Pirates meet cowboys this September in "Galveston," a four-issue miniseries from BOOM! Studios written by Tom Peyer and Mark Rahner with art by Greg Scott. Based on history and enhanced by fertile imagination, the book depicts pirates and cowboys as the nasty, rough breeds of people you'd always hoped they could be. CBR News caught up with writers Peyer and Rahner to discuss the book, and the new age of unserious comics.
"'Galveston' is a light-hearted, violent, Butch & Sundancey look at the friendship between Texas legend Jim Bowie and pirate Jean LeFitte, which really happened," Peyer told CBR News. "They really were business associates for a while. What Mark and I have done is researched their personalities and built a tall tale around them. It's centered in Galveston Island, Texas, where LaFitte actually lived in a mansion with cannons on the roof. A stolen mansion, at that."
Rahner added, "It's got betrayal, revenge and a couple of egomaniacal alpha males from different universes who were both unstoppable in their own ways."
Peyer warns that while based on actual people, the story of "Galveston" is a work of fiction. "Don't use this comic to cram for your history exam, kids, or you'll end up unemployable, like me," the writer said.
It seems there's been over the last few years a resurgence of both pirates and cowboys in pop culture, particularly in comic books. "Galveston" looks to bring the two together. Asked about the appeal writing such characters, Peyer and Rahner focused on different aspects of the legends while noting that there's no reason they shouldn't play well together. "They're crude and violent, their lives aren't all that complicated," Peyer said, "and they speak their own wildly distinct variations on the English language. That last one is the main reason I wanted to work on this. Texas English vs. pirate English: which will win?"
Rahner, for his part, is more interested in the first half of that equation. "They're badasses with no super powers or technology. I like that they had to survive through guts, brains and violence and little personal hygiene," he said. "Seeing them fight with and against each other is an unbelievably fun concept for a man-child like me. Imagine Errol Flynn plopped into an Eastwood spaghetti western, for instance. Except Jim Bowie and Jean Lafitte have the advantage of being real historical figures and not licensed characters that cost money to use. And you're not going to mistake this universe for the one in those Disney pirate flicks."
"Galveston" takes place in 1817, but lately there is often a tendency to view historical pieces in the context of current events. Given that Peyer's first story arc on "The Flash" featured a villain who was essentially the embodiment of America's fear-centered newsmedia, one might expect at least a hint of moral allegory in the pirates and cowboys series. Not so, insist the creators. "If it happens, it won't be deliberate," Peyer said. "Mark and I want to use this project to usher in an age of 'irrelevant' comics. Stories with no point of view at all. We're the anti-Denny O'Neils. (Hi, Denny! No offense!)"
"It's a straight-up, gritty, nasty, filthy adventure," Rahner agreed. "'Galveston' is cowboys and pirates shooting, stabbing, beating each other, and generally violating each other's civil rights rather energetically. But ironically, habeas corpus and the Fourth Amendment were much healthier back then than they are now."
This miniseries marks Mark Rahner's first published comic, though the Seattle Times journalist has a few other projects he's hoping will soon come to life. "I've had another one called 'Rotten' -- also involving the old West and loads of gore -- in the works for a while that'll hopefully be inflicted on you soon," he said, "and an upcoming short Cthulhu story for BOOM! I also did a piece on blaxploitation flicks in Ed Brubaker's great 'Criminal' comic recently, but that was just words and not pictures. I should remind kids that books without pictures are for losers."
Rahner noted that it's not unusual for a member of the press to switch over to fiction writing, but suggested that he came at it from a slightly different angle. "Other journalists were inspired by Woodward and Bernstein, but Carl Kolchak was my role model," he said. But Rahner's work as a journalist does inform his storytelling sensibilities. "I'm more prone to draw from or respond to real things -- which tend to be sicker and weirder than stuff I could make up. And I choreograph fights based on my own seedy experience."
Peyer, too, seems to be experiencing a bit of a resurgence lately. After practically vanishing from comics for several years, he is now writing "The Flash" and Oni Press' "Stephen Colbert's Tek Jansen" in addition to "Galveston." Why is now is the time for Tom Peyer? "I'm working hard again," he said. "I went through a dark period where I couldn't, or wouldn't, and I disappeared. Eventually, I went and got my head examined, and I think it did me a world of good. 'The time for Tom Peyer' is the kind of exaggerated ego b.s. that I love to mock. But even as you said it, I learned that a comic I wrote with John Layman, 'Stephen Colbert's Tek Jansen' #1, was nominated for a Harvey Award. Things like that just don't happen to me, but clearly they do. So is it really the time for Tom Peyer? Tom time? To go from being comics' most reviled pariah to becoming the object of swoons -- I can take it. Feel free to swoon."
Also playing in Tom Time is "Marvel Apes," which seems to follow his previously stated goal of anti-O'Neilian comics. The concept of the series is simple: "They're the Marvel heroes you know and love--but they're filthy apes!" Peyer said. "Karl Kesel wrote a great, funny, action-packed miniseries, and I get to write backups detailing the history of the Marvel Apes universe. If it works, my contribution will read kind of like Marvel Saga (if you recall that bold cut-and-paste experiment) but with 3,000% more jokes. I really like the occasional chance to be funny within the context of a super-hero universe. I know that some fans believe we're supposed to take super-heroes utterly seriously at all times. That just makes me want to screw around even more."
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