Glen Brunswick cut his comics teeth working with no less than John Romita Jr. on his creator-owned "The Gray Area" in 2004 and has once again made time away from his day job as a Hollywood producer to return to the comics page this August with a new project from Image Comics, the Frank Espinosa illustrated "Killing Girl. Brunswick gave CBR the low-down on his new crime and conspiracy mini-series.
"Killing Girl" follows 19-year old Sara, who was kidnapped by the mob, forced into prostitution and then offered a way out by becoming an assassin," Glen Brunswick told CBR News. "Her trade to become an assassin was a no-brainer, and Sara reads psychology books that help her rationalize her position. She considers herself an instrument that kills people who are already dead. They just don't know it yet. It makes perfect sense if you think about it. Whenever she is unavailable someone else is called in and the target turns up dead anyway."
There is, however, more to Sara than squeezing a trigger. "Sometimes she fantasizes about what her life would be like if she had a sister and a real family," Brunswick said. "But that's only a dream. Most days she doesn't even think about it. She's in love with her boss, a top Mafia Capo. It seems like the more kills that she registers the more attention he lavishes on her.
"I think what makes her an interesting character is that she is someone who despite her circumstances is truly motivated by love. And, ultimately, it is that single trait that may save her. When Sara discovers that she actually has a sister, it sets her off on a journey toward redemption. Eventually, she might even be worthy of our empathy. We just need to be a little patient with her."
The story is further deepened by a unique spin that Brunswick has come up with on the familiar world of the mob hitman (or hitwoman). "I started thinking," Brunswick said. "What if the governmental crackdown on the mob was all an elaborate hoax and in fact the RICO statute was just a public relations move to make it seem like the feds were targeting corruption? What if the real truth was that the government wants the mob to prosper as a covert arm of the CIA? The Mafia operatives would be happy to do the dirty work that the CIA would prefer to distance themselves from or can't afford to do."
Brunswick was inspired to write "Killing Girl" by his love of Mafia stories. "I think for many of us, the romance with the gangster type goes way back," explained Brunswick. "The thing is, in reality there are no real Mafioso characters left. The government has pretty much eradicated those colorful people from our daily lives. But still the Mafia myth remains huge in our fiction."
In Sara, Brunswick has set out to create a female heroine with a realistic feel. "I tried to create what I felt was a real flesh and blood character in extraordinary circumstances," said Brunswick. "Her severe upbringing is a part of her that never goes away. I hate stories where the main character is rescued and then behaves as if nothing bad ever happened to her. I wanted her character motivations to be completely justified, as opposed to having her behave in a way that simply services the plot of the story."
Brunswick found his artist Frank Espinosa the same way much of the comics industry was introduced to the artist's work. "' Rocketo ,' 'Rocketo,' 'Rocketo! '" Brunswick said, referring to Espinosa's multiple Eisner-nominated debut comic. "I saw the previews for that book and man I was hooked. I called Frank up even before issue one came out and told him we had to meet. He is one of the most original talents I have ever seen. I was shocked that I had never heard of him before. It was as if he burst onto the scene fully formed with no learning curve. Of course I found out later he's been honing his craft in animation for many years."
"I pitched him 'Killing Girl,' Brunswick continued, "and I think the idea of doing a darker book kind of appealed to him. Frank is a huge fan of film noir and gangster movies. The visuals he came up with have been simply off the charts stunning. To me it feels like Chester Gould meets Jack Kirby in a femme fatale setting. It really has been thrilling working with him."
Providing "Killing Girl" performs well on the stands, Brunswick has further plans for Sara. "I have another story arc after this one. If that book does well, I'd like to write her some more. She's sexy, fun, bad and complex just like all my ex-girlfriends. What's not to love?"
Brunswick's background in film brings the inevitable question of whether "Killing Girl" began as a screenplay or might yet become one. "When I first wrote the outline I wrote it in a three-act structure," Brunswick said. "I just tend to think of stories that way due to my background in film. It wouldn't be a huge stretch for me to put it into a screenplay form. But 'Killing Girl' was originally conceived to be a comic book first."
Indeed, Brunswick's love of the comic book form goes way back. "When I was 6 my mother would take me to get my hair cut and I would never sit still," Brunswick recalled. "At the barber shop she stuck 'Amazing Spider-Man' #66 in my hands. I've been smitten ever since. I still need to find out how Spidey got away from that Mysterio dude. He was only six inches tall and Mysterio was about to squish him when the book just came to an end. Damn you, Marvel!"
Brunswick's move from reading comics to making them came about from a meeting with John Romita, Jr. "I met him at a film premiere in Hollywood," said Brunswick. "When I told him I'd been involved with [the motion picture] 'Frequency,' he told me he had an idea to pitch me. Hell, don't tell him but he could have pitched me anything. I'd have worked with him on a book about 'Chicken Little' if he had wanted."
Romita's pitch became the Image Comics mini-series "The Gray Area." "Working with John Romita, Jr. was a dream come true," Brunswick gushed. "He is one of the best people I have ever known and a phenomenal talent."
Brunswick plans on more comics in his future, including a return to familiar ground. "John Romita, Jr. and I have been kicking around a sequel idea for 'The Gray Area,'" revealed Brunswick. "It's fun stuff. It involves a window into the conspiracy theory behind the Kennedy assassination.
"I also have a graphic novel next up on my agenda. It's about a guy whose dead girlfriend returns to haunt him into living his life again. I just need to find the right artist. I've been so blessed with the likes of Romita, Jr. and Espinosa. Both of them are really tough acts to follow."
In the meantime, Brunswick's film work doesn't stray too far from the four-color world, as he is writing and producing the film adaptation of the hugely acclaimed WildStorm title "Ex-Machina," the tale of New York's former super-hero mayor. "It's been a real challenge to keep what's important about that story, balance it against the studio notes and find the happy medium that keeps you jazzed to be writing it," Brunswick confessed. "I have to say that I do love that project. And, what Brian Vaughan has done with that book has been nothing short of amazing. He sets quite a high bar to do justice to it."
"The best thing about working on comics is that they actually get made," Brunswick added. "And it's also really nice that it comes out exactly the way you wrote it. It really is a satisfying medium to work in as a creator."
Killing Girl hits the stands August 8th.
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