"Deception and perception on many levels," writer Clark Westerman says of his and artist Kody Chamberlain's latest project, "Pretty Baby Machine." "And a nice helping of violence."
Chamberlain has of course been an indie star on the rise since his debut in the 'Digital Webbing' anthology series and his work for publishers like IDW and BOOM! Studios, on titles including "Tag," "30 Days of Night: Bloodsucke Tales," and cult favorite "Punks: The Comic." Teamed with Westerman, both creators have produced a hard-boiled tale concerning some of the grittiest real-life figures in American history, and the pair spoke with CBR News about the three-issue Shadowline miniseries, how they approached the tale, and what's next.
"'Pretty Baby Machine' sees three of America's legendary bad-ass gangsters, Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson and Machine Gun Kelly end up, by chance, at the same watering hole on the worst day of each of their lives," Clark Westerman told CBR News. "Al Capone looks to be to blamed for each of their collective woes. But, just maybe someone else is playing them. Maybe it's a set-up by either Pretty, Baby or Machine to screw the other two. Maybe not!
"Capone plays a key part in this tale," Westerman continued, "as do our three central bad-ass gangsters, Pretty, Baby and Machine. The trio has swapped stories of how Capone ("Big Al") has recently, for varied reasons, put each on his 'cement shoes' list. Instead of taking it lying down, Pretty, Baby and Machine are going to bring the fight right back to Capone's front door."
Being based on famous figures of the time and built up through American folklore, some research was necessary in creating "Pretty Baby Machine." "A bit [of research was necessary] to plausibly tie each together and keep their timelines and historical beats correct as well as locations," said Westerman "but we've massaged a few things!"
The inspiration for "Pretty Baby Machine" came from many places and at many angles, including, said Westerman, "An evening with a lot of drink, a mash-up of the [Nine Inch Nails] record title 'Pretty Hate Machine and my love for films and comics with multiple spins. Misdirection and reveals, and reinvigorating old content. Westerman's list went on: "'Seven,' 'Memento,' 'Sixth Sense,' 'Solaris,' 'Matchstick Men.' The long and beautifully orchestrated plotlines of 'Batman: The Long Halloween,' Spidey /The Jackal/Professor Warren/Gwen Stacy return, and even 'Miracleman' to a degree."
Artist Kody Chamberlain put a lot of thought into how to craft the world of "Pretty Baby Machine." "When I read a script for a new project, I try and reach a style solution that works specifically for that project," Chamberlain said. "I take into consideration things like tone, genre, mood, etc. Clark's script for "Pretty Baby Machine" is a very gritty mystery, so I wanted to reflect that in the art style with lots of hard edges, big pools of black ink thrown around and a bit of noise and splatter. In the last few months I've spent a lot of time looking at Jim Holdaway ('Modesty Blaise' strip artist). His work really has a nice positive negative balance. I did my best to pull a good bit of that into 'Pretty Baby Machine." The art styles aren't really all that similar, but he was certainly my biggest inspiration for this book."
Westerman isn't slowing down after "Pretty Baby Machine." Said the scribe, "I am reworking a coup d' etat project entitled 'Overthrow,' that is based on real world headlines. That's very early. Both Kody and I are getting married in the next few months (not to each other, alas) so those are pretty big 'projects' as well."
Chamberlain also has a full schedule. "I'm currently working on a 5-issue miniseries for Spacedog called 'Wight and Associates' written by Rob Levin," he said. "It's sort of a Hitchcockian mystery thriller about lawyers and murder as we follow these four young lawyers through the mystery. I'm using a very impressionistic style on this one, charcoal powder, pencil, ink and a somewhat minimal hot and cold color palette. Should be a fun read.
"[I'm also] currently working on scripts for a few creator-owned projects that I'll be writing and drawing. I'll probably be able to announce the first of those projects during the summer convention hustle. It's going to be an exciting year.
"Pretty Baby Machine" is released May 7, 2008 from Shadowline and Image Comics.
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