A decade ago, before he wrote a single word for either “Wolverine” or “Deadpool,” Daniel Way created the ultra-detached hitman Harvey. And before he would ever draw Batman professionally or get his own time with Wolverine, artist Jon Proctor brought Harvey to life in the pages of “Gun Theory,” the prematurely canceled miniseries from Marvel’s Epic imprint. Talking to the duo now, it’s clear that never getting to finish the story of a hitman who discovers he has a soul (and more precariously, a reason to live), has stuck with them.
That’s why last week Way and Proctor resurrected Harvey and “Gun Theory” through a Kickstarter campaign running through May in order to release the story in its complete, uncensored form with an updated script and art.
I spoke with Way and Proctor about the winding road to getting “Gun Theory” made (again), killers with hearts, and the hardcore version of “Gun Theory” Marvel didn’t want you to see.
MTV Geek: First, what’s been keeping “Gun Theory” alive for you and Jon all these years? And why return to it now?
Daniel Way: As to what’s “kept it alive” for me…well, one of the biggest things is that I’ve yet to actually tell the whole story! Between that and the fact it’s a very personal story for me…well, I’d have to say that everything I’ve written since then has probably had little bits of “Gun Theory” thrown into the mix. I’m tired of–and no longer satisfied with–the little bits, though. It’s time.
Jon Proctor: “Gun Theory” remains one of the best scripts I’ve ever read. It’s been kept alive in my mind because it digs deep. I think all of us have our own inner narrative. A face that we only see when we look ourselves in the mirror. There’s an honesty to that which is palpable to us even if we pick and choose which parts of ourselves we make transparent to others. Our main character Harvey never got the memo. He lives in the cracks and he doesn’t weigh the morality. For me, the beat of that heart and the sparks that misfire in that brain are character flaws worth slicing into.
Returning to it now is a situation of preparation meeting opportunity. We have always considered this story to be one of our finest hours of collaboration and it was cut short because of situations that had nothing to do with it’s success. It was a critical and financial success at the time but certain disputes came to bear that we couldn’t have foreseen. Everyone involved was more than gracious in the end and the rights reverted back to us but it beat us up pretty good mentally and we needed to take a breath. Turns out is was a long deep breath. I couldn’t be more thrilled to pick this up where we left off.
Geek: Could you share with us the origins of the book—how you two came together to work on it?
Way: “Gun Theory” and the ideas behind it are something that I’ve had in my head for a very long time… probably since I was a teenager. It was actually one of the first stories I ever wrote, back in 1996. But it wasn’t until I hooked up with Jon (courtesy of Diana Schutz from Dark Horse) six or so years later that it really started to come together as a graphic novel.
In 2000, I was awarded a grant by the Xeric Foundation to self-publish my first comic, “Violent Lifestyle.” In the fall of that year, I exhibited at the Small Press Expo in Maryland, which is where I met Diana. She really liked my writing and, a few months later, recommended that I reach out to Jon, an artist whose work she also really liked. She sent me a copy of a comic Jon had self-published, “The Cold Boom,” and I immediately knew that this was the artist for “Gun Theory.”
I made the call.
Proctor: We were introduced and hit it off creatively. Marvel expressed interest through the Epic brand relaunch and we were off and running. The snags in the line are not important now but rest assured we can finish each other’s sentences when it comes to this book.
The origin of “Gun Theory” is rooted in the idea that life is short. Harvey can’t simply run away from the life choices he’s made. Who he is at the end of the day and how much his choices and patterns define him paints every step he takes into a very dark corner in the end. It’s a cerebral trip through a mind that is not capable of being honest with itself. Once that idea sunk in I was on board with bells on.
Geek: Looking back at the story, what was something that surprised you about it now?
Proctor: The fact that the book still resonates with readers after over a decade. They want to see it’s conclusion. Thankfully most of society presumes that we should all know right from wrong. It’s a foregone conclusion. The fact is that our main character’s mind has no handle on that. Harvey’s version of right and wrong does not exist. There is no filter there. His survival is contingent on his victim’s demise. Imagine taking that home with you every night! I’m also surprised with how much society has changed in a decade. In the old version Harvey used pay phones! In the new version Harvey will be more with the times. Social media has changed the way we perceive privacy. Now people you went to high school with twenty years ago want to show you what they had for breakfast. Harvey will have a much more difficult time remaining anonymous.
Way: What Jon said. Also, it’s surprising to me is how Harvey, the main character, is simultaneously both resonant and repulsive. You want him to get what he wants but you also want him to pay for what he’s done.
Geek: Daniel, you’ve updated the script and Jon has been making new art for the book. What were some things you both looked at and were happy to get a do-over on?
Way: Some of the changes were based upon the simple fact that “Gun Theory” takes place in the here-and-now and a lot has changed in the world since I first wrote it. Though the core of the story has never changed, many of the peripheral elements had to be updated. For example: payphones. They used to be everywhere, now they’re basically extinct. Also, after 9/11, it’s impossible to go anywhere near an airport without being photographed. And airport lockers? Gone.
Proctor: We have both grown tremendously as storytellers. Evolution is the key to satisfaction for any artist. The “do over” is analogous to building a better mousetrap. This time every drop is worth the squeeze.
Geek: Now, under the Epic deal, the book was to be split into four parts—how did that impact the story at the time?
Way: The story had to be revised so that it hit a major revelation or complication–a cliffhanger every 22 pages. That meant trimming the story down, focusing on fewer elements and characters. As a graphic novel, I have so much more flexibility in regards to where the twists and turns take place.
Proctor: We also had to cut some of the more graphic story points out which may have been more difficult to stomach but in doing so we also dulled some of the fine points. This time we are all in. The censorship of the initial incarnation is gone. The dark places that this book goes to will now be televised and the blade is razor sharp.
Geek: What were some things you’ve been able to take away from existing comic Kickstarter campaigns for your own? Are you ready for a full month of pitching your book non-stop?
Way: It’s very important to us that contributors know how grateful we are for their support. To start with, the name of every single contributor will have their name listed in the credits. In addition, everything we’re offering limited edition, signed and numbered copies of both the softcover and hardcover editions of “Gun Theory” (both of which will feature an exclusive cover/dustjacket available only to Kickstarter contributors), a limited edition print (which will be shipped unfolded, in a tube, so it can be framed) and a limited amount of full-pages sketches.
Probably the coolest thing we have to offer, though, is the opportunity for contributors to actually appear in the book, either as a background character or as a featured character–to be killed by Harvey, the main character!
Proctor: Kickstarter is an absolutely genius idea. Crowd unding trims the fat and takes away the red tape of major publishing companies who can often include a “too many chefs in the kitchen” model. Obviously success for our campaign is something that I think will hinge on whether or not we are able to generate enough interest. So please, go and support us. I promise we’ll provide an amazing and entertaining experience!
The “Gun Theory” Kickstarter campaign will end Friday, May 17.