Shutter Brings Classic Image Characters Together... for Brunch

With its 25th issue, "Shutter" found a whole new way to be groundbreaking. How, exactly? Well, the book managed to crossover Image Comics' flagship characters, including Spawn, Savage Dragon and Shadowhawk for a brunch -- yes, brunch -- of epic proportions.

In a conversation with the "Shutter" creative team of writer Joe Keatinge and artist Leila del Duca, we discussed the influence of the series, its merging of various art styles, what lies ahead, and of course, that crossover brunch that fans have been waiting for.

CBR: Why do you think Shutter is so popular among fellow creators?

Joe Keatinge: It’s not my place to speak on why anyone reads our work, whether they enjoy it or not, whether they make comic books or not, other than to say, “thank you.”

I will say the comic books I find myself enjoying most these days are by Emma Ríos. While she may be most well known for her visual art in titles such as "Pretty Deadly," over the last few years she’s become one of my favorite writers, in comics and otherwise. The best work stays with you long after its over and this is certainly true of her graphic novel, "ID," which was serialized in her anthology, "Island." I think about it often, both in the high quality of its production, but what she examines in humanity, politics and the arts. I was happy to see this continue on with Mirror, the title she co-creates with artist Hwei Lin. Again, it’s not just the great quality of their collaboration, nor is it limited to how they both stretch the bounds of storytelling to do something wholly their own, but it keeps coming back to me – thematically, emotionally, symbolically. They do what so many strive to do, connecting in with a reader in a way which sticks forever and never fall into cliché. No question, "Mirror" is my favorite ongoing comic book currently on the stands.

Del Duca: I think my fellow comics creators really like the idea of "anything goes" in our series. My friend and studiomate, Terry Blas, said that he loved with every turn of the page he's constantly being surprised by the crazy visuals, being blindsided and wowed on many an occasion. I've had other studiomates say they dig seeing the different styles implemented in the series. "Shutter" is a visual and storytelling playground for us, and I'm always thrilled that Joe is fearless in writing such an experimental story with vast room for exploring the medium.

What’s some inspiration for the meta nature of the series and how that’s reflected visually?

Keatinge: Comics is a relatively young medium when it comes to visual arts, but its history is rich with so many tools built by generations before – it makes sense to use them.

Ever since the early 2000s – I imagine correlating with comic book feature films suddenly being a hot commodity – there’s been a move to make comics more “cinematic,” a term I’m not entirely comfortable with, but does result in some of my favorite work. Look at an early example, with Brian Hitch and Warren Ellis on "Authority" or Brian Hitch and Mark Millar on "Ultimates." Brian understands which storytelling toolsets can be adapted, while still making sure it works well as a comic book. Gabriel Hardman and Sean Philips are other examples of contemporary artists who do this phenomenally – and I recommend their work overall for great examples ("Invisible Republic" and "The Fade Out," for more specific recommendations).

The danger gets into when you’re striving to make a movie on paper instead of a comic book, which are two different things. With Shutter, it was a conscious effort to make a comic book as a comic book to be a comic book, utilizing the history set before it as a tool set to tell our own story. Then there’s the challenge of what storytelling tools we can bring in, from other media besides the “cinematic” which we haven’t had the opportunity to implement. It’s been a fun experiment through and through.

Issue 25 didn't take on different art styles, like you’ve done in the past with flashbacks.

Leila Del Duca: The only stylistic differences are with Owen's coloring. As usual, present-day (more watercolor textures) is colored differently than the flashbacks (a more cell-shading style). This last arc, Joe and I wanted to stop doing the Other Styles. Joe is still being pretty damn creative with the writing side, but he kindly agreed that I could settle into my own style in this last arc. I had so much fun emulating other artists during this series, but after issue #22 I realized I wanted to concentrate on developing my own style more instead of furthering the exploration into styles that weren't me. I do think that some day I want to revisit the Ligne Claire style we used once, but other than that I kind of want to delve deeper into my own stylistic evolution.

How did the Image founders’ characters come into play?

Del Duca: I love how randomly this came about! I was on a panel with Erik Larsen at Boston Comic Con, and on the panel someone asked if he minded when people drew his character, Savage Dragon, into comics, or something to that effect. Erik replied that he likes having his character in other books and doesn't care if people use them or not. Joe is friends with Erik, and I think Savage Dragon is super cool, so I asked Erik if we could put him in "Shutter" and Erik was like "Sure, that's fine." I told Joe, Joe asked "Hey, why don't we put each of the Image founder's characters in there," and I was like "What, no, that's way more than I was imagining, I wanted to keep things simple" and then he was like, "Okay, what about six instead of seven, and there's brunch involved? And by the way, this is perfectly timed because next year is Image's 25th anniversary and it's 'Shutter's' 25th issue" I said, "Woah, that is a pretty cool coincidence, so sure, as long as you can get me script on time while you're waiting for permission from all of these founders." And then it magically worked out, thank you to all the Image folks, and I had a blast drawing them, especially Glory because I love her.

Keatinge: When Leila mentioned Erik’s Savage Dragon offer, it made me think about how grateful I am for the Image Founders for opening the door to make this book possible. They could have easily made a lot of money in 1992, called it quits and not offered what they built to others. Same goes for Robert Kirkman – again, he could have easily kept his successes to himself, but he formed his imprint, Skybound, and they’ve directly helped both my career and life ways direct, above and beyond. It felt right to make a tribute to them within "Shutter" and the confluence of events, timing, and most importantly, the story we were telling made it essential to have their characters appear.

Was there a particular character you’ve been eager to work on that you finally get your hands on with the special?

Keatinge: This might seem like a cop out, but I don’t think I can choose – again, it’s the group which makes this work, not just any one individual, not just for what they did but for how they allowed others to do the same. That said, "Spawn" #10 had a massive influence on me as a kid, which was Todd McFarlane and Dave Sim’s tribute to those who went before, so it was nice to have something which sort-of acted as an unofficial sequel, at least thematically.

Del Duca: Glory. I love Joe and Sophie's version of Glory. But I'm also a huge "Invincible" fan, so drawing Mark Grayson was a dream!

Why are they having brunch?

Keatinge: Why not?

Will we see any more of those characters after issue 25? Would you like to work with those characters again, and in what way?

Del Duca: I think the brunch event will be referenced in a later issue's flashback, but those characters won't be featured more than that again in "Shutter." I'm totally up for drawing those characters again. If anyone wants to commission me for pin-ups, that is something I'd be very interested in doing. I think it'd be a pipe dream to ever draw "Invincible," but if Kirkman, Walker, and Ottley ever wanted me to do a fill-in issue, I'd very insecurely and vigorously draw the hell out of it and hope I don't die of happiness during the process.

"Shutter" #25 by Keatinge and Del Duca is in stores now; "Shutter" #26 hits stands on January 25.

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