The dark, intricate world of “Locke and Key” represented novelist Joe Hill’s breakthrough comics work, a multi-volume series that is now building toward its cataclysmic finale. But when Hill decided to bring his superpowered short story “The Cape” to comics, he enlisted the talents of co-writer Jason Ciaramella to adapt the original story and help build out its universe.
The first miniseries of “The Cape,” which followed the adventures of an ordinary loser as he used the titular super-powered object to launch a murderous rampage, arrives in a hardcover collection from IDW Publishing May 16, and the follow-up miniseries, “The Cape: 1969,” is slated to launch in July. The new series will feature art by Nelson Daniel, who was the colorist on the first mini and illustrated IDW’s current “Road Rage” mini, adapting another short prose story by Joe Hill and Hill’s father, Stephen King.
Comic Book Resources spoke with Jason Ciaramella for insight into “The Cape: 1969,” the nature of this origin story and how he approached the challenge of devising twisted new scenes to top the original series’ “bear drop.”
CBR News: Jason, “The Cape” was your first big comics project. What did you enjoy most about writing that series with Joe Hill?
Jason Ciaramella: My favorite aspect of working in comics is the collaboration between the creative team. Joe and I are always talking about ways to do things differently with design, pace and such, and we share a lot of the same opinions on these things, so getting to work together was a blast. We had a lot of fun with this series, and I think it comes out on the pages.
You began with a one-shot based on Joe’s short story, then built out from there. What aspects of the original prose story did you find most interesting, and how did those play out in the first “Cape” mini and what you’ve got planned coming up?
I think the first thing I thought was how much it already resembled a comic book to me. It had a great villain and supporting cast you care about, a supernatural element, and it wrapped itself up perfectly at the end — my kind of story. I lean towards reading miniseries more than I do long-running monthlies, and I immediately saw that potential in “The Cape.” In “1969” you get more of the same things that made the short story great, but we’re showing it to you from a different angle — taking you back to where things started so fans can get a better understanding of why things happened the way they did in the original miniseries.
I understand this is an origin story of sorts. Without giving too much away, is the Cape a cape at this point, or does it exist in some other form?
I’ll just say that it’s not a cape at this point, but things will feel very familiar to readers of the original series.
We know the Cape grants the ability of flight. Does it have other properties, as well?
I’m going to leave that answer up to the readers’ [imagination]. I will say that we do see changes in Eric in the first series that go beyond just the ability to fly. The question is: were those things always there? Maybe. Maybe not. We also see some of those elements in “1969.” I think people have different opinions on Eric — evil, misunderstood, cursed? I like that. I like to keep people guessing.
Your first “The Cape” miniseries was some pretty twisted stuff. How are you looking to raise the bar with “1969?”
This has got to be the question I get asked the most, and I never get tired of answering it! Let’s just say that if you liked “the bear scene” from the last series, you’ll love what we have planned for you in “1969.”
This story takes place during the Vietnam War. Why choose this period and setting for the follow-up to “The Cape?”
The easiest answer is because it makes sense from a timeline perspective, but it goes much deeper than that. I wanted a setting where we could really explore some of the darker sides of humanity, and the Vietnam War provided an atmosphere that helps bring out all of that. I get to put our characters in a place as close to hell on earth as you could ever get, and watch their realities twist as they struggle to hold onto whatever sanity they may have remaining. Fun stuff.
What can you tell us about the characters we’ll be meeting in this series, and who they are before the Cape enters their lives?
The main character is Captain Chase, a medevac helicopter pilot for the army — and Eric and Nicky’s father. Captain Chase is essentially Nicky, a good guy that people tend to gravitate towards. The villain is a nameless Vietcong commander who epitomizes the word evil, and will make you want to kill him the same way everyone wants to kill that snot-nosed little bastard who plays the king on “Game of Thrones.” Man, I hate that kid.
You’re working with Nelson Daniel on this series, who was the colorist on the previous “The Cape” book. What makes him a good fit for the story you’re telling in “1969” and to what degree will his style be continuous with and distinct from what Zach Howard brought in the previous book?
Talk about a super team of artists, huh? I’ll put those two up with the best of the best in this industry any day. Nelson’s colors on the original series brought the books to another level. We were seeing color palettes and effects that nobody else was using. I mean, I’d get a page in my in-box and immediately call Joe to talk about how awesome the stuff was.
What a lot of people didn’t know is Nelson, first and foremost, is an amazing illustrator. Much like Zach, he’s a master storyteller, and has a sense for pace and action that you need to be a pro. The biggest difference between Zach and Nelson is Nelson uses more wide shots, and that works perfectly with “1969” because it gives us a sense of how big the situation really is. I feel like both Zach and Nelson have a way of looking at my scripts and knowing exactly what I want, and when I miss a step, they’re right there to catch it.
As a relative newcomer to the world of making comic books, I’ve been a pretty damn lucky guy to have these two as my artists. If I could work with them for the rest of my career, I’d be a very happy writer.
“The Cape: 1969” soars in July.