Almost a decade has passed since David Lapham’s “Stray Bullets” #40 was released, leaving fans to wonder about the future of the legendary crime series, which ran from 1995-2005. Lapham had previously said that he would resume his work on the iconic title if and when it became financially viable. That time has arrived.
In March, “Stray Bullets” makes its return with a new arc, “Killers” #1, and a freshly collected edition of issues #1-#41, “The Uber Alles Edition,” all published by Image Comics. For those who want to get caught up on one of the best crime comics ever published before the new series launches, Image is releasing the entire digital back catalogue starting December 17, with issues #1-#4 available for free until March, when “Killers” #1 is released.
David Lapham spoke with members of the press on Monday morning, discussing the return to his independent series, how it feels to have a new home for the title and the importance of making each issue new-reader friendly.
Why return to “Stray Bullets?”
David Lapham: Ever since we’ve stopped doing “Stray Bullets,” I’ve been trying to figure out a way to do it again. It’s home. It was just a matter of other priorities preventing the 100% commitment we had to the book for so many years. It was so great to work on superhero characters that I’d grown up with, and a lot of other projects, but “Stray Bullets” has always been home to me and I couldn’t wait to get back to it.
You’re finishing the previous story arc, but you’re also simultaneously launching a new one with “Killers.” What is that like? Did you plan it that way?
Yeah. The way we went around planning this, and leaving some strings dangling — there was no perfect way to go back to it. To really give the fans everything I’d promised them before and to simultaneously move forward, we decided that the best way to do that was to wrap up the old business and start the new business at one time, which would be way more exciting that dragging the whole thing out. One of the things about “Stray Bullets” is that the stories get into arcs, which have themes, but each issue is individually given a complete story. In one way, it’s just a continuation of one to the other; it’s just a new story. Obviously, #41 wraps up the things that were going on, and then “Killers” has some new themes and ideas I bring, like starting a gang. Wanting to start fresh and allowing new people to come in, we decided to come back with a #1.
After such a long absence, did you find you had to re-familiarize yourself with the characters, or was it just like riding a bike?
There’s a little bit of both. Over the years of doing other works, I’ve always had this in my mind. I’ve always had ideas that I thought would work really well in “Stray Bullets,” and I couldn’t wait to get back to doing it. Once we were on, I went back and read everything I’d done before, and then it was like getting back into that mindset. It’s a little bit different than all the other work I’d done, not the least of which is coming back and working with Maria [Lapham.] So much of this came out of our life and our experiences and our collaboration, so it was really more of that process. Us talking about it and talking about what directions we were going to go it, and it came back really quickly. That’s sort of what makes it so exciting, is getting back to that place. This book was created out of our experiences and our collaboration together, and it was always really special and important work in our lives. That’s the element that’s been almost surprising in how it is to come back to.
Previously, “Stray Bullets” was something you self-published. What was it like, moving to Image?
Over the years since we’ve stopped, we’ve had a lot of great offers from lots of companies to do “Stray Bullets” and it never clicked with us that it was the right way to come back. Image was the first company that got our vision, and that’s what they wanted — they wanted us to bring the El Capitan [Lapham’s self-publishing label] production to them every month. Other than having the Image logo on the cover, it’s the same 32 pages of what we want to bring to readers. That was the key that made us think we could do it like we did before.
Image was founded by artists that wanted to take control of their work, so I think that it was just built into their mission statement. From our perspective, going from self-publishing to this, other than having the Image team behind us, we are able to do the same thing we’ve always done. We’re able to give readers the same book, the same story, the same editorial that we want to give. That made it a no-brainer.
Will there be any new characters in the new arc, or will it be the established characters from the previous issues?
There will be some characters from the original series as well as new characters. One of the elements of “Stray Bullets” was each issue being a complete story, so I was always able to invent whatever characters I needed to tell a story. Almost any kind of story I wanted to dream up, I could just do in the best way I thought. If that meant it related to the characters I’d created before, that was great, but if it required a new character, then I could do that. I never felt like anything always had to happen to this one person; everything evolved organically. I always found ways to bring the whole thing along.
Do you feel like your artistic style has evolved since the series came out originally?
Yeah, I think it has. When I critique people’s work, I tell them is that you always improve and you keep improving, hopefully forever. One of the elements of this that’s so exciting to me is bringing everything I’ve learned since going on hiatus from “Stray Bullets,” back.
What is the release schedule going to be for the “Killers” arc?
We’re starting in March, and it’s going to be monthly. We’re going to go by arc, so right now I’m planning on going monthly. I’m highly confident that one of the things I’ve gotten over the years is doing what I can do on a monthly basis.
Will the #1 be new-reader friendly?
I’ve designed “Stray Bullets” for the kind of reader that I am. I don’t go into comic book shops regularly, so when I go in, I don’t want to pick up stuff that I’m going to be confused by when I’m reading. If I get stuck with my life and come back to something three months later, I want to come back to a series and just pick up the story. One of the elements about “Stray Bullets” is that every issue is new-reader friendly. When you start getting up into 30, 40 issues, people see the number and feel alienated, like they have to go back and read the previous stuff. I think people could jump in on “Killers” #4, but seeing the #1 makes it easy for new readers to jump in.
“Stray Bullets” returns to comics in March 2014.