Brubaker Prepares for Cold War Espionage in "Velvet"

At Image Expo 2013, Eisner-winning writer Ed Brubaker announced "Velvet," his upcoming creator-owned collaboration with artist Steve Epting. Over the past several years, Brubaker has expanded his oeuvre writing dark genre fiction such as "Fatale" and "Criminal," and the writer expressed plans to bring a similar style to his newest series.

Velvet Templeton is a personal assistant working at one of the world's largest intelligence agencies. "She is a Moneypenny-type character who has to leave her desk job and go on the run into the field against her own agents," Brubaker described during his spotlight panel. "Imagine James Bond done in a true Cold War scenario."

Brubaker had been conceptualizing the meta-textual espionage story for the past eight years, but chose to wait until Epting was free from his Marvel Comics contract before diving into the character's high-tech world of international espionage. "Velvet" debuts from Image Comics in October, and looks to be a must-read for fans of mid-century spy dramas and the writer's ass-kicking leading ladies.

CBR News: What is the scope of "Velvet?" Is it an ongoing series or do you have a limited storyline in mind?

Ed Brubaker: It's ongoing. It has an end point eventually, but I have no idea how long it will take to get there. There are a couple of empty places in the story that I need to fill in. I know where I need to get to story-wise, but I'm not sure how to get there yet.

After the fiasco of having to constantly having to tell people that "Fatale" was going to be longer than I planned, I decided that I was never going to tell people again how long a series is going to be. When you tell people how many issues something is going to be, you give them an excuse to wait to read it. Every time a new "Fatale" trade comes out, I have people asking me when the hardback will come out. What, am I going to tell you my entire publishing plan ahead of time? Why don't you just buy the thing we're putting out now and be happy with it!

Charles Dickens used to serialize his books but wouldn't tell you how many chapters "Oliver Twist" was going to be ahead of time. That's how I'm looking at what we're doing here. I need there to be an end point, eventually. After all of those years on Marvel and DC books, I need to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, even if the tunnel is incredibly long.

"Velvet" deals with espionage and a female spy -- what is the draw to spy history?

A lot of what being a spy is about is pretending to be what you're not. That's where "Velvet" came from. I looked at characters in these spy movies that were made from the 1960s-1980s. I kept thinking that the female characters were way more interesting than the creators would let them be. I started to build Velvet, and when I figured out her backstory, I felt like she was really powerful -- especially in a world where women weren't allowed to be that powerful.

You'd mentioned that this series is meta-textual. What is "Velvet" commenting on?

"Velvet" is commenting on the espionage genre itself, and on the actual Cold War, including the way villains and heroes are portrayed in that storyline. "Velvet" is also a commentary on the way women are portrayed compared to the way men are portrayed. That was one of the things that made me really excited about doing the book. To me, writing a James Bond-type character would be boring, because why not just go watch "Casino Royale" and see Daniel Craig be awesome and have sex with Eva Green? But it got me thinking, isn't Eva Green's character more interesting? I feel the same way about "Mad Men." I want to watch an entire episode that's just about Peggy because she's fascinating.

To me, it's more interesting to do a story about how women were treated like fuck back then. Then I thought -- what about a woman who was a spy in the '50s and '60s? She'd have a whole different view on morality and what she's willing to do with her body, probably a completely different view on sex than an average housewife back then would've had. It's exciting because nobody would know what to expect from her!

We put these outside morals on women's behavior, which -- you know, because you're a woman. Don't you think its bullshit that James Bond can fuck everyone who crosses his path, but a female spy would probably be called a "slut" for that? It's insulting to me. 

Yes. It's insulting to me, too. As a woman, I enjoy reading about women who are in control of their sexuality and express it consensually to whatever degree they choose, without outside judgment. Women in espionage viewed it as a different tool, and were effective in an entirely different way than men could ever hope to be, to their own advantage.

In real life, American and British agents did a lot less of the honey trapping than the Russians did, but it happened. There was a female British spy that was close to Roosevelt and was reporting on his activities to the Brits before World War II, and they were our allies later! It's a really fascinating world. In the spy industry, they refer to espionage as "the world's second oldest profession."

It's not like "Velvet" is just going to be about sex, although it will be sexy. A lot of my friends are women, and they're sexy, but they don't think everything that's sexy is also sexist. I'm hoping to not fall on the wrong side of that.

"Velvet," by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting, debuts from Image in October.

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