Some content in this post may be NSFW. Discretion advised.
In October, author Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist Emma Rios join forces to launch Pretty Deadly, a new ongoing series from Image Comics that follows death's daughter, Ginny, as she rides across a mythic wild west, dealing out vengeance. The series looks to be one of this autumn's most interesting launches, and as part of our Fall Preview extravaganza, we spoke to DeConnick and Rios about their plans for the series (and as an added bonus, our friends at Image sent along a four-page preview of issue #1).
MTV Geek: This book is… A fairy-tale widescreen spaghetti western? A supernatural fantasy adventure? Are you even sure how to describe it?
Kelly Sue DeConnick: I am terrible at talking about it, actually. It's a problem, I think.
Greg Rucka described it as a "dark faerie tale." Fraction says it lives somewhere between "PREACHER and SANDMAN." Macabre fantasy Western, maybe? That sounds… awful, though. The fantasy part sort of gives me toe fists.
Emma Rios: Yeah , it´s quite difficult, I would say it´s a dark fantasy tale in the Far West.
Geek: Did you go into this with a longterm plan, or just a starting point? Is this a book that's changing and growing as it develops?
DeConnick: We had a plan, but it's bucked the plan at every turn. Or rather, the plan has been changed by a higher editorial power of some sort. It's definitely growing and changing as it develops. The world feels very real now, which is something special. And it doesn't feel like anything else I've ever done.
Rios: We had some ideas that were lost, and a few that are still there, and it´s true it feels different from what we imagined at the beginning. The book has become more and more its own thing, which is something I really like. Things come up so naturally now, makes me think we are really building something new.
Geek: The previews have contained some fairly graphic sequences; is this intended as a 'mature-readers' book?
DeConnick: Oh, most definitely.
Geek: Are there particular, specific influences that you'd cite as helping inspire this series?
DeConnick: Sergio Leone, we've talked about from the start. As the book took this supernatural turn that we didn't plan for, I kind of lamented what I felt was a shift away from the Leone influence, but then my friend Charlie Huston found this for me:
“The important thing is to make a different world, to make a world that is not now. A real world, a genuine world, but one that allows myth to live. The myth is everything."
The myth is everything. It turns out Leone was in the recipe all along.
Rios: And that myth shows visually through how extremely nuanced the aesthetics are, in each shot of his movies. I wanted to follow that path built by Leone, the crazy translations from wide views to extra close details, try to be emotionally accurate even in the quiet silent scenes, control the background, make worth some distracting elements here and there...
Also old samurai cinema, like for example Masaki Kobayashi. When I saw Seppuku and Inn of Evil for the first time my head exploded. Such an evocative stuff, almost oneiric, that far from interfering in the narration pushes it to another level. That was something I really wanted to experiment with, for quite a while.
Geek: How did you go about developing the designs for this world? How is the collaboration working in terms of breaking up the plotting/scripting/storytelling mechanics?
DeConnick: We have a pinterest board and evernote folders where we share images, and we email back and forth about story. It's very collaborative. The most collaborative thing I've ever done. We're writing it together as we go -- sometimes I do it in full script, sometimes "plot" or Marvel stye (which is just a prose description of the scene, for those who don't know.) It's important to Emma to have at least a rough approximation of the dialogue though, so our "Marvel style" really only lacks panel breakdowns.
Rios: Dialogue is necessary because the acting is so important for us. We work a lot with notes about how the characters are feeling in each moment and discuss about their psychology. It helps us a lot to build the tone in each scene. This book is totally focused on them.
Geek: Have there been moments where, as you see each others' contributions, the story ends up going in a direction you don't expect?
DeConnick: Yes. I'm having trouble citing a specific example right now, but yes -- because we work in these small chunks, the art is always influencing what's coming.
Rios: We are working with full scenes instead of full scripts, each can be 3, 6, 12 pages. I normally finish the layouts and pencils and send them to KS and Sigrid, who helps us editing. That way, while I´m working on the inks for those, we discuss what comes next having the chance to check the immediate previous material. This allows us to discuss and adapt the tone and the happenings better.
Geek: How about Jordie Bellaire, the colorist? How did you connect with her, and how much input has she had into the look and feel that you're developing?
DeConnick: Jordie's amazing. The three of us worked together on Captain Marvel first and then I had the opportunity to meet her in Ireland last year.
Rios: This is the third project, no wait, actually the fourth project, in which we've collaborated. And each one is different! Because what matters the most is the kind of book we are looking for. I love how much she understands my inks and respects them. And how good she is making things clear to improve the narrative and the atmosphere. We are so fortunate to have her.
Geek: Women are notoriously under-represented in the comic book industry, and yet this is a comic launching with an all-female creative team. How did you three come together to work on this title?
DeConnick: Well, I don't want to diminish the contributions of our token male -- Clayton Cowles is our letterer and he's extraordinary -- but yes, Editor, Artist, Writer and Colorist are all female. Obviously it started with Emma and I. Pretty Deadly was born out of our collaboration on Osborn: Evil Incarcerated. We had such a great time that we wanted to do something else. We started talking about Pretty Deadly way back then. Then we got the opportunity to do a couple of issues of Captain Marvel and Jordie was added to the mix and she was such a great fit. And when I thought it would be good to have someone who was good at big pictures and schedule wrangling, I though of my friend Sigrid Ellis, who in addition to being an editor for Norwegian Press and a gifted writer as well, is an air traffic controller in her day job. If there is a skill set better suited to what we need, I can't imagine it.
When it came to letters, I was really hoping to have hand lettering -- and the only hand letterer I know is Dustin Harbin. He's AMAZING. He was with us briefly and lettered our preview, but then it turned out our schedule wasn't going to work, so Dusty broke up with us. Sniff. Very sweetly, though -- it's all good. I think Dustin actually recommended Clayton as his replacement? Clayton doesn't hand letter, but I'd worked with him on Avengers Assemble and I'd marveled at his work with Fraction on The Order, so he was an easy choice. Plus I think he and Jordie are besties.
I love that we're a nearly-all-lady team, but I mostly love that I have tremendous respect for everyone on board.
Rios: This is quite a special project for us, a project we wanted to do for quite a while so working with people we like, and trust, is normal. Jordie and I have been partners in crime for quite a while already, Sigrid and Kelly Sue were already friends.
It´s just natural I think.
Geek: Aside from Ginny and her horse, who've been in the previews and advance PR, are there any other major cast members? Recurring supporting players, arch-nemeses…?
DeConnick: We just put up a character sheet for Big Alice, who's one of our baddies. There's also the blind man and the girl in the vulture coat -- Fox and Sissy, respectively -- Johnny Coyote and Sarah and her boys. The dog pack. Beauty, Death and the Mason. And, of course, Bones Bunny and the Butterfly, who narrate the tale.
Rios: One of the things I like the most about this book is that it's pretty much a choral thing. Every character is layered and thought carefully, and all of them have their own weight, principles and ambitions.
Geek: Is this a limited, or ongoing series? And if ongoing, is there a specific end point in mind? Is this a book headed toward a specific destination, or is it more about enjoying the ride?
DeConnick: Ongoing. I have rough ideas for 3 arcs, if the market will support it. We'll see. We'll also be taking breaks between arcs so that we can keep other projects going. Emma's got some solo stuff in the hopper that's really exciting and I've spoken to Image already about my next project there.
Rios: Yeah, we really want to make this world move forward and grow, as much as we can. This is our thing, and we would love to work on it for years.
Pretty Deadly hits comic shops on Wednesday, October 23rd.