Murdered for standing up for what’s right against those who will protect their own interests at any costs, Detective Shane Collins is given one more chance to bring the guilty to justice in writer Tom Waltz and artist Guiu Vilanova original graphic novel “After the Fire,” available in August from IDW Publishing. Waltz, who is an editor at IDW and whose previous writing credits include “Children of the Grave,” “Silent Hill: Sinner’s Reward” and “Legion: Prophets,” spoke with CBR News about his latest creator-owned work, the burden of vengeance and different types of resurrection.
“After the Fire” follows the story of Detective Shane Collins and what happens to him after he dies. “Shane Collins was a good cop. We’re not talking super cop by any means – we’re talking about a hard-working guy, a vice detective, a loyal partner, who did his job to the best of his abilities, by the book, avoiding the corruption he saw growing around him within the department,” Waltz said. “There comes a point where Shane has had enough of sitting by quietly while other cops around him are on the take, breaking the very laws they are supposed to enforce and uphold. He decides to take a stand, and this starts a violent chain of events that will ultimately lead to his murder, his resurrection and his chance at vengeance. Shane was also a widower and a father of one child – an eight-year-old daughter named Jenny, whom he loved more than anything else in the world and who is almost killed along with Shane at the beginning of our story.”
When Detective Collins is murdered through arson and conspiracy, he returns as a fiery spirit, not only for vengeance but also to protect his daughter from the criminals responsible. “The fire is deemed an electrical failure by the fire department, but the reader will be aware from the start that arson is the true cause, and that there is much more to those behind the fire than initially meets the eye,” Waltz said.
“Without giving too much away, the dead Shane is told by someone very special from his past that his duties on the earthly plane can be considered at an end, but Shane is not ready to accept that yet – he still feels the need to keep the promise he made to his dying wife years before to protect little Jenny at all costs, even if that now means giving up a peaceful eternal life in the Great Beyond for a violent, vengeful existence amongst the living instead,” the writer continued. “Shane makes the latter choice, and again the decision to take a stand kicks off a violent and enlightening chain of events for Shane, eventually providing him answers to questions he never even knew he’d be forced to ask.”
The detective’s spirit finds that though his new flame-born form allows him to accomplish his mission with some efficiency, knowing when and how to act is not as simple as he might once have thought. “Where Shane initially sees his mission of vengeance as following a black-and-white path of good versus evil, he soon learns that the corruption he’s battling against truly resides in far more of a gray area – an obscure reality where good and evil are not always as easily recognizable as he thought they once were, and where the battles he must undertake are far more complex and tragic than he would have ever expected,” Waltz told CBR.
As to whether Detective Collins’s resurrection is unique in the world of “After the Fire” or whether it’s possible for other people to get a similar second chance, Waltz told CBR, “Yes and no. Yes, because even though Shane’s particular resurrection is unique in this story, it’s not the only resurrection that occurs…hence my no answer,” the writer explained. “Simply put, this is a story about hard choices and second chances, and to me, when someone takes a second chance, they are engaging in a kind of resurrection – it may not be physical in the sense of Shane returning from the dead, but it is a new beginning nonetheless…a chance for a do-over – to make something right that was wrong.”
Joining Waltz on art is Guiu Vilanova, who most recently illustrated IDW’s “A-Team: War Stories – Murdock” one-shot. Waltz wrote the “A-Team: Shotgun Wedding” miniseries, which ran concurrently with the individual character-focused one-shots, but Waltz said he was familiar with Vilanova’s work from an earlier project. “I first was exposed to Guiu’s fantastic work when he illustrated the story ‘After The Siege’ for IDW in ‘Cory Doctorow’s Futuristic Tales of the Here and Now.’ I loved what he did in that story, and I’d seen some samples he did of Marvel’s ‘Punisher’ in his portfolio, which were kick butt and had that gritty feel I wanted to give to ‘After the Fire,'” Waltz said. “Guiu’s in Spain and is represented by Eduardo Alpuente, a fine gentleman who brings us many great artists from Spain. I approached Edu with my early scripts for ‘After the Fire’ and asked him if he thought Guiu would be interested in collaborating on a creator-owned project with me. Guiu read the scripts and jumped on board right away, and, man, as soon as his first pages started coming in, I knew I had the right guy! Seriously, his art was a match made in heaven for this story. Add to that the beautiful colors of Jon Alderink, and I’m happy to report I got my cake and was able to eat it, too!”
As to Waltz’s reasoning behind releasing his story as an original graphic novel rather than as a miniseries, he said that after some discussion and consideration, the OGN route simply seemed most appropriate. “Creator-owned books seem to be a tough sell to comic book retailers these days, unless your name is Millar (and with the numbers he brings in, it’s understandable),” Waltz said. “We thought getting the full story out to the direct market and booksellers would be the best track for ‘After the Fire’ to follow, as we feel so strongly about the story and art that we’re hoping positive reviews and friendly word-of-mouth will lead to reorders down the line. And folks are gonna get their money’s worth – [there’s] not a lot of extras in this baby, because we’re filling 104 pages of book with 102 pages of solid story and art.”
Waltz said that the concept behind the book might lead to sequels if fan response is strong, though perhaps the cast would change. “For now, though, I’m excited as all get-out for readers to see ‘After the Fire,'” the writer said. “I really am over-the-moon proud of what Guiu, Jon and I have accomplished with this graphic novel. We’ve all got our fingers crossed that our fellow comic book fans will feel the same way once they seen and read it.”
“I’ve done a few creator-owned books in my time that I’m extremely proud of (‘Children of the Grave,’ ‘Finding Peace’), yet I have to say, ‘After the Fire’ really does have an extra special place in my heart,” Waltz said. “I’m exploring many of the same themes I did in my other books: faith, loyalty, betrayal, prejudice, forgiveness, camaraderie, family. But where my other books were military-centric, ‘After the Fire’ revolves around characters I believe will be more accessible to readers who may not have a military connection in their lives. It’s my hope this new element will make the story resonate with my longtime readers and, hopefully, bring in new ones as well.”