Stealing a treasure map can only lead to trouble, and when you're caught in the middle of the World War I, the prospect of an added curse is one hassle most soldiers don't need. But in Aces: Curse of the Red Baron, the temptation is too great for two adventurers. The book, shipping in May from AiT/Planet Lar, is written by Shannon Eric Denton (Zapt!, Graveslinger) and G. Willow Wilson (Cairo, Air), with art by Curtis Square Biggs. CBR News caught up with Denton to talk about Aces and the allure of mystical war stories.
Denton describes Aces: Curse of the Red Baron as “an adventure romp buddy comedy” that “just happens to be set in the period near the close of the First World War.” More directly, the story focuses on a Royal Air Force pilot and American infantryman, who pry the Red Baron's treasure map from his cold, dead hand, leading to perilous adventure across enemy lines and a confrontation with the ghost of the Red Baron himself.
“Indiana Jones,Dick Tracy, The Rocketeer,The Phantom, and The Shadow were all big influences on me, so I created Aces with a lot of those in mind,” Denton said.
According to Denton, the appeal of injecting history with a bit of fantasy is doing so “makes it your own.” “Mind you, I’m a big fan of alternate history, where it’s the world we live in but one big historical event changes, but by adding in the fantastical it frees you up to just have fun,” the writer said. “It’s a lot of work getting a book made so I try and do everything I can to make sure the process is as fun as possible and hopefully that comes across to the reader.”
Of course, even when taking liberties with fantasy elements and dread curses, the historical setting should strive for some degree of accuracy -- which is not to say this is the ultimate goal of Aces. Denton said the challenge of writing into history is “putting in the hours to get familiar enough with the time period that you can then pick and chose which elements are important to keep and which elements there’s room to tweak. I actually love reading non-fiction so the research is fun but I also feel it’s important to let certain things go if it moves the story forward and isn’t such a blaring omission that it takes most people out of the story.”
He continued, “We all did a bunch of prep for this one. Willow and I were pretty aware this wasn’t an attempt to do a historical fiction but an adventure romp. So while we used some of the terminology of the times, it was more important to have modern audiences relate to the characters. The Pirates of the Caribbean movies pulled that off quite well where it was obviously set in the past but the characters resonated with modern audiences and got a whole new generation interested in pirates again.”
Denton, who has previously collaborated with Keith Giffen on 10, Common Foe, and Gutwrencher, as well as other writers, will be working with Cairo scribe G. Willow Wilson on Aces. “I love the collaborative process. You get to work with people you respect and see things in a whole new way from the way you would have approached it on your own,” Denton said. “Willow and Giffen are both first rate talents so creatively both are a joy to work with. The only real difference is the chitchat you get drawn into over months of working together. Keith and I talk about football more than Willow and I do.
"Curtis Square Briggs and G. Willow Wilson are two talents to watch out for so I couldn’t have been happier to collaborate with them.”
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