To most of his fans, Duane Swierczynski is a crime writer. With a string of hit novels like “The Blonde” and “The Wheelman” to his credit, the writer has built a loyal following amongst aficionados of hard boiled fiction. But when it comes to his comics work, Swierczynski has rarely written straight crime stories — until now.
In advance of Comic-Con International, Dynamite Entertainment today revealed that Swiercyznski will join Garth Ennis and Andy Diggle in the publisher’s growing crime line with “Ex-Con” — a series that reveals the other side of the criminal lifestyle.
CBR News has the first interview with the writer about his book, with Swierczynski explaining why it’s taken him this long to bring his novel chops to comics, how “Ex-Con” will be different than any book he’s every written, what emotions drive the story into and out of prison and more.
CBR News: Bloodshot. Birds of Prey. X. Judge Dredd. Iron Fist. — you’ve worked on a really wide range of characters and comics over the years, but aside from “Punisher MAX,” I’m not sure I’d call any of them straight crime stories like your novels. Why was “Ex-Con” the story that finally had you bringing this part of your writing to comics form?
Duane Swierczynski: Simply put, it was the idea of Dynamite’s crime line. As soon as I heard about it — and guys like Garth Ennis and Andy Diggle joining in — I knew I wanted a piece of that action, too. I’m still bummed I was never able to pitch something to Vertigo Crime’s Graphic Mystery line (due to an exclusive I had at the time), so there was no way I was going to miss out on this one.
This is not only a new original comic from you but also your first time working with Dynamite —
That’s entirely thanks to Nick Barrucci’s persistence. We’ve been in touch for years, but it took the crime line — and the right moment in my schedule — to make it happen. I’m especially happy because Dynamite is located right across the river from me in Philly, so I can pretty much pop over there whenever needed. Of course, this means they can easily find me, too, come deadline time —
Crime comics in general have had a bit of a resurgence over the past few years. As someone who’s done so much work in the genre inside and out of comics, why do you think it’s proliferated in the funnybooks so much of late?
What you call “proliferation,” I call drought. We need more crime comics! But I think the appeal is the same, be it a novel or movie or comic. People love to experience the vicarious thrill of a transgression, be it a murder or a heist or an elaborate con game. It’s fun to be in the head of the bad guy.
Who’s our titular ex-convict? What’d he go away for and where’s he at as our story begins?
I don’t want to say too much about our con, because we meet him right at the moment his entire life goes sideways. But the basic elevator pitch: Our protagonist is in prison, about to be stomped to death, when he’s saved by a mysterious crime boss — a real charmer who’s in for a number of consecutive life terms. In exchange for protection, our man has to promise to do a little favor for this boss once he’s out. Come parole time five years later, the ex-con finds himself torn between the promise he made on the inside and his new obligations on the outside.
And most importantly, what’s waiting for him out there in the world? What action forms the spine of this story, and does it look to take our boy towards redemption or desperation?
As they famously said in “The Wire,” you only serve two days in prison: the day you go in, and the day you’re released. Our anti-hero finds himself stuck between those two days.
Redemption or desperation? Geez, Kiel, this is me you’re talking to. Of course there will be heaps of desperation!
Many of your novels take place over a very short period of time and just roll out with quick action. What about your approach to this story is similar to your prose? What’s different for comics?
I’m purposefully trying to stretch different muscles with “Ex-Con.” There’s a weird, visually-based angle to the story that I’m not revealing quite yet, something I haven’t tried with any of my novels. In fact, I’m not sure that I even could; it’d be hard to pull off in prose. But it’s really exciting to try it here.
I know this is early, but do you know what artist you’ll be working with? What are you looking for visually in this book?
We’re still early in the process (I’m still working on the first script.) But I do know the specific visual style I’m gunning for, so I’m hopeful we’ll be able to find someone willing to sit up late and gorge on ’80s flicks like “To Live and Die in L.A.,” “Body Double,” “Repo Man,” “The Hidden” and “Less Than Zero.”