Wedding planning is stressful business. While most couples worry about where to sit their creepy uncle, planning their honeymoon and figuring out how to pay for the open bar, assassin Mike Stone is just hoping to make it out alive — literally. Stalked by Chloe, his jilted ex-fiancee that he left at the altar, Mike now finds himself the target of her revenge. This April, find out if Mike gets to say, “I do” before his nuptials turn into a “Shotgun Wedding.”
The four-issue weekly series from Top Cow‘s Minotaur Press marks the first comics collaboration of creative team William Harms and Ed Pun — though both worked together previously at acclaimed “Infamous” video game developer Sucker Punch. Inspired by “Grosse Point Blank,” “Shotgun Wedding” stems from Harms’ curiosity about an assassin’s wedding — and what might happen if his enemies decided to crash. A comics veteran, Harms’ body of work with Top Cow includes “Impaler” and the 2010 Pilot Season-winning graphic novel, “39 Minutes.”
CBR News spoke with Harms and Pun about the details of the series, including the dark tone of the story, how they connected at Sucker Punch, “Shotgun Wedding” protagonist Mike Stone and more.
CBR News: William, Ed — how did the two of you come to work together?
Ed Pun: We worked together at a video game company in Bellevue, Washington. Bill was the writer and I worked on the 2D graphic cut scenes. We always talked about comics and toward the end of the game; we toyed around the idea of doing a comic project together. Bill pitched me couple of ideas and one of them was “Shotgun Wedding.” We kept talking about it and decided to put a pitch together. Top Cow final pull the trigger (pun intended) on “Shotgun Wedding” and the rest is history.
William Harms: Like Ed said, we both come from the world of video games and worked together on the first “Infamous” game (and for a while on the second one, before I left). The cool thing that those guys did was every year or so, they’d put together a comic book anthology that featured work from a wide array of people, all of whom worked at Sucker Punch.
That was the first time I saw Ed’s art outside of the game, and it really blew me away.
What was the development process like for “Shotgun Wedding?”
Pun: In the beginning, we emailed back and forth about possible story ideas. One of our other main focuses was to figure out who these characters are and get into their head. For example, Bill and I had a long discussion about Mike Stone. He’s an elite assassin that kills people for a living. But how ruthless is he? What line is not willing to cross in his work? Once we understood the core of the main characters, I was able to go off and start the design process. And Bill took on the difficult job of filtering out all our ideas and put it together into a cohesive story.
I have to say, one thing was very consistent throughout the development process is end of the book with [characters] Denise, Mike and Chloe. Although the details have changed, we kept to the core of that conflict/resolution intact.
Harms: We had a lot of talks about Mike. A lot! I tend more toward the darker side of things in terms of story tone, so it was good to have Ed there to pull me back at times and act as the voice of reason. But in the end we settled on the correct direction, which is that although Mike is an assassin, he’s still fairly heroic. He does the things he does because he’s trying to make the world a better place, and in his mind that means killing anyone who would disrupt that.
As for producing the comic book itself, once we had things figured out it’s still taken us a couple of years to actually get it done. Ed had to balance illustrating the comic with his regular art duties at Sucker Punch, so sometimes he’d do a page a month, sometimes three or four. In the end, though, I think the wait was well worth it, especially since it means the entire thing is done and we can release it weekly in April.
What makes Mike a good assassin? It seems like that could be a really solitary life. How is he able to balance the two worlds he lives in?
Harms: He’s a good assassin because he’s singularly focused on the job. No matter the obstacle, he will find and kill the person or persons he’s been hired to kill. (In fact, the book opens with a hit that quickly goes off the rails and Mike is forced to adapt.)
That focus is also what enables him to balance the two worlds he inhabits — the crazy world were assassins kill people in secret, and the world where they have to go home at the end of the day and make dinner. He compartmentalizes his life into different boxes, for lack of a better term, and can move between them.
One of my favorite movies is “Grosse Pointe Blank,” and I love the scene where Martin is trying to justify the things he does. In the end, he basically settles on “moral flexibility” as the doorway that led him to the life he leads. And although we don’t have that moment, we do have a moment at the very end of the book that basically reveals who Mike really is, and it’s kind of terrifying.
Mike’s past is coming back to haunt him with his ex-fiance Chloe. What is she like? What has kept her from moving on past her heartbreak?
Harms: Chloe is a pretty complicated character. She doesn’t have the same moral compass that Mike does — she kills people simply because she enjoys it. She likes playing God. Since her career as an assassin began with her on the same side as Mike — they were more than engaged to be married, they were partners — it takes a while for her true nature to be revealed.
The tragic thing about Chloe is that when she’s finally revealed for who and what she really is, she’s forced to make a decision that will forever alter the trajectory of her and Mike’s lives. And in that moment, she isn’t being guided by “Assassin Chloe”, but by “Chloe-Loves-Mike Chloe”.
I think that’s why she’s never been able to move on — for once in her life she actually did the right thing, and she didn’t get credit for it. Instead, her life was destroyed because of it.
Are any other figures from Mike’s past coming to derail his big day?
Harms: A man named The Turk is Mike’s primary enemy, and Chloe ends up working for him. When she finds out that Mike is getting married, she calls in help from a bunch of other assassins who also work for The Turk. Mike has killed a lot of their pals over the years, and they can’t wait to get their revenge.
Does Denise, Mike’s current fiance, have any idea what she’s getting into?
Harms: None at all. Mike’s cover story is that he buys and sells antiques, and so whenever he goes out of town it’s to attend an auction or an estate sale. His handler Clint also “works” for the antiques company and is a regular part of Mike’s life, so as far as Denise knows they’re just a couple of dudes who like to buy and sell old stuff.
What’s the tone of the series? Is it humorous, or more serious?
Harms: It’s pretty serious. There are some lighter moments here and there, but we tried hard to keep it serious, with a slight undertone of sadness. With the exception of Denise, none of the other characters in the book, including Mike, have led particularly happy lives.
Do you guys have any anecdotes from bad weddings you’ve been to that you use in the series? I can’t imagine anything as bad as a psychotic ex-fiance showing up to kill the groom — but who knows?
Pun: Ha! No assassins came to any wedding I’ve been to. I have to say though; there is a cameo of Bill and myself in the wedding party in one of the book. See if you can spot us!
Harms: Every wedding I’ve attended has been pretty boring — lots of bad dancing and alcohol.
However, a guy I knew in college had the best wedding story ever. When his grandfather and grandmother said they were going to get married, his grandmother’s father replied that if they did, he was going to kill the groom. They went ahead with the wedding, and during the ceremony great-grandpa comes in with a gun and is getting ready to open fire. But before he can, the groom pulls out a gun and shoots and kills great-grandpa.
What’s been the most exciting and fun aspect of developing and crafting “Shotgun Wedding?”
Harms: This is going to sound corny, but it’s been working with Ed. Seeing someone who had limited experience drawing comics really blossom and produce amazing page after amazing page is a lot of fun to see.
Pun: Oh, stop it. Now you made me blush. For me, the fun part is taking the script and interpreting it into pictures. Bill’s story have plenty of dramatic and action moments to play with. The layout process is fast and loose. It was a blast planning out each panel like storyboards to an action movie!
The series is currently planned as a four-issue mini, but are there other stories that you hope to tell after the story wraps?
Harms: I love the character of The Turk. He’s completely despicable, has no redeeming qualities, and is a monster of a person, and yet his dialogue came to me so easily that I’d love to do something else with him. Perhaps once Ed’s properly recovered from all of this, we can explore a Turk prequel story.
“Shotgun Wedding” #1 hits in April from Top Cow’s Minotaur Press.