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Taking a Different Look at Macbeth with Macbeth: The Red King

This is "Went to Tell Somebody," where I spotlighted different cool independent comic book series based on submissions from the indie comic book creators themselves via a set Q & A with the creators themselves. Essentially, the creators speak for their own work and "Went to Tell Somebody" will give them a place to do so!

This is an ongoing weekly feature, so if you would like to see your work spotlighted, as well, there's no time limit or anything like that. So you can submit at any time. It's not a first come/first serve thing, ya know? Click here for the current submission guidelines.

Today, we look at Macbeth: The Red King by Shaun Manning and Anna Wieszczyk. The website for the book is here.

1. What is your comic about?

Macbeth: The Red King is about the historical king Macbeth of Scotland -- whose life was quite a bit different from the tyrant portrayed by Shakespeare. In the story Anna Wieszczyk and I tell, Macbeth is the good guy. He defeats an inept king to claim the throne that is rightfully his, he travels to Rome to meet the pope and give alms to the poor, he enjoys a long and mostly prosperous rule -- and all of this is backed up by the historical record. My Macbeth also does his best to be a good father to his stepson Lulach, though their relationship is fraught. So this is a comic full of big, epic battles, family dramas, and political intrigue, and presents a new take on some familiar characters.

2. What made you choose to use the comic book medium for this story?

Doing a historical Macbeth book has been on my mind for around 15 years, and this project actually started as a series of short stories. But doing the story as a comic just gives it so much power -- Anna's visuals are fantastic, her art brings this story to life in such a vibrant way.

3. What aspect of your comic are you most proud of?

I enjoy spending time with these characters. My Macbeth is likable, and so is Gruoch ("Lady Macbeth"). Their relationship is so much fun. Lulach and Malcolm, though, were a blast, the spoiled sons of kings enacting their own schemes to claim power. I don't think I'm spoiling anything to say it works out much better for one than the other.

4. What's the one piece of philosophy and/or advice that has informed your comic book work the most?

I put a pretty strong emphasis on character and dialogue. You need an engaging story, of course, but it's the characters that drive it, that make the readers care. So even my worst characters I try to make relatable in some way, or give them some nuance. Young Malcolm's first scene in Macbeth: The Red King is pretty gruesome, and he's our antagonist so I wanted to kick things off setting him up as the villain. But his experience of exile, the cruelty and kindnesses shown him, shape him into something else. He's still the antagonist, but he's not necessarily the bad guy. I like that sort of thing in the comics and other sort of entertainment I take in, so why not put a bit of that out into the world, as well.

On the other side of the coin, I'm working on a few things right now where every single character is a terrible human, but there are still a couple we root for.

5. Since this is "Went to Tell Everybody," tell everybody about another current comic book series that you would like other people to know more about.

Not a series but still fairly recent (and relevant to my historical fiction angle), Mary and Bryan Talbot's The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia was absolutely fantastic. It looks at the life of French revolutionary Louise Michel, who briefly established a communist collective in Paris. It's a story I'd never heard before, and it was just really, really fascinating. I've always loved Bryan Talbot's artwork, and his recent collaborations with his wife Mary, who comes from an academic background, are just stellar.

And for series, I'll also take a bit of a different tack. My family has really been enjoying Svetlana Chmakova's middle-grade books, which have a "shared universe" without superheroes. We discovered her through the Crush sampler at this year's Free Comic Book Day, and since then we've read through Brave and Awkward countless times.

But in the tru-indie realm, I'd like to give a shout to Vera Greentea's Idols of Solansehir, which recently completed a Kickstarter. I ran into Vera a few years ago at New York Comic Con and have really enjoyed her work.

Glow by Ray Chou, Vincenzo Ferriero, Anny Maulina, and Dia Jia is another gorgeous book I first encountered at conventions, and comes in that oversize format I love.

Once again, the website where you can buy a copy of Macbeth: The Red King is here.

Again, if you're interested in seeing YOUR independent comic book spotlighted in this feature, click here for the current submission guidelines.

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