Since the debut of Olympus in 2009, writer Nathan Edmondson has choreographed a methodical course to becoming a force in comics. Jumping from Olympus mythological struggles to the horror of The Light and the thrilling espionage seriesWho Is Jake Ellis?, Edmondson has done it with grace and admirable prescience giving the A-List artists he’s worked with. And now the next stage shows him mixing the high-stakes world of ballet with the life-or-death career of a government assassin in Dancer.
Scheduled to debut on May 16, the creator-owned Image series Dancer finds Edmondson partnering with artist Nic Klein to document the lives of a retired assassin and his ballerina girlfriend who only knows part of his past. Seemingly more akin to The Professional than Black Swan, it’s an ambitious story complimented by the ambitious style of Klein. Newsarama talked with the creators about the balance between dance and killing, the difficulties in keeping both realistic, and the secrets that couples keep from each other.
Newsarama: The title and the cover tell two different stories about what this book is about. How would you describe the book?Nic Klein: Dancer to me is a noir-ish high noon showdown between skilled assassins with a twist, a ballerina caught in the middle, and set in Europe. It is of course more then that; it is having to deal with limitations in your life and the frailty of relationships and the characters. There are cool action scenes, great character moments, and cool settings.
Nathan Edmondson: Dancer is a thriller with a theme. The theme is the ballerina; the action involves an assassin, and a very unique battle.
Nrama: The two leads in this are Alan, the assassin, and Quinn, the ballerina. What can you tell us about them?
Klein: Alan is a man who left his past behind, only to find out you can’t leave your past behind. It always catches up with you eventually in one Guise or another. And when it does you have to deal with it.
Quinn is young energetic woman, who loves life, her art, and Alan - the man she thought she knew.
Edmondson: Proof that love finds a way. Alan is reserved, quiet, secretive. Quinn passionate but so dedicated to her craft, her life leaves little room for the fluff of romance. So they find one another between her rehearsals, late and night or early morning. Here and there. That's enough; they're in love.Nrama: How much does Quinn know of Alan’s life before she met him?
Edmondson: Nothing at all of his "real" life. She knows he was a soldier, which is almost true: he enlisted, he trained, but he never served in the Army. He was handpicked away for another kind of duty.
Klein: Alan kept it vague. She loves the man Alan is now, perhaps she did not want to know.
Nrama: It seems the story is about Alan’s former life as an assassin catching up to him, but the title of the book is Dancer, referring to Quinn. Is there more to the story than you’re letting on?
Klein: The general assumption is that because Quinn is a ballerina is that the story is about her. But if you interpret the title more as a metaphor for an interaction between two or more people you get closer the truth of the content.
Nrama: Nic, which is harder to draw accurately: the espionage and gunplay of an assassin or ballet dancing?Klein: To me there is no difference, both "art" forms if you will are executed by people, so I am drawing people. There is choreography in both. Drawing/laying out a sniper duel/fight scene is the same as it is for a dancing scene. You can make both elegant, or harsh, fluid or hacked off, depending what you are trying to communicate to the reader. They are the same to me. I am always trying to improve my work and my storytelling, because I think that is the foremost job of a comic artist is to communicate the story in a clear way. I therefore try my best to depict each part of the story according to the feeling/atmosphere we want to transport. Hopefully the readers will like what they see.
Nrama: Nathan, you’re really finding a groove for yourself with action-based espionage and military stories with Who is Jake Ellis, Grifter, The Activity and now Dancer. How’d this story come to you?Edmondson: When researching The Activity and Who Is Jake Ellis, I asked lots of questions of myself and of the material I was reading about the world of espionage. This was one of the answers that came back to me.
Nrama: Nathan, seeing you with Nic Klein is a real coup as I’d imagine DC or Marvel would have tied him up. How’d you two connect to do this story?
Edmondson: Christian Ward played matchmaker; Nic and I have fantastic chemistry and I'm thrilled to work with him. He's an artist that was on my "list of guys I'd kill to work with." As he accepted and loved the story, a life was spared, somewhere.
Nrama: Nic, and for you – I assume you’re pretty busy with projects, so what made you jump and do another creator-owned book versus signing up for , I don’t know, something Marvel, DC or someone else wanted you to do?Klein: I know Nate through his former creative partner Chris Ward, and Chris said Nate is a good guy, so when Nate approached me I knew that working with him would be good. I am also a big fan of espionage Movies & novels, and the fact that Nathan set this story in Central Europe instantly put images in my head. I've been wanting to do a reality based story, with real landmarks, and "normal" people, and when Nate pitched me Dancer and it turned out to be an espionage-y story as well I was very intrigued. I also liked that it is a self contained mini series, which is always great.
On the subject of creator owned versus Big Two. I like creator owned books because I have all creative control in my hands. Granted if Nate really hates something I do (and this hasn’t happened yet on this book (knock on wood)) I am of course open to suggestions, and we work out stuff together even if we don’t disagree. But in the end, there is no one telling me what to do. Now I should add that my experiences with DC and Marvel have been pretty damn free as well, so I can’t really complain, but it is always a different feeling when handling your own characters and designing/thinking up everything from the ground up. Neither is better, they are just different sides of the same coin. In the end it is hopefully creating a comic that people will enjoy.