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Kel Symons Professes “I Love Trouble”

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Jumping from one creative medium to another can be tricky business, but Kel Symons is up for the challenge. Known more as a producer in Hollywood than a comic book writer, Symons will step into that new role come December when “I Love Trouble” debuts from Image Comics. Based on an idea by Image Publisher Eric Stephenson and drawn by “Dragon Age” artist Mark A. Robinson, the book follows the adventures of a con artist by the name of Felicia who surprisingly gains superpowers during a plane crash. The new development leads to a change in professions for Felicia, and her new venture as an international assassin guides the direction of series.

The series is solicited as a six-issue miniseries and will work as a self-contained story, but Symons and Robinson have plenty more stories to tell with Felicia and her world. CBR News spoke with Symons about making the jump from movies to comics, working with a morally dubious protagonist, and the origins of the project itself including Stephenson’s involvement.

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CBR News: You’ve worked in Hollywood for years, but how did you wind up writing “I Love Trouble” and getting it set up at Image?

As for the scams, I saw her running short cons — simple jobs that get a little money that keeps her going to the next job presents herself. For instance, since she lives in NOLA, I saw her taking advantage of FEMA relief for victims of Katrina, applying for government funds under a bunch of aliases, etc. That was born out of Mark wanting to change the setting to New Orleans, and that scam just popped into my head, probably because I once served on a jury that convicted someone of doing something similar. And it was all in the news back then — people pulling off those kinds of scams.  

There’s another one-shot con that happens. It’s what gets her in trouble with the mob after she swindles cash from a bookie — that we really won’t see, but we’ll see part of the set up — which I basically got from “The Sting.”  I think they refer to it as “The Honest Stranger” or something like that.

You mentioned Felicia gains superpowers during a plane crash. What kind of powers does she sport and will they help or hurt her grifting career?

Thematically it plays into her personality of always up and leaving — taking off or disappearing from one set up to the next when things get too much to bear. She’s a survivor, but she’s survived by never getting too involved. The fact that she discovers this power opens up a whole new world of crime possibilities, but it’s rather short lived, since as soon as the local gangsters get wind of it, she’s basically under their thumb — or at least feels like she’ll never get out from under them, as they’ll bleed her and her ability dry.

I don’t know if you want to get into this too much, but how does the jump from cons to assassination change Felicia?

You’re right, I don’t want to give away too much too soon. But I will say it definitely changes her. She’s not really equipped or prepared to deal with the morality issues that arise from what’s she’s doing. When she was pulling scams — she got a thrill from the game, basically. But ripping off the government through her FEMA con, or taking money off of somebody who should know better, is a much different animal than killing someone — even if some of the targets she’s given aren’t exactly innocents. It will weigh on her. Heavily. And not without consequence.

I don’t even know that I fully intended to go down that road with her when I first starting thinking of Felicia — it was really Mark who suggested she start to be really affected by what she’s doing. Not to get ahead of ourselves, but in a few issues she’ll begin to experience a real break with reality, sparked by her conscience rearing up over what she’s doing.  

Let’s talk about the world of “I Love Trouble,” is it like our world, your basic superhero one or something different?

It’s definitely our world — contemporary setting, etc. Like I said, Eric wanted this to be populated with all sorts of folks developing powers, and the plan was to have other creators come up with characters, and I think the plan was there would be crossover and interplay among them down the line — a larger story line may evolve from these different characters. Unfortunately, the other character concepts never really came into being. But I love the ambition of what Image was going for, and I think the plan may be to use “I Love Trouble” as a sort of test balloon — see if it finds an audience and if it does, maybe there’s room to expand up on it, both with the Felicia storyline and with other characters eventually. I certainly kept to the idea that there were others like Felicia out there — each with different powers, that were showing up on the radar of public consciousness. In “I Love Trouble” I introduce a whole corporate substructure of companies that are looking to profit from this phenomena. There’s also references that the government is becoming aware of it. Like I said, Eric conceived of this as a whole universe, so when he pitched it to me, it extended beyond Felicia and “I Love Trouble.”

Having worked in film and TV, what challenges did working in the comic book format give you?

It’s definitely different than scripts for TV or movies. But not that much different. Probably the biggest challenge I faced was how structured and metered a script for a comic is supposed to be. I always tried to have a change of scene or set up a big action beat or reveal as you turned the page, so that wasn’t always easy. And the idea of a limited number of pages (22, 24, etc.) wasn’t easy to deal with either — I’d be getting down to the end of a scene, or the end of the script, and realize I didn’t think I could squeeze it all in and truth be told, I cheated more than once — some issues might have 23 pages in them.

Fortunately I could rely on Mark’s comic book experience, which was immeasurably helpful. He’s very cinematic in his approach to what I wrote, and given my film background, that gave us an immediate shorthand. And whatever flaws existed in my script, or my inexperience with the medium, were deftly covered by his handling of the art, especially when I didn’t have enough panels to cover all the action in a particular scene and he expanded them. [He] just simply made what I wrote that much better; much more exciting. He had my back on this, more than once.

How did you and Mark hook up for this project?

After I wrote the first issue, which Eric seemed to dig, he started hitting me with possible artists to collaborate with. He told me about Mark, sent me a link to his Deviant Art page, and what can I say, the guy simply blew me away. So talented.

“I Love Trouble” from writer Kel Symons and artist Mark A. Robinson debuts December 5 from Image Comics.