Killing Machine: Brad Kayl talks Archangel's 'Assassin'

[Assassin #1]The most advanced and powerful nation in the world, protecting their interests at any cost, using aggressive military action to protect those interests. No, this isn't a headline from the news source of your choice, but a very simple description of an upcoming comic book.

This July sees the release of "Assassin," a new series from Archangel Studios, the group behind the computer generated hit "The Red Star." "Assassin" is a four-issue, 22 page mini-series by Brad Kayl and Christian Gossett, with a script by Kayl and pencils by new comer Jet Henderson. Unlike their other title "The Red Star," the team will be experimenting with style on "Assassin," using a black and white, film-noir style with cutting edge 3D integration. The pencils won't be inked, allowing the full volume and texture of Jet's pencils to dominate the page. It's a unique style from a unique bunch of creators. CBR News caught up with series writer Brad Kayl to discuss the book. Brad was happy to provide CBR with a detailed description of the story found within the pages of "Assassin."

"It is 100 Years in the future. The United States of America has transformed into the most powerful empire the world has ever known. To protect its interests, it has started a branch of Assassins (not that it didn't use them quite often in the past, our present), but these have been accepted into a sort of protectorate of the state. They are still shrouded in mystery, but people have come to 'understand' the need for them - to protect the interests of the new empire. If a country head doesn't want to play ball anymore - well, an assassin takes care of him.

"This particular story is about the greatest and most revered of them all - simply known as Samuel. Samuel has successfully murdered some of the most high profile world leaders of all time. When the job is a delicate, or difficult one - he is called in to handle things.

[Assassin]"The Empire functions on the economy of slavery - every third world country has descended into a state no greater than a wide spread sweat shop. Millions live far below any idea of a poverty line. One woman has stepped up, bravely, to rally the masses against their oppressors - Cassandra. She is a new messiah, a Gandhi figure that is quickly gaining momentum and causing a stir in the slave forces. There have been shut downs and walk-outs, and the rich, the people who directly benefit from the existence of slavery, are none too happy about it.

"Samuel is called in to handle her. But when the moment arrives, when he raises his gun to her head he sees in her something that he has never seen before - a burning light that had been muted in himself long ago. For a brief moment he is in love with her - but duty is strong, the power of the state is strong - and he pulls the trigger. This is the moment that transforms him forever. He is driven nearly mad with it - and realizes he has been fighting on the wrong side for his entire life. This realization, epiphany, sparks of a series of events that will change his life, and the face of the world, forever."

The seeds of this story have been swirling around in the head of Kayl for some time. While at one point a version of this story was to possibly end up with another publisher, the duo regrouped and refocused the story into what you'll be seeing on the stands in July.

"I have always had this idea in the back of my head for a short story where the assassin is setting up for a sniper shot and we tell the story in flashback; how he got in the present situation and who it is he is about to kill and why," Kayl told CBR News. "As far as inspiration is concerned I have always found the idea of assassination fascinating - killing for money, and the mindset behind someone that would be willing to commit such a deed. What kind of person does this, and what kind of interior soul-gerrymandering must go on in their head to continue as a sane individual (sane being a relative term - I think all assassins must be somewhat insane in some regard to do what they do)?"

This highly trained group of assassins are part of a very select group that the government hand picks early on for service to their country.

"The assassins are often mentored from an early age," remarked Kayl, "although if a particularly resourceful person seeks to find the rather hidden organization (while they are visible in the sense that the world knows they exist, as state officials often get killed by them, it is not as if they go on signing tours or anything) they probably can, and will be given a chance to prove themselves - if successful, an assassin is born. When thinking of the organization think of the current day CIA - it exists but does much of its work in shadow, largely with blind budgets and is not beholden to any administrative oversight."

When developing this story Kayl didn't have a specific reader or group in mind, but the themes and tones explored in "Assasin" should resonate with fans of their other title, "The Red Star."

"…my target audience is anyone that will read it. I don't presume to have a tailor made story directed at a particular core readership - this type of thinking usually clouds story and leads to distortions that are undesirable in writing.

"That being said, this book isn't for everyone - there are few that are. As the saying goes: 'There's no accounting for taste' - and it's true, there isn't. This book does however have some similarities to 'The Red Star' in that the themes of oppression, corrupt leadership, misdirected loyalism or nationalism, love and loss - they are all present; these are themes that have appealed to Christian and I for nearly two decades and will probably continue to do so for many more (until we either die, or the world becomes place free of tyranny - whichever comes first)."

With the subject matter being as it is, you might wonder if the story found within the pages of "Assassin" is in some way a comment on the current state of politics around the world. When asked, Kayl responded loudly in the affirmative.

"I think that as an author one must always be drawing from the world around him," said Kayl. "To simply jot down stories that have no referential depth is to write something that is less than rewarding - as readers of such, we're left feeling entertained or 'good' for a time, but there is no lasting resonance, no meaning in it that helps crystallize our own experience of the world.

"'Assassin' is most definitely a comment on today's politics and the direction that this country is currently taking. We are on a dangerous path of decaying civil liberties, rushing headlong into an Orwellian nightmare - doublespeak is the language of the day, and greed is its currency. The republic that is the US changed drastically when the democratic process (ironically it is the self same President that rigged an election that touts democracy as the necessary direction of the world's future) was disrupted by those that now hold seats of power. To deny this is to be woefully ignorant of the world as it is, of human nature as it has been culturally cultivated, and of the history of humanity; to willingly believe that such treachery was commonplace amongst the aristocracies of the past, and then find it completely ludicrous that such things could take place in today's day and age is at best hypocritical, at worst moronic. I believe that if left unchecked, those in power will drive a great nation, and the world with it, into scenarios not unlike that which is depicted in 'Assassin.'"

[Assassin]Kayl is joined on "Assassin" by artist Jet Henderson. While a new comer to comics, this won't be his first work. Jet has already completed a "Birds of Prey" book for DC with Paul Storrie that hasn't hit the stands yet. This will be Jet's debuts as penciler on his own independent book, though. Kayl relayed the story of how Team Red Star met Jet Henderson.

"The team (Team Red Star) met Jet at a signing we attended in Las Vegas. He showed up just to say hi, but brought some of his work with him. We looked it over and it was really impressive stuff - he has done work for magazines and movie companies and all sorts of other stuff, but has always had a love for comics. I took the copies of his stuff home with me and stowed it in the 'Just in Case' file - being independent we usually can't afford to bring on other creators, but hell you never know right? This was all before we decided to do 'Assassin.'

"Then, some months later, we agreed to tackle the beast that is 'Assassin' and Jo [Olson, Editor] dug out some of the portfolio stuff we had stashed away and Jet's was among them with 'Las Vegas penciler guy' scrawled on the back in my handwriting. I gave him a call and coincidentally he was moving out to LA the same month - call it serendipity. Turns out he moved into an apartment, without knowing it, a block away from Archangel. The rest will go down in infanmy!

While Kayl and Jet are responsible for the majority of the book, they are joined by Paulie Schrier who'll be handing the 3D modeling and Gossett will be art directing the book. Aaron Horvath will color the covers for "Assassin."

[Assassin]Archangel decided that "Assasin" would be the right choice for their second published book since the themes explored within its pages echo current times. Additionally, they decided that doing "Assassin" as a mini-series was the way to go to increase their production output as well as to get property out there that could be translated into other media, much like happened recently when Acclaim announced they're developing a video game based on "The Red Star."

As readers of CBR learned earlier this year, Archangel Studios is now an independent publishing company after stints with Image Comics and CrossGen, but as Kayl told us, from an operational stand point things haven't changed all that much. Through all their history the team has learned a number of things about publishing and offers a bit of advice to aspiring creators out there.

"Well, it may come as a surprise to some reading this but Archangel Studios has always handled all of these things. We have always handled our marketing, we have always handled our print runs, we have always handled our public relations, our outreach, our phone-campaigns, our mailings, our convention presences, our story, art, advertising, deals, paper choice, legal etc. etc. etc. ad nauseum. I could go on but I think you get the point. Our earlier affiliations were there as more partnerships than true publishers.

"What we have learned we have learned through these trials by fire - I won't go into the entire learning curve because it is both exhaustive and boring, but I will say this to anyone that is willing to listen: protect your property. If 'they' can 'they' will take everything you have worked for and sweated for and bled for, and give you nothing in return."

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