Wednesday Interview: Owen Craig

This week (and possibly also last week - reports vary) sees the first trade collection of me-favourite Kill Shakespeare in stores, and in addition to the tale of a plucky Danish prince embroiled in a sea of Elizabethan intrigue and attempted deicide, the book features a bonus story written by newcomers Owen Craig and Curtis Westman. To commemorate this event, here is an extra-special bonus feature for this here blog, namely the return of the Wednesday Interview for a talk with Owen Craig!

Huzzah, and here we go:

First of all, how about a pocket bio of Owen Craig?

I was born in Perth, Ontario. Don't worry if you haven't heard of it, it's an extremely small town located between Kingston and Ottawa. I moved to Toronto as a teenager and then I went to York University to study theatre where I became interested in both comics and writing (remember that, it'll be important later). I started doing some work with a high school friend, Curtis Westman, and we collaborated on a short film called "Hamlet: A Comedy in Three Acts", which lead to us writing together on a regular basis. Since then it's been pretty much business as usual for any budding writer: working a boring day job and writing in the evenings and on weekends.

So: your story is appearing in an upcoming trade of Kill Shakespeare. Give us the one-sentence plot hook that will make everyone completely unable to pass it up. And maybe throw in a couple of other sentences if you feel the need.

Yeah, our story is in the first trade paperback of Kill Shakespeare. Curtis (my writing partner, I don't remember if I established that I work with a writing partner) and I approached this story with the goal of building on the Kill Shakespeare world. When looking at their concept it occurred to us that one Shakespearean play which would be difficult for Conor and Anthony to bring in would be Julius Caesar, so we've taken the moment of Brutus making his decision about whether or not to participate in the conspiracy to murder Caesar and shown how that particular moment plays out in the context of the Kill Shakespeare comic. It's basically a fun Easter egg for fans of both Shakespeare and fans of Kill Shakespeare, with some pretty cool ties into the main book.

How did you get mixed up in all of this Kill Shakespeare nonsense, anyway?

While at the Wizardworld Toronto (formally known as the Paradise Toronto Comicon) show I came across the Kill Shakespeare table. As a former theatre student I was naturally intrigued by the book. I ended up talking to Conor and Anthony for... I don't know... half an hour? It was one of those "damn, I wish I'd thought of it" concepts. On an impulse I asked them if they would let me pitch them an idea for a backup story and, much to my surprise, they accepted. So I got together with Curtis and we wrote up a couple of proposals, which they ended up liking. It's pretty much the classic story of being in the right place at the right time with the right idea. Conor and Anthony deserve a lot of credit for giving a couple of first-time writers their first break, it's an extremely cool thing that they're doing and I couldn't appreciate it more. Between the opportunity, their guidance and their constructive criticism I owe them a lot.

Did you have to revise your plot at all? Were there any cases of Conor and Anthony saying that they were actually already using Character X for something in the main plot, or did such things come together without a hitch?

We pitched them a couple of stories, and there were definitely some characters that we quickly realized were more off-limits than others. One of the stories we pitched was problematic because we were told that the character we wanted to use wouldn't be introduced until issue 7 or 8, so our story would predate the character's first appearance. That's part of the reason we pitched a Julius Caesar story, as there would be no crossover characters and it gave us a lot of freedom.

It's worth mentioning, though, that Conor and Anthony were extremely generous about letting us play around with some fairly major elements of their story. In fact, there are a couple of hints in our story as to what is coming up in the main book (yet another reason for fans to buy the trade).

Where can people look for more Owen and/or Curtis if they like what they see in the trade?

Well, nothing is coming up soon, but you can rest assured that Curtis and I are hard at work on some original material we hope to be pitching to publishers in the near future. We have a few ideas that we're very excited about. Plus, if everyone's happy with this story than there's always a chance that there might be another Owen/Curtis story in the second Kill Shakespeare trade! In the meantime you can check out our blog at, Curtis and my website.

Gratuitous Canadian question: How do you take your Tim's?

Well, I may not drink a lot of Tim's but I think I can top that for being Canadian: I WORKED at Tim's. That's right, I worked at the Tim Horton's in Perth (Ontario), which falls on Highway 7 between Ottawa and Kingston. Let me say, everyone, treat the staff there well. They work extremely hard.

And finally, a two-parter: name your favourite a) play by Shakespeare and b) comic book series and attempt to link them thematically.

Favourite Shakespeare book and comic series...that's a tough one. I don't know that I could pick a favourite of either, definitively, but I'm a huge fan of both Hamlet and James Robinson's Starman. Both are stories about young men who find themselves suddenly immersed in a situation they don't want to be in and don't understand. And, hey, both young men spend more time thinking and talking about their situation rather than acting on it! There you go!

Edit: Whoops, I'm a dope. I didn't even think to ask about who did the art on the bonus story. Turns out that it's J. Bone and it's unsurprisingly awesome.


Various Stuff n' Such


So here I was, all set to write a cranky post about how much I disliked a certain high-profile comic book movie that opened this weekend. But honestly, folks, life’s too short, and I’d rather spend the time gabbing about stuff I enjoy. So with that in mind, here are a few random tidbits of comic booky goodness from last week’s offerings:


Other Lives, by Peter Bagge: The Hate-meister returns to cranky form with this original Vertigo graphic novel about four interconnected losers—a writer who despises his racial identity and is haunted by a past act of plagiarism, his fiancée, whose vicarious internet life begins to blur into her real relationships, an online gambling addict desperate to cover up his crumbling domestic life, and a would-be government agent/national hero who lives in his mother’s garage. Fans of Bagge ‘s most famous creation, Buddy Bradley, can draw a straight line to Vlad (Vader) Ryderbeck, the self-loathing, slow-burning, expletive-spewing, booze-swigging antihero at the heart of Other Lives, who discovers that the self-created false identities people hide behind—both online and in real life--are not just a product of the internet era, but in his case at least, a generational affair. Bagge’s rubbery, cross-hatched caricatures may not be for everybody, but there’s truly nothing else in comics like them, and they are perfectly suited to the grotesque lives, both real and imagined, that they depict. The surprisingly violent conclusion is strangely unsatisfying, but the repeated jabs at the characters’ cartoonishly sad-sack lifestyles and the equally ridiculous internet fantasies they retreat into are what stays with you after you’ve finished reading.


The Flash #1, by Geoff Johns and Francis Manapul: DC has taken a lot of flack for bringing back Silver Age mainstay Barry Allen—fair enough, considering that most of their current readership grew up reading the adventures of his protégé, Wally West—but here’s the thing; having Allen as the Flash in a new number one issue makes sense because he’s the easiest version of the character to explain to new readers. Hit by lightning, showered by chemicals, Fastest Man Alive. There you go. Sure, he’s got tons of baggage if you start factoring in his death and rebirth, his stint as a married father in the distant future, and all that other crap, but this first issue wisely sidesteps all that, focusing instead on what I hope will set this series apart from the previous run (see what I did there?): the fact that Barry Allen is a police scientist, so he is actually going to be solving mysteries instead of just running around fighting bad guys. Manapul’s art is just as lovely here as it was in his short-lived stint on Adventure Comics, and I hope he’s in it for the long haul. This is a fun, accessible, great-looking debut, with one of those cool two-page teaser ads at the end (like the ones Johns did for Legion of Three Worlds and Sinestro Corps) for an upcoming event called Flashpoint. I have no idea what it could be about, but it looks cool. Let’s hope DC doesn’t water it down with a kajillion crossovers, but who am I kidding? Of course they will.


Kill Shakespeare #1, by Conor McCreery, Anthony Del Col, and Andy Belanger: I know Johnathan already covered this IDW book and its fascinating shared universe, where the Bard’s most famous creations join forces to destroy him, a few days ago, but I wanted to throw in my two cents as well. This is a very cool, original concept, executed with terrific skill and style. There are a lot of comparisons to be made to League of Extraordinary Gentlemen being thrown around in regards to this series, and that’s a pretty big compliment in my book. The premise may be a bit intimidating to anyone not well versed in Shakespeare, but it’s a lot more accessible than you might think at first. For instance, I haven’t read Richard III, but I recognized the hunchbacked, shriveled-armed monarch as soon as he appeared. You could just look at Kill Shakespeare as a simple adventure story framed by a larger literary backdrop if you like, one with witches and pirates and ghosts, and you’d enjoy it just as much. Belanger’s art is detailed and stylish as well, just as impressive in moments of quiet dread (like Hamlet’s father’s ghost appearing from the mists) as it is in action scenes (such as the first issue’s big set piece, a pirate attack on the boat carrying Hamlet to England). And the creators are Canadian! Really, you have no excuse to miss this.