Oni Press has provided CBR News with an 11 page preview of writer Antony Johnston and artist Brett Weldele’s “Julius,” coming in March of this year. We spoke with Johnston back in August about this project and he described his take on the classic by Shakespeare.
“It’s a reworking of the play – not verbatim, but pretty faithful.
“If there’s one thing that always irks me, it’s ‘modernisations’ of Shakespeare which are actually nothing of the sort. They’re just the same play, with the same lines, spoken by actors in modern costumes. That’s bollocks, and I’ve yet to see one that benefited from it.
“But Stratford Billy’s plays haven’t lasted centuries because of their flawless iambic pentameter – they’ve lasted because they’re bloody good stories. So what we’re doing with Julius is a genuine modernisation, where the dialogue, environment, actions, everything has changed to reflect the setting – except the actual story, because that’s the point of it all.
“For example: the false letters which Cassius conspires to send Brutus, in order to convince Brutus the people of Rome are behind his decision to replace Caesar, clearly won’t wash in the modern day. But anonymous text messaging will. Soothsayer? There are no soothsayers any more. But there are plenty of $29.95-an-hour high-street psychics. And so on. It’s all there, in essence – anyone familiar with the play will see it unfolding – but it’s all different, too. That’s what makes it fun.”
And for those familiar with the original play, there’ll still be a number of familiar faces gracing the pages of “Julius.”
“We’ve compressed the cast list a little to preserve mine and Brett’s sanity. There are something like fifty-odd characters in the play, and many of them are little more than one-line ciphers, shoehorned in for a bit of historical authenticity. But as we’re not dealing with real history any more, we’ve trimmed it down to… twenty-one, I think it is. Still enough to give Brett nightmares.”
Johnston talked about working with artist Brett Weldele, who was reccommended for this book by Oni Editor James Lucas Jones.
“I actually first got to know Brett through his work on ‘Couscous Express,’ and met him shortly before the book was released. But it was Gary Phillips’ ‘Shot Callerz,’ also from Oni, that really made me look again at his work. When I first pitched ‘Julius,’ James immediately suggested Brett as artist, and it plain made sense. I’ve found him very easy to work with, excellent at page design, panel composition and character design. Plus he’s just as cynical, if not more so, than me. So we get on quite well.”
Click the images below to enlarge. Click on over to our interview with Johnston from August to learn about two other projects he’s got coming shortly, “Spooked” and “Closer.”