Official Press Release
On the surface, one could be forgiven for thinking that 2003 was the year of Antony Johnston. What with his debut Oni Press miniseries THREE DAYS IN EUROPE, his adaptations of Alan Moore stories for Avatar, and his original graphic novel, ROSEMARY'S BACKPACK being published by Cyberosia, the writer made a splash in the comics scene in a big way. However, with three graphic novels on the Oni Press publishing schedule for the first half of 2004, it looks like things are only going to get bigger from here.
"Antony is a versatile and challenging writer," Oni Press editor James Lucas Jones said. "He's not content with working in just one genre. Already he's proven he can do romantic comedy, horror, and all-ages material. Next year he'll show that he can do anything."
First up on the schedule is SPOOKED. The first volume in this series of graphic novels is set for a February release, and it's being drawn by TOO MUCH HOPELESS SAVAGES artist Ross Campbell. SPOOKED is the story of Emily Spook, an artist who draws inspiration from the ghosts living in her head. It's a pretty good arrangement, until she suddenly finds herself host to a murder victim, and he wants her help to find his killer.
"As a character, Emily gives me the freedom to write a rich, multilayered story," Johnston explained. "She's an artist, a cynic, a runaway, a misanthrope and a loner... but she desperately wants to be normal. So as well as the ramifications of her bizarre talent/curse, I can look at her day-to-day life and the dark secrets behind her artistic impulses. Not to mention the ghosts to whom she plays host, who have their own tales. These are the elements of mystery and horror which are often overlooked, but also provide the most fun for me as a writer."
"In the hunt for an artist, we were looking for someone that could handle both the dark nuances of these stories and also have enough chops to pull off showing Emily's own artistic side," Jones continued. "Jamie was working with Ross Campbell on HOPELESS SAVAGES and had a bunch of his storytelling samples lying around. As soon as I saw it, there was no question in my mind who should be drawing SPOOKED."
SPOOKED is followed immediately in March by JULIUS, an urban retelling of the Julius Caesar story drawn by Brett Weldele (SHOT CALLERZ, COUSCOUS EXPRESS). Standing firmly on the bloody streets of modern crime, Julius is a crime lord who is about to have his kingdom violently ripped from his hands.
"Shakespeare's plays are still around after all this time because he knew his way around a good story," Johnston said. "All the best stories speak to something fundamental about the human experience, and there will always be ambitious men who seek their own success at the expense of others. Gangsters rule our cities today the way the Caesars governed Rome, and as we all know, this story never ends well."
"I love Brett's art, and his work on SHOT CALLERZ convinced me he'd be a great choice for JULIUS," Johnston continued. "He has a real grasp on how to convey grime... and crime. And he also draws some of the toughest tough guys in comics."
Finally, in May, the Antony triptych will be rounded out by CLOSER, a horror comic book done in collaboration with Mike Norton (JASON & THE ARGOBOTS, THE WAITING PLACE) and Leanne Buckley, a veteran artist who has worked for White Wolf. A group of people are invited to a remote island by an enigmatic scientist, and as it usually goes with such situations, discover all sorts of terrible things.
"Sometimes working in horror is like trying on a pair of familiar gloves," said Jones. "Once you realize the gloves fit, you can do anything you want with your hands. While Antony and Mike are trying on a classic scenario in CLOSER, what they do with it is entirely unique to them."
"Mike has made such a name for himself drawing giant robots, it's easy to forget he got his break drawing real people," Johnston added. "Now we're going to see how he handles those real people in extreme and horrifying situations. Plus, Leanne will be adding all sorts of nuances and shadows to bring out the terror. I'm very, very excited about this book!"
"Comics is a medium for storytelling," Jones concluded, "and as long as Oni is publishing, we're going to be a place for storytellers. We're proud to have Antony spinning his yarns in our home."