by Chris Arrant
A couple weeks back, we talked
with writer Tony Lee about his work on the Starship Troopers
books, Dr. Who
and Raven's Gate
. But Tony Lee is a man of many hats… but we're not a hat site. Instead, we're a comics site; Good thing he has just as many comics projects.
One of the series closest to his own heart is the creator-owned series Midnight Kiss
with artist Ryan Stegman. With the collected edition coming out this August, we talked with Lee about the book and a few other projects on the horizon..
Tony, can you give us a rundown of the book for the people that missed the single issues?
Certainly. Basically, Midnight Kiss
was a chance for me to just cut loose. I'd pretty much spent the previous year writing Starship Troopers
for (then) Mongoose, so was totally sci-fi'd out. I was creating The Gloom
with Dan Boultwood, and visited APC's Stevenage office for the Christmas party. While there I started talking to Rich [Emms, the then publisher of APC and now EIC of Markosia] about my 'next' project - and we both decided we wanted something a bit more fantastical. I came up with a variety of different ideas, one of the working titles for the series was CyberGothique
even - but while I was throwing ideas at him in the bar, I remembered a long forgotten pitch I'd done for 2000ad
about three years earlier that I'd never sent in called Midnight Kiss
about a Vatican funded group that was a cross between Angel
and The Authority
So I dig it out and I go through it, and it's seriously
dated. I speak to Rich and we decide to make some alterations. Johnny Cool and the Flickman stop being part of the team, and instead become antagonists. The main character, Matt Sable was always 'otherworldly' - so now we established him as a Fae, a 'Faerie' from Celtic myths in a modern world. I pretty much re-wrote the pitch from scratch.
When was this all unfolding?
This was about a year and a half ago now - Ryan Stegman came on board as artist after blowing us away with his samples and we started work to have the comic out by July. Of course, then APC collapsed, and Markosia took on the title - but the delays meant that the book then came out bi monthly from around October.
Ok, that's the story on the story. But what's the book about?
So as for the story - Many many millennia ago, the world was one, with all creatures of nature and magick living together. Then a ritual shattered it into a multiverse - one that only a few can travel through. Lands like Oz, fantasy worlds we've read in books are real worlds that can't be seen by 'rationals' - humans who no longer believe in such things - you just have to believe.
So in this, you have these two enigmatic people, Matt Sable and Nightmare De'Lacy who rescue this kid called Billy from a church - where he's about to be attacked by what looks like Vampires, but are actually Unseelie fae. They take him on a non-stop tour of fantasy worlds as they try to keep ahead of The Prince of Lies and The Shattered Man - the bad guys of the piece.
Basically Billy's father is the keeper of the Dreams of Dragons - and if he dies, they all go to the boy. The bad guys want him, as the Dragons are the much-needed ingredient in a ritual to create a new Lucifer.
So while Matt and Nightmare take this kid to a variety of places like the Alligator King's domain under Manhattan, a house of cards where the Jack of Spades plays poker with hands made of Gambler's souls and the mystical land of Oz while chased by two supernatural hit men named Johnny Cool and the Flickman, we also have a detective called Eindhorn who's investigating some damned strange murders - an Angel with his heart punched out, a cherub blinded, that sort of thing. And assisting him - is Michael Moorcock's Jerry Cornelius
. Mike allowed us to use him as the whole 'multiverse' angle really is Jerry's bag, you know?
So anyway, there are plots within plots, they end up caught in a civil war in Oz between Dorothy and the Scarecrow and things really aren't what they seem!
Unfortunately the bi-monthly schedule mixed with printer co
ck ups killed the book - but Markosia allowed me to wrap the first arc up in book 5, which will then be collected into the trade that comes out in August. Hopefully it'll be well received, and perhaps down the line I'll be able to write the rest of the tale.
You mention Matt Sable and Nightmare De'Lacy; can you tell us about those two?
Without spoiling some of the surprises, there's a few things I can't say - but basically Matt and Nightmare are a team that's been together for a long time. Centuries, even - so I suppose that shows you that they're a little special! [laughs]
Matt is older than most people - he's a Fae, one of the creatures from Celtic mythology. At the beginning the fae were one of the rulers of the world, a kind of 'high council' - but when the world shattered, they weren't as powerful as they previously were. You don't find out how important Matt is until the fifth book - originally it was something that would come out about book twelve, but the cancellation brought it forwards slightly.
Matt can use items to create portals from world to world, and has a vestige of 'Faerie Glamour' - this is an ability to create objects out of energy. Usually he creates two guns, his weapons of choice - but he creates other things during the story. Bigger things.
Matt has a real 'redemption' thing going on. He's helping people to the point of risking his own life. Why is he doing this? What's happened in the past? Again - issue #5...
As for Nightmare De'Lacy? She's just a girl who hangs out with Sable - she has a love for more conventional high explosives and weaponry - although she has a silver arm piece that can, at will morph into a wicked looking sword, or an axe, a spade at one point, a shield at another - Again, it's not until issue #5 that you discover exactly what it is, and why Robin Hood is so pissed at her about it...
Is she human? No. What is she? You find out in #4. And in flashbacks in #5. Why flashbacks? Who can say...
Acting as foils for the good guys is the Prince of Lies and someone called the Shattered Man. What's their story?
: Incredibly secretive for most of the book! Basically they're both the main villains for the piece - mythical characters who have secretly fought against people like Matt from the shadows for centuries. The most visible villain of the piece is the Scarecrow - and he's been working for them for years.
Of course, by the end of the arc you know who both are, and one in particular is quite a surprise!
I can imagine you need to remain mum on that. But can you tell us more about Billy's father and the Dreams of Dragons?
Many years ago the dragons lived in the world - but when the rationals, the normal people started to arrive, they tired. A mortal was picked to house their dreams, their thoughts in his head until they returned - to become the dragon's heart. One by one, throughout the gerenartions this was passed, father to son at the moment of death, and Heart became Hart. Joseph Hart, Billy's father is the last - he's been in hiding for a decade, but his time is running out. Soon Billy will take over his father's mantle.
And now to something that's piqued my interest since you said it: Jerry Cornelius. Why was Michael Moorcock's Jerry Cornelius so important to include in the book, and can you tell us about how you worked with Moorcock to make it happen?
Cornelius and his adventures shaped my youth and first had me thinking about multi verses and suchlike. When I was writing this, I was speaking to Bryan Talbot and he mentioned that Moorcock allowed Cornelius to be 'open source' on things like this, and he put me in contact with the man himself. Michael allowed me to use the character which was great, as he'd had some bad Cornelius comic experiences before.
Originally Jerry was a cameo, a guest star, but as the story grew, Jerry became a supporting character in his own right - because let's face it, Jerry's the kind of guy who laughs at a simple 'walk on' part, right?
But in the end, Jerry was in because I wanted as many 'otherworldly known' characters in the book as possible. Jerry Cornelius. Dorothy and the Tin Man. Robin Hood. Brer Rabbit. A whole load of characters from my childhood, all mashed into one.
But I seriously owe Michael a beer for the help he's given me and the assistance he's offered. We're hoping he'll be able to do an introduction for the Trade - that would be the icing on the cake.
Truly. Recently, Midnight Kiss
got nominated for "Best British Colour Comic" in the Eagle awards, ultimately losing out to UK comics juggernaut Judge Dredd - The Megazine
. How did that whole situation pan out for you?
Not well! The problem was, we were never going to win. Firstly, the Megazine
wasn't Small Press, which was what the award was - they sell thousands every month. They're in Newsagents, supermarkets, convenience stores. They have two decades of loyal fans.
Also, they weren't color for a lot of 2005 - they reprinted a lot of black and white material!
There was a lot of bad feeling around afterwards –not from us, I stress - about their win, mainly due to the above two reasons - a non color mainstream publication winning the best full color small press - but as I said - we knew we were never going to win. I think we had a few hundred votes - the Meg had thousands. But it wasn't their fault, and I have a ton of respect for Matt Smith, the editor – it was the awards ceremony for allowing them to be nominated in a section they shouldn't have been in. There are tons of 'small press' that could have been put in, giving a better exposure.
But we were just happy to be nominated - especially as the book had been cancelled two days before the nominations came out. When a book is cancelled you second guess yourself - wonder if you just weren't good enough - the nomination at least showed me that critically it was a success, if not commercially. We'll just have to see if the Trade changes that.
Another project you have in the works has you and The Gloom
artist Dan Boultwood hard at work. I believe it's called The Tizzle Sisters
. What's that about?
It's a totally new project being done with G.P Taylor, the author of Shadowmancer
, the bestselling children's book I adapted. It's a new book written by Graham, that I then take chunks of and convert into sequential pages - about eighty in total, littered through the book, which Dan is drawing alongside with sketches throughout the book. So you'll read a prose section and then bam! It's in comic form for a few pages, and vice versa.
It's a very interesting idea, it's about twin sisters in a children's home and how they cope when one of them is adopted by a rich lady in a spooky house, and the other is left behind - and if it works and all goes well, it'll be out around October this year.
Which publisher is releasing Tizzle Sisters
Markosia - but it's Markosia books, not Markosia comics to my knowledge. This means you're more likely to get it in your local Barnes & Noble or Borders than your local comic shop, which is good in a way as it breaches the wall between the two.
Mentioning you and Boultwood, what ever happened to The Gloom
: It got cancelled. Simple as that. When APC died, The Gloom
was picked up by Markosia, but there was too long a gap between issues due to various reasons – reasons that were nothing to do with Dan or myself - #1 came out in May, #2 didn't appear until August and #3 was solicited for December. When sales weren't great Markosia canned it before printing.
That said, it's owned by myself and Dan, so we've been finishing it off, and sometime around the end of the year, once Tizzle Sisters
is out of the way, it'll come out as a collected trade, most likely with Markosia.
It was never supposed to be a serious book, and it really was the most fun I've had writing so far.