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Kill Shakespeare Interview: Anthony Del Col

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killshakespeareissue1Meet Anthony Del Col, writer & co-creator of Kill Shakespeare, a new comic from IDW which has been featured at Toronto Wizard Con, Comic Con and Wonder Con in San Francisco.

Kill Shakespeare is a daring new comic which follows Shakespeare’s most loved characters on a quest to kill a reclusive wizard… William Shakespeare himself. To view the official IDW trailer for Kill Shakespeare, click here. Follow these links for previews of Issue #1 and Issue #2.

Can you tell me a little about yourself and the team behind Kill Shakespeare? I understand you are the Shakespeare geek of the bunch.

It’s funny that I’ve been labeled the ‘Shakespeare geek’ while Conor is the ‘comic geek’ because we both trade off at various times (at this precise moment Conor is reading ‘Richard III’ while I’m going through the latest ‘Fables’ adventures). Conor and I both enter this project with various experiences in the business and media worlds: myself as the producer of some indie films, a music manager and entrepreneur; Conor as a writer, producer and journalist. We work well because of these various backgrounds and our ability to trade off when necessary – we both balance the creative and the business at various points.

Was it a challenge to combine your very diverse skill set?

Well, we have to play rock-paper-scissors to make some decisions when there’s a stalemate… Seriously, though, there hasn’t been much of a challenge at all. Our strong partnership comes from a shared story sensibility – we both like similar films, books, games, etc. And as mentioned above, we have the ability to trade off on the various aspects of our venture, between the creative and the business. It’s an incredibly challenging and time-consuming endeavor to create, release and market a comic book series like this and it makes it a hell of a lot easier when you have a co-pilot.

In a recent article featured on Bleeding Cool, graphic novelist and Shakespeare expert Kimberly Cox gives a fairly scathing review of the first issue of KILL SHAKESPEARE. How do you respond to her claims that these days everyone hates Shakespeare?

Methinks she doth protest too much… Ms. Cox may have been exaggerating this point but it was still well made… The general perception is that most people hate Shakespeare. This is not true. Most people are not fans of the way that Shakespeare is taught these days. However, when taught or presented properly (as a kinetic, entertaining story) the Bard’s work can come alive and speak to everyone. As we’ve been talking to people over the last year about this project we’re amazed by how many fans of the Bard there are – from all walks of life, and all demographics. We’d love the opportunity to bring some of these people together as a community with this project.

How do you think academia as a whole will respond to these comics?

For the most part academics LOVE this project. We’ve heard from librarians, academics and teachers that they see this as a great gateway into the world of Shakespeare – a unique way of introducing him to a new generation and set of audiences. However, there have been some purists (such as Ms. Cox) who object to this. That’s okay – we delight in the discussion and feel that ol’ Shakey himself would embrace this project (though would be upset that we beat him to the punch).

Was it your aim to make William Shakespeare’s works more accessible through these comics or will it just a positive side effect if they do?

Our top priority at all times is to create an entertaining story. If we don’t do this then we’ve failed completely. However, our second goal is indeed to make the Bard accessible. We want this project to speak to audiences that shudder at the thought of being forced to read or watch Shakespeare – whether it’s a fifteen-year-old boy in class forced to study Romeo & Juliet or a fifty-year-old woman who has never had the time.

You and the other Kill Shakespeare creators have often talked of the emerging literary mashup genre (such as Bill Willingham’s Fables) as a source of inspiration. What is it about this genre that has so intrigued you?

It’s the possibility of the “what if” question… What if a character that you’ve read about, analyzed and loved suddenly found him/herself in a new scenario? Or found themselves in the same world as another classic character? What would happen in these scenarios? I’m really intrigued by taking well-known characters (such as the Bard’s) and placing them into a new world and having them come alive to new and unique audiences.

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The Kill Shakespeare Creative Team (L to R) : Conor McCreery, Andy Belanger, Anthony Del Col.

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In terms of comics, your debut issue was fantastic in each and every regard. Can you tell us a little bit about the process involved in making Kill Shakespeare happen?

Glad to hear that you liked it! We first came up with the idea six years ago in a brainstorming exercise but after developing it for a while we had to shelve it because Conor and I became busy with some other projects/activities. It was about two years ago when we decided that our story was best served in the comics medium that it started to take flight… We then went out and raised some private money to fund the project, brought IDW Publishing on board, and now our project is really starting to take flight…

I understand the first issue of Kill Shakespeare took 16 drafts to get right. How difficult was it to incorporate such dense reading material into a comic book?

Conor and I actually made a conscious decision to NOT re-read the plays line-by-line because we wanted a fresh take on the characters and their stories. We also did not want to become too caught up in the minute details of each play. We’re trying to write the comics to work on two levels – the first level is a straight entertaining tale that everyone can enjoy, whether you’ve studied the plays or not. The second level is to put in little references and Easter Eggs that Shakespeare devotees can appreciate and sink their teeth into (such as naming a brothel that Falstaff takes Hamlet to as ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’).

How much did you experiment with the mix of modern and Shakespearian language?

Well, we’re getting really good at writing “thee” and “thou”… We made a decision early on that we wanted to go the modern-language route with this project and we haven’t looked back. I know that some Shakespeare scholars (such as Ms. Cox) have blasted us for this decision, but it worked well for Tom Stoppard (Shakespeare in Love, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead), did it not? The element that most makes Shakespeare’s plays inaccessible today is the language – don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful and poetic, but it was written four hundred years ago and is often tough to understand.

Is there anything you can tell us about where this project is going after the initial run of 12 issues?

Fishing for spoilers, are you now?… If the positive reaction continues like it has, Conor and I have a lot of ideas for future installments of our story. We have a trilogy mapped out in our heads which will really dazzle readers and put the characters in some really interesting scenarios. There have been so many characters that we wanted to put into this first series but couldn’t find the room. We’d love to grow out our universe and ’cause there are so many things we’d love to do.

Your co-writer, Connor McCreery said in an interview with Wired.com that if Shakespeare were alive today, he would be J.J Abrams. Is it safe to assume that Kill Shakespeare will keep us guessing until the last minute?

Seeing as how this is the final question in the interview, should I actually answer this, or continue to keep you guessing until the next one?…

Guessing it is! Thank you Anthony for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat with me.

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To order your copy of Kill Shakespeare, click here.

Follow Kill Shakespeare on Facebook or visit the official site.

- Mary Hoffman

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