The assassin known as Bullseye is one of the deadliest killers in the Marvel Universe – that is, he was until Daredevil murdered him in cold blood in the first issue of “Shadowland.” When he was alive, the killer was able to cause all sorts of carnage with even the simplest items like playing cards or a human tooth, so imagine how much damage Bullseye could do with a baseball! This November, in the two issue miniseries “Bullseye: Perfect Game,” writer Charlie Huston and artist Shawn Martinbrough explore exactly that idea. CBR News spoke with Huston about the project, which takes place before Bullseye’s recent death, of course.
Fans of Huston’s work know of the writer’s passion for baseball. He frequently blogs about it on his website pulpnoir.com and America’s pastime was an important background element in his Hank Thompson trilogy of crime novels. It was the chance to mix that passion with his affinity for Marvel Comics that lead to birth of “Perfect Game.”
“I was sitting around with a buddy of mine, and I don’t remember what we were talking about, but he was flipping through an old Marvel Universe Encyclopedia and reading random facts out of it. He mentioned that Bullseye could throw at something like 110 miles per hour. We started joking about how he would be the greatest pitcher in the history of the game and we started jamming on how Bullseye would kill a professional baseball player and get away with it,” Huston told CBR News. “Right away, I knew that there was a story there. It sat in my brain overnight and then literally the next day I called my editor Axel Alonso and pitched him my idea. He was in right away. We tabled it because I was busy with a bunch of stuff. As soon as I had the time for it, I wrote a quick script. Originally it was going to be a 30 page one-shot. Then it grew. Rather than condensing it, we decided to do it as two issues.
Like many fans of the decidedly amoral Bullseye, Huston’s first exposure to the character came during Frank Miller’s run on “Daredevil,” and the writer was deeply influenced by those issues. “Even though Bullseye seemed like a natural character for me to write, I steered clear of him because I didn’t know if I could do anything that wasn’t so dominated by ‘Millerisms,'” Huston explained. “Bullseye is different and interesting because essentially, he has no remorse for his actions. So he can be a little two-dimensional, but not necessarily more so than the average comic book character. Attempts to give the character depth usually come up a little bit short, and this is not a story that does that by any means.
“This is literally a ‘shaggy dog story.’ The structure of the comic is somebody telling a story and we see the story that this character is narrating,” Huston continued. ” It’s not meant to give any humanity, depth or anything new about the character. It’s more of a fun, playful story that lets me write about baseball in a way that I really enjoyed.”
In “Bullseye: Perfect Game,” the title character accepts a contract for no other reason than the pleasure of executing it. “I don’t want to say too much because it’s a two issue book. There are only a couple of punch lines and I don’t want to blow them,” Huston stated. “Basically, Bullseye accepts a contract to kill a professional baseball player. I think we can make some assumptions about how he’s going to get into the world of professional baseball and what credentials he might be to use to get inside that world [Laughs].
“This is one of those tales where it’s mostly about storytelling. You want to find entertaining curves along the way, because the actual point A to B to C of the plot is extremely thin,” Huston said. “We’ve got a narrator with a good voice and some fun ways of backing into the story. Plus we’ve got some ways in which we turn over the cards of the tale that are entertaining. Comic book readers know what’s coming in a story half the time or more. So much of the pleasure is not a new revelation, but how the story is handled. We’ve got a slightly new twist on one of our big reveals. We play more with that kind of stuff.
“This comic pretty much features my standard voice. I wasn’t trying to reinvent any wheels. The black humor and the satire are played dead pan,” Huston continued. ” It’s definitely played more for amusement, though, than any kind of serious impact.”
Huston wasn’t able to get too specific with the satire in “Perfect Game,” but the writer was able to include some elements in the story just for baseball fans. “The licensing issues are impossible. I would have loved to reference some players and teams specifically, but you can’t use logos and things like that. We used some of the team colors and what not, but you just can’t get specific enough to make it really, really play,” the writer explained. “I would say for real baseball fans, I seriously thought about this scenario and how it would really work. It’s improbable in the extreme in terms of it ever actually happening in a baseball game, but I tried very hard to make sure that I stayed within the rules and the logic of the game.”
The story’s artist Shawn Martinbrough is known for his noirish art style which Huston found to be a great vehicle for bringing his scripts to life. “I like it because the work has a style to it, but it’s also fairly straightforward. Since the actual text is very dense in this, it’s nice to have these very elegant and beautiful images that are also very simple so that the words don’t crowd out the images. If the artwork was hyper-detailed, I’m afraid it would get squished and wouldn’t be done the service that it should,” Huston explained. “Because Shawn works with so much open space between the lines, I think it compliments a story where often there’s a lot of talking going on. The images are very clean and there’s a nice purity to everything. The fact that he also has that noir flair is also perfect.”
“Bullseye: Perfect Game” is the second collaboration between Huston and Martinbrough, the first being the one-shot “Punisher: Hot Rods of Death” from Marvel Comics’ MAX imprint, which is in stores now. “The title pretty much speaks for itself. ‘Punisher: Hot Rods of Death.’ When I pitched it to Axel, I said, ‘The Punisher takes on a road gang. No guns, no knives, just cars and motorcycles.’ He was like, ‘Yes,'” Huston said. “So that was another one like the Bullseye story that I wanted to do just for the silliness and the fun of it.”