Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips have taken readers all over the map when it comes to crime and the people who commit them, but their next project takes their criminal enterprise to a whole new genre: horror.
Announced this past October at New York Comic-Con, Fatale is a 12-part series the long-time collaborators are doing at Image Comics. The book follows a newspaper reporter that lucks into the true story of a woman on the run since the 1930s, and the monstrous mobster who’s on her trail. Set to launch on January 4, the story skips through genres as easily as it does time periods, telling an epic story that span one woman’s life and one monster’s immortality. For Brubaker, it started as something else entirely.
“[Fatale] actually began as part of a pitch for something else a long time ago, before Criminal, even. I wanted to do something, uh... epic, I guess,” Brubaker tells Newsarama. “I had this idea to write a crime story that went all the way back to the early days of mankind, and had immortal main characters -- sort of like a Highlander thing, but not really. Anyway, that thing was too big and unwieldy and eventually I realized I just wanted to tell some crime stories for a while and so Sean and I created Criminal, instead.
“But a few of the ideas from the other thing kept percolating in the back of my mind over the six or seven years since then,” the writer continued. “Eventually, the pieces all fell together after the last Incognito arc, because I felt like it was time for Sean and me to create something new, and I wanted to try to do a bit of a supernatural twist on noir in some ways... and I had all this stuff just waiting to be written for all this time. “Of course, since I started writing it, it's grown into a whole new thing of its own, Fatale, and moved into directions I wasn't even expecting.”
For artist Sean Phillips, his career has taken him in diverse directions in the past from sci-fi in 2000AD to horror in Hellblazer and Marvel Zombies to his string of noir titles Sleeper, Criminal and Incognito with Brubaker. With his varied touchstones over the years, the meld of noir and horror seem a welcome home for the British artist.
“I knew those years drawing for Vertigo would pay off one day!” Phillips says, with a chuckle. “Actually, in Hellblazer I didn't get to draw hardly any monsters or demons. But it was where I learned to draw with lots of black! With Fatale, I'm just drawing it how I have most other stories I've done over the last few years. Subject matter might mean I draw some different things, but hopefully it's all in the Phillips style. Both horror and noir lend themselves to the way I draw, so I'll just carry on doing what I do.”
Speaking of subject matter, the primary subject of the series revealed so far is a femme fatale named Josephine, but as Brubaker tells us she’s not alone.
“Josephine is actually only one of about five main characters in this story, and I don't want to reveal too much yet,” the writer says. “Just what we've seen in the preview teaser thing, and that she has a strange gift that over time became a curse. Her desires to survive and escape her curse are one of several driving plot lines in the story, and her power over the other main characters causes a lot of problems for them, as we discover pretty quickly in the prologue part of issue 1.”
Part of the potency in of the book relies in Phillips’ unique interpretations of Brubaker’s story into comics, and it’s that artist’s unique approach that gives their work an exotic edge in comics.
“I'm not interested in drawing idealized, good looking supermodels. I want the characters to look believable, ordinary,” Phillips tells Newsarama. “Josephine has to have that certain something though, and drawing sexy women is always difficult for me. I've been looking at a few old movie stars to try and get some of their charisma to rub off on her. Ed writes such vivid characters that I can always see what they look like the first time I read the script.”
In the teaser released earlier this year, readers learned that the story inside Fatale stretched over several time periods for a larger epic. Readers of Brubaker’s work in Captain America have seen him jump around to different time periods to tell a larger story, and his plan for Fatale takes that one step further.
“As I said earlier, the desire to do an epic idea never went away, basically. And in mapping out Fatale, that was one of the main attractions, to create a horror/noir that stretched from the 1930s or so right up to today,” explains Brubaker. “Each time period — the 1950s, the 1970s, and modern times — have their own arc, if that makes any sense. Things from each arc and each time period link to each other and ricochet off each other, but it's not like little flashback scenes or something. Each time period tells a complete story. It's been a struggle to figure out how to wrap my arms around so much story, really, but it's also been a lot of fun. But that's the reason we needed at least 12 issues to do it.”
Plotting this out as a 12-issue issue maxiseries gives Fatale weight in both scope and scale. When it came time to plot out how it would work, Brubaker says it didn’t fall neatly into place at first.
“I tried to divide it into three arcs, like an Act One, Act Two, Act Three kind of thing, but that didn't really work, because each arc has its own structure, as well. And then there's all the jumping around in time that made it more difficult,” the writer says. “So it's pretty different from how I usually do things, but that's been part of the fun, pushing myself, banging my head against the wall until I figure it out, and then doing it all over again with each chapter. I love experimenting with structure, though, and I love novels that jump around in time or tell parts of their story in different ways, so I'm getting a chance to do a lot of that in Fatale.”
And although Phillips is the co-creator and the first person to read Brubaker’s script, he’s as in dark about what’s coming up in Fatale as the readers — but that’s the way he likes it.
“I've got no idea how the story develops so I'm just trying to make each page as good as I can as I draw it,” the artists points out. “Ed never tells me anything about our stories, I find out as I read the scripts. I trust him to deliver something great, and I prefer to experience it as close to a reader as I can. I'm always excited to see what happens next.”
Fatale certainly isn’t the first creator-owned work for Brubaker and Phillips, but it’s where the book's being published that adds a new wrinkle. The duo’s previous creator-owned collaborations were under Marvel's Icon imprint — Brubaker writes Captain America and Winter Soldier at Marvel, plus as one of the publisher's "Architects" he's co-writing the 2012 Avengers vs. X-Men event — but part of the buzz surrounding Fatale’s announcement earlier this year was that it was set up not at Marvel, but at Image.
“It is the first time [I’ve done a book at Image], and it's basically down to Robert Kirkman and Eric Stephenson just bugging me for years to come do something there, and me always promising I would,” Brubaker explains. “I've wanted to see how they do things over there for a while, and they've been incredibly supportive of Fatale so far. We've still got a lot of stuff coming out through Icon at Marvel, too, who've also been great. But that's one of the best parts about 'creator-owned' comics, as we call them, you can publish them anywhere you want once you establish yourself.”Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!