Deadpool is giving Wolverine a run for his money in the Marvel appearances per month race. Already a regular member of Thunderbolts and with an ongoing series in Deadpool, January 2014 sees another mini-series by Cullen Bunn begin, as well as the start of the thirteen chapter Deadpool: Gauntlet, a digital-first Marvel Infinite comic, announced at New York Comic Con.
Hailing from half the writing team of the ongoing series, Gerry Duggan promises this story will fit in well with what they’re doing on the print side. It stems from one of the “six or seven big ideas” he and writing partner Brian Posehn originally pitched to Marvel, and has both lead-ins in print and lead-outs from digital to tie it directly to their ongoing story.
Joining Duggan is Reilly Brown, an artist credited as being one of the first to even try the panel-by-panel and unique scene-adding style adopted by Marvel for their Infinite comics with his creator-owned Power Play. Brown has since worked with Marvel on one of their earliest Infinite projects, and returns to the format here. Not to mention, the artist also has a sizable backlog of Deadpool work, primarily on Cable & Deadpool.
The pair sat with Newsarama on a lengthy phone call to talk about the unique format of Infinite comics, where digital fits in with print (both specific to this story and in general), and even gave some hints about some guest stars (look for some sword-wielding action, for example) in this zany-but-dark story of Deadpool working for the most famous vampire of all, Dracula.
Newsarama: Gerry, let me start with you and ask why this story needed to be told outside of the regular Deadpool ongoing series you already co-write?
Gerry Duggan: You know, for me it’s a chance to play in a new sandbox. When [co-writer] Brian [Posehn] and I first presented our ideas for various arcs, we turned I think about six or seven different big ideas in to Marvel. They didn’t strike down any of them, they just said go with the Dead Presidents first. So we went on a roll from that one. This was one of those ideas, “The Gauntlet.” It’s very loosely inspired by the Clint Eastwood story of the same name, where he has to run a gauntlet with a very special package.
Obviously, the idea changed by the time we got to use it in the infinite comics. It’s fun! Now that we can talk about it, it’s something that I’ve been working on for months and months now. Really our 18 issues of Deadpool is actually 31, in terms of how much we’ve been working on it. Obviously you won’t get all that in the same calendar year, but it was a lot to juggle.
The fun thing is, if you’re reading Deadpool now, and I hope you are, you will find it’s an experience that very much ties in with the book. It doesn’t feel like a throwaway. Events will lead into one and lead back into the other, so it’s fun.
Nrama: You know, Reilly, you’ve been working on Infinite comics since before there was anything called Infinite Comics. What is it like for you working in that format for Marvel, and how much are you two working together on the unique layout and structure of this story?
Reilly Brown: For me, this is kind of a perfect project. I got my start at Marvel working on Deadpool, and I had been doing digital comics with my comic Power Play, so bringing those two things together is really awesome. If anybody else had got this job, I would’ve been really mad at [editor] Jordan [White]! (laughs)
I go to conventions and such and Deadpool is still one of the things I’m most known for drawing. So it’s great to be back on that character. It is interesting doing an infinite comic with Marvel as opposed to just doing it on my own. They’re much more organized about it than when I’m just doing it by myself, or with Kurt on Power Play. It forces me to be more organized, because I have to communicate things to the editor, and Gerry, and the colorist, so I see that as a benefit.
Nrama: Gerry, having Reilly’s experience in this format, then, do you find yourself drawing from that a lot?
Duggan: I do really detailed scripts in general. So I’ve loosened up.
Brown: Do you?
Duggan: Oh yeah, you haven’t seen them, Reilly. The thing that having Reilly as a partner has let me do is loosen that up. I basically like to turn in an outline to Jordan, that’s approved, and then after his notes pass, it goes off to Reilly. A lot of it, I’ll call for an action scene, and trust in Reilly, trust in the Marvel style. It’s been a fun change of muscle groups for me to flex, which is good.
Brown: Yeah, Gerry’s been giving me a whole lot of freedom to interpret scenes my own way, and I think that’s awesome, I love doing that. I’m kind of surprised to hear you say your scripts are usually super tight! I hope that you aren’t kicking yourself going “oh, I should’ve told him to do that.” (laughs)
Duggan: No, it’s not that I couldn’t be that way with other collaborators. Some of the script pages for the recent issues of “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly” are thirty-some odd pages.
Brown: Oh, wow.
Duggan: (laughs) Even me at the end of it I go “ugh.” But it’s important information!
And this, it’s that the collaboration is different. Reilly knows what will work and how to transition some of these scenes. We have an action sequence on a train that’s a really good use of the medium, so when we have a fade down and a fade up it does feel like the train is moving through a tunnel. There are things like that I can visualize, but there are things that Reilly does and I just look at it and say how it works well.
There’s a scene in the first episode with them rolling by the queen’s guard. It works great and it’s a fun gag that I think could be done in a comic, but they shine a little more on a tablet.
Brown: Yeah, any scene like that with the same background and just the foreground changing seems to flow better in an Infinite comic.
Duggan: I think I’m getting better at it! You’ve been good at it the whole time, but I’m getting my chops as we roll along.
Brown: Yeah, definitely! I feel like I’m getting better, too, the amount I have to do, and the speed I have to work at now. I got a little over-ambitious with that first one and ate up a lot of lead time. But I’m figuring it out, and I am pretty happy with how it’s turned out.
Nrama: I find it interesting that you say “first episode,” is this something you treat a little more like an episodic TV series than you would a standard comic?
Brown: For me it just feels a little weird – it’s a different object, it seems weird to call it an issue, cause you’re reading it on a screen, so it feels right to call it an episode.
Duggan: I’ve had a similar struggle with what it actually is. I have recently decided that I’m not smart enough to figure it out or what to call it. So I just refer to them as episodes or chapters now. It is something new.
This is off topic, but I think it’s worth mentioning. When I was a kid, the way I was first exposed to comic books was through supermarkets or the checkout line at a five and dime. Comic books are all gone from these places now, for various not great reasons. The only real gateway now, I think, to comics – it’s unlikely that someone is just going to go skipping into a comic shop to check out comics. Everyone has a tablet device or a phone to check out comics on. It’s just the place you’ll get your first fix.
Brown: Yeah, when I was a kid, we’d be hanging out at malls and getting the books at stores and stuff like that. Nowadays, kids hang out on facebook – so if you can have a comic where someone can read it and like it there, the best way to spread the word is when they can just share a link on facebook. It’s all about availability and getting it out to the audience.
Nrama: Well maybe Deadpool can introduce a new term for what each one of these is called. (all laugh) Let’s talk about the story itself here. It’s Deadpool and Dracula in sort of a teamup. I guess Deadpool would take a job from anyone as long as the money’s green, right?
Brown: Exactly, as long as the checks clear! Well, I think he’d take the money, whether he does the job or not is up to him (laughs)
Duggan: Yeah, he would for sure, within reason. Out of the events of “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” he’s… how do I say this without spoiling anything. If he’s going to be viewed as a monster, he might as well behave as a monster. I think he’s been put in a position of – I think there’s been obvious cases of abuse against him, and some self abuse. This is a reaction of him as a wounded guy wandering. It’s sort of a misunderstanding adventure in that first chapter, but in the end you’ll understand how he got there. It’s fun. There is this other element of Deadpool has felt a little burned by the mainstream human experience, so why not go into the shadows.
It’s still fun! I don’t mean for it to sound as dark as it is, but that’s the truth.
Brown: That’s one of the things I really like about your take on Deadpool. You’re willing to get into the darkness. That’s what makes the best Deadpool storyarcs really strong, you get the comedy part in there, but then you’re also like “this guy is really f*cked up!” He’s gone through some shit. He doesn’t quite get everything that a regular moral person should get, and that’s something he’s always dealing with.
It’s easy to go full looney tunes with him, but then you’re missing out on a really big chunk of the character that’s one of the reasons he’s been such a lasting character for so many years.
Nrama: When you’re trying to connect this into the ongoing, what are the challenges to then also make it accessible to those new readers who are hopefully just picking this up because they see it on the app?
Duggan: Well, we definitely are hoping to, in the same way that our first issue of Marvel NOW! Deadpool was a good place for new readers to hop on, that’s the same opportunity that we’re getting now a year later with The Gauntlet. So what we’re trying to do is present Deadpool on as clean a slate as possible right at the top. Reilly has illustrated a couple sequences that very clearly and in a fun way will show someone what Deadpool is all about before you get to the end of that first chapter.
You don’t need to know anything about Deadpool when you pick this up, but if you do know about Deadpool you won’t feel like you’re watching the dumbed-down version. We do want anyone that hasn’t read the character to carry on with it. As the thirteen chapters progress there is more of his life being revealed that if you’re a new reader you might go “oh who’s this person? What’s this reference?” And you may want to go back, but those references and other characters from his life, they won’t detract from you enjoying it if you haven’t read a Deadpool comic. For structure, we want this to be an on-ramp for you to be a fan of the character. Once you’re there, you can go back and take a look at any of the years of Deadpool stories that are waiting for you – from Reilly and Myself and any of the other talented creators!
At the end of this story, without giving too much away, it’s an important story for Deadpool. It’s an important story for his progression.
Brown: Yeah, it’s definitely going to add a lot to the character’s overall mythology, I think. As far as helping get this into the hands of new readers, I’m hoping that there are some good “Gif”able moments, that will help people pass it around on facebook and tumblr and link back to the source material.
I think moments like the one Gerry mentioned earlier with Deadpool rolling past the guard, when you see that it’ll make more sense what we’re talking about. Totally an animated gif, though, man, put that up on your tumblr!
Duggan: Yeah, it’s tough, I don’t know what preview art you’ll see before this. We did something at the top that has never been done before in a comic, and I’m not sure it would work as well on a printed page as at it does in this chapter, this format. We tried to do stuff that didn’t just work well for Deadpool, but worked well for the medium it’s being presented in, and I think we landed on something pretty interesting.
I’m excited to see the reaction to that first chapter both from fans of Deadpool, but more importantly people that haven’t read Deadpool or checked out an Infinite comic. It is possible that this is the future of comics. I think you’ll always have print collections, you’ll certainly have single issues for many years to come, but pretty soon someday, everyone will have a tablet of some kind. It’s inevitable that with that, with what’s being done over at Thrillbent, it’s a great way to bring the world of comic books to people without having to live near a shop.
And by the way, I know this is off topic again, but I think all of this is actually good for the brick-and-mortar stores. The more people that are exposed, those people will become potential customers. I’m unafraid of Infinite comics and digital comics and same day delivery online. I know Reilly has said it before, the best way to beat piracy is to make it available in a way that someone wants to consume it.
Brown: Yeah, if you look at comiXology, their numbers every year have been exploding. You talk about Thrillbent and stuff like that, I think people are getting more comfortable with making comics that are made to be digital. People are making comics that actually do things you can only do on a computer or tablet screen.
Nrama: I guess going back to the story a bit, there are a lot of other famous vampires and people associated with them than just Dracula in the Marvel Universe. Can you talk at all about other guest stars or people we might see pop up in the story?
Duggan: Yes, you will see Kristen Stewart. (interviewer and Brown both laughed) She’s Deadpool’s first kill.
You know what? There are… what’s the right way to say this? There are a lot of fun returning friends, a lot of familiar faces in the monster chapter of the Marvel Universe. There’s the Monster Metropolis that Remender and Moore first visited, we’ll be returning there. Some of the famous monsters that you’re thinking of are going to be there.
Then some not famous monsters but some familiar faces that you might want to see Deadpool interact with are coming into it too. Reilly, do you have any vague hints that you want to drive people nuts with?
Brown: I’m never good with vague hints…
Duggan: Then don’t give anything away!
Brown: (laughs) I know. A lot of guest stars, a lot of characters I’m really excited to be drawing – some of which I’m drawing again.
Nrama: I’m thinking about a vampiric speedster, maybe another dude that has an affinity for swords…
Duggan: You know, there are people who don’t enjoy vampires, in the Marvel Universe. We now may associate them with not enjoying paying taxes…
Nrama: Who might be named after sharp objects maybe?
Duggan: Yeah, maybe! You know, it will be fun to have these characters pop in and out, and they pop in and out for good reason. The story doesn’t go the way that Dracula expects it to, and it certainly doesn’t go the way that Deadpool expects it to go. But I think those are fun stories, when you’re not exactly sure who’s driving. It’s like Indiana Jones trying to fight for the wheel as they’re driving the Ark out of the desert. At different times different characters will be moving the story along, and Deadpool will always be at the center of it. I think that makes for a fun Deadpool story, that grabbing for the wheel.
If I were to get a “final moment” if this were a Presidential debate (laughs), I would say that if you’re already in on the Deadpool story that Brian and I are making on the print side, you’re almost guaranteed to like this. You’ll be in. If you’re not a Deadpool fan, this is a great opportunity to become one. That first chapter is a lot of fun, and you won’t get to that last screen and think that this isn’t for you.
It’s an exciting time to be making comics. Marvel didn’t have to be doing this, but they have an interest in finding readers that don’t know that they’re comic fans yet. That’s what this is about, it’s about finding new readers and getting them excited about the comic.
So I’m working just as hard on this as I am any of the Marvel scripts that have my name on them, and I’m very lucky to be working with Reilly. I was super thrilled when Jordan told me he was the guy. There’s a lot of things I can count on him to surprise me with. And the things I called for specifically, like a couple new characters, turned out better than I ever hoped they would. And these are characters you might see carry over into the print – you will see carry over into the Marvel Universe.
Brown: Yeah, at least one of those new characters I hope will bring up some cool cosplay action.