obviously, you want to keep him in character, so what can and can't he do from your perspective? MW: The most important thing to me was that his dialogue be true to his character. In the movies, he barely talks at all. Sometimes in comics dialogue can be used as a crutch to explain things, and we wanted to avoid that. With this character, less is more. LL: And these characters are not super heroes – they’re just bad ass mofos. They can't leap over mountains or pick up buildings. It is not high concept like the X-Men, its all about characterization. It’s all about Tuco's scheming and Angel Eyes brutality. Blondie is not supernatural – he’s just quick as the strike of a rattlesnake. NRAMA: Let's dig into your story a little - what gets the ball rolling? MW: We start up with Tuco living large on the gold he got at the end of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. An enemy from his past shows up, steals his gold and nearly kills him. And Blondie is next on the guy’s list – for some reason he’s holding a grudge against these two. So while they team up to track him down, we also flashback to see how they first met and why this enemy is so intent on destroying them. We thought that the California Gold Rush of the 1850s was a great setting for this story. Tons of treasure, men of low morals – it’s gonna be a good time. NRAMA: In regards to the larger structure, how do you see your story? Is it paced like a film, or ...what? LL: This is kind of a film script set to pages, you could probably hand our script to a director and send him out to shoot it without changing much. MW: Writing for movies and television is what I normally do, so I think that definitely carried over to these books. But it’s also kind of impossible to tell a story in this world without it being cinematic. NRAMA: Officially, how many issues are you on for? LL: I could play in this sandbox forever. I can’t imagine ever running out of ideas for this. The first arc is 5 issues and once we wrap up the scripting we'll pitch another arc. Really I want to keep writing it as long as I feel we are servicing the material - with something like this you bring your A game or you go home - simple as that. So, that said - “Even though there’s another writer doing an arc after us, We will be back!” Who’s that writer coming on next? Check back with Newsarama tomorrow.