DATE KNIGHT: Swierczynski talks "Moon Knight Annual"

When a girl is looking for love in the Marvel Universe, she might find a creepy psycho or a knight in shining armor. The women of "Moon Knight Annual" #1 -- by best selling crime writer Duane Swierczynski and artist Jefte Paolo-- will encounter skuzzy predators as well as not-so-shiny knight that's also a bit psychotic. CBR News spoke with Swierczynski about the book, which ships this November.

Swierczynski is the editor of the Philadelphia City Paper and the author of crime novels like "The Wheel Man" and "The Blonde," and "Moon Knight Annual" #1 marks his first foray into the world of comics, which came about because of fellow crime writer Ed Brubaker. "I've been a fan of his ever since the miniseries 'Scene of the Crime,'" Swierczynski told CBR News. "I loved it. He out Ross Macdonald-ed Ross Macdonald and I've followed his work over the years. When 'Criminal' started I was really blown away. Ed was giving you hardcore, gritty, great, old fashioned crime action which I love. I think it was around February that I sent him an e-mail telling him how much I loved the series. It turned out he had actually bought my book 'The Wheelman' the week before. It was kind of crazy. We hit it off and at some point he asked, 'Hey would you ever want to write for comics?'

"That was like asking Lindsay Lohan, 'Hey would you ever want to get high and go driving?' Of course I wanted to write for comics," Swierczynski continued. "Ed introduced me to Warren Simons, his editor on 'Daredevil,' and he in turn introduced me to [editor] Axel Alonso. I sent them copies of my books and from there it just sort of took off."

One of the reasons Swierczynski was so eager to tackle comics was because he had been a huge comic fan as a child and rediscovered his love for the medium later as an adult. "In the early '80s, when I was like nine or ten, every Saturday Grandma would give me a buck to spend on whatever I wanted," Swierczynski said. "Of course being a kid you don't want to buy beer yet so I bought one comic book which was like sixty cents and a candy bar which was like thirty cents. I would buy things like 'Moon Knight' and 'Spider-Man.' I actually still have some of those issues. Last night I found an old cross-over or team up issue with Iron Man and Moon Knight. Iron Man was trapped in a vault ready to drown and it was like 'Can Moon Knight save him?' I was like, 'Wow. That's cool.'

"Then you know, the usual story, you drift away from comics for awhile. I got back into them about seven years ago pretty regularly," Swierczynski continued. "With the X-books, Spider-Man and the Punisher. I've always been a huge Punisher fan. And of course more recently with 'Moon knight. I'm a big fan of Charlie Huston's work. When I heard he was doing Moon Knight I was like, 'Wow. This is fantastic.' His run has been everything that his novels are to me; full of great, dark humor and the dialogue is to kill for. It's a great time for comics."

As readers may have guessed, some of Swierczynski's favorite comics tend to be dark ones. "I'm always sort of drawn to these sorts of twin poles of crime and horror," he explained. "'Moon Knight' has both of those elements, not horror in the supernatural sense it's more screwed-up, dark, psychological horror.

"I've always gravitated towards comic books that blend together crime and horror or touch on dark notes but often there will be humor in them as well," Swierczynski continued. "Like the Punisher is unrelentingly dark but I think it's a riot too. Especially the Marvel Knights run, which was so funny. It was the blackest comedy ever and it was just fantastic. That's the kind of stuff I'm drawn to."

Swierczynski is a fan of Charlie Huston's take on Moon Knight and, as such, didn't stray far from it. "I like that when you meet him in issue #1 of the new series he's trying to get both his mind and body together," Swierczynski said. "I think Spector means well but in some ways Moon Knight is as much about him as it is helping other people. He's trying to exorcise his own demons as much as he is trying to save people. I think it's pretty clever that a guy named Moon Knight is kind of a lunatic. The tie with that of course is lunar. It's pretty funny."

Readers will see Moon Knight in Swierczynski's story, but much of the action is observed from other perspectives and points of view. "In my one-shot story we're looking at Moon Knight and his world from sort of a different angle," Swierczynski stated. "Remember the 'Tangled Web' series from like five or six years ago? They were stories told in Spider-Man's world but Spidey was often a bit player or had a different role. I loved those stories. My favorite was a story that Greg Rucka did called 'Severance Package.' I loved that they were a different way to tell a story."

Swierczynski's approach to "Moon Knight" developed out of a challenge from his editor. "It was just fun to do and when Axel gives me a challenge, I'm like 'Hell yes! Let's try it,'" Swierczynski remarked. "I can't really give too many exact details because that would ruin it but the idea I finally hit upon was an odd ball one involving three women in New York City and these two sort of predator characters and how their stories intersect. Moon Knight is one of the characters but he's not thee character."

The three women in Swierczynski's story become involved out of looking to fulfill a simple universal desire. "They're women looking for love in the big, bad city and this is sort of who they find and what happens to them," Swierczynski explained. "Hopefully who they find and what happens next is a surprise and isn't the story you would expect. I don't want to say it's like my 'Moon Knight Chick Lit story!' It's not but it is a different type of crime story."

The criminals the three women run afoul of are new characters. "It's actually one central bad guy but when I say predators you'll see what I mean," Swierczynski said. "It's a brand new and hopefully a surprising kind of character; someone you don't expect to see as a typical bad guy."

In addition to the women, the new villain and Moon Knight, a number of the regular "Moon Knight" supporting cast appear in small roles in Swierczynski's story. "Frenchie makes an appearance as well as Rob but the Moon Knight characters, with the exception of Moon Knight himself, are sort of taking a back seat in this story," the writer explained. "There are other characters whose little drama takes center stage."

"Moon Knight Annual #1" takes place over a week or two and unfolds in a variety of locales in lower Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn. "This one-shot doesn't depend on the current 'Moon Knight' storyline. I don't pick up on the thread of where the character has been the past few issues," Swierczynski confirmed. "It was more like this story could happen at any point in the past year or so."

Swierczynski describes his story as a dark toned crime tale with moments of superhero action and humor. "I think there's humor in it but my definition of humor may be a little different (laughs)," he remarked. "To me it's like 'The Punisher' style humor, where it's so gruesome and dark that it's hopefully kind of funny. It's weird. With my crime novels, I think they're funny but I'm always a little worried because I wonder if readers will laugh at what I'm laughing at in my head. The humor is usually based in things like pain or trouble or betrayal and it's hard to tell if people think it is haha funny of if they're just like, 'Oh god. You're one sick dude.'"

"Moon Knight Annual" #1 is Swierczynski's debut as a comics writer and it also marks the debut of his artistic collaborator on the book, penciller Jefte Paolo. "I've seen a few finished pages so far and I'm really impressed," Swierczynski stated. "Even his layouts look pretty damn good. His work is just really cool stuff. One of the best parts about this is that everyday is like Christmas; when you see a layout or a finished page in your e-mail box, it's just like wow!"

Moon Knight won't be the only character Swierczynski is tackling at Marvel. "I have two other one-shots in the can also waiting to come out. They'll probably see the light of day some time next year," Swierczynski explained. "I'll also be involved in something in the X-books world next year. I can't say anything about it because Axel has put a chip in my head and if I say anything it will explode and I'll be dead. I love working with Axel and the guys at Marvel and I'm having such a blast with this so there is more to come."

The writer has also thought about eventually doing some original creator owned comic stories as well. "I have about a half dozen novel ideas stacked up. Some of those I'm thinking, 'Could they be graphic novels?'" Swierczynski explained. "Could they be miniseries? Or even an ongoing series? And the answer is definitely yes. I'm just starting out in this field but the big difference between novels and comics is that with comics it's largely like a movie. It is dialogue and action. With novels, you get to cheat a little bit. You get to get into the characters' brains a little more and indulge yourself by wandering around in their head. But comics are great because it forces you to focus your story and if it can't be told with visuals, with words and dialogue you're kind of screwed. There are certain stories of mine that I'd love to tackle in that sort of frame work."

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