If you’re a fan of Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or Bill Willingham’s Fables, there’s a good chance you’ll be hooked on Kill Shakespeare, a new comics series coming from IDW next year and easily one of the more exciting new projects bouncing around this year’s Comic-con International. Much like the two aforementioned series, Kill Shakespeare reshuffles a universe of well known but disparate characters--in this case a slate of characters from across Shakespeare’s epic plays--to create a new fictional landscape in which characters from separate Shakespearean works end up all in one big narrative. Fresh and conceptually inventive, Kill Shakespeare reconfigures the Bard’s fictional world into an engrossing and nuanced period mystery adventure--the project’s creators plan to build a storytelling franchise that can be turned into a variety of media--that will be fun as well as thoughtful and offers a quirky potential to attract a new generation of readers to Shakespeare’s works.
Created by Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery with art by Andy Belanger, a veteran of DC Comics, Devil’s Due and other comics publishers, Kill Shakespeare started out as a brainstorm idea for a videogame and then a film before the two creators realized that a comic would be the perfect way to launch the project. “Our goal is to redefine Shakespeare. Everyone knows his plays,” said Del Col, “his work is kind of pre-existing knowledge; people know the characters and plots even if they haven’t actually seen or read the plays.”
In Kill Shakespeare, said both Del Col and McCreery, Hamlet is banished from Denmark but his ship is attacked by pirates and founders in a storm. Hamlet makes his way ashore only to find himself stranded in a land populated by characters from Shakespeare’s plays. Once ashore, Hamlet is approached by a thuggish character that turns out to be Richard III and is asked to join a faction out to kill a powerful and oppressive wizard. The wizard’s name? Turns out its, William Shakespeare. There are other factions in the unnamed land--Othello, Falstaff, Romeo and Juliet are also among the characters that turn up--they treat Shakespeare as God and legend and despot and Hamlet finds himself in the midst of an ontological mystery that sends him in search of the meaning and character of William Shakespeare himself, the God-like creator of the world Hamlet is stranded in.
|Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery, creators of Kill Shakespeare|
Del Col, a former independent film producer and music manager, and McCreery, a film and TV producer as well as a former on-air broadcaster in Canada, both bring an impressive well of production experience and story-telling chops to Kill Shakespeare. The two originally produced a script for a feature length animated kids film that they were never able to raise enough funding to produce--so they decided to switch to comics. The result is what McCreery calls, “a what-if scenario” that offers an interpretive slant on Shakespeare’s plays that he believes will appeal to readers, “that have no knowledge of Shakespeare, but also has a strong appeal and references for devotees and experts on Shakespeare.” Indeed they two hope that the series and their cheeky rearrangement of Shakespeare’s plays will spur discussion, feedback and productive arguments from readers about the whole project.
The two creators have also brought an indie film production mentality and approach to this project by putting together a business plan, securing investors, producing the first year’s script and securing Belanger to do the artwork before ever pitching the project to publishers. Last February, Del Col and McCreery pitched the series to about 8 comics publishers--“they all loved it”--and 5 made serious offers before the two signed with IDW. The series will launch as a 12-issue full-color periodical mini-series, written by Del Col and McCreery with art by Andy Belanger, before being collected into a trade paperback to be released by December.
While IDW will partner with Del Col and McCreery to publish and distribute the comic, the two creators retain ownership of the project and will look for partners to co-develop the series into film, game and digital productions. “Shakespeare’s the greatest writer and entertainer of all time,” said Del Col, “and if he were alive, we bet he’d be making comics and movies himself.”