[Editors note: The original headline has been edited to reflect the fact writer Joe Keatinge specifically said the Alan Moore quote did not "inspire" the series. We apologize for the error and inaccuracy.]
Ghost ninja. Alarm cats. Subway gods. Doesn’t sound like the world you know? Well, it’s the world of Kate Kristopher – and she’s intent on getting to know it better.
On April 9, Image Comics will debut an all-new series titled Shutter by Glory writer Joe Keatinge and artist Leila Del Duca. Announced earlier this year at Image Expo, Shutter follows Kate, a second generation explorer – “a 21st Century Indiana Jones” according to Keatinge – as she explores an Earth more magical, supernatural, scary and beautiful than our own. Shutter promises a mixture of urban fantasy with globe-trekking adventure, inspired – indirectly – by a quote from Alan Moore about life.
Newsarama spoke with both Del Duca and Keatinge about their series debuting next month, covering the world of Shutter, the true meaning of the title, and what’s going on in the head of Kate Kristopher.
Newsarama: Joe, how would you describe Shutter for the uninitiated?
Joe Keatinge: Shutter is all-new Image Comics-published ongoing series by artist/co-creator Leila del Duca, colorist Owen Gieni, letterer Ed Brisson, cover designer Tim Leong and writer/co-creator me telling the story of Kate Kristopher, someone raised to be the world’s greatest explorer, then was, then stopped for reasons no one has ever known besides her. Ten years later, she’s escaped her past into a life far more banal than the one she previously knew, but something from long ago forces her back into her old ways against her will. Then Kate fights back. Sh*t gets real.
That’s the general gist. There’s a lot more to it. I wouldn’t say Shutter was inspired by this quote, but one that keeps coming to mind when I’m asked about what the series is about is something Alan Moore once said, “My experience of life is that it is not divided up into genres; it’s a horrifying, romantic, tragic, comical, science-fiction cowboy detective novel. You know, with a bit of pornography if you're lucky.”
The quote keeps coming up for me in part because, yeah, Shutter will sometimes be horrifying, romantic, tragic, comical — will feature elements of science-fiction, cowboys, detectives and yeah, definitely pornography, but the bigger thing is the series is at its core about the lives we’re born into, the lives we make, the ways all our separate lives are really just one big life and how they all evolve over time.
And then there’s stuff like the giant bomb gun in issue two that proves it’s also a comic book where stuff explodes.
The back of the comic will feature a bunch of stuff too. I’m running Ryan Ferrier’s Tiger Lawyer comic as long as he and his rotating artist partners want to make it. We’ll be doing other shorts by other people. Plus some pinups and a letters column we’re currently taking suggestions for.
We’re not alone. Pals Brandon Graham, Emma Rios and Dustin Weaver have joined us for variant covers on issue one. Issue two has one by Marvel Knights: Hulk cohort Piotr Kowalski.
Nrama: How would you describe Kate Kristopher?
Leila del Duca: Kate is intelligent, interesting, goofy, a gentle-lady who isn't afraid of confrontation. She's socially awkward sometimes, lanky, dresses slightly like a hipster, is super open-minded except for when her world turns upside down and she has difficulties dealing with it. She has a vast appreciation for old things and finds the world to be a fascinating place. Though she spent years trying to bury it, she has a lust for life and will start to experience the delight of adventure once again.
Nrama: The world of Shutter seems pretty fantastical. Leila, are there any characters or creatures that stand out to you as your favorite to design so far?
Del Duca: Man, oh, man, you guys! Every issue so far has introduced a new character that I am in love with! I wish I could tell you all about them because I'm dying to talk about them. Issue 1 introduces Kate, Alain, and Alarm Cat, and I love all of them because they have different looks and mannerisms. But Issue 2 is...ridiculous with the crazy fun characters! And then Issue 3 introduces this...arg! I can't say!! Issue 3 has one of my favorite characters to draw. This character is super detailed and she looks like an absolute badass. However, when it comes to personality design, Kate has been my favorite. From the very beginning, Joe wrote Kate in a way that made it all too easy to put my own interests and mannerisms into her character. I even draw her wearing clothing and accessories I would want to wear. Is that creepy?
Nrama: Joe, what would you say about this magical, supernatural Earth Kate is exploring?
Keatinge: Originally the series was going to be really grounded. At least, as much as a series about a globetrotting adventurer could be inspired by real people like T.E. Lawrence, comic book people like Corto Maltese and Tintin, or movie people like Indiana Jones. But it wasn’t working. Something just didn’t click for me. It sat in some corner of my brain, waiting for the missing ingredient.
When I met Leila, I saw she could - and loved to - draw everything. It seemed ridiculous to restrain her at all. And that’s what made the comic work.
So, instead of world like one out our window, the world has mythological beings on the subway, ninja ghosts fighting police officers in flying saucers, a race of the gods from a multiverse away set to race across all continents. It’s because of Leila’s linework combined with Owen’s coloring that makes all this insane sh*t actually relatable, anchoring it all down with Kate.
Nrama: Leila, how did Joe initially present to you the idea that become Shutter that got you interested in the first place?
del Duca: I was interested in working with Joe no matter what story he presented to me because I knew they would all be amazing, but Shutter was initially pitched as an adventure story about a girl who was the daughter of a world-renowned explorer. At first, I thought it sounded like Tomb Raider, but Joe quickly verified that wasn't the direction he was going to take at all. He said it would be a story about making one's own family, who you decide to love and share your life with, and how you deal with the family you don't want. He also kept in mind that I wanted to draw sci-fi and fantasy elements. Over a few months, he developed the world that Kate lives in and every time he told me more about it, the more hooked I got. At first, we were only going to have fantastical elements take up about 30% of the world, but now it's closer to 60%. At least with the main cast of characters.
Nrama: So where do we start on page one, issue one?
Keatinge: The moon. Twenty years ago. Same with the first several pages. Then other pages take place in other places. Then there’s the last page. Woo! Lemme tell you! That is somewhere.
Nrama: In the marketing for Shutter, Image describes Kate as a “contemporary Indiana Jones.” What would you say to that?
Keatinge: I actually offered up that quote, because it’s a good shorthand for marketing purposes, but the truth is it’s a little odd, because Kate Kristopher is Kate Kristopher. Indiana Jones is great, but Kate’s her own person. They’re both explorers, Kate could probably teach an archeology class. She doesn’t. She’s a photographer for a realty company because she likes taking pictures. Then she’s not. Then she’s an explorer again. She fights a robot. I don’t remember Indiana Jones fighting a robot. He met a ghost who liked cups, though. That’s sure something.
Nrama: What does the title of the book, “Shutter,” refer to? The camera she has on the cover?
Keatinge: It’s not as 1: 1 direct as that. I mean, yes, Kate’s a photographer. She has a camera. Cameras have shutters. She shows someone how to spool a film projector in issue #5 and those have shutters too, but it gets into the thing I talked about before — about how the big thrust of Shutter is examining the narrative of the lives we lead. How we see things from our own point of view, through our own shutters. Get it???