Lady Macbeth boils some trouble.
When Kill Bill was released, friends Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col joked that there should be a video game called “Kill Bill Shakespeare.” Looking at each other, they realized they had a great premise—a Shakespearean mash-up of all the bard’s most famous characters. The idea stuck with them, but they decided it made more sense to make it a graphic novel first. In Kill Shakespeare, Juliet, Hamlet, and friends are the heroes; Lady Macbeth and Richard III are the villains; and Iago, as usual, plays the odds. Everyone, though, has one thing in common: they’re all caught in a plot to kill William Shakespeare.
The original idea has morphed rapidly from comics to a movie script and beyond: McCreery and Del Col even clinched a $10,000 award for the best movie idea pitch at TIFF. The book collection of the comic’s first six issues is out from one of the medium’s biggest publishers, IDW. If that wasn’t enough, McCreery and Del Col are also currently meeting with developers to create a mobile application, too.
We spoke with them at Butler’s Pantry in Mirvish Village about mash-ups, comic book collaborating, and Mark Zuckerberg.
Torontoist: So you’ve won the Pitch This! competition at the Toronto International Film Festival. How are you finding the different processes of writing the film versus writing the comic?
Anthony Del Col: We actually wrote the screenplay version first, because that was the format we were most familiar with. It’s going to be interesting going back into film writing because we haven’t really been writing any films for two or three years now.
So it’s not just a simple matter of storyboarding off the comic…
Conor McCreery: That gets my hackles up. They’re different art forms. In a movie, a lot of quick cuts makes the action speed up; in comics a lot of panels slows the action down. People who say “oh yeah! Now you have a movie here!”—I argue they don’t understand comics or movies, one of the two.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Nicholas Flamel, DevaShard…
ADC: Yes, the literary mash-up…
This happened in music thirty years ago—why is it just happening now in literature?
CMC: I would say it’s because literature is the most…hallowed of our art forms. Literature is the one we put on the pedestal the most. We have this weird respect for literature—it can’t be touched.
ADC: I also think that we’re more culturally savvy. I think today we’re able to go from the highbrow to lowbrow instantly. Thirty years ago, it wasn’t necessarily so easy to get the data.
CMC: We’re working on a motion comic where you can watch Kill Shakespeare, then get archival footage from real Shakespearean plays. That’s one of the great things about technology and comics.
“Gateway drug” has been one of the ways you’ve described what you want this comic to be for Shakespeare. It’s been out for a while—have you actually had people come up to you so far and say that that’s done that, that they’ve wanted to read [the original] Shakespeare?
CMC: Yeah! We’ve been fortunate. We’ve had a number of people come up to us at conventions, and a couple of great emails saying, “I didn’t think I was going to get this—I haven’t read Shakespeare since grade nine,” and now they’ve gone back to the plays and are really enjoying them. It’s actually worked that way. We just wanted to tell a good story, but it’s definitely nice that people like the source material.
Falstaff is up to his old tricks as a major character in the series.
ADC: And the book is probably going to be what’s more accessible, because right now the individual issues at comic book stores serve a bit of a niche audience. It’ll be at the Chapters-Indigo and the Barnes & Nobles of the world. It’s books that libraries buy.
Comic book “floppies” [standard, 8 1/2 x 11″ comic books] are just too hard to…library-ize.
ADC: And that’s why the industry is moving a lot more towards graphic novels. Easier to store, looks a lot nicer, and it’s better value for your dollar.
CMC: I think you’ll still see individual issues, but you’ll see them digitally. It’ll be less expensive to do. Ideally that means that publishers will take greater risks with the subject matter they put out, because there won’t be the physical costs of shipping and printing.
Co-writing…that sounds like it could be fantastic or Hell. Which one is it?
ADC [jokingly]: Are we on the record or…
I’ll stop the recorder…
ADC: It’s made the story a lot stronger because we bring different sensibilities. Conor is absolutely great with dialogue, especially the “thee”s and the “thou”s. He knows exactly where to put them. Whereas me, I’m always taking a big-picture view.
CMC: Left up to me, this might end up getting a bit too tortuous and indie.
“What if we do something like Hamlet’s father ripped off his [own] face?”
CMC: And we’re not even talking about [artist] Andy Belanger! The last script he said, “I have a giant problem with this.” We’re like, “You’re right. This is kind of a giant problem.” So without him…
Has the way he’s conceived it—has he changed the way you write?
ADC: We have altered some of the scenes to suit his style, and inserted new scenes.
CMC: He hated something we’d written. He was like, “Oh God, I don’t want to do this.” And I said, “What if we do something like Hamlet’s father ripped off his [own] face?” And he said, “That would be awesome!”
ADC: But that’s part of the collaborative process.
CMC: There’s a page where this cannonball fires through an apparition of a witch and it’s totally psychedelic, and I remember thinking, “What the heck is this all about?!”
What the heck is this all about, anyway?
It must be pretty cool to be surprised by your own work…
CMC: It is. If you’re going to be part of a collaborative, sometimes you have to say, “Alright, let’s see how it works…let’s see what people think.”
ADC: As a writer, it’s interesting, because once we put our baby out there, and we’ve got these six issues done now, there’s nothing we can do to take them back. It’s going to live on its own now.
CMC: You try to get a scene to go a certain way and you’re like…I don’t think Iago would do that! But we need Iago to do that! And then we have to figure out another way, because Iago just won’t do what you feel you need him to do. Jerk!
Haha. You almost have to trick him.
CMC: Tricking your characters is rarely a good idea. You get much better when you let your characters be who they are, and then you’ve gotta do the hard work as a writer. How do you make that plot then work? You get weaker writing when you decide to trick a character into doing something they wouldn’t ordinarily do.
Are we actually ever going to get to see Shakespeare in your story?
CMC: We can’t…we don’t want to ruin that!
ADC: It seems that the conspiracy theory that Shakespeare didn’t write his work is more popular than ever.
Controversy over what he looked like…
CMC: That’s the wrong question to ask. Really, who cares…that person’s dead now, right? They’re not going to get royalties. Who cares what he looked like? The important question is why are these plays so great?! Who cares if it was ten writers or whatever? …They still wrote female characters that nobody else was writing at the time.
Othello…there’s not a contemporary to Othello as a black character in a white world for hundreds of years—a white writer writing a minority character in that way! Who cares who or what or how? They’re mind-bending stories when you think of how good they all are!
I bet he was a fun guy to go down to the pub and have a glass of mead with.
ADC: Or he was like Mark Zuckerberg—maybe you don’t really like him, but the guy’s a genius.
Kill Shakespeare Volume 1 is available in book stores. All images courtesy Kill Shakespeare Entertainment Inc.