Writer Kurtis J. Wiebe arrived on the comic book scene last year with “Green Wake,” a procedural-esque examination of the supernatural world of the title as well creating a team of challengers of the unknown in a book called “The Intrepids.” 2012 is proving to be an equally big and busy year for the writer whose recently launched “Peter Panzerfaust” sold out and the new four-issue miniseries “Grim Leaper” with artist Aluisio Santos kicks off in May from Image Comics imprint Shadowline.
This new series finds recently dead Lou trying to figure out a way to shuffle off the extra-mortal coil for good when, all of a sudden, he discovers something worth sticking around for: a girl ghost. Meeting fellow disembodied spirit Ella turns things around for Lou and gives him a new reason to enjoy the afterlife. From there it’s a bit of a romance ghost story, almost a combination of “Young Love” and “Vault of Horror” from the good old days. With the new miniseries on the way, CBR News spoke with Wiebe about crossing genres, Lou and Ella as characters, and the origins of that clever title.
CBR News: First off, “Grim Leaper” is a fantastic title, did it come to you before the story or vice versa?
Kurtis Wiebe: It was very much tied together, actually. When I first came up with the basic concept and started writing out the idea the title came almost immediately. For me it was a nice surprise because I am usually stuck on titles for a long time, even more so on taglines.
I suppose I was lucky in that regard, I’d hired Sonia Harris (one of your columnists) to design the logo and layout of the inside cover and she added the tagline beneath the logo as a placeholder: “A Love Story to Die For.” I loved it and asked her to keep it as part of the brand.â€¨â€¨I really like the twist on this story where the disembodied Lou just wants to cross over until he meets a girl. Were you inspired by any specific ghost/haunting stories when coming up with this story?
Not ghost stories, but love stories. It was a mix of different inspirations, really, but I’d recently started dating again when I first came up with “Grim Leaper” and I can see, looking back, that it was very much influenced by my experiences. Clearly I wasn’t living a curse from hell, but there’s this idea that every new encounter made you a different person.
I suppose in some ways it’s like “Romeo and Juliet” mashed with “Final Destination,” forbidden love and maniacal slaughter.
Were you at all worried about how a romance comic might do in the marketplace today?
You know, I think there’s an audience for everything and there seems to be excitement in the market for new, original stories. While this is a romantic comedy, of sorts, it’s also a character piece about two people easily related to in a fantastical situation. I think as long as readers care about Lou and Ella, the series will do just fine.
Tell me about Lou and Ella, what kind of people were they when they were living and how have they changed after death, if at all?
We build that back story into the main plot throughout the series, but it’s clear even from the preview for the first issue that Lou has some serious dating issues. We find out that Lou was an orphan very early on in life and hasn’t ever really connected with people since then. Ella is a bit more of a mystery and I want to save her history for the comic.
Death has changed them in a significant way, which plays heavily into their dating life. What kind of life would you lead if you knew your actions held no immediate consequences, especially when it comes to death? I’m playing into that idea while toying with the concept of how that would also affect how you dated someone if death was never to be feared, on top of which, your partner would come back looking entirely different.â€¨â€¨This world that Lou and Ella inhabit, is it essentially the real world but with these strange things happening to these people?
Yeah, I don’t actually say where it’s happening but the series takes place in the real world with a few spots that take place in a sort of ‘world in between.’ It happens when Lou is killed and is in transit to his new body.
How did you hook up with artist Aluisio Santos and what made you want to work with him on this book specifically?
Aluisio was somehow connected to Riley Rossmo and when “Green Wake” was extended to an ongoing series, Riley wanted a back up artist in case he couldn’t handle the workload. Aluisio did a test page for us and even though we never did have him come aboard “Green Wake,” I knew immediately I wanted to work with him.
One of his greatest strengths as an illustrator is his ability to convey emotion. He takes facial expressions that are very real and relatable and then makes them just a slight bit cartoony. That is what it would take for the dark humour to pay off and Aluisio is doing a perfect job of it.
Wiebe’s romantic/supernatural love story “Grim Leaper” with Aluisio Santos kicks off on May 30th.