Nick Bellamy is a retired veteran living out the rest of his life at home with his wife. After all he’s seen in the places he’s fought for Uncle Sam, he deserves some peace and quiet. But when ghosts from his past come to pay him a visit, he has no choice but to go down fighting. I don’t know if Nick Bellamy was a fan of Dylan Thomas, but he truly not going gently into that good night.
Described by its creator Christos Gage as “a modern-day Wild Bunch”, readers first got a glimpse of Sunset with a preview that ran in Top Cow’s The Darkness #78. Scheduled as a six-issue mini-series debuting in 2010, Gage pairs with artist Jorge Lucas to tell this gritty no-frills story of a man pushed too far.
Let’s talk to Gage for more.
Newsarama: Filip at Top Cow was nice enough to give me an advance look at the full script for the first issue of Sunset. This is some pretty hard stuff, Christos.Where'd the inspiration for this kind of story come from?
Christos Gage: It came from two places. A trip to old Vegas several years ago-the gritty, no nonsense Vegas of Fremont Street-and a number of true-life stories that my wife Ruth and I had noticed about older people who, for want of better words, kick ass. There was one about a Korean War vet who was buying something at a convenience store when a young man tried to grab his money and the older man laid him out with one punch. Turns out he was a former Golden Gloves champ.
There was a gentleman in England who ran a marathon at over a hundred years of age.A 74-year-old senior citizen in New York, when confronted by a 32-year-old robber wielding a tire iron, got out of his car, took the weapon away from the man and chased him through a parking lot.
Jack LaLanne, at age 94, still works out two hours a day.
Add to that the fact that that generation is just tougher than most of our current generation (servicemen and women excepted). They lived through the Depression, World War II, Korea. They put a man on the moon and watched their President assassinated. They came from a time when suing McDonalds for not putting a warning on a cup of hot coffee would have gotten you committed or smacked in the mouth. When no one cared about your inner child-you either succeeded or failed and that's all that mattered. When the idea of kids playing sports without keeping score would have been laughed at. Where the protagonists of Raymond Chandler, Mickey Spillane and John Ford ruled the page and screen.Think about it…does anyone believe Clint Eastwood, at close to eighty, couldn't chew up Spencer Pratt and spit him out like a wad of used gum? So we got to thinking about what it would be like to do a story about people in this age group…a hard-edged, noir-ish action epic…sort of a modern Wild Bunch.
Nrama: Sunset focuses on Nick Bellamy, an ex-Army vet of the Korean War. What's he about?
Gage: Nick is in his late seventies. He lives quietly in a California neighborhood with his wife Ellen, as he has for thirty years. In that time, the world has changed around him, becoming softer, greedier and more narcissistic. But Nick doesn't care. He has his modest home and a mysterious cache of money under his floorboards that allows him to pay the bills and for in-home care for Ellen, who suffers from Alzheimer's. He goes about his life staying out of other peoples' business and expecting the same courtesy.But there's an edge to Nick…one barely buried beneath the surface, one that comes out when some day trader focused on his Blackberry jostles him in line at the post office or when a young punk eyes his wallet a few seconds too long. But these are just hints of a dark past. For the most part, Nick expects to live out his sunset years uneventfully. It doesn't quite work out that way.
Nrama: What is it that throws Nick Bellamy's life into the shredder?
Gage: He's at the local big box store buying household supplies like paint and those ridiculous looking environmentally correct light bulbs when, in the parking lot, three goons in dark suits and sunglasses approach him, telling him it's time to answer for what he did thirty years ago. Nick's answer can be seen in the preview pages in Darkness #78 (or RIGHT HERE). Let's just say I spent an interesting morning at K-Mart walking the aisles thinking about how various products could be used to kill someone.
Nrama: He mentions someone named Gianelli. Who is he, and what is their connection?
Gage: Spoilers follow, so anyone who doesn't want to know should stop reading here!Gianelli is a mob boss who Nick once worked for, back in the Las Vegas of the late '70's. Nick and his crew realized they were getting older in a business where you don't retire with a gold watch and a pension. So they orchestrated that fabled “one last heist” that would set them all up for life…stealing a fortune from Gianelli and landing him in jail in the process.
And the kicker is, it worked. They pulled it off. They divided the money, split up and started new lives. And for thirty years, they got away with it. But now Gianelli's out of jail, and out for revenge on all of them. Nick knows their only shot at survival is for him to pull the old crew together and take the fight to Gianelli. And that's where things get complicated…
Nrama: Before we go, I have to ask about the art. It's credited to Jorge Lucas, but it's far different from what I know him from. Is it him?
Gage: It's Jorge Lucas, who has worked on The Darkness as well as drawn books for Marvel and other Top Cow titles, such as Jason Aaron's Ripclaw one-shot. I always knew he was a terrific talent, but he's gone the extra mile to make the visual atmosphere fit the hard edge of the story, which is probably why his style looks a bit different than what you may be used to. I think it's a perfect fit. Every crag in Nick's face is crafted with tender loving care.