"Snatch" filmmaker Guy Ritchie's first "Gamekeeper" series – a cornerstone of Virgin Comics' Director's Cut line, which also includes works by John Woo, Nicolas Cage and Jon Mostow – was so well received by readers, the comic book has been optioned by Warner Bros. for a feature film adaptation, with Ritchie himself expected to direct.
The anti-heroic antagonist of the book is Brock, a gamekeeper who works a secluded Scottish estate, owned by his friend Jonah Morgan, a scientist. Morgan is killed in the first series for some of his work and Brock embarks on his quest to avenge his friend's death while also protecting a secret equation.
The series, now collected as 'Tooth and Claw," also spawned a second arc, which launches this week courtesy of writer Jeff Parker ("X-Men: First Class") with art by Ron Randall ("Star Wars," "Star Trek") and Ron Chan ("A Dummy's Guide to Danger"). Briton Andy Diggle ("Green Arrow: Year One") penned the first series to critical acclaim, so why the change in writer?
Jeff Parker told CBR News, "Andy had another baby show up out of the blue, well not completely out of the blue, I guess he had some advance warning. I think, and I don't mean to speak for him, but I think he was looking for a little room to cut back some responsibilities. I was the same way when my last child showed up. So [editor] MacKenzie [Cadenhead] invited me to pitch an idea for the next ['Gamekeeper'] arc and Andy was good and sent me over lots of scripts so I could see what was going on because I think only one book was out at the time.
In the new arc, Parker picks up with Brock going after Krista Morgan, the daughter of his murdered scientist friend. "Let's just say, it turned out to be not as clean cut as we thought," Parker teased. "She didn't actually turn out to be such a damsel in distress. But here, she actually **kind of** is. So he still has to save her.
"It's just that he is thrown into the same mission but just with completely different circumstances," Parker continued. "And now he's got this whole team of gangsters, who he'd probably like to kill most of them but they all have to end up working together, so it's a weird thing for Brock, who's such a loner to have to team up with all of these people. It makes up for a bunch of fun character moments while being bloody at the same time.
"The story is linked very directly to the first arc and at the same time, it is a brand new story arc because we introduce a lot of new characters, specifically a group called 'The Soccer Club,' who are a bunch of London-based gangsters."
The writer said the fun thing about putting words in Brock's mouth is that everybody in the book is terribly clever, except Brock. "But still, even in a way, he is always the smartest character in the book," laughed Parker. "You could give him a great set-up and he's not going to deliver a zinger because that's just not how he is made-up. He's just going to jump on somebody and cut their throat. That's what he is all about. He's not a violent guy. He's essentially just a weird guy with a Chechen-Russian background.
"He's a very survivalist character."
Playing opposite Brock in the second series is a character named Raven. "He is, in many ways, The Soccer Club's version of Brock because he's young, he can't really miss with a gun and he's a specialist," explained Parker. "But he's everything Brock's not. He's very flashy. He's kind of like a rock star in his world where Brock would like nothing more than to be left alone. The Raven just wants more glamorous jobs to take on even if he doesn't need the money."
Parker quipped he had to refer to the game as "soccer" because people in America wouldn't know what he was talking about if he called the baddies The Football Club. "They would think it has something to do with Brett Favre retiring," laughed Parker. "Also, the big thing is that this story dovetails into a world of espionage. The Soccer Club often uses soccer terminology to couch what they are talking about. Even back in 'Interman,' I had everybody doing that.
"They talk about messages and deliveries when they are talking about killing people. Here, they talk about things more like it's a game. It's just their way of not getting nabbed for talking on the phones, in case Scotland Yard or somebody is listening."
Parker said he didn't actually work with creator Guy Ritchie on the book mostly because of the time difference between United States and England. "Generally my stuff goes to MacKenzie and [Virgin Comics' Chief Creative Officer] Gotham Chopra and then they somehow track Guy down. And they go back and forth. I just trust that everybody is going to get their ideas across. It's actually pretty easy with this whole thing," said Parker, who is admittedly a big fan of Ritchie's films. "I've been a big fan ever since 'Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.' I love that movie. And I have watched 'Snatch' so many times, I think my DVD is about to fall apart."
It was that love of Ritchie's films that led Parker to writing the type of "Gamekeeper" series that he did. "With [Diggle], they went in a very different direction than most Guy Ritchie stuff goes," explained Parker. "He's a more loner character, who actually doesn't have tons of clever quips. It's just all instincts. And they established that so well, I thought now it would be kind of fun to bring it back to what we traditionally think of as a Guy Ritchie setting. With all those characters and kind of ram the lead character, up against these other characters and see what happens. So I am glad that they went along with it because it's actually kind of a neat way that it all unfolds."
Parker said while his series has a nice and tidy ending to it, if Virgin Comics and Ritchie want to produce more "Gamekeeper" series, that door has been left open. "Yes, actually it could end there but it could easily pick up from there with a very different dynamic," said Parker, who said his next projects include writing gigs at Marvel and Wildstorm.
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