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DC Kills Shakespeare

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It might not be Shakespeare, but it’s not that bad. – The Kill Shakespeare team

Anthony Del Col and Cono McCreeryWriters Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery spent a cool night at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC last week for a presentation of their comic book series Kill Shakespeare.  The first volume of the maxi-series follows Hamlet as he tracks down the Bard who may or may not be God.  The comic has received acclaim and praise (including from us) for it’s great story telling and excellent art.

For about an hour Del Col and McCreery described the process behind creating the series, it’s fruition from the beginning as well as what goes into drawing the comic.  It all started eight years ago as Del Col was brainstorming ideas for a new video game series.  Kill Bill was popular and as the two joked, what other “Bills” could “they kill?”  After Cosby, Shatner and Clinton were all thrown around, William Shakespeare was decided upon.  It was first thought up as a movie concept and a twenty-five page treatment was written but shelved for years only to be revived three and a half years ago as the comic book series we know, which debuted last April.

The audience was primarily Shakespeare fans, with less than a quarter of them having read the comic and few were regular comic book readers.  The two commented the ultimate compliment would be readers of the comic series being turned into Shakespeare fans and Shakespeare fans giving comic books a chance.  This lead to one woman laughing.  The want to be the drug pushers of the Bard.

The series features numerous characters focusing primarily on Hamlet, Juliet (who controversially survived her tragic tale) and Lady Macbeth among others.

Del Col admitted to not being much of a comic book reader himself, thinking it for kids, but there’s something visual about Shakespeare’s stories.  McCreery though thinks everyone is a comic book reader, they just haven’t found the right comic yet.  And with that, they both reiterated this is a series that’ll hopefully make Shakespeare cool for kids, and act as a gateway for people who may not know his work too well.  In reverse that this also might work as a way to get Shakespeare fans into comic books.  They went with the comic format, as it gives the ability for great visuals at a fraction of the cost of a movie.

The series is just one example of the literary mash-up wave including Fables, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, The League of Extraordinary Gentleman and many more titles.  Their work barrows from the Bard, either re-purposing existing lines, using them in new ways, giving characters lines they might not have originally said, outright stealing scenes or in a few cases all three of these at once.

The first volume of the series which runs twelve issues ends in July and the two have mapped out a second and third story arc.  They also see this as part of a trans media project and eventually would like a live action film, video games including mobile and mmos and are currently in talks to create action figures.  There’s been interest from Hollywood to adapt the comic series as a movie already.

As a whole thought they see comics in general sharing a lot with Shakespeare.  His stories were “high culture” but really for the masses while comic books are considered “low culture” and as this comic series shows, is really so much more.  As a whole, their hope is to be a part of the catalyst that makes Shakespeare cool again, much like Lord of the Rings lead to a reemergence of the popularity of the fantasy genre.

After their hour lecture, the two took questions for the audience who covered everything from the two’s influences, approach to the series and issues they had using the Bard’s work.  The lecture was then followed by a signing by the writers.