Evan Sult: Spartacus - Written In Blood on the Sand

A comics interview article by: Karyn Pinter

Recently, Karyn Pinter got the chance to catch up with Evan Sult, Editor on Spartacus: Blood and Sand. In this interview, Evan gives us a look into the world of the comics and how the hit Starz television series has influenced the books.


-Alex Rodrik, Editor of Features and Interviews

Karyn Pinter: Good day, Evan, and thank you for talking to us about Spartacus. I have to admit that I thought the first issue was a little shaky, but it really picked up with issue two and I’m eager to see what’s coming next.

Evan Sult: My pleasure.

KP: First off, let’s hear a little about the comic book. I’ve read the two issues out, but maybe some of our readers haven’t. Help catch them up to speed.

ES: In the Starz TV series, Spartacus is a man torn from his formerly peaceful life by marauding Romans, who have destroyed his home and his family. He is dragged into the servitude and horror of a gladiator’s brutal life, living alongside the other dregs of the Roman Empire. These men are the worst criminals and deadliest killers in the known world at that time.

The comic book is our opportunity to learn more of the legends of these men: what brought them to the gladiator’s arena, how they gained their fearsome reputations. The show has its own very complex narrative with dozens of characters; the comic book is a further expansion into the world of Spartacus, so that we know more about the enemies and legends he grapples with.

KP: Are you involved in the show at all, or just the comic?

ES: The artists and I get access to some really cool source material from the show -- reference material of the sets and costumes, but also some great little videos detailing how the show layers on the many incredibly detailed and awesome special effects in each shot of each show. Other than that, we receive show scripts and input from Steven S. DeKnight, who is a co-creator of the show, to make sure the world we’re creating is the same one they are. More or less.

KP: Will any of the issues be stand alone, or will they all tie in directly with the show?

ES: The series is designed as a collection of interlocking stand alones. Because we’re following the story of a new gladiator every issue, we brought in a whole new creative team on every issue -- new writer, artists, cover artist -- to ensure that we see their world from a new perspective each time. They tie in to the show’s world more than directly into the show’s ongoing narrative.

KP: So far the stories have been about characters that have small parts but act as back-story for some of the main characters. Will any of the comics focus on the main characters, or will they remain bit players in the comics?

ES: What we definitely didn’t want to do was tell the stories that are already in the show; that’s what the show is for. This isn’t an adaptation, it’s an exploration, and we want the stories that we tell in the comic to enrich the experience of the show. So when you see Doctore crack his whip at Spartacus on the show, you can tell there’s some history to the guy; he’s clearly a badass who earned his position the hard way. But what’s that story? What brought him to the arena? Well, the reader of the comic will know how he survived his greatest challenge, and earned the scar on his cheek. It makes the show a richer experience.

KP: The second issue with the jackal brothers was pretty good, and they were awesome in the show, however little the part.

ES: Issue 2’s art was the work of Dexter Soy: the second I saw his work (thanks, Tim Seeley!), I knew I had to have him on Spartacus. And he just killed it, especially once the brothers are out stalking the countryside, and later pitted against the other gladiators in the ring. We saw an opportunity in the comic to try to beat out the show version of the brothers -- not that there was anything wrong with the show version, but I felt like this was one of those moments when we saw an opening and we took it. And I think it looks killer.

KP: There are 13 episodes of the show so far, will there be more issues of the comic to go along with them, or is it being kept to 4?

ES: There has been talk of a second comic series. At the moment the series has 4 issues.

KP: It’s been a different team of writers and artist so far. Who might we be expecting on the next two issues?

ES: Like I say, the switch-ups are all intentional -- they’re certainly not the easy way to do a comics series! So we opened with a script by Steven DeKnight and art by Adam Archer, then did a script by Jimmy Palmiotti with art by Dexter Soy. For issue 3 we have art by some guys I’ve been really digging: Guilherme Balbi and Jon Bosco, who have two different styles that serve the transition in the story well. Aaron and Todd Helbing, who write for the Starz show, wrote the script. Then for the finale, the art is by Allan Jefferson and the script is by Miranda Kwok, who also came to us via the show in some capacity or other. So these are people who are very familiar with Spartacus and the world he lives in.

KP: This whole project seems to be Steven DeKnight’s baby; did he hand pick the crew to work on the comic? How about the show?

ES: This is definitely his baby, and he’s been involved in every issue. The crew of each issue has been my pleasure and responsibility to assemble, but they all had to be approved by Steven. All of the covers are in a painted style because that’s something that Steven was specifically looking for. When I send in the art for approval, it’s his word I’m waiting on.

KP: This is a bloody comic. When I read the first issue, I was amazed by how much red was on the page. I’ve watched the first few episodes of the show which is bloody as hell too. So, is the comic trying to match or keep up with the show?

ES: I’m sure that Steven would be the first to affirm that he’s a blood and guts guy; most of the comments I got back from him were along the lines of “More blood! Can we get an eyeball flying off the page?” and the like. So we’re not so much trying to keep up as taking direction from the same gorehound. And I always tell the artists that this is their chance to really take the gloves off and actually draw in the stuff that they can only imply in other comics.

KP: Everyone loves a little violence, but are you ever afraid it might be too much?

ES: Actually, I fear for the black-edged souls of everyone involved in Spartacus. But we all knew what we were getting into… And there definitely have been moments when we’ve gone overboard. Issue 2 in particular had some pretty harrowing scenes, thanks to the twisted mind of Jimmy Palmiotti, and there were some folks in some office buildings along the way who felt a line had been crossed. So we pulled back for the good of all mankind.

KP: How about the sex and language to complete the package? How rated R is the comic going to get?

ES: For some reason, drawings of skewered organs and pain-wracked dying men don’t seem to draw the kind of ire that nude women -- and especially nude men -- seem to inspire. But that said…comics have their own special way of getting to the good parts.

KP: Bring it home, Evan. Besides the blood and sex, what other reasons can you give to people to get them interested in the comic?

ES: Well, blood isn’t why I started reading comics. I got into comics because I loved the artwork. And my favorite part of editing comics is receiving pages with final art. I feel like all of the artists we snagged for Spartacus are underappreciated, and I’m glad to have them here on our book before I see them elsewhere in the industry. Issue 2’s cover by Matrix? Great colors, great style. Jon Bosco’s dynamic characters, Dexter Soy’s blast of texture and style, Chris Lie’s blast of blood on the Comic Con Exclusive cover to issue 1… I think the TV show may bring people to this title, but the art is pure comics, and does a good job of nailing the medium’s own potential.

KP: Thank you again for chatting with us at Comicsbulletin.com about Spartacus: Blood and Sand.

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