Earlier this week Oni Press announced plans to celebrate the success of the Eisner Award winning “Queen and Country” with a month-long celebration this January appropriately titled “Queen and Country Month.” This January sees the release of “Queen and Country #13” featuring the debut of artist Jason Alexander who’ll steer the series until issue #15. Also coming that month is the release of “Queen and Country: Declassified #3,” the final issue of the spin-off series, and “Queen and Country: Crystal Ball,” the third TPB collection of the series. But the news doesn’t end there.
Late Thursday night Oni Press Editor James Lucas Jones posted an announcement to the soon to shut down Warren Ellis Forum with plans for “Queen and Country” following Jason Alexander’s run. Starting with issue #16 writer/creator Greg Rucka will be joined by the Eisner Nominated creator of “Finder,” artist Carla Speed McNeil, who’ll be handling the art chores starting with issue #16, due in the Spring of 2003.
“Choosing ‘Queen and Country’ art teams has always been an exercise in thinking outside the box,” Oni Press Editor James Lucas Jones told CBR News when asked about the decision to bring McNeil on board. “Carla came out of a discussion [Oni Editor-In-Chief Jamie S. Rich] and I were having about who should follow the extremely talented Jason Alexander. We’d thrown around a bunch of possible candidates, but honestly didn’t think Carla would be into it. She’s got such a drive and vision, we weren’t sure she’d have the time to play in someone elses backyard. That said, I figured, what the hay? There’s no harm in asking. I fired off an e-mail, we chatted a bit about it, and before I knew it, she was onboard!”
McNeil’s run on the series will be four or five issues long and Jones tells us that story particulars aren’t set in stone quite yet as we’re still a ways off, 6 months or more, until this story will hit comic shops.
For McNeil, one of the reasons why she’s jumped at the chance to work with Rucka on “Queen and Country” is the chance to engage her better half in a story she knows he’ll read.
“My husband loves Brit spy TV,” McNeil told CBR News.
“I’m a reader of amazing voracity. His idea of a good book is one of those massive O’Reilly programming tomes. He’s not only a non-comics reader, he’s a non-fiction reader. He took the first ‘Queen and Country’ trade away from me, and I haven’t got it back yet.”
Jones cites McNeil’s expressive artwork as the reason she was approached to handle a story arc on “Queen and Country.”
“More than anything ‘Queen and Country’ is about people and relationships,” said Jones. “The environment is important, but it’s how the characters deal with those settings and situations that really makes the book. For years Carla has being showing the comics world exactly how well she handles human emotion in extreme or unusual settings. We knew that she’d be able to take the skills she developed with the alien world ‘Finder’ and use them on the equally alien international intelligence community.”
While she hasn’t quite made up her mind on how she’ll approach her run artistically on “Queen and Country,”, McNeil is considering approaching her penciling and inking on “Queen and Country” in new ways. But she noted that she’s not quite sure what angle she’ll take until she has the script in hand.
“I’ve been headed toward digital inking for a while,” said McNeil. “I’ve been playing with halftones a little, but I think they’d be better suited for a lighter book like [the ‘Finder’ spin-off] ‘Mystery Date.’
“Graphite’s a gorgeous medium that the printing industry is only just now beginning to catch up with. Pencil can be soft and delicate one minute and gritty the next. I think it’ll mesh well with the hatched detail work I’m accustomed to doing.
“That, and it’s fast. Fast is good. Every time I put myself under this kind of pressure in the past, procrastination was banished under panic and I found all kinds of amusing ways to get the work out looking good in half the time. There’s bound to be a bottom to it, but I ain’t hit it yet. If four or five issues of a monthly book don’t do it, I will write a how-to book on the process.”
Will all this extra work affect the publishing schedule of the self-published “Finder?”
“Not if all goes well,” said McNeil. “My publishing schedule was leaning toward trades this year to begin with — ‘Dream Sequence’ and ‘Mystery Date’ — if there’s a gap between issues I’ll be plugging it with a TPB.”
For McNeil the appeal of working on a story based on espionage was very much influenced by her husband’s interest in the genre.
“I blame Mike,” said McNeil. “I never would have seen ‘The Hot Rock‘ or ‘The Italian Job or ‘The Prisoner‘ if it weren’t for him. He used to read, but gave it up when he discovered computers. Brings a little tear to my eye to catch him reading something with a plot.”
Jones believes McNeil will bring a lot to the table when her run on “Queen and Country” begins.
“Carla brings experience, for one. ‘Queen and Country’ has introduced a lot of talented new artists to the comics community, but Carla is already a respected force. And of course, like all of the previous artists, she brings a different perspective both to the characters and the environments.”
And what can fans of McNeil’s work expect from her in the future?
“Lots more ‘Finder.’ Issue #30, in January, will be another stand-alone Jaeger story, this time about some of his, ah, sexual misadventures, titled ‘Beware of Dog.’ There will be another couple issues of ‘Mystery Date’ (they’ll come under the title ‘Finder: Mystery Date,’ mind you). In Spring I’ll be collecting ‘Dream Sequence.’ I’ll probably do a Jaeger stand-alone between each larger arc for the foreseeable future — he’s a character best seen in blips.
“Plenty to keep me busy.”