Just a little more than a week away from the release of their intensely anticipated film The Dark Knight Rises, Legendary Entertainment announced some major additions to their Legendary Comics publishing division at Comic-Con International in San Diego — including Shadow Walk, an original graphic novel co-created by Legendary founder Thomas Tull and World War Z writer Max Brooks, written by Mark Waid and illustrated by Shane Davis.Shadow Walk, a horror story planned to come in around 120 pages, presents the "Shadow of Death" — as in "walk through the valley of the shadow of death," immortalized in the Bible and Coolio lyrics — as a real place, specifically one near modern-day Iraq connected to three separate incidents. The graphic novel depicts a group of special-ops soldiers, armed with the skull of John the Baptist and a piece of the True Cross, examining the possibility that an actual monster or demon might be responsible. Newsarama talked with both Waid and Davis at Legendary's Comic-Con booth, to discuss Waid's first time both working with Legendary editor-in-chief Bob Schreck and writing an original graphic novel, Davis returning to the format shortly after Superman: Earth One and comparisons to Kingdom Come, the celebrated 1996 DC miniseries by Waid and Alex Ross. Newsarama: Mark, you've worked for a quite a few comic book companies in your career. What brought you to Legendary, and how have you enjoyed your time thus far?
Mark Waid: It's been a great experience. Bob Schreck is the one who put out the first feelers. I've known Bob forever, and have a huge amount of respect for his editorial skills. We haven't really worked together on something, and we've been promising to for some time.
When he came to the table with what Thomas's basic idea was, and the basic, one-paragraph description of what this would be, I was very intrigued. It really spoke to issues of science versus religion, and the power of faith, and also how certain things in biblical literature are perhaps interpreted a little less literally or more literally than we would think — all of these things feel interesting to me. Having written Kingdom Come, I have some experience in writing big, epic things that start with the Bible. That's what drew me into it, and when he talked about Shane being the artist, that was the final card he needed to play.
I wanted to work with Shane. On a project this big, it's not like a 22-page story, where if I write it and I'm not keen on the artist, next month there will be another one. This is a year's commitment. Because it's billed as a graphic novel, it'll be on people's bookshelves forever. It's not a periodical that gets tossed away next month, so I needed to be with somebody whose work I really respected.
Nrama: Mark, have you written something that was specifically a "graphic novel" before?
Waid: No, not really. I've never written the phrase "Page 63" before, because I've always written in that periodical format. Even stuff like Kingdom Come that you know will be collected, it still came out in chunks.
Shane Davis: They had that cliffhanger page, which in graphic novels, you kind of get rid of those. I just did two, and we never had those.
Nrama: Right, Shane, this is your second graphic novel in a row, following Superman: Earth One. How is the format different for an artist?
Davis: It's composure, honestly. Depending on the scripts, certain scenes are very vibrant, and certain scenes are just plain-jane panels and good storytelling. Draw the best you can, draw it simply, but you also have to be able to spice it up. It's all about knowing the resolution, the climax, and the rising action, and hitting those beats. But you also have to have a flat beat to have a high beat.Davis, Waid, Schreck, Brooks
and fellow Legendary creator
Matt Wagner.In this, we always try to look at it full-scale — everything we're going to have to do, not just the first 20 pages. We've always looked at this thing beginning, middle and end. We've always had that mindset, even if we were developing it, changing it and adding to it. So hen I am drawing the pages in the beginning, I'm also considering, "Well, I'm going to have an action scene later on, so let's not do it this way."
Nrama: It has to be advantageous to know exactly where the story is going to go.
Davis: And actually that came into play with the ending of the book. A couple of weeks ago, we kind of anchored down that last antagonist, and now we can build up. That was one of the first things with Thomas, he was like, "We've got to get on these monsters and demons." I was like, "Alright, here's the final one, do I build small to big or big to small?" If I know the ending, it helps me build the rest.
I think that's how you look at a graphic novel in general. You've got to know where you're going, and how to get there.
Waid: When I write monthly comics, a lot of the fun of it to me is getting to be in the issue and not really having an idea of what happens. I figure, "If I don't know, then you can't guess." But with graphic novels? Completely different rules, especially because you're not writing in those discrete 22-page chunks.
Nrama: Mark, you mentioned Kingdom Come — is that the past work of yours that you'd say Shadow Walk is most similar to?
Waid: I would say probably Kingdom Come, actually. I don't want to over-promise — Superman does not make an appearance in this story — but at the same time, it is about big questions about the nature of faith and the power of faith.
Davis: And what drives different personalities and characters. They all have a unique drive. There are five main characters, and they each have a different perspective in the same crap situation. [Laughs]. I think that's going to be fun for the readers. I think there will be a character for every reader in the book.