Transforming the Bard Finale: Daggers at Dawn

With issue nine, the 12-issue series Kill Shakespeare enters its final act. Thus far, the story has followed Hamlet on his journey through a strange realm populated by characters from Shakespeare’s plays, where a war brews between the oppressive forces King Richard and Lady Macbeth against a rebellion led by Juliet Capulet, Othello, Falstaff and Iago.

In this world, Hamlet has been prophesied to find god the creator, aka William Shakespeare, whose presence has overshadowed most elements of the narrative. However, we haven’t met him, until now. Along with the Bard, this issue (titled “Is this a dagger I see before me?”) also features a meeting between Hamlet (who earlier in the series has developed a budding romance with Juliet) and another freedom fighter, named Romeo, who reveals what happened to him after the end of his oft-told tale.

But the weight of the issue rests on the revelation of William Shakespeare. Co-creators Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery have shown remarkable creativity and skill interpreting and reinventing Shakespeare’s plots, themes, settings and characters. The build-up to seeing their version of William Shakespeare the character has been intense and the expectations high.

“Wilt thou help thy children be free?” Hamlet asks the shadowy figure of Shakespeare.

“Help?” Shakespeare replies, and we finally see him, a thin, wild-eyed and unkempt man who look more than a little lecherous, unhealthy and angry. “Do I seem like a man who wishes to bend his back for another’s cause?”

Dialogue aside, the visuals alone offer a striking take on the Bard. Andy Belanger’s artwork gives us a Shakespeare who is all angles and gawky limbs, grime and wine-soaked world-weariness. Earlier in this issue, another striking image portrays Hamlet as he nearly drowns while crossing a body of water, where he’s dragged down by what appear to be handwritten pages of text.

The series wraps up soon, and as Del Col and McCreery reveal in the third part of our interview below, one or two more series may be on the way, along with spin-offs and even a possible project in Hollywood. How did they get here? In the final part of our exclusive three-part interview, Kill Shakespeare‘s co-creators Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery discuss their influences, future plans and their thoughts on Toronto as a “comics hotbed.” Get up to speed by reading parts one and two.

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What comics and creators influenced you, and how?

Conor McCreery: Growing up it was Spider-Man and 80’s X-men. Those books made reading comics so much fun. Obviously we owe a debt to Alan Moore and Bill Willingham as well.

Anthony Del Col: One of my biggest influences wasn’t a pure comics creator but in fact is Michael Chabon. Reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Klay sparked my mind to the idea of creating Kill Shakespeare as a comic book series.

What are some of your favourite current comics and creators?

CM: I think Brian K Vaughn is a heavyweight talent. And I love Chew. I’d like to do something as fun as that one day. I also think our book has something in common with Rex Mundi by Arvid Nelson – another very talented creator. I am a big fan of Matt Fraction and Mike Carey as well as Moon and Ba.

ADC: Brian K. Vaughn is one of my favourites as well. His stories are always so fascinating and draw you in immediately.

What is Toronto like for a comics creator? Is it supportive, and how so? How does it compare to the rest of Canada, to the U.S.?

ADC: When Conor and I were looking for artists we talked to a wide range of people across the country and U.S. but quickly discovered that a lot of the most talented creators were right here in our own backyard. But like in most media industries in Canada, comic creators don’t get the exposure that they should – until they begin to get recognition in the States.

CM: Assuming comics don’t end up farming most of the work out to cheaper centres in South America and Eastern Europe I think Toronto is going to continue to grow as a comic hotbed. As a Torontonian I wish the conventions here got more love from the American publishers. I think they’d be blown away by how amazing the talent and the market is.

What are your plans for Kill Shakespeare? Do you have a finite number of issues in mind? What are your plans for the future outside of Kill Shakespeare?

CM: Well this series is 12 issues and Anthony and I have already plotted out what a second and third series would look like, as well as some spin-offs. We actually started working together on a bunch of kid-friendly projects so maybe we’ll end up back there next?

ADC: We have had a lot of interest from Hollywood and will soon begin work on adapting our story into a screenplay format. We’ve also been approached by video game developers but right now our focus is on finishing out the first series and doing what it would take to have it continue on.