The definition of fusillade is “a number of shots fired simultaneously or in rapid succession” — and that’s exactly what writer/creator Howard Shum is aiming for with his new original graphic novel, “Fusillade,” arriving this July. Readers may recognize Shum from his Image Comics title “Hyperkinetic” or his 2007 creation for DC Comics’ now defunct Zuda website, “Alpha Monkey.” However, while Shum is more than familiar with formatting overarching storylines, “Fusillade” is his first foray into the world of the anthology graphic novel.
Working with artists from Italy, France, Mexico and the United States, Shum has assembled an impressive collection of one-shot tales for the project, with stories ranging from middle schoolers fighting a supposed witch to a Marine’s quest to rescue an abducted woman in Iraq. Each and every story is unique in both plot and art, allowing the graphic novel to live up to its title.
CBR News spoke with Shum about “Fusillade,” picking his brain about the project’s art team, what led him to single-handedly create an anthology, the stories readers will find between the covers and the glue that links them all together. Plus, an exclusive look at art from several of the stories.
CBR News: Howard, tell us about “Fusillade.” What’s the concept behind the graphic novel and how did it come to be?
Howard Shum: “Fusillade” is a collection of character driven action stories in various genres — science fiction, fantasy, western, gangster, and more. The amazing art is by artists: Antonello Dalena, Rad Sechrist, Armando M. Zanker, Gunt, Regis Donsimoni, Francesco Abrignani, Lelio Bonaccorso and Dustin Foust. All the stories are written by me.
I find the failing of most comic book anthologies to be the occasional weak art, which for me ruins the entire book. I wanted to do an anthology that was beautiful cover-to-cover, with imaginative and exciting stories. All you have to do is flip through “Fusillade” and you will see that it is visually stunning.
You’ve written a number of graphic novel projects before, but nothing quite like the short-story format you’ve utilized in “Fusillade.” What prompted you to go this route?
I wanted to work with these incredible artists who didn’t have the time to draw my usual long, multi-issue stories. I didn’t think I could write shorter form until I heard filmmaker Courtney Hunt talk about her film “Frozen River.” She talked about how that began as a short film, and the process clicked in my head.
â€¨There are quite a few stories in the graphic novel, each one, as you mentioned, featuring a different artist. Can you give us an idea of what to expect in each of these vignettes? What links these stories together?
I had two things I wanted in each story: for it to be character-driven and have some action element in it. Other than that, I did my best to make the stories as different as possible from each other while maintaining my voice. Some of the stories are funny, some are serious. I wrote to what the artists wanted to draw. Francesco Abrignani draws Disney comics in Europe and he told me he wanted to do a violent gangster story because it’s not something he typically gets asked to do. Gunt told me he likes drawing pretty girls, monsters and vintage Ford Mustangs. I remembered I had an idea for a TV show with those elements, so I wrote “Wilde Agency” for him.
Armando Zanker was initially supposed to draw another story. He read the premise of “Los Diablos” — in the Old West, three groups race to find a legendary lost gold stash while an evil supernatural force interrupts their plans. He thought that was cool and wanted to draw that instead, but it was specifically written for another artist friend of mine. He got overwhelmed with his animation work though and had to bow out, so Armando got his wish. Armando did a great job on the story. His passion shows.
â€¨How did you develop partnerships with such wide a range of artists and what has your creative process been like in working with so many artists at the same time?
Some are friends that I have known for years, such as Rad Sechrist. Some I know from online/phone conversations/snail mail, such as Dustin Foust, Regis Donsimoni and Antonello Dalena. The rest are artists whose work I liked and contacted to work on the book, like Lelio Bonaccorso.Â
Touching on the title for a moment, “Fusillade.” It’s not exactly a common or well-known word. What made you select it for your title?
I subscribe to the “LA Times” and I see “fusillade” in there all the time, so at the very least, it’s common to newspaper readers in Los Angeles! Fusillade means “a number of shots fired simultaneously or in rapid succession.” I thought it was an apt title for a collection of action stories.
â€¨Do you plan on revisiting any of these stories at any point, or is this the first and last readers will see of them?
We will see more stories featuring particular characters if sales are as strong as we anticipate.
What have you found to be most challenging about working with a veritable cornucopia of artists on a number of different stories?
These guys are top level artists with busy schedules doing art on other stuff, like Rad Sechrist, who is a story artist at DreamWorks Animation. So just getting the art was challenging.
â€¨Do you have a favorite “Fusillade” story?
I don’t want to single one out, but “The Miller’s Tale” drawn by Geoffrey Chaucer is destined to become a classic. My best writing ever. I hear that Chaucer is going to draw X-Men soon.
As a writer, what did you find most rewarding about producing a work like “Fusillade?”
I always like working with fantastic artists who share my storytelling sensibilities and I love the challenge of coming up with different types of stories and characters that I haven’t done previously.
“Fusillade” fires into stores in July