An idea is only as valuable as its execution, and Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery have spent the last four years executing their concept, a battle between Shakespeare’s most famous heroes and most evil villains, to great success. Kill Shakespeare first appeared as a comic book series from IDW in 2010, but in four short years has already expanded into new arenas. A New York stage show debuted on March 1st, and a Kickstarter is underway for a Kill Shakespeare board game. With a couple of days to go, it’s funded but nearing some stretch goals. I spoke to Anthony (A) and Conor (C) about where the brand has been, where it is now, and where it’s going next.
You said in the Kickstarter video that you came up with the idea for Kill Shakespeare 10 years ago. What has made you pursue this concept so fiercely?
A: I’m so extremely passionate about Kill Shakespeare because to me it’s more than just a concept/comic/game that’s entertaining. There’s something more to it – the ability to make people appreciate more about Shakespeare and his plays, as well as giving people the opportunity to learn something about themselves and humanity through the actions of the characters.
What was your initial vision for the series?
C: The initial vision ended up being pretty similar to what we have now. We toyed with a couple of other mediums first and we wrote a VERY long first draft of a film that we then analyzed and looked at how we could adapt it in order to tell our story in a 12 part series. Most of our early ideas for Kill Shakespeare ended up in the comics in some form or another – which I think is a testament to how much we thought out the original concept to begin with.
Why did you decide to publish Kill Shakespeare as a comic first?
A: We conceived it originally as a MMO and then a feature film, but we realized that we didn’t have the knowledge or resources to produce our story in those mediums. We then thought about comics and realized that it provided us the best opportunity to tell the story that we wanted to tell. With comics the only thing that limits us is our imagination. If we can imagine a huge pirate battle, we can bring it to life (with the amazing art by Andy Belanger). Also, it’s really cool to bring something normally perceived as high-brow (Shakespeare) to a medium (incorrectly) perceived as low-brow (comics). Is it irony, or destiny…?
Has the visual elements of the comic book series been advantageous towards translating it to other types of media?
C: Oh for sure. Andy Belanger, are artist, has been key to everything we’ve done. One example is that we actually use the existing comic panels as part of the Kill Shakespeare stage show. They are presented on screen and the actors use them to act off of. Hopefully if K.S. becomes a film or television show then we’ll see Andy’s work reflected there too.
Shakespeare material is probably more inclined for the bookstore market than the comics crowd. How are you making Kill Shakespeare visible to them, including the readers who don’t ordinarily peruse the “Comics” section of Barnes & Noble?
A: You’re absolutely right – our biggest market is the bookstore market. The number of collected trade paperbacks we sell far outnumber those of the individual comics. However, we put just as much time in marketing to – and prioritizing – the comics market than the bookstore one. We always make a point to fill each issue with the action elements that the comics market really enjoys – the swashbuckling adventure, the magical elements, the battles. We emphasize that. We attend as many comic-cons as possible (over 20 in 2013) and we heavily ingrain ourselves with retail comic book shops. The comic shops are the lifeblood of this industry and we try to work with them to sell our issues to their fans.
How much work has it been overseeing the Kickstarter for the board game?
C: We’re lucky that IDW is doing the heavy lifting on that one (and doing it well) but we’re still seeing a fair amount of our days consumed with sending emails and reaching out on social media to help spread the word.
What’s surprised you about the crowdfunding experience?
A: How much people look for humour and passion in the projects that they fund. It’s all about the personality. What Kickstarter really does is eliminate the corporate element to projects and give fans/reader/consumers a one-on-one experience with the creators. Most of the time people are funding the people, not the projects, and that’s an amazing revolution in the distribution chain of commerce.
What are some stores we should expect to see the Kill Shakespeare board game in?
C: The board game is going to be distributed far and wide so if you have a local comic shop or indie game store they can get it for you. Of course, you could also support the Kickstarter and get some sweet extras!
Since the start Kill Shakespeare has been with IDW. What makes them a good partner for the franchise?
A: IDW has been great from Day #1. What makes them a great partner are the talented people that work there. Everyone from the business brains that have allowed the company to flourish, to the talented design people there (like Chris Mowry, who oversees the design of all of our issues), it’s a hotbed of talent. They’ve also given us a lot of freedom to discover our story and voice, which has been amazing for us.
How much has the growth of the brand been calculated planning vs. going with the flow?
C: I’d say about 50-50. Anthony and I definitely charted out our strategy and identified where we wanted to take this idea, but as far as when and how things happen – there is always some serendipity there. For example, we didn’t think the stage show would be our second “thing”, but we happened to be in the right place at the right time when the amazing Soulpepper Theatre Company was looking for something funky and Shakespearean for one of their festivals.
Where do you see Kill Shakespeare going next? Where do you hope for it to go next?
A: We’ve got a lot of great things coming up for the brand, from the new comic mini-series The Mask of Night, to a new theatrical concept we’re exploring, to a teacher’s guide, to a television series. Our goal in the comics world is to become the new Fables – a series that’s been going on for over a dozen years and inspired so many creators and readers.
You can play as a number of Shakespearean players in the board game. Who are your players of choice?
C: I’m going to weakly opt out of this question as I haven’t had the chance to play-test the new version to see how each character’s unique attributes will affect my strategy. BUT if I was FORCED to choose I’d say Falstaff. Because then if I get tipsy during game-play I can say I was just trying to stay “in character.”
A: I’m still quite partial to Hamlet. Such a fascinating enigma of a man – it’ll be great to play the game as him for a couple hours and see if it allows me to get deeper into his head.