Steven Grant: Hitting On Target with 2 GunsA comics interview article by: Matthew McLean
Steven Grant has been writing comics since the late 1970s. To try to briefly summarize his diverse career is not feasible. But you have to respect a bio that includes: “co-renovated The Hardy Boys for a 125+ novel run in the '80s. Wrote bestselling comics biography of Pope John Paul II, created long-running feature Whisper for Capital/First.” Clearly that just scratches the surface, go here for full details. Many folks know Grant thanks to his column, Permanent Damage, for CBR. SBC’s Matthew McLean reached out to Grant recently to discuss his current BOOM! miniseries, 2 Guns, described as: “In the vein of Ocean's Eleven and The Italian Job, Two Guns is a pulp story about cops and thieves and the men that are something in between.” SBC Features Editor Tim O'Shea assisted in the interview.
Matthew McLean (MM): While it's understood that the story started out as a screenplay, where did the idea for 2 Guns come from?
Steven Grant (SG): Probably from tales of police agent provocateurs infiltrating and manipulating domestic "liberation movements" when I was a kid. The FBI had whole secret programs dedicated to this, undercover cops were a big thing in metropolitan police departments, and for all I know all those conditions still apply. But somewhere along the line I was amused at the concept of entire gangs composed of undercover cops from different agencies all waiting for the opportunity to bust each other. Eventually I whittled the idea down to 2 Guns. I'd been nursing the basic concept for a long time, but came up with and produced 2 Guns pretty quickly.
MM: What do you think attracted BOOM! to the 2 Guns concept?
SG: Mainly that it's a funny concept, I think. Also, Ross (Richie, Boom Co-founder) has been actively canvassing comics writers for unproduced screenplays they may have written, with the idea of turning them into comics. 2 Guns, which he'd read when I wrote it a couple of years ago, caught him off guard because it really was written as professionally as possible, and the screenplay really moved. And it's just whammy after whammy, things that hit you out of the blue but they're built on what you already know. What you think you know keeps turning out to be something else. I know the story kept knocking Ross for a loop when he read it, and while I'd never considered turning 2 Guns into a comic, Ross and Andy asked me to pitch some stuff to them but it turned out what they really wanted was to pitch 2 Guns to me. So I said okay.
MM: You seem to be skewing towards crime stories rather than super- hero stuff lately. Any particular reason?
SG: I've always skewed toward crime stories, it's just so damn hard finding anyone in comics willing to pay you to write them. I have bills to pay too.
Not that I mind writing superheroes in the least, but crime stories fit my personal worldview better and fit better into the world I know. A long time ago on a San Diego panel, someone asked me why I didn't take Whisper to Marvel instead of first, and, practical considerations like ownership and whether anyone at Marvel even wanted me at Marvel aside, I pointed out that the Marvel Universe is a place where massive doses of radiation make you a better person. That's not any kind of world I'm intimately familiar with.
Beyond that, superheroes are people who have to win. Whatever personal problems get heaped on them, they're innately winners. But losers are much more fun to write, and crime stories are ultimately all about losers. In crime stories something is fundamentally wrong at the core of the universe.
That's something I can understand.
MM: The industry as a whole seems to be trending towards noir or crime stories? As a professional, do you try to stay on top of these trends or just go your own way? If it's the former, how do you go about doing that?
SG: I don't know if I'd say the industry is swerving that way. The industry blows with the wind. Most people don't do noir or crime, they just do "grim'n'gritty," which pretty much always meant superheroes and evisceration. Very few people in comics seem to be capable of doing a genuine crime story, and most of them think noir is a matter of getting the lighting right. But noir isn't a mood, it's a condition, where, as I said, there's something fundamentally wrong at the core of the universe. Any story with a hero who struts out at the end righteous and triumphant, and who has essentially restored the moral order of the universe, which is the basic setup of the superhero story, isn't noir.
MM: There's some over the top action in 2 Guns. For example, In the latest 2 Guns a couple of CIA agents (tailing a thief) walk into a DEA office and end up killing several feds. Why did you choose to go this route rather than having the agents pick up the thief outside on the street?
SG: It's a comedy. You can push things a little more over the top in a comedy.
It's also a story consideration; in a screenplay you have to keep pushing the action along, and if you can figure out a way to push the action which doesn't involve people sitting around for an extra scene, you should. But I wanted to play it a little over the top. As far as over the top goes, you ain't seeing nothing yet...
Tim O’Shea (TOS): While this is a crime noir tale, you're a writer known for injecting wit into your work. How important is wit to the stories you construct?
SG: I am? Huh.
I don't know that I go out of my way to inject wit into any stories. I'm just perverse, and it leaks out.
TOS: You recently attended SDCC, where you did multiple signings at the Boom! Studios booth--when you get to hear one on one feedback in person about your work, does that reinvigorate your passion for the work? Any unique fan feedback regarding 2 Guns that you would like to share?
SG: Not really. It's always very pleasant chatting with the readers, and I appreciate their interest in my work, but Ernest Hemingway once told a reporter that if you pay attention to the good things people say about your work you have to pay attention to the bad things too, and I pretty much believe that. I don't know if I have a passion so much as an obsession, and it's not with the work so much as with the stories, which I realize is a pretty fine distinction. There are always stories I want to tell, and given my druthers I'd rather tell stories no one else would have come up with, like TWO GUNS, but I don't always get that opportunity. But my obsession keeps me going, and I'd keep going even if I never got a single scrap of feedback from anyone.
TOS: Is there any chance Boom! will be publishing more of Whisper down the road?
SG: Wish I could say more, but the only answer I've got right now is... not sure.
TOS: Mark Waid is the new EIC of Boom--with a partial goal of fostering new talent at the studio. For a seasoned veteran like yourself, do you think there's storytelling lessons you can garner from Waid's experience?
SG: I already learned never to invent anything called "The Speed Force," isn't that enough? Sure, I'm always learning things from other writers. Mark's a pretty smart guy, and I'd have to be a pretty dumb guy not to learn from him. No one has yet told me what editor-in-chief even means in a structure like Boom's, though.
TOS: Have you seen your books benefit from the audience you build through your CBR column?
SG: Nothing noticeable. It's funny, I can use the column to generate mad dashes for other people's books, but not mine. Maybe eventually I'll figure out why. I wouldn't mind getting rich off something one of these days.
Be sure to visit Matthew McLean’s website here.