Since the announcement of Speakeasy Entertainment entering the comic book market, the company has been responsible for a flurry of new title announcements. The latest project to be announced is the July debuting "The Gatesville Company" from writer Marc Bryant and artist Patrick McEvoy, who both took some time out of their schedule to speak with CBR News about the series.
"Gatesville is a town where anything can happen," Bryant told CBR News. "The spirits of killers are summoned there to undergo a final trial before moving on to whatever afterlife they're bound for. The spirits come from all walks of life, all eras of history and beyond. The first issue stars a samurai weapons smith and an 1800's outlaw. Future issues will feature a Depression era moon-shiner, a WWII RAF pilot, and a terrorist from the future. When we say all eras, that's what we deliver."
"On my end of things, which I like to call 'the art,' it's being digitally painted in PhotoShop and Painter," add McEvoy when talking with CBR News. "I start with pencil drawings, then color over those, and end up with something which I like to think looks fairly unique."
While there will be a lot of transient characters, as the premise of "Gatesville" begets, there is a core cast with whom readers will become familiarized and Bryant shed some light on those players. "Ms. Brand presides over the trials. She's not the judge exactly, but she orients the spirits once they arrive and sets their task before them. She's a combination of party host and prison warden. She operates out of the local saloon 'The Two Penny Nail.'
"Mr. Cross is Ms. Brand's right hand. He greets the spirits when they hit town, introduces them to Ms. Brand and escorts them during their trial. He's there to keep the visitors on track and answer questions if he can. Think of him as the tour guide and hall monitor-but scarier.
"Finally there's Tony Boat, proprietor of the general store. Boat's who the spirits go to for whatever items they need to complete their trial. They've got 30 pieces of silver to spend and everyone's looking for something different. Boat's a slimy bastard, but he always comes across with the goods."
Both creators feel that there's a lot of life in the series and Bryant says that the setting allows for every type of story imaginable. "I have outlines for a dozen stories so far and two scripts in the can as we speak. The nature of the series, every issue being a stand-alone story, doesn't call for much in the way of long-term plans story-wise. We've got tons of stories to tell, so as long as the audience supports the book, we'll keep delivering." McEvoy feels the same and says, "I hope to keep trying out new things art-wise. I love how we'll be exploring characters from different eras and locations. This should give me a lot of room to play around visually, and I'll try to experiment with visual storytelling techniques wherever possible."
All this plotting and planning means that there is a larger story to this all, but Bryant promises that it won't get in the way of making each single issue memorable on its own merits. "Every now and then, we'll throw in a clue as to exactly what Gatesville is, who Ms. Brand and company are, who they answer to in their mission, things like that. We treat each little clue as a piece of a jigsaw puzzle. It won't matter what order the reader gets the bits of information in, but the more they know, the better they can see the big picture behind Gatesville. There's something to be said for keeping mysterious though and we don't intend to give much away too soon. We want people coming back each issue for a great stand-alone story. The back story is just the cherry on top."
The solicits for "Gatesville" say that each issue will be new reader friendly and to that end, Bryant is brutally honest about the do's and don'ts when it comes to a new series. "As a new title, from a new publisher and relatively new creators, 'Gatesville' has a hard row to hoe as it is. Throw in a soap opera storyline and your chances of getting new readers after the first issue hits the stands gets even tougher. Plus, I love stand-alone stories. Books like 'Global Frequency,' 'Stray Bullets' and 'Demo' handle the format well and we want to take a stab at it, too."
The more, uh, "pro active" approach was left to McEvoy, who has his own ideas regarding how to "attract" readers. "My idea was to be actively hostile to new readers, going so far as to show up at their homes in the middle of the night and break their fingers. Marc convinced me that going the other direction would be advantageous in the long run. Of course, the jury's still out on that one."
It would be natural for the creators to fear that the lack of a long-form story could potentially hurt reader loyalty, but there's no fear in Bryant. "Not as long as we keep delivering a quality story with each issue, which we intend to do," said Bryant. "There seems to be a lot of series these days that milk storylines (and the reader) for more pages/chapters/issues than the story actually calls for. 'Decompression,' the folks call it. Not in 'Gatesville.' We're making a comic we actually want to read and that means plenty of value for your three bucks plus tax."
While this isn't Bryant's first work, he's done three graphic novels before this, "The Gatesville Company" does represent his first ongoing series (and McEvoy's first book ever) and the scribe was happy to address why he'd rather do "Gatesville" as an ongoing rather than OGNs (original graphic novels). "Going back to the hard time that new titles from new creators face, I think the ongoing format, especially with our stand-alone approach, is much more attractive to people who want try the book. OGNs and collections are usually great values, but their sticker price can still make trying a new title an unattractive gamble. This way, people can jump on with any new issue and give the book a try, without taking as big a bite out of their budget as an OGN or TPB would. Plus, we get a nice steady presence every other month that helps spread the word even farther than a bookshelf format book would provide."
And so far Bryant is pretty comfortable with the format. "So far so good. A new starring character in each issue keeps things very fresh and the setting allows us to tell most any kind of story we're a mind to. So far we're loving it and we hope the blast we're having carries over to the readers. This isn't to say I don't still love working on OGNS. Variety, spice of life etc."
As a penciller, McEvoy has his own reasons for preferring a monthly and explains, "Personally, I'd hate to spend the better part of a year doing a book and not see anything come of it for all that time. This way, the turnaround is quicker, there's going to be some fairly immediate feedback from readers, and I'm also free to evolve and change my style as it goes, as opposed to trying to be static for 100 pages or more. Anyone who's followed my illustration work for the last couple of years knows that I like to play with new ideas and styles fairly often."
As far as his contributors are concerned, Bryant has nothing but praise for the people he's working with on "Gatesville." "I write it and all that implies- plot, dialogue etc. Patrick McEvoy handles all the illustration-digitally rendering his already gorgeous pencils. Erik Enervold covers the rest - handling the lettering, book design and pre-press. I'm jinxing us saying so, but it's working out well so far. I saw Patrick's work when he participated in. CBR's Comic Book Idol event, so thanks to Jonah [Weiland, CBR executive producer & founder]. I contacted Patrick right away and luckily he loved my ideas for Gatesville. We met Erik through the Speakeasy creator's mailing list."
"It was actually a 'mini' CBI, rather than one of the big events," clarified McEvoy. "Itwas a bit more casual, and people watching it numbered in the dozens rather than thousands. I joined up for fun when I was between illustration assignments, and it was actually my first chance to do finished sequential pages. Somehow, Marc saw me there and made a contact."
"The Gatesville Company" represents the third company Bryant's worked with since entering the industry and he explained that he's decided to try different publishers to "get his feet wet." "Every book isn't a good fit for every publisher," explained Bryant. "When Patrick and I were ready to shop 'Gatesville' around, my buddy Andrew Dabb, the writer on 'Atomika,' encouraged me to talk to Adam Fortier at Speakeasy. I did, Adam liked what he saw and here we are.
"It's hard to say so far [how working with Speakeasy is different than Image]. Their deals are similar, they both offer wide varieties of material. they're both very hands off, but supportive if and when you need them. I will say that it's pretty exciting, working with a new venture like Speakeasy. Adam and his people certainly seem up to the task ofbuilding a great name for themselves in the publishing scene."
For those on the fence about ordering "The Gatesville Company," Bryant offers this, "If you want a copy, and I know you do, please pre-order. We have some great retailers selling the book for us, but they need to know there's a demand for a new title like this before they can justify stocking their racks with it. Space and cash are at way too high a premium for them to take that kind of gamble.
"Speaking of extras, we're rounding out the 32 pages of each issue with something in addition to ads. There will be lots of 'DVD extras' type material as well as a regular letter column and other features. There are ads of course, but we're very committed to giving the reader the reader plenty of bang for their buck."
Not to be outdone, McEvoy chimes in with his own words of encouragement, adding, "I know Marc is shy about saying this, but I'd like to add that people should pre-order the book from their local retailer. Marc, dude, you have to get over your reticence to tell people that."
Both creators have new ventures coming up and are happy to share the news with fans. Brant's next book for Speakeasy is "Shotgun Wedding" with artist Jason King. "That should hit the stands this fall. I also have a couple of projects going with my constant collaborator Mal Jones, including a western we're calling 'Patience.'"
From McEvoy, expect to see him try out some other fields as he reveals, "Nothing comic book related - this is it for now. I have a lot of CCG cards coming out from Fantasy Flight (both the 'Game of Thrones' line and 'Call of Cthulhu'), art for a board game called 'Castle Merchants' from Z-man Games and I did a few monster designs and illustrations for 'How to Draw and Paint Fantasy Beasts,' a book that's coming out in August. Some other board game and RPG work, too. Man, I'm busy!"
CBR Executive Producer Jonah Weiland contributed to this story.