Fans of Fables and its spin-off Jack of Fables will attest to the talent Matt Sturges has at mixing comedy and fantasy.
Now the long-time Vertigo writer is teaming with one of his Clockwork Storybook co-horts, novelist Dave Justus, to create Public Relations, an new comic that combines episodic comedy with magical fantasy.Starting in spring 2013, Public Relations is one of several new titles being touted by Ken Levin's revived publishing company First Comics. Described as "feudal" and "funny," Public Relations follows the adventures of an executive who's tasked with repairing the damaged reputation of his father, the king of a country where magic actually works.
Public Relations is one of two projects Sturges is helping create for First Comics. He's also writing an original graphic novel called The Four Norsemen of the Apocalypse, also due out in the spring with art by John Lucas.
Sturges, who recently ended his runs on Jack of Fables and House of Mystery for Vertigo, is also currently working on a graphic novel for Marvel: Thor: Season One with artist Pepe Larraz. And fans of his work as a novelist will be happy to know he's putting the finishing touches on a new novel while beginning another book.
It's a lot of work for the writer, but he promises he's putting extra time and energy into Public Relations because it's been a project he's been wanting to release for years. And he credits First Comics for allowing him and his co-writer the freedom to do the comic the way they want.
Newarama talked to the writer to find out more.
Newsarama: Matt, it sounds like Public Relations is bringing something really unique to the comic book marketplace, by combining this idea of a sitcom with the fantasy genre.
Matt Sturges: Yeah, the way we're describing Public Relations is, imagine if the TV show Arrested Development sidled up to The Princess Bride at a party and spiked her drink. It's a snarky comedy that can be dark, but also can be very light. And it's a love story for the haters.
I'm so glad people are going to finally be able to see the comic because my friend and co-writer Dave Justus have been wanting to get this idea going for years. We've been talking about doing this almost as long as we've known each other. A lot of time and energy has gone into this book.Nrama: People who are familiar with your work on Jack of Fables won't be surprised to hear this has some "snark."
Sturges: Yeah, there's plenty of snark and humor. One of my favorite things about this book is that my co-writer Dave Justus and I have a very similar sensibility in that we're both very snarky people. We have a lot of cynical attitudes.
But we also have a soft spot for romance and sweetness and light-heartedness. So there's some of that in there too. It's all kind of mixed in together.
Our protagonist, whose name is Dan Clover, is a romantic at heart and is an optimist, and he sees the best in everyone. And he's punished for it again and again.
Nrama: OK, let's talk about the protagonist. What's the story set-up for Public Relations?
Sturges: Dan Clover is a public relations executive who's about 25 years old and works in Dallas. And he receives an invitation to his father's 50th birthday party. His father, as it turns out, is the king of a European country called Sardonia, which has the distinction of being the only place on earth where magic works.
Sardonia is kind of a bankrupt, almost like former Soviet bloc country that tried to modernize in the '80s and failed. So it's this mixture of high medievalism and low urbanism.
But what happens is, when Dan gets to the party, his father goes berserk at the party and alienates every single guest at the party, because of a typo in the invitation.
Because his father has damaged, severely, relations with every neighboring country, he hires Dan to mend his reputation using his public relations skills.
So Dan forms a company called 4Leaf Public Relations. And the story is the adventures of Dan and his co-workers trying to solve his dad's problems, while Dan's trying to have a relationship with his father, and trying to have a relationship with his cute, young co-worker, Threnody Dark.Nrama: It sounds like Dan has a lot of challenges.
Sturges: More than you even know. For example, one of the reasons Dan takes the job his father offers him is because, right after he gets to Sardonia, he finds out he's been fired from his existing job along with everyone he's worked with, and they're all kind of mad at him for it, because it's his fault, or so we think.
He also has a half brother named Kade who is a minute older than he is, and thus is the one who's in line for the throne, and who despises him because he thinks that Dan is out to get him and uslurp his claim to the throne. And that's "uslurp" with an "L," which is what Kade says.
Kade is a very powerful wizard with a very serious problem, and a girlfriend who does not love him.
Nrama: Is Kade the main villain of the comic?
Sturges: Kade certainly believes that he is Dan's greatest antagonist, but Dan has other problems.
Every situation of their father's that he tries to fix turns into an even more difficult situation.
The main gist of the book is them trying to solve these problems, both at home and abroad.Nrama: You said you've been planning this for a long time. What was it about now that finally got you moving on it?
Sturges: The stars finally aligned for the project. It was finding a publisher who would give us the creative freedom to do the book the way we really wanted to do it. And that's what First Comics was able to do for us. They trusted us to do the book that we wanted and didn't ask that we fit it into a pigeonhole , and didn't ask that it have a very easy soundbite or high concept. So we were able to make this odd, off-kilter, unique type of book.
And it was also a matter of timing. I had just finished Jack of Fables and House of Mystery, and so I had the bandwidth to do a new project, so I was able to commit some time.
I cannot overstate how much effort has gone into this book. I like to think that it shows in the quality of the story and the richness of the characters. It's a very, very special book and it looks tremendous. The art in the first issue by David Hahn looks amazing. So it's a great looking book, and I think people are really going to like it.
Nrama: You're also currently working on a comic for Marvel, right?
Sturges: I am. I'm writing Thor: Season One for Marvel right now, and it's being illustrated by the amazing Pepe Larraz, who's just killing it. And it's one of those situations where all I have to do is not write a terrible story and give him stuff to draw, and it's going to be great.
But the story is coming along really well.
And I like the overall concept of these graphic novels. As I understand it, their intent is to update the characters a little bit, but also be an entree for new readers. That's the main reason they're in these pretty hardcovers, so they can look good on bookshelves in bookstores as well as comic book stores. So anyone from age 8 to 80, as they say, can pick it up and get into it.
And I like the fact that it's all ages and it's a lot of fun. So I'm having a good time on it.
Nrama: You've also been enlisted to work on something for Dynamite, haven't you?
Sturges: Yeah, I'm doing a book in their Damsels universe. I can't say too much about it right now, but I can say that it has mermaids in it — in fact, one very specific mermaid you may have heard of. It also will have pirates, probably sharks, maybe a giant squid, almost certainly a kraken, and more sharks.
Nrama: What is it about you and fantasy books?Sturges: I think it's two things. It's something I've always been interested in, something I've always read and enjoyed. And then you kind of get known for that. I have this reputation as someone who does these quirky fantasy things, so when someone has a quirky fantasy thing they need written, they're more likely, maybe, to call me than someone else, I think. And when someone offers me a quirky, fantasy thing, I'm far more likely to take it than I am something else, because I know I'll enjoy it and be able to do a good job.
Nrama: Any change you've got any novels coming out soon?
Sturges: I am writing a novel write now. But it's interesting that we just talked about me writing fantasy, because I also just finished writing a Y.A. novel, which is a completely straight, realistic novel called Labor Day, which is about a teenage girl who starts a labor union at her local Wal-Mart. It's a completely different thing than I've ever written. There's no dragons or magic or immortal characters or fairy tale people. It's just a regular young girl. It's really weird. I thought maybe I should put in a gnome just to make it mine.
Nrama: The Wal-Mart Greeter Troll.
Sturges: Hey! There's an idea. No, I'm really happy with it. But it's still in the rewriting stages, and I haven't come close to submitting it yet. I'm super proud of it, and I hope it does come out someday.
The book I'm writing now is also a Y.A. novel, but it's more about teenagers doing magic, which is probably a little more what you might expect from me.
Nrama: When does Public Relations start?
Sturges: It's going to be spring 2013. It's looking now like April, so we're still a ways out, but I wanted to let people know about it now so they can look out for it. We previewed it at Austin Comic Con, and people were laughing their heads off, which was really rewarding. We are working really hard to make this book not only interesting, but genuinely funny.