McCreery and Anthony Del Col
Want You To Help Them Kill Shakespeare...
before WonderCon this year, I got an email from Conor McCreery,
asking if I'd be interested in talking to him and his creative
partners Anthony Del Col and Andy Belanger. They had this
new book coming out from IDW called Kill Shakespeare, and
apparently in Canada they didn't know how people had been
going nuts for it in advance.
Del Col and Conor McCreery
want to make Shakespeare come alive, only to kill
the hype alone, I jumped at the chance to meet these guys.
Then they sent me an advanced look at the book, and I knew
that I HAD to sit down with them. The only way this would
not be my favorite series this year is if J. Michael Straczynski
gets around to finishing The Twelve in 2010, and then I
may just keep Kill Shakespeare in the top slot out of spite
today's section of the interview, McCreery and Del Col talk
about their inspirations and tackle the hubris of turning
Elizabethan fan fiction into incredibly entertaining graphic
art -- and artist Andy Belanger speaks up, but will get
a lot more of his two cents in as Part 2 of this interview.
came up with this idea? Who approached who?
Anthony Del Col: Well, Conor and
I are the co-creators of it. It was actually about five
or six years ago. We were sitting around trying to brainstorm
ideas for videogames. We started talking about Kill Bill,
which I think had just recently come out at that time.
We thought hey, let's do a videogame like
Kill Bill, only instead of trying to track down David
Carradine, they try to track down Bill… (eyes widen)
Bill Shakespeare! All of Shakespeare's characters together
in the same world and they're on a quest to track down and
get… actually, that's a really cool idea!
Then we sat back and basically reveled
in how fantastic we were and how genius we were and then
we took five years…
Conor McCreery: Three years of reveling…
Anthony Del Col: No, no… right off
the bat we thought hey, this is fantastic. Instead of a
videogame, this could be a film. This could be a huge, epic
live-action Lord of the Rings type action adventure.
So we went off and wrote fifteen pages
of what the story was, and it's very close to what it is
today, with some changes. There's actually someone from
today's world, who finds this portal that goes off into
Shakespeare's land and it's Shakespeare's characters.
Then we put it on a shelf. We were quite
busy; I was busy in the music industry managing a couple
of high-profile artists, Conor was off in the business news
world, writing and producing. Then about two years ago we
pulled the concept off the shelf, started revamping it,
redid the story and realized hey, it's actually a comic
Conor McCreery: That's where Andy
came in. We started off looking to put together the concept
art so we could see if anybody thought this looked good,
so we came to Andy and said, hey, Andy -- we didn't know
him, but we knew him by reputation - would you be interested?
Andy Belanger: Yeah, they approached
me about eighteen months ago with the concept. Right in
our first meeting I could tell that was something that would
work really well. Shakespeare has fans already. It's a built
in market. I really thought this could be a successful property
just based on their initial pitch.
Belanger sitting with McCreery and Del Col
at a convention appearance.
So I've sort of been there the whole time.
I did character designs and six sample pages. Then it was
just like, okay, go for it, guys. See if you can find a
Anthony Del Col: Then last February
we went out to New York Comic-Con. That's when we first
started pitching it to publishers. Right off the bat everybody
loved it. IDW was one of the first publishers we sat down
We sold them on four words. Just picture
it as the Justice League of Shakespeare. They would have
a typical reaction. They'd kind of start to laugh and lean
back in their chairs and say "hey!"
Conor McCreery: That's where my
jaw dropped, because Anthony is the Shakespeare guy and
I'm the comics guy. I looked at him and said, "you know
about the Justice League?"
Anthony Del Col: (laughing)
He's like, "How did you get that reference?" I'd been reading!
I'd been doing my research!
That kind of sold them on it. They saw
the potential. We had five publishers that were interested
in publishing it. We signed with IDW because we liked them
from a business and a creative perspective. They're a very
good team, up and coming publisher, and we also liked what
they're doing on the digital front, too. We love the concept
of putting out Kill Shakespeare as an app on the
iPhone and the Blackberry.
McCaw: Okay, so you've got the Shakespeare background.
And Shakespeare's got lots of fans. You've obviously made
a lot of changes. Certainly your take on Rosencrantz and
Guildenstern will run counter to people's views on them.
What went into your decision making process on this? This
is the story that Shakespeare lied about?
Conor McCreery: One of the things
that I first thought when looking at Hamlet the play,
here's Claudius, he killed Hamlet's dad, he's got to be
a bad king, right? He's got to be. He murdered the
king to get the throne.
early promotional piece...
Except when you read the play, there's
no commentary about anybody being upset that Claudius is
king. Obviously they don't know about the murder, but there's
not even like oh, the new guy is worse than the old guy.
In fact, one of the few references to the
royalty at all is about how Hamlet's father was this military
king. So there's a serious discussion about well, was Hamlet's
father maybe not a good king?
Even with Shakespeare's own work, Shakespeare
left little clues that just because (he's) writing something,
doesn't mean it's true. And so we said, hey, let's play
So Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were something
that we thought, what if? We don't really know what happened
on that boat in the play. Why couldn't they have been different
types of guys? Maybe they really did love Hamlet.
That's one thing that we think is fun,
picking little characters like that and giving them a new
spin. If you're a Shakespeare fan, you think "oh, well,
that's different." And if you're not a Shakespeare fan,
then that's cool. Hopefully, you'll get into Shakespeare
from this, then go back to Hamlet and look at Rosencrantz
and Guildenstern and say, well that's not what I read in
And you'll either like it better, Shakespeare's
way better, or sit there and go oh, then really look
at these plays and think what else is there that has kind
of been hidden from me by Shakespeare. Shakespeare was fantastic
at writing one thing, but giving all these clues that that
may not be the real truth, which is mind-blowing.
McCaw: So how much research did you have to
Conor McCreery: We made an early
decision that we wanted to be true to Shakespeare, but we
didn't want to get bogged down in minutiae. So we're reading
the plays, but - I mean, we're not going to outwrite Shakespeare.
We're not going to be more clever or better storytellers
than he was. We didn't want to get caught saying, "well,
this meant this…"
McCaw: Yet there are a lot of details. Wasn't
that Launce Gobbo's dog in the graveyard scene?
Conor McCreery: It's funny, because
other people have said that.
Anthony Del Col: Well, we're also
playing off that joke from Shakespeare in Love, the
common joke was that Queen Elizabeth always wanted a dog
in it, that would make it funny. Actually, the producer
in the film would say, "everything and a dog."
Jupiter, they're RIGHT!
To be true to Shakespeare, we're trying
to put everything that Shakespeare did into the story. It's
action adventure predominantly, but we also have love and
romance. (Here Anthony revealed a later plot development;
for surprise's sake, I'm leaving it out.) We've got
drama, we've got plenty of violence, we've got double-crossing
and cross-dressing. We're trying to throw everything in
there. Throw a dog in there! We've even got a play within
One of the things we're trying to do is
make it accessible to everyone. If you know nothing about
Shakespeare, you can get into it. That's one of the reasons
we wanted to stay away from knowing every single thing about
Shakespeare's plays. We just wanted to have that kind of
perspective for the average person, who maybe read Romeo
and Juliet in class, whether it was a year ago or twenty
So you kind of know that stuff, but you
don't know everything. We didn't want it to hinder our choices
with respect to characters or story.
McCaw: I thought it was an interesting fantasy
Anthony Del Col: Yeah! YEAH! Exactly.
If you haven't read Hamlet, at least you know who
Hamlet is, or Othello or Richard the Third. It's basically
to incorporate all these into a really fun adventure and
events that everyone can love.
cover to the first issue...
That's the real goal. If you're a Shakespeare
fan, you have the ultimate "what if" question. For instance,
what if Juliet had survived?
McCaw: (laughing) That's been burning in my
mind every time I read the play.
Anthony Del Col: Yes, what if…
Conor McCreery: We didn't want to
get caught up in what's before, but when you pick up the
first issue, we do a really quick recap of where Hamlet
was to date. That's really all you need to know to jump
into the story. All the other characters explain themselves
or are explained by their choices and their actions.
don't need to be sitting there going, "I don't know Shakespeare,
so it's not for me." Actually, it's even more for you if
you don't know Shakespeare.
We'll be continuing this conversation,
focusing on artist Andy Belanger and some of their hopes
for the journey of Kill Shakespeare...