IMAGE EXPO EXCLUSIVE: Keatinge & del Duca's "Shutter" Snaps at Image

For Kate Kristopher, adventure is in her blood. The descendent from a long line of renowned explorers, she found fame at an early age under the tutelage of her beloved father. Although Kate's discoveries made her the most famous explorer on Earth, she abandoned her family legacy and backed out of the spotlight to live a normal life. Unfortunately for Kate, she just isn't destined to be normal. When fantastic forces outside of her control thrust her back into the life she left behind, she will have to battle ghostly ninjas, demons and monsters of all sorts to protect a family secret that could destroy everything she loves. Readers can watch Kate's life come back into focus in writer Joe Keatinge and artist Leila del Duca's brand new ongoing series from Image Comics, "Shutter."

Announced today at Image Expo, Keatinge and del Duca sat down with CBR News to give us an exclusive first look at their new series and the magical world of Kate Kristopher before "Shutter" premiers on April 9 with three variant covers by Emma Rios, Dustin Weaver and Brandon Graham.

CBR News: Joe, forgive the pun, but can you frame up what's going on in "Shutter?"

Joe Keatinge: You are forgiven, Casey. We can't really judge. There's a robot cat in the first issue who declares it's a "brand mew day", so... yeah. All's well.

"Shutter" is something that's been percolating in the back of my head for a really long time. Wanting to take what I loved so much about the 20th Century Globe Trotting Adventurer popularized by Indiana Jones, Doc Savage, Corto Maltese and Tintin and take it into a different context, reflecting more of the 21st Century and where it's going. 

The form this is taking for us is Kate Kristopher, who grew up in a family of explorer-adventurers on an Earth way more fantastic than our own (mythological beings are common place, 'gods' are just another profession) and became really famous at an early age for reporting all she discovered. However, ten years ago it lapsed, she's taken to snapping photos for a realty company. She's trying to lead as normal of a life as possible. Yet there's something her family never told her, something big, that's come back to haunt her, forcing Kate back into the adventurer lifestyle she's personally long over with.
You have your main character, Kate Kristopher, who comes with this legacy from her family's history and (it seems) like more than her share of secrets to uncover. What is this story going to be like for her? What is she after?

Keatinge: Kate's someone whose been raised in a family where generations upon generations explored everything that lay within our world and beyond. Sure, people discovered hidden continents, islands with impossible creatures, but also other planets, the realms where ideas come from. She was raised in this, saw a lot first hand -- she fought krakens and alligator people and dream demons, but in the long run it was distracting her from something a whole lot worse -- and this is what the crux of our opening arc is about and it sets up the book from there.
In the first issue, we see Kate's father instilling in her the ability to choose her own path. Why does she choose to follow in the family's footsteps -- and then to stop?

Keatinge: I can't really say much here without saying too much about the story, but the life she led was the life she thought she was supposed to undertake and when it didn't work out, she made one of her own, but Kate's going to be discovering it's a house built on sand -- and isn't what she wants either.

Keatinge Leaves "Glory," Returns with "Hell Yeah" in 2013
What brought you two together to collaborate on "Shutter?"

Keatinge: New York Comic Con 2012. I was tabling with a few collaborators -- Andre Szymanowicz from "Hell Yeah," Ken Garing from the upcoming "Intergalactic" and Ross Campbell in the recently concluded "Glory." Leila was a pal of Ross' who ended up hanging out for the majority of the show and we got along well. At one point, she showed me her samples and I was shocked she was looking for work. You see a lot of samples at shows and sometimes they're not quite there or they're almost there, but in Leila's case -- she had these gorgeous pages, like someone who had decades of experience under their belt.

However, what made me realize she was someone I could work on something potentially long form with was a buddy of mine, a writer named Steve Orlando (whose new book "Undertow" is due from Image fairly soon), generously gave me a couple bottles of wine at the show. I forget exactly what led to us making the decision to try to open one of these bottles without a bottle opener, but somehow Leila and I became really adamant that we were going to figure out how to make this happen. Looking back, applying some more basic physics to what we were trying to do would probably have made the endeavor a much shorter one, but we tried -- everything. Anything we had around us, we combined our imaginations to use it to open this bottle. It took a while, but we eventually accomplished the task at hand and in drinking our victory wine after the show I thought, "Damn, this is someone I could make a comic book with."

So, "Shutter" was born.

Leila del Duca: I met Joe at NYCC 2012 through Ross Campbell. At the time, I was totally jaded about comics and had spent the whole weekend mouth breathing and hovering around various name writers with little luck on job leads. Joe was the only writer who expressed interest in working with me, so during the following months I kept pestering him with e-mails. Eventually he pitched "Shutter" and I adored the concept immediately. Our common interests in vibrant visuals, subject matter, diversity in comics and love for various comic mediums helped put us on the same page, and Joe has truly written a script that includes everything I could ever want to draw.

What is the planned length of the series? I know these things change based on sales, etc, but what are you intending? It seems like there's already such a clear legacy before Kate and that this universe could yield endless adventures.

del Duca: I'm not sure, but as long as Joe is writing "Shutter," I want to be drawing it!

Keatinge: What "Glory" taught me was it's better to let the characters decide how long you go than forcing a square peg in a round hole. I originally had this massive outline with "Glory" and three issues in it became abundantly clear this wasn't some gigantic cosmic epic to last ages, it was a much smaller story in context, the story of the relationship between Riley and Glory. I'm glad we realized that fairly early on, as I feel letting the book conclude naturally instead of forcing it to keep going ended up with a much better book. You can see the results in the all-in-one hardcover we're also putting out in April.

Since then I've taken a different approach to planning from the get go. I have what's essentially a road map for where we're going with "Shutter." I know what I intend the last pages of "Shutter" to be and every mystery has its set answer, but if those last pages are our end point and the first pages are where we're driving from, we may end up changing the route to how we'll get there or spend longer or shorter at certain destinations than we originally thought, maybe (not likely) but maybe we'll end up somewhere else entirely. I feel it fits the globetrotting spirit of the book a bit better and reflects more as how life often plays out.

So, "Shutter" could be over in a year, it could be over in many years; in the end I'd rather Kate and company dictate this to us than the other way around.

Leila, as you were developing this story with Joe, did you envision the final artwork looking like it does?

del Duca: I didn't envision this book looking as good as it does, which sounds horribly egotistical. I think I knew that I had it in me to create work on this level, but I never did because I've never cared so much about a comic before. Like, I just didn't know it could feel this good! That a script could be so delightful! The love I feel for this world and its characters has motivated me to put in that much more effort. I always intended to put more blacks in my work, use more dry brush, add more textures, and I finally was in a place (mentally and skillfully) where I could draw everything and anything I had ever wanted to draw. Joe wrote me a world that I can do whatever I want with. I can draw lizard people in Renaissance clothing, or pug gargoyles, or -- anything! It's so damn exciting, and it shows, especially if you compare "Shutter" to work in my recent past.

I have to gush about our colorist now, because what he's doing with my line work is so integral to the end product to our book. I had no idea how much Owen [Gieni] would blow my mind with his colors. For each Issue, he's using two or three different coloring techniques to indicate different time periods in the book, and everything he has done so far matches my inks wonderfully. "Shutter" is not "Shutter" without Owen Gieni. I couldn't be happier or more impressed with his contribution to the project. Seriously -- he's a wizard and I'm in awe of his skills.

Other than mentally leveling up and pooling all of my art skills together for this whole shebang, the preliminary work for "Shutter" was quite minimal. I did a few creature designs, and fleshed out Kate, but Joe's complete trust in my artistic skills made it so I did concept art as it came up, instead of a ton of work before I started the comic.

This book is your debut ongoing series with Image -- how does that feel?

del Duca: Ridiculously amazing. I'm quite sentimental about it and have seriously shed tears of happiness on many occasions. Dream come true. 
What sort of readers do you think your story will appeal to?

Keatinge: The best advice I ever got about writing comics was to write the comics you wanted to read. Worrying about what audiences you're reaching over the story you want to tell just leads to boring comics. While "Shutter" has a "mature readers" rating, it's mainly because I don't want to ever limit what Leila and I do with the book, but other than that, I don't see why anyone over thirteen years-old (with some lenient parents, anyway) couldn't dig on what we're doing here.

del Duca: People who dig fantasy adventures like "Saga," "Indiana Jones," and Hayao Miyazaki movies and comics. Also, people who are interested in seeing colorful characters in a ridiculous environment, with weird stuff thrown in everywhere, but tied together in a coherent plot.

The world building in "Shutter" seems massive-- demons, strange creatures, ghostly ninjas -- how do you balance including such fantastic elements while creating a plot and characters readers can bond with?

Keatinge: Well, it's funny, because in the original version of "Shutter" I wanted it to be a really grounded book. Well, at least, in as much as a world trotting adventurer comic book could be. Much more in line with Indiana Jones, Corto Maltese, T.E. Lawrence or, with the exception of his sort-of talking/drunk dog, Tintin. When I met Leila and saw how she excelled at drawing the fantastical and was eager to keep pushing herself, it felt silly to keep it so grounded, so I reworked it completely to develop a world where demons, strange creatures and ghostly ninjas make sense.

I think the secret to that balance is maintaining an emotional core anyone could relate to no matter how out there it's setting can get. Leila's ability to convey just this is one of the biggest reasons I thought she was the perfect partner to tell this story with. It wouldn't work without her.

"Shutter" arrives April 9 from Image Comics.

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