Known for his strong sense of characterization and ability to build a mystery, writer Greg Rucka has struck back out on his own for an all-new creator-owned adventure, this time with Dark Horse Comics. The story, and titular main character, of Veil are staying a mystery until the series comes out by design, but we were able to get some hints and teases out of Rucka in a recent conversation.
Find out why he’s being so secretive about Veil to start, what artist Toni Fejzula brings to the series, and why it doesn’t fit in any one genre – except maybe “rat-genre?” Oh boy. We’ll let Greg Rucka tell you more, and check out our exclusive debut of the cover to Veil #3.
Newsarama: Greg, Veil seems, from the initial material, to be heavily steeped in the concept of Identity. What makes that interesting to explore for you, and what makes comics a particularly good medium to explore it in?
Greg Rucka: I think Veil's as much about identity as it is perception, and obviously a visual medium is going to be better suited to exploring that than, say, a strictly prose one. Comics don't work without the visuals, obviously. I'm up a creek on this if Toni's not here delivering the pencils. So that's the primary, I think, and with that comes the ability to control, at least somewhat, that element of perception. So, yes, there are questions of identity at work, absolutely, but what makes this particularly suited for comics is the viewing experience, how we perceive the story, the characters, and how they're portrayed.
Nrama: All we seem to know about the main character of Veil is that she's a woman and amnesiac. Why that starting point of a blank slate, and how much of the story will be about expressly filling that in?
Rucka: Veil, as a character, has a very strong identity, but at the beginning, she's been robbed of that. And that is precisely the point, really -- how she fills in the blanks, or, rather, how the blanks are filled-in for her, is at the heart of the story we're trying to tell. If someone arrives, fully functional yet a tabula rasa, how does their environment influence, educate, even mold them? And if that is a nurture question, then where does that character's nature fit in? How does that manifest.
A character wandering around asking, Who am I? isn't, in and of itself, a story I'm interested in telling. it's the companion element, what happens when that identity is restored, that is just as interesting, if not moreso, especially in light of the above, in light of the nurture that's influenced the character to that point.
Nrama: You've talked before about how Veil only somewhat fits into any genre, like horror. It seems like genres in story-telling, especially in comics, have blurred considerably in the last few years, whether it's outright mashups or just elements of one leaking into another (be it horror and superheroes or supernatural and detective, etc). What about the medium lends itself to that combination, and why is it appealing to you to write in a grey area of genre?
Rucka: Oh, man, I mean... look, talking about genres is ultimately talking about labeling, and trying to label any story as only one thing or another is a dangerous road. I'm a fan of genre in the abstract, but at best, perhaps all we can really say when we talk about genre is that we're talking about an umbrella that covers a kind of story with certain elements. Crime and Punishment is a mystery novel, you know? So is The Big Sleep. But you walk into the Academy arguing that they're of the same tree, and you'll have a dozen musty professors liable to challenge you to a knife fight. So I don't think that writing within a genre, or, to use my clumsy analogy, beneath a genre's particular umbrella, by definition requires adherence to that genre. You read something like Criminal, for instance, and yes, we can call it "crime" and we can call it "noir," but some of the things Ed has done, I could just as easily call it a satire, or even a pastiche.
I don't seek out genres to write in for the most part. I tend, more often, to have an idea for a story, and then, somewhere down the road, a genre gets attached to it. This is very much the case with Veil, honestly; there are elements of horror to the story, absolutely. But when Scott Allie and I first sat down and really began talking about making this book, even before Toni came aboard, the word "horror" never once came up in the conversation. So you can see why I'm a little leery about labels.
Nrama: So far we've only seen the one cover for Veil, and those red-eyed rats are simply haunting. Is that just a creepy image, or does that hint at something for the series?
Rucka: Oh, no. The rats are part of the story. There are two of them in particular, actually. One of them gets run over by a truck. He's kinda the hero rat. Then there's a villain rat.
Is there a rat-genre?
Nrama: Heh, we’ll work on classifying that. Tell us a bit about working with Toni Fejzula – I understand you hadn't really heard of Toni before you started work on this series – what does he bring to the table that has helped you tell this story?
Rucka: I didn't know of Toni's work at all, honestly. It was Scott Allie who put some of his pages in front of me, and I absolutely loved them. So much of what we're dealing with, I felt, needed a light touch, and there was a sensitivity and style in what I saw of Toni's pencils and colors that I felt would fit very well. There's a... I don't know, the best word I have for it is "European," and I think that's a very weak descriptor... particular storytelling sense that Toni's got that really appealed to me. Added to that, I liked the way he was drawing women, that he wasn't hyper-sexualizing the women on the page, and for a book where the main character spends the first half of the first issue without clothes, that mattered to me. it goes back to that earlier question of identity and perception. Toni is very, very good at constraining that perception, where, with other artists, Veil's nudity might be depicted for titillation or worse, he brings a sense of objectivity that isn't, I think, reductive or demeaning. Again, it's a perception thing, the ability to balance the objective storytelling visuals with, say, more subjective, character POV, and it's something I think Toni does masterfully.
Nrama: The word "Veil" brings with it some heavy implications. There's the Veil over the main character in the form of amnesia – but do you also intend for there to be a veil over the readers’ eyes as the story unfolds? Are there any other meanings to the title you'd like to divulge?
Rucka: Well... c'mon, that would be telling, wouldn't it?
Nrama: Fair enough – had to give it a shot at least. As you've delved deeper into creator-owned work and original characters, what has changed about your view of that type of story? Would you say you're pretty firmly in the "creator-owned or nothing" camp now, or ever see a return to corporate owned characters for yourself?
Rucka: Oh, no. I'm old enough now to know better than to say "never," you know? Doing creator-owned work is incredibly fulfilling for me, absolutely, and that's in large part due to the fact that I've spent a long time working "in harness," so to speak. It's easy to turn around and say, oooh, Big Two Evil! Work for Hire bad!! But the fact is, in addition to allowing me to pay the bills, I've gotten to write stories about characters that are known around the world. I've made Batman punch bad guys, and I've gotten to write Wolverine saying, "Bub." if the right offer comes at the right time with the right character, if it's something where I feel I can tell a good story, I'm absolutely open to it.
That said, I will never again put work for hire first. I made that mistake once, and I won't do it again. At the end of the day, I can love and be proud of the chance to write Superman, but Superman is never going to be mine, and at the best, all I can do is serve him as well as I can while obeying the directives of his masters. Sometimes, that means swallowing your pride and biting your tongue and delivering what you've been asked to deliver to the best of your ability. On projects like Veil and Lazarus and Stumptown, it's all down to my collaborators and myself. We own it, we dictate, and it's up to us to stand or fall. That's liberating, and terrifying, and exactly where you want to be as an artist.
Nrama: Any other teases about Veil you'd like to give to your potential readers?
Rucka: I honestly think that the readers are going to figure out what's what in pretty short order, and that's fine with me. I'm not trying to write a "gotcha" book. Aside from the fact that I don't think I'm good at them, that's never been my goal; I'm not looking to score points. What I want, what Toni wants, is to entertain. We want people to read it, enjoy it, and if they take it further, if it gives them pause, if it gives them maybe a little something to think about, that's a bonus.