Frazetta Comics spreads it wings in 2009, with all new work expected in the forms of Frank Frazetta's "Moon Maid," "Neanderthal," "Sorcerer," "Combat" and "Silver Warrior." But perhaps most anticipated amongst the company's 2009 output is "Frank Frazetta's Freedom," written by Mark Kidwell ("Frank Frazetta's Dark Kingdom") and labeled as Frazetta Comics 'first Frazetta Western.
"Kidwell came up with such a great story," said Jay Fotos, the editor behind Frazetta Comics. "When I first read it I pooped my pants, it's perfect! Even Frazetta himself commented how good it was. It's sure to be a hit!"
Illustrating "Freedom" is comics newcomer John Cboins (Shadowline's "Graveslinger"), who Fotos says brings a unique style to the story. "John's work fits perfectly," Fotos remarked. "Having John on board really makes this book stand out and give the right look and feel."
We had a chance to meet up with Mark Kidwell and John Cboins to get the inside scoop on what fans can expect from "Frank Frazetta's Freedom."
Mark, this is your second project with Frazetta Comics, coming off of "Frank Frazetta's Dark Kingdom" with the Viking warrior Red Morden. Having mostly worked on the horror side of comics, how does jumping on a classic western feel?
Mark Kidwell: I grew up watching classic western films with my dad. We were junkies for all things John Wayne, Clint Eastwood and John Ford. Every Sunday, we'd get in at least one shoot-'em-up and I've been a rabid fan of the genre ever since. Having an opportunity to produce a western/action script for Frazetta Comics is amazing and gives me a chance to spread my wings past horror and fantasy. Don't get me wrong, horror and the dark stuff are my first loves, but other genres like western, crime, noir, sword and sorcery, etc. are close seconds. There aren't enough good western stories being produced for comics or film right now and I'm happy to be able to provide some new material for fans like myself.
Several of my favorite authors hop across genre lines often, producing work in all of the aforementioned fictional spheres, so it just seems natural to me to move into those same areas. I've read Robert E. Howard's western tales, his boxing stories and his oriental adventure yarns and they're just as entertaining as the Conan stuff. Also, Joe R. Lansdale, (a seasoned comics veteran now) has produced many western or western fusion tales that'll knock your socks off. Genre skipping from horror to western is a smooth transition with many of the basic story tropes the same. It puts a writer in good company.
Hell, maybe when we continue "Dark Kingdom," I'll give Morden a six-gun. (Wink-Nod)
John, you're pretty new to the comics scene. Give us a little back-story about yourself. We mentioned Shadowline's "Graveslinger."
John Cboins: I got my first shot at comics over ten years ago doing some inventory work for a Vertigo anthology series. Â Unfortunately, that work got bumped in lieu of a more veteran artist's, so my stuff never saw the light of day. Â I spent the next decade or so making video games and have recently started illustrating again. Â Aside from "Graveslinger," I have completed a short story titled "The Bounty Killers" for an anthology called "Outlaw Territory" for Image Comics and several children's books including "Swiss Family Robinson" and "The Fox and The Grapes."
Jay Fotos and the Frazettas see "Freedom" as "an instant classic." Give us your pitch, what can we expect?
MK: First off, let me thank Jay and Mr. Frazetta for the props on the "Freedom" script. It's always incredible to hear folks you respect highly in the industry praise your work. It pushes you to do greater things and I appreciate it.
"Freedom" is a mixed bag; incorporating many of the things I (and hopefully, other western fans) love about the genre. At its core, it exposes some of the truths behind the wild and exaggerated stories that appeared in the famous "Dime Novels" of the day, in which gunfighters and outlaws were raised to superhuman levels of skill, brutality and ability with a gun.
It introduces Mr. Aloysius (Al-O-Wishuss) Pendrake, a famed writer of said penny-dreadfuls and his protege' (and meal ticket) Flash Feeney - a.k.a. The Freedom Kid. Together, the two ride the west from boomtown to cow town, filling the air with hot lead and filling cheaply printed booklets with tall tales. Arriving in the untamed streets of Deadwood three months after the heinous murder of legendary gunfighter Wild Bill Hickock, the unlikely pair encounter more than they bargained for as truth catches up to the fiction.
There's a lot for western and comics fans in general to like in "Freedom." The story utilizes many aspects of famous films and novels from the genre, from the violent action and rough environments of Sam Peckinpah's films to the factual events surrounding the period and year in which the story takes place. The script is peppered with real events, blazing gunplay and even a bit of gallows humor. It ain't your daddy's western (or mine either, come to think of it.)
Lastly, the script was designed purposefully to make you poop your pants. Jay was just the first victim, so please, when you read this book... take precautions.
John, your style is pretty unique. Tell us a little about your process, from first reading the script to the finished page.
JC: I try to read the script once through first without thinking about camera angles or composition or anything like that, just once to absorb it purely as a fan of comics. Â Then I read it again and make all my notes and whatnot. Â Rough thumbnails, feedback from Jay, and then pencils. Â I've gotten into the habit of penciling each panel on its own page. Â It gives me a lot of room to work but it takes way more time to scan them all in and piece them together. Â I used to drag out all my paints and go the traditional route, but I admit I love the ease of painting on the computer so that's what I do now. Â I like to keep each step of the process as fast as possible. Â Â Â Â Â Â
From what we hear you have other projects in the works, Mark. What else can we expect to see from you in the future?
MK: Yeah, my wife and I used to enjoy building a fire in the fireplace at our house, but now there are too many darned irons in there. There's a lot goin' on, thanks for askin'.
The "BUMP" movie thing is still rolling along, and I'm polishing dialogue and other aspects of the screenplay. I finished another screenplay recently, a western/crime hybrid thing that's just chock-full of violence, and it's makin' the rounds to a few studios. I'm doing interviews, short prose fiction pieces and book review stuff over at Fangoriaonline.com, working with Scott Licina and James Zahn there. They're great guys and if ya like horror, the site is amazing. I'm producing a couple of new things with Jay for Frazetta Comics-hush-hush kinda stuff for now and have a couple of creator-owned things I'm noodling with.
I also just completed the 362-page novelization of my Fangoria Comix miniseries, "BUMP." It's in the hands of some editors and proof-readers as of right now and once the final polish is done, it'll hit bookstores and the web sometime early in the first quarter of this new, shiny year. Writing a novel is something I've always wanted to do, and it was a lot of fun (and a lot of work). I've got several more in mind and plan to sit down and get started on my second book soon.
Other than that, I've just been going to the dentist and screaming a lot.
"Frank Frazetta's Freedom" goes on sale in March from Frazetta Comics and Image Comics. Visit the Frazetta Comics Forum at www.imagecomics.com and www.myspace.com/frazettacomics for updates and more previews.