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Bedard, Perkins on CrossGen's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: SBC Q&A

Posted: Thursday, October 16
Posted By: Tim O'Shea
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As detailed earlier today at SBC, CrossGen is set to launch its next stand-alone adventure series in January 2004—Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (KKBB) by writer Tony Bedard and penciler Mike Perkins. Thanks to the ever-helpful Bill Rosemann, SBC was able to learn a great deal about this new series from the writer and artist.

Tim O’Shea: Route 666 in some ways is a subtle commentary (in a small way) on America of the 1950s. Will KKBB be a commentary on British society or any element of culture in the United Kingdom?

Tony Bedard: The series will reflect society of the 1960s, some particular to Swinging London, but mostly it's a fast-paced romp, more concerned with its genre than its setting.

TO: Not to disparage the sigils and trappings of CrossGen, but as a writer how liberating is it to write a story that isn't rooted in CGE continuity?

TB: I honestly never felt confined by CrossGen continuity or sigils. Whether it's super-powers from a yellow sun, a radioactive spider, a gamma bomb, a magic ring, genetic mutation or a sigil, it's all the same -- just a device for imbuing characters with mythical abilities. Of course, there are no super-powers in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, but I still do research and put the work in on KKBB as much as on the other books I'm lucky enough to write.

TO: That being said, how hard will it be to garner attention for a new CGE series when the more savage comics message boards are ready to declare CGE as part of the "choir invisible"? Does the recent adversity make the success of the book that much more of a personal desire for you? Or are you blocking out the negative press for the time being?

TB: I mostly focus on the stuff I can do something about. I can't help whatever someone else might say on the internet, but I CAN make sure this book's worth the price of admission. I figure as long as I did everything I could to put good work on the stands, the rest will take care of itself.

TO: How did you arrive at the name Sir Charles Basildon?

TB: Actually, that was Perkins. Mike came up with this series, the characters, everything, then asked me if I'd like to write it. I jumped at the chance, of course. It's a lot of fun to do a cold-blooded antihero and a bizarre love triangle all in the same book!

TO: Is this the first project that you and Mike Perkins have collaborated on? If so, on first impression what was it that struck you about his work that made you want to work with him?

TB: I actually wanted to get Mike to do a cop series for me back when I edited for Vertigo, but it never came to pass before I departed DC. I saw Mike's work in a strip called Carver Hale in 2000 AD magazine. He does great, realistic characters that really look like individuals and exude personality. He can convey a great range of emotions and really nail subtle moments, which is a godsend to a writer. Mike's also a great guy with whom to collaborate, or just have a few pints.

TO: What's the most enjoyable aspect of delving into the espionage subgenre?

TB: This type of story demands a fast pace, lots of surprises, many different locales and spectacular visuals. In other words, it's tailor-made for comics. The murky morality of espionage is also fertile ground for all levels of Conflict, which is what drives any story worth reading.

TO: Is the story set in the present day?

TB: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is set in the mid-1960s, when the Cold War spawned all manner of surveillance and covert ops. At the same time, the sexual revolution was gathering steam. Basically, all the old rules were being cast aside. I think it was that brand-new "anything goes" attitude that made the '60s the heyday of the spy thriller, and we're looking present in Basildon an un-self-conscious, unrepentant playboy, such as could only be found in that era.

TO: Will the sexist nature of the current Sir Charles be a story element that will be addressed more in a comedic/disparaging ("look at how out-of-touch he is") vein or as a means to elevate tension among the characters? How challenging is it to inject sexism (however minor) in a story without making it come across as clichéd/Lifetime movie of the month moment?

TB: Basildon's predatory nature will definitely elevate tension between our main characters -- and probably yield some laughs along the way. It's not that he's out of touch, though. In fact, during the mid '60s, many actions and comments that we'd find unacceptable now wouldn't have raised an eyebrow back then. But as this series progresses, Basildon's partner, Agent Shelley, will come to realize that this guy is a monster! Smooth operator, or sociopathic adrenaline junkie? You decide.

TO: How much fun have you had designing the characters/their environment and other elements of the story?

Mike Perkins: More fun than I would admit to. The fashion and general design elements of the mid sixties were some of the downright funkiest and coolest creations of the last century. The environments, international settings and action excesses are great to work on, they keep everything fresh and inspiring, you really have to access all the abilities available artistically just to keep ahead of the pace set by the plot.

TO: Did the espionage element somewhat evolve from the Archard's Agents concept you developed several months ago?

MP: It's something I've always been interested in - but I would say it's evolved more from my love of the Bond films and TV series' such as Danger Man, Alias and the Steed and Mrs Peel Avengers episodes.

TO: How much visual reference research do you find yourself doing for a U.K.-based storytelling landscape (albeit involving world-travelers)? Are there certain cities or countries, with distinct looks, that you'd like to tackle and include in the series?

MP: We're trying to keep everything in this series as authentic as possible with regards to the attitudes and environments of the world in 1965/1966. England hasn't really changed that much in those 40 years. If you look at the majority of photo reference of a place like London from that time the only noticeable difference when comparing it to a recent photograph would be in the fashions. I've traveled around a fair amount - so anywhere I've lived or been on holiday would be a great bonus for me, as I'm sure an Italian setting would please Laura Villari - the colourist of this series! We'll be tackling the former soviet block countries, so hopefully there's a chance for me to interpret the city of Krakow - a particular personal favourite of mine.

TO: In what ways do you think you may be a stronger storyteller now in comparison to when you first started on Ruse?

MP: Having worked with Butch Guice on Ruse for over two years it would be disingenuous of me to say that he hasn't been a creative influence on my own penciling work. You can learn a lot off someone when you're working so closely with them - especially when you respect that work to the extent that I respect Butch's.

TO: Has one scene in particular in this new series stood out more than others, in terms of being fun/challenging to draw?

MP: We wanted to open up with the 10 minute Bond pre-credits extravaganza. Y'know, a taste of the fun to come and a chance to put the audience on the edge of their seats and getting their knickers in a twist waiting for the next scene. That kind of sequence is great fun to approach creatively because you want the energy and excitement to come across effectively. I'm also bursting to get to the scene where we introduce our main bad guy of the piece, Lazarus Bale. Lots of mood, tons of atmosphere and loads of foreboding evil in that particular scene.

TO: As for your collaborator, Tony Bedard, what do you find to be his greatest strengths as a writer?

MP: It's got to be his ability to take that story in the direction you expect - and then do the unexpected. He's also great fun to work with and highly talented.

TO: What made you and Tony decide to develop this distinctly non-CGE book with CrossGen, versus shopping it around to other publishers?

MP: I enjoy working at CrossGen and the opportunities operating in such a creative environment brings. This is the kind of book I've always wanted to be involved in - and, I believe, the kind of book that a vast majority of the readership want to see. Working on Ruse, we always approached it as a non-sigil book - as do the Way of the Rat team. El Cazador, and, to a certain extent Brath, are pure historical adventure fiction. Following in the impressive footsteps of a book like El Cazador it should be a massive success - so why not have that success published by a comic company that believes in getting different genres out on the market? I'm not saying that Kiss Kiss Bang Bang couldn't be published by any other company - I'm just stating there's no reason that it can't be promoted and published by CrossGen.

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