At the ComicsPRO retailers meeting in March, WildStorm announced a new creator-driven series of books, featuring a lineup of writers and artists that includes David Tischman, Philip Bond, Jeff Mariotte, Francesco Francavilla, Aaron Williams and Fiona Staples.
A new David Lapham project was also announced that day, "Sparta, U.S.A." The series, featuring art by relative newcomer Johnny Timmons, came at the perfect time for fans of the Eisner Award-winning creator, as it has recently been revealed that Lapham's series, "Young Liars," has been canceled by Vertigo.
CBR News checked in with the man behind indie darling "Stray Bullets" to see if we couldn't find out what a little town in the Midwest has to fear beyond a tough opponent for its high school football team.
CBR : Before we get to "Sparta, U.S.A.," the big question for your fans is whether or not you were given enough lead time to wrap "Young Liars" up the way you had intended, now that has been canceled?
David Lapham: Um...yes, but also no. I'd been thinking about the series a lot before things went down and they'd have to give me three more arcs to get it the way I intended. But getting to finish the arc is big because they could have cut us off at #15 and that would have been really sad. So by getting to #18, I do get the room to have an ending, but like everything else in this series, it's probably a lie - unless it's not. Here's the deal, if I'm lucky enough to continue this book one day then #18 will be a lie. If not then it's the end and the closest thing to the truth as I can get to from here. Deal?
So you're holding out hope that "Young Liars" may come back to life again some day by either Vertigo or another publisher?
I'm moving forward and on, because I have to, but honestly and truly, I love this book. I know, by its nature, it loses some people who need their comics more straight ahead. But the people we did have absolutely loved having their heads blown every issue. It's not every day a book evolves into what "Young Liars" became. "Stray Bullets" didn't. It was straight as an arrow compared to "Young Liars." Every time I sat down to write one I was so happy. I could just open up my head and be as creative as I wanted, looking for connections in the chaos, looking for interesting ways to get at Danny's character. I'm so happy with the book. I loved working with my editor on it, I loved Lee [Loughridge's] coloring.
The only thing I would have loved more would have been a few more fans. "Young Liars" is not "Fables," it's not "Sparta, U.S.A." It was a very personal and surreal book that just didn't quite get the numbers it needed to sustain.
What, if anything, can you tease us about what we'll see in the final four issues?
I'm not backing off now. For all the fans that wrote me every month saying "Thanks for blowing my mind," I'm going to keep crankin' the amp for four more issues.
Does launching "Sparta, U.S.A" at the same time make the news of the cancellation any easier to swallow?
No. I love "Sparta, U.S.A." A few weeks ago, though, I had both.
So far all we know about "Sparta, U.S.A." is that it's a magical tale set around a town that loves its football. What more can you tell us about the story? How did the idea come about?
Sparta is a typical middle-America town, and yes they love their football. In fact, their whole culture is built around football and apple pie. Oh, and upward mobility through subterfuge. I wanted to set a story in a self-contained town with an idyllic faÃ§ade but behind the scenes it was all spy games and sabotage. Sort of "Desperate Housewives" on crack. And not a soap opera. You're the stock boy, you want to be shift supervisor, so you arrange for the old supervisor to have an accident, or a scandal.
We've seen this kind of thing happen before but in Sparta everyone does it, so you have to be on your toes. You also have to make sure it doesn't spill out into the public, because that's a big no-no. If that happens you get a visit from the Maestro, the mysterious seven-foot tall man who runs the town.
The idea sprang from this, and then thinking about this town and why it's that way and how it came to be, and then there was this wonderful magical element that came into the story and the whole thing exploded into this world.
Are you a football fan? Maybe Greek history? Both?
Fairy tales, too. My wife, particularly, is a voracious reader of kids' books, fairy tales, etc. So I end up reading a lot.
Who are the main characters of "Sparta, U.S.A.?"
Our main guy is named Godfrey McLaine. Godfrey used to be the Johnny Unitas of Sparta - the best of the best, and in this town that made him basically a God. But then one day three years ago he up and disappeared. Some say he went up into the mountains that surround Sparta and was killed by the Yeti that live up there. Of course Godfrey didn't die - or he wouldn't be our main character would he? - and now he's returned. Not only is he back, but he's taller stronger and red. Godfrey's been beyond the mountain, he knows what's out there and he's come back to take on the Maestro and free Sparta.
'Course the people of Sparta aren't convinced they need freeing.
Does evil lurk in Sparta?
There's no lurking. Evil marches in parades down Main Street.
Is "Sparta, U.S.A." an ongoing or a miniseries?
You'd have to ask WildStorm. Right now, it's a six-issue complete story with an ending, but it's also set up for a continuation. I'm guessing sales will decide the matter. I'm very hopeful though. I love how this has come together. It's a great high concept, which I can't reveal all of without spoiling the ending, and ripe for tons of stories. It's a straightforward adventure/fantasy series in the vein of "Sandman" or "Fables" with my own "Stray Bullets"-esque twist to things. The artist, who we'll get to in a minute, is amazingly talented. Plus it's fun as hell to write.
Tell us about the artwork of Johnny Timmons.
This is one of the things I'm most excited about. Johnny and I did a Wolverine short story for a book I did for Marvel. I loved his work from the start and we kept in touch. When this came up, I called him right away. His style has a strong Caniff/Mazzuchelli vibe. He's young and one of the most exciting things is watching him become a better storyteller and better artist with each page. Don't mistake me, he starts off at a very high level and goes up from there. He's brought Sparta completely to life. This kid's the real deal.
What else are you working on these days?
Well, there's still a few "Young Liars" to go. "Sparta, U.S.A." It looks like I'm going to write a series with Avatar, a noir book with a unique protagonist that I pitched them. I'm also doing a few things for Marvel right now, and I have a few other ideas cooking - a lot of writing. I'd like to find something I can pull double duty on, but meanwhile, I'm rollin' on.
Any more "Stray Bullets" stories coming in the near future?
Well, the only confirmed "Stray Bullets" sighting is that I'm doing a 10-page "Stray Bullets" short story for Dark Horse's "Noir" anthology. Beyond that, I would like to figure out the best way to do more but I don't want to promise anything right now.