Coming in January this year, Legenderry: A Steampunk Adventure will see writer Bill Willingham and artist Sergio Fernandez Davila take on a host of Dynamite’s most recognisable characters for a seven-issue re-imagining. Not only will the story have characters as diverse as Green Hornet, Vampirella, The Six Million Dollar Man and Red Sonja all in the same story – the story will be set inside a giant world created by the creative team, based around the steampunk genre.
To find out more about the series, I spoke to Willingham about how the project came about, how he built up this new world for the series, and his plans for the characters going forward.
The Beat: Legenderry: A Steampunk Adventure takes characters from a whole range of genres and contexts and places them within one steampunk world. How did you first come onboard a project like this?
Bill: It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a place where I had enough room in my schedule to work on something new. That time is still not quite upon us, but Nick and I have been itching to work on a book together for Dynamite for years now. I wasn’t able to bring something brand-new and creator owned to the table since there’s a lot of work to put into building a new series from the ground up.
Initially, I wanted to work on a series that borrowed characters that no one else was using at the time to avoid having to deal with continuity and where they all are in their current books. All of the characters that appear in Legenderry are characters that are currently being used, so Nick got a little creative and that’s where the steampulp idea came from – a place where I could create new versions of these characters in my own way that was separate from everything else going on.
The Beat: How do you view the concept of steampunk, personally? Have you written within the style before?
Bill: I have not written within the genre before, but not really for any other reason than I dislike the term “steampunk”. The “steampunk” genre embodies brilliant aspects from the works of HG Wells and Jules Verne who wrote of adventurers, discovery and action. They were not punks. Punks instead fit into the subgenre of cyberpunks because cocky punks are exactly who they were and one of the reasons that I never warmed up to the genre as a whole.
I call the genre steampulp since it more accurately describes the vibe that I’m going for, but I expect that the time to change the name of the genre has long past and my redubbing of it won’t catch on.
The Beat: How much input did you have in the individual design of the characters, and of the general aesthetic of the miniseries itself?
Bill: As much as I wanted. At least that’s the impression I got, but I haven’t yet really had to test the limits, since the character designs and art were so well done from the starting gate that I asked for very few changes. I requested things like, “I’d like to see her hair a bit longer, or his coat a bit longer, or I see Zorro’s sword as being a skosh thinner.” Nothing major.
Also, so far, I’ve never had to ask for a correction of any of the artwork Sergio has done for the actual story. He seems to start at wonderful and adds quality from there.
The Beat: When you take on a story like this, how carefully do you plan out the World which the characters inhabit? How important is it to you that you get the details of the city, and the society, and make sure everything fits together?
Bill: The world building part of any story, especially for a tale set in an entirely invented world, is perhaps the most important part of said story, at least in the planning and pre-planning stages. It’s also the most rewarding part for me. It’s like putting together an intricate 5000 piece jigsaw puzzle, with no picture on the box to guide you. It’s a combination of decision making and then extrapolating all of the possible results of those decisions. I love it. Getting all of the details right is vital. If I can’t make the world, and every important part of it, interesting and detailed and engaging to me, I can’t ask a reader to believe in it.
The Beat: Are there any details in particular which you’re excited to see realized in the story?
Bill: A few. First the look of The Big City (that’s actually its name), where the story starts out. Having the art in for the first two issues, I already see that Sergio has delivered more than my notes and imagination asked for. I got just a glimpse of the skyship Victory at the end of Issue Two and that again delivered wonderfully on my expectations.
We’ve yet to get to Landing, the Miracle Science City, which comes along in issue four (or is it five?), which is the steampunk era view of what the future must look like.
The Beat: Was it tricky to fit certain characters into the same universe? I can’t imagine fitting The Six Million Dollar Man into a Victorian setting would be easy, for example.
Bill: I thought fitting the Six Million Dollar Man into this world would indeed be the greatest challenge of the bunch. He turned out to be the most fun to adapt and is currently my favorite character in this world of the best possible characters.
The Beat: Will you be getting inside the head of any of the characters like Vampirella, Red Sonja, Green Hornet, etc – or will the story be viewing them from a distance?
Bill: Yes. Deeply so in at least one instance. But I’ll divulge no details. Sorry.
The Beat: The story seems to be a large-scale mystery, with pieces being put together each issue. What kicks off the narrative of Legenderry?
Bill: It is a mystery, yes, which is to say, it’s a mystery who the villains are and what they want with the MacGuffin character, the woman who leads us from one of our heroes to the next. But it’s also a chase against time, where the adventure leads us on a tour of the entire world of Legenderry.
The Beat: We’ll be following a young woman as she interacts with various characters in turn throughout the series – do you view her as the guide for the reader? The classic stories associated with steampunk are usually works by people like H.G. Wells, which are all about a guide/adventurer heading off and introducing the reader to all kinds of new ideas and sights.
Bill: I so want to answer this question in detail, but I’ve already said too much about her. She’s not the guide. She’s the treasure everyone seems to be after. But why?
The Beat: Although this is a complete seven-issue storyline, do you think you could ever be tempted back for another story set in this world, at some point in the future?
Bill: Yes. Why create a whole world just for seven issues of anything? I always want to explore further.
Many thanks to Bill for his time! The first issue of Legenderry will be out this January. Find more details at Dynamite’s website.