Starting this October, get ready to go freelance! By which we mean, BOOM! Studios launches its newest title, the satirical action epic “Freelancers,” from writer Ian Brill, and artist Joshua Covey. The book, which has a one dollar, full length intro, features two bounty hunters raised in a Kung Fu Orphanage battling evil in Los Angeles. To find out more, we chatted with Brill in advance of the issue’s release, and snagged some of the character development art, too:
MTV Geek: Ian, how’d you get hooked up with BOOM! to do “Freelancers?”
Ian Brill: I’m very lucky that the people there enjoy what I do as a writer and tapped me for this project. The book is created by “MBQ” and “Peepo Choo” author Felipe Smith and BOOM! Studios Editor-in-Chief Matt Gagnon, and I am humbled to be part of the team that presents these great characters to the readers. As soon as I heard the whole idea I loved it. I’m very lucky to get the chance to write Val and Cass, very different women but best friends nevertheless. They deal with both exciting adventures, chasing down larger-than-life bail jumpers, but they also face down-to-earth challenges such as having to pay the bills. That tension between the outsized and the domestic is one that can unlock a lot of great storytelling, which I plan to deliver to the readers in spades.
Geek: It seems like a fun mix of exploitation films, along with a modern sensibility. Say, “Daughters of the Dragon” meets “The Player.” Did I nail that Hollywood pitch style, or miss the mark?
IB: That gets close to it, but I would replace “The Player” with another Los Angeles film, say “Drive” or, going back to Altman, “The Long Goodbye” (plus, I should mention “Midnight Run,” the best film about modern bounty hunting). The show business aspect of Los Angeles is not the forefront of the book. Most people in Los Angeles do not have jobs in show business, but it can still rub up on their lives every once in a while. Val and Cass are that way. They are bounty hunters, it’s the only thing they can do and they do it well, but there are others with show business jobs, or at least big Hollywood dreams, and their designs get in the way of our heroes’ lives.
Geek: Just from the teasers at least, it seems like this is staying pretty current. Is that a challenge at all with a monthly comic book? How current can you really keep it?
IB: I want to make it clear these characters live in current times, and that means certain cultural touchstones are features in the stories. Some examples are the economic realities the characters face, as well as the technology they use. I’m not concerned about including the latest meme or references to a recent news story. It’s important that the reader feels this story is occurring this year, but it’s not important that it feels like it’s happening this month or this week.
Geek: I imagine – given the title – there’s also a fair amount of skewering of your own lifestyle…
IB: It’s true, both Val and Cass are obsessed with “Doctor Who” and have minor scoliosis. Oh wait, did you mean my lifestyle as a freelance comic book writer? Yes, there are certain aspects of the freelance writer’s life that have made their way into Val and Cass’s stories. There is a strange combination of freedom and restriction in a freelance lifestyle. There always seems to be too much or too little work, the balance is never quite there. But lack of balance makes for good stories. It’s also a job that demands discipline, which has been a major part of Val and Cass’s life. But more of that in the next question.
Geek: Let’s talk about the story a bit… Kung-Fu Orphanage? That’s awesome. This is a question, by the way.
IB: That is THE question! It’s a great concept, I’m very happy to play with it. Underneath Union Station, where Los Angeles’ original Chinatown was, there is an orphanage that teaches its children martial arts in an intense manner, one that instills discipline of both the body and mind in its children. It’s this almost-mythological idea that exists in a story that takes place in the real world, which is the very essence of Freelancers right there.
Geek: Okay, let’s actually talk about the characters. Who is Val?
IB: Val is someone who has made it through this strict education and celebrates it by living in a big brash way. She doesn’t mind that the way she dresses and acts turns heads, anyone who messes with her is going to be beat eight times before they know it, so why doesn’t she do as she pleases? Now, I ask you dear reader, is that a virtue or a dysfunction? I’m interested in character traits that serve as both. The greatest strength is also the greatest weakness. That’s fun to write.
Geek: Who’s Cass?
IB: Cass is certainly more internalized and shy in her attitude. She’s not rebelling against her upbringing like Val is, she’s still processing it. It means she can be more methodical in her thinking, not that it’s as simple as “Cass is the brains, Val is the muscle.” I have no use for such simplistic character building and I don’t think most of today’s readers do either. It’s more a matter of Val emphasizes many external traits, and Cass emphasizes internal ones, but they are apparent in both women.
Geek: What about the other characters – and the villain… What can you tell us about them?
IB: Patrick Sunnyside is their bail bondsman, which can be seen as a type of agent in that he finds them jobs. But instead of acting jobs, it’s tracking and apprehending dangerous criminals. Still, a lot of the same problems arise: Val and Cass wonder if Sunnyside has their best interests in mind, and if they are getting a fair cut for all the work they do.
I don’t want to give too much away in regards to villains, but I will say that the flipside of instilling so much strength and agency into Val and Cass is that I have to figure out how the villains have their own power that plays against what Val and Cass possess. The bail jumpers are often big and crazy, but it’s rooted in something resembling the familiar. Plus, there are certain elements of their past in the orphanage that may come back and not in a happy, nostalgic way.
Geek: You’re working with Joshua Covey on art, what does he bring to the project?
IB: Joshua’s work has a brilliant kinetic style for one, making him the perfect person to illustrate a book so concentrated on physical fights. But even better is the fact that he really has mastered facial expressions. He communicates character beats in a way that doesn’t require verbiage, creating a, if I dare say, “purer” comic reading experience.
Geek: In order to skewer culture, you’ve got to almost be a part of it. Be honest, Ian, are you a trendy LA hipster?
IB: That would require me leaving the house and interacting with people, right? Then no, no I am not.
Geek: What can we look forward to in the $1 issue – and beyond?
IB: It’s important to me that this and every issue can satisfy on two levels, in that it feels like a complete reading experience by itself as well as part of a larger story being told. There is a story set-up and completed within the first issue, but readers will be able to see that there’s a larger game being played as well.
Geek: Anything else you want to tease for us? Things that’ll make fans go gaga for this comic?
IB: The book exemplifies Los Angeles in this aspect: there are no innocents.
“Freelancers” launches in October with a special $1 issue from BOOM!