The comic series Kill Shakespeare launched from IDW in the Spring of 2009, featuring the work of co-creators Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery, and the artist [aka Andy B.] and turns on the premise that some of Shakespeare’s most famous heroes (Hamlet, Juliet, Falstaff, Othello, Romeo, Puck) undertake a journey to find hermit-like Wizard William Shakespeare to aid them in their fight against some of Shakespeare’s most famous villains (Richard III, Iago, Lady Macbeth). Three hefty collected editions later, the comic is still going strong, with possible announcements in Spring of 2014 about future arcs.
In fact, what started off as a project with a fair chance of catching the attention of comics fans, educators, and Shakespeare buffs has spiraled into a pop cultural phenomenon of its own as demand for the series increases and the concepts for the book morph into other media incarnations, including shockingly successful stage productions, film development, and most recently, a board game as part of IDW’s new games property line. The creators have actively pursued this expansion as part of their general agenda of spreading enthusiasm for Shakespeare’s work and for the comic, and they show no signs of slowing down. It really begs the question, where does this all end? With Kill Shakespeare in comic shops, on stage, and headed for screens and table tops, the series is pretty much a contender for geek world domination. Co-creator Anthony Del Col spoke with me at the Kill Shakespeare booth at New York Comic Con about the formative ideas behind the influential series and also some of the remarkable media crossovers currently underway.
Hannah Means-Shannon: So, why Shakespeare for you guys? Why not some other literary or cultural figure?
Anthony Del Col: Well, the genesis of the idea was to play off the title of the film, Kill Bill. It was kind of like “Kill Bill Shakespeare”. Conor McCreery and I have both been fans of Shakespeare for years. We were both introduced to him through very good English teachers in high school and that kind of brought Shakespeare to life for us. It also came to life for us through seeing Shakespeare, through going to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. We’re very fortunate being based in Toronto, having access to the festival, the largest Shakespeare festival in North America. My sister has a Masters in English Lit, so I learned a lot from her through osmosis. We’ve always just enjoyed his stories and his characters. The ability to bring him to life in a whole new way through this is exciting. If you ask, why are we not doing this with other authors, it’s tough. With Dickens, the average person can only name three or four characters tops. With Jane Austen, you have the hard core Austenites, but that’s more of a niche group. If you look at any of the big authors, it’s tough to name more than a handful of characters whereas with Shakespeare, even if you haven’t seen Othello, you know who Othello is. He’s universal that way.
HMS: He’s more part of the public consciousness. There’s a practical aspect, then? People know these characters.
ADC: Yes, that was big for us. We wanted the brand. We wanted to shine a whole new spotlight on him. It just has that universal appeal. Through the Western world, everyone studies two to five plays at various points in their education, so people are aware. Shakespeare’s been around for 400 years, he’ll be around for another 400 years. They often say he’s the greatest writer of all time, I would say he’s the greatest entertainer of all time.
HMS: He has an established fan-base, you might say!
ADC: (laughs) Yes, and part of the point is we’re trying to grow that fan-base. The whole point of Kill Shakespeare is to get people excited about Shakespeare in a whole new way. Because there are so many people who, unfortunately, have bad experiences with Shakespeare, bad teachers who don’t realize that when Shakespeare wrote his plays, he wrote them to be performed. He did not write them to be read in class.
HMS: Do you intentionally put in Easter eggs for big Shakespeare fans when it comes to the artwork?
ADC: Oh yes. Andy Belanger [aka Andy B.], our artist, has probably listened to and read more about Shakespeare than even we have, and he places some of those Easter eggs in there. We also place some in there. We’re trying to write for two levels, though. For those who know nothing about Shakespeare, it’s very easy to get into. It’s action, adventure, drama, and there are the characters. But for those who do know Shakespeare, we throw in those Easter eggs. We always compare it to Pixar. So Pixar makes their films for young children, but also there are a bunch of references that are slyly put in for the adults, to keep them entertained. Whether it’s a pop culture reference or a plot point, anything like that. And we’re just fortunate because a lot of professors like Kill Shakespeare. For a lot of professors, they just feel like Shakespeare is under appreciated, so if anyone does a unique take on Shakespeare, they are all behind that. There are some that have rebelled against us, though*.
[* Most famously Kimberly Cox, who wanted to “bitch-slap” them here on Bleeding Cool in 2010, though they had Rich Johnston saying “blimey” as early as their preview and rightly predicting they’d be optioned]
HMS: Why did you choose the characters you have chosen from Shakespeare for the series? Why them and not others? How did you make that decision?
ADC: Well, Conor always likes to joke that we didn’t choose the characters, the characters chose us. They came up and tapped us on the shoulder and said, “Hey, we want in on this”. It’s funny because when we first came up with the idea, we were just brainstorming off the Kill Bill character, and we …read more
Source: Bleeding Cool