This March, novelist Frank Bill and IDW Publishing team-up to revive the spirit of vengeance once again with “The Crow: Pestilence.”? "Pestilence," which features art by Drew Moss, is Bill’s first foray into comic books after the success of his novels “Crimes in Southern Indiana” and “Donnybrook.” Created by James O’Barr, “The Crow” revolves around a supernatural being that temporarily grants special abilities to wronged individuals seeking revenge.
Bill recently chatted with CBR News about “Pestilence,” explaining how a Mexican pro boxer is set to become the next Crow, how IDW E-i-C Chris Ryall personally recruited him for the book, and what he has in store for “Crow” fans new and old.
CBR News: Frank, what’s “The Crow: Pestilence” about?
Frank Bill: A pro boxer from Jaurez, named Salvador, agrees to take a dive in a pro fight for $200,000, only he doesn’t. He runs with the loot and ends up dead, but what he was trying to do was better for himself and his wife and son. So, years later Salvador is resurrected and with the help of The Crow, he’s out for revenge.
Is there a strong connection to Mexican culture in the story?
The story opens in Jaurez but travels to the Midwest. Each issue is set in a different state — Illinois, Kentucky and Indiana. There are connections if readers know about Jaurez and what I’ve pulled from. Like books, some people will get it, others will not.
How did you land “The Crow” for your very first comic book project?
Chris Ryall, the big chief editor over at IDW, got a copy of my debut book “Crimes in Southern Indiana,” and really dug the stories and started trying to get in touch with me. He’d noticed Victor Gischler’s name in the back of the book, offering thanks and contacted him about how to contact me. Two weeks later I got a DM on twitter. Chris asked if I’d had any interest in writing comics, and I did. Then he mentioned “The Crow.” I wrote a pitch, waited a few weeks and things just started to fall in to place.
This is my first [comic book project]. I had no idea about how to get into comics until I was approached to write one. I grew up on comics as a kid, “Batman,” “Conan,” “Kull,” “Green Lantern” and I was a big fan of Frank Miller’s early work with “Daredevil,” “Wolverine,” “Sin City” and “Ronin,” but I had never thought about growing up and writing them.
“The Crow” creator James O’Barr famously bases his “Crow” stories on actual crimes. What was “Pestilence” inspired by?
My infatuation with Charles Bowden, immigration, class struggle, what’s going on at the border, choices people make in order to better for themselves and the human condition.
Did you consult with O’Barr on the story?
Yeah, he and I e-mailed back and forth about the scripts I’d written, the artwork, our influences and interests and being a fan of one another’s work. In a sense, we became pretty good friends as we have a lot in common. O’Barr is a very down to earth individual and an amazing artist. I’d like to work with him again in the future.
What’s the difference between writing novels and comic books?
Well I’m self-taught with each. Writing novels or short stories, you have to make every word count, find that rhythm and not lose it. I tend to write very tight and to the point. With comics, it’s the same thing only tighter and you’ve gotta think of the artist, so they can illustrate what you’re envisioning mentally.
Chris [Ryall] passed me some sample scripts to study and I started writing without much direction. But its very similar to writing a screenplay only the formatting isn’t as strict.
Is the crime genre your primary focus?
I don’t really consider myself a crime writer, I write about conflicted people that others tend not to write about. I tell their histories and where they came from, show their survival in the times in which we live and the elements of crime tend to be the areas that they relate to the most. Like I stated earlier, I’m more into the stories about human condition.
Were you a fan of “The Crow” growing up?
Yeah, I had a buddy who introduced me to O’Barr’s work when the first film was being made, he passed me this huge book of all O’Barr’s work to that point and I must’ve read it a thousand times. That was way back in ’94, I think? And I still have that big ass book of his early work.
Do you have any more comic book projects coming up or is “Pestilence” a one-off?
I’ve pitched some projects and there’s some interest at another comic book publisher that contacted me last year, so hopefully I’ll have more stories coming along that coincide with my novels, “Crimes in Southern Indiana” and “Donnybrook.”
“The Crow: Pestilence” is out this March from IDW Publishing.