Friends, Progeeks, Comic book fans, lend me your ears. And lend your eyes to "Kill Shakespeare," an ongoing comic that combines the best of the Bard with the best of modern storytelling.* The story in "Kill Shakespeare" is an original one that picks up where numerous Shakespeare plays left off. It is a fanfic of sorts, but don't let that put you off. This which we call a fanfic by any other name would be as awesome. Let's hear more from the series creators.
1. Seeing as this was a collaboration, how did you divide up the work, creative
control, and areas of authority?
A: Conor and I both bring creative and business skills to the project. We’re both
business grads but while at business school we devoted a large portion of our time and
efforts into various media projects (stage, film, publishing, etc.). It’s a tag-team effort –
one person often takes the lead on something and then we trade off.
C: It remains pretty fluid, we both like to get our feet wet in a lot of different areas.
2. How did you fund the creation and promotion of “Kill Shakespeare”?
C: We both have a background in business so we took this on as a business project. After
we had locked down the basic idea we went out and put together a 100+ page business
plan that we shopped around to various investors. We were able to fund the first stage
of the venture because of that plan.
A: In addition to straight-forward funding, though, we’ve devoted a lot of our time to
doing the marketing – from reaching out to media, putting together online ads and
promotions, and doing interviews like these. It’s important these days for all artists to
recognize that they will be their brand ambassador.
3. In creating and promoting “Kill Shakespeare,” which tools and media were most
helpful? Which were not so helpful?
A: The marketing of Kill Shakespeare has been a multi-pronged attack. We’ve worked
with public relations firms who have helped us secure interviews and placement
with top mainstream media (NPR, BBC, CBC). We’ve also done a lot of social media
marketing, talking to bloggers, podcasts, small radio stations, etc. And we are now
heavily doing the direct marketing through comic conventions – a great place to build
buzz and gain new readers.
C: I think each tool is useful, you just have to use them in the right combination – and
you can’t forget that the key is always the amount of work you put into using the tool.
4. The dialogue reads as a nod to Shakespearian language but is still perfectly clear to
a modern audience. How did you settle on a style for the dialogue?
C: A lot of trial and error. We wrote 17 drafts of the first issue (although not all of them
were page 1 re-writes), and we write generally at least ten drafts for every issue so it’s
just repetition. I also try to perform every issue when I write it to make sure it sounds
right coming out of the mouth – almost as if the dialogue were for a play, which, I think, is appropriate – given the subject matter.
A: One of our big influences was the film Shakespeare in Love, which had the perfect
combination of modern-day language peppered with Elizabethan English expressions
and Shakespeare quotes.
5. With titles like “Fables” and “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” out there, do you
think the door is opening for new interest in classic literature? Do you think people
would read the classics as they are, or only the re-imaginings?
A: I think so, yes. I think with all of the immediate media available to us, it’s easy to
be able to merely get the gist of what a classic book is like but when you experience
it through a modern-day lens, such as a post-modern or mash-up take on it, the story
becomes more relevant and ignites interest in the original.
C: I think there is a distinct appetite for both. It would be a shame if people read Kill
Shakespeare and then didn’t ever want to read or see the Bard’s work unvarnished.
But by the same token “Shakespeare snobs” who dismiss Kill Shakespeare are doing
themselves a disservice – we’re a lot of fun!
6. What degree of the characterizations in “Kill Shakespeare” were based on research
and how much was based on creative inferencing?
C: More the latter. Anthony and I made a point of not doing too much re-reading so as
to be able to work off the elements of the characters that had stayed with us since high-
school. But it doesn’t all come off the top of our head.
A: I’ve never read a Shakespeare play in my life, actually… No, I’m just kidding.
7. There are some moments in the comic where only those familiar with the original
play would get the full impact. Did you want “Kill Shakespeare” to be accessible (at
least, on a basic level) to all audiences or only those who know the plays?
A: I always like to use Pixar films as a reference for this. The great Pixar projects work
on two levels – they appeal to the children because they look fantastic, have great
funny moments, and have enough story not to get lost; parents love them because in
addition to the above they aren’t too simple – there are references and moments that
they adults can relate to and appreciate. We’re trying that mix with Kill Shakespeare to
create an enjoyable experience for fans of Shakespeare and those who don’t have any
interest in him at all.
C: It’s always a delicate balancing point. You don’t want to leave readers having to do
research to “get” your work, but at the same time you don’t want to insult them. I mean
this is the Google world – if someone notices a reference they don’t understand and want to – well heck, they are five minutes from the answer. I’d rather err on the side of making the reader work a LITTLE. I think people are often willing to work harder than creatives or business people give them credit for.
8. Do you think “Kill Shakespeare” appeals to people who are familiar with
Shakespeare’s plays but never liked them to begin with? Did you have a particular
audience in mind while creating this comic?
C: We sort of thought anybody could like this. After all the Bard’s themes are truly
universal. We felt some people who didn’t like how they were TAUGHT Shakespeare
might very well dig Kill Shakespeare (and we were right, hooray). But a lot of our biggest
fans are Shakespeare nerds.
A: Actually, they’re Shakespeare geeks, not nerds… One of the coolest things that we’ve
discovered since starting work on this project is that there are so many people who are
fans of the Bard but do not tell anyone this. People you wouldn’t expect come out of
the woodwork when we have a conversation with them and they love one individual
character or moment.
9. Finally, are you aiming to use “Kill Shakespeare” as a launching pad for future
A: I would be deliriously happy if I could work on Kill Shakespeare for the next twenty-
five years (with additional comics, films, games, etc.). However, I love the process
of entertaining people and would love to be able to tell as many different stories as
possible over the next fifty years.
C: Well, we’d never say no to Kill Shakespeare being a calling card that opens door for us
in the future.
Thanks for the interview.
"Kill Shakespeare," Issue 11 was just realeased on May 25, and recieved the best reviews the series has seen thus far.
*Yes, I believe comics are the best of modern storytelling.