After years of crisscrossing the globe becoming one of the most successful thieves ever, the criminal known as Redmond has a new target, the one thing he could never have: a normal life. After deciding to get out on the eve of his biggest heist ever, Redmond doesn’t just have to worry about getting out of his criminal career but also getting out alive.
In the upcoming Image series Thief of Thieves beginning February 8th, writers Robert Kirkman and Nick Spencer are teaming up with veteran noir artist Shawn Martinbrough to tell this vagabond’s story as he runs from people on both sides of the law. And just as Redmond is dealing with two sides of justice going after him, he’s dealing with the two sides of his own life: one as Redmond the thief and the other as his real name, Conrad Paulson.
“The important thing about the balance between Conrad and Redmond is that over the course of his life Redmond has won out more and more,” Spencer explains. “When we first see him, being a thief is all he has left and he is very much Redmond 9 out of every 10 minutes.”
Creating this nuanced character was a process, according to Kirkman.“One of the things I like about Thief of Thieves is that some of the genre is comparable to superhero storytelling, especially when it comes to secret identities and dual lives,” Kirkman tells Newsarama. “In both cases it’s normally the case that their real life is somewhat less spectacular than their alter-egos. These types of people have cover jobs along with spouses and families that act as secret identities while they maintain a completely separate second life. For Redmond, it’s in the criminal underworld and it’s come to envelop him for a number of years. Thief of Thieves explores the idea of what kind of person lives that existence.”
“It’s been a trend to see stories giving a real world take on superheroes; this book is a real world take on master thieves. Superheroes don’t exist in the real world, but criminals do.”
And after thriving as a criminal mastermind for most of his adult life, turning his back on a life of crime is no easy task for Paulson.“Thief of Thieves is about obsession,” elaborates Kirkman. “Paulson knows what he needs to do to make himself happy, but he just can’t do it. It’s sort of like a drug addict; they don’t necessarily want to ruin lives to obtain and do drugs, but they kind of have to. That’s the point Conrad has reached. He knows being a thief is bad for him, and he knows he’ll eventually get caught or killed… but he can’t stop. It’s the only thing that really makes him happy. He has to do what he has to do in order to survive.”
Paulson’s obsession is one of the key elements that brought Spencer onboard for this unique collaboration with Kirkman.
“As we go through the first arc, we reveal through flashbacks a number of things that have happened to Conrad Paulson that make him question his criminal life. These first few issues are about exploring the relationships in his life, and in each of them you can see the damage that’s been done. By the fourth or fifth issue readers will really be able to see a complete view of all the wrong turns this guy has made that’s left him in his current predicament,” elaborated Spencer.And as Kirkman said, kicking his criminal life is just as hard for Paulson as it would be to kick a long-term drug habit. And when you factor in his fellow criminals and what Paulson’s departure might mean for him, it could be fatal.
“For Conrad his life as Redmond has become so dominant that now an attempt to give that up is going to seen by many as too little to late, or worst yet: bad for business,” says Spencer.
While Conrad Paulson might be considering hanging up the business of thievery, seeing his life in Thief of Thieves promises to give readers a realistic view of what being a criminal is like. The preview pages that have been released so far show Redmond teaching a would-be thief about how stealing a car is less about tools and more about psychology. Although Spencer denies any real-world experience with car theft, he does admit he knows a thing or two about it – theoretically.
“I did some research for the car stealing scene, but that was mostly restricted to Google,” jokes Spencer. “In all my work I try to deliver as much authenticity as possible, and this scene was an ideal point to really show how it’s done. A lot of car thieves start by just checking car doors in a parking lot; on any given day there are cars literally sitting there begging to be stolen. In reality, stealing cars is not a complicated business.”For the business of creating this book, Kirkman employed a slightly more complicated set-up than traditional comics. Borrowing the format he experienced in The Walking Dead television series, Kirkman is heading up a group of writers that brainstorm about Thief of Thieves before one is set off to develop the ideas into a full comic script – in this case with Spencer writing the first arc. “When I’m writing a comic on my own it’s me sitting in a room thinking to myself as I develop a story. On television, it’s much different: in the writer’s room approach we’re all sitting there as one person proposes an idea and then the entire room debates on if it’s a good idea for an hour or two. Over the course of the debate they might shoot down the idea completely, but in that process something else might come up that’s even better or adds to the original idea so that no matter what, the idea you have at the end of the meeting is better than what was there when you started. I’ve fallen in love with this process, and wanted to try it with comics.”
Ultimately two more writers will join Kirkman and Spencer in this informal writer’s group for Thief of Thieves, although Kirkman is holding off on announcing the two new additions until later in the year. Although Spencer couldn’t say who takes over after his first arc, he can say he’s excited.“Knowing some of the people that are coming after me, I’m genuinely excited to see what they do with this. As a writer, it’s a really fun experiment to hand it off to someone else and see what they do, and then what the person after does. I consider my job with this first arc to be about defining who Redmond is and give a solid overview of the most important people in his life. My work is to build the foundation for others to build off of.”
Although Kirkman isn’t directly writing the first arc of Thief of Thieves, he does plan on writing future arcs and editor Sina Grace says he maintains a heavy hand in the development of the book.“I wish I could say that I am as influential and key as Scott Allie is to the Buffy comics, but Robert is the Joss Whedon and the Scott Allie on this project: he’s guiding the stories and the creators involved,” said Grace. "I’m here to manage their schedules and make sure every opinion is accounted for in the final product. I’m involved for integral moments, but this is Robert’s baby: he’s running the ship.” Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!