Earlier this month, at WonderCon, Comics Beat got a chance to talk Stray Bullets with creator David Lapham. Once it was a series we feared might never come back, today Stray Bullets is now in full swing at Image Comics in the midst of publishing the books second new arc Sunshine & Roses.
Comics Beat: You’re a proven storyteller of many years now, so I wanted to ask about your influences. Before Stray Bullets, I had no idea this many different forms of crime existed. Where do your influences come from? Is your neighborhood just that bad to where you can simply peek outside?
David Lapham:[laughs] Yeah no, I think… obviously Stray Bullets is firmly a crime book but it has a bend to it. I always call it domestic noir cause it’s not exactly cops and robbers kind of noir. There’s some robbers, not very many cops. To me I don’t live in a bad neighborhood, you know with crack dealers on the corner. The crime elements in our stories are used to heighten the emotion of stuff I’ve been through or pretty universal stuff we can all relate to. Like in Killers, two kids having a relationship and it rips there world apart with all the guns entering into it. Stray Bullets stories are usually experiences from my life, or Maria’s, or our lives together, that I’ve translated onto the page in a ramped up form.
CB: Hah, so you’ve never been a hitman or an up-and-coming hitman?
DL:No, but it probably pays better than comics. [Laughs]
CB: With Sunshine and Roses being the second new arc for Stray Bullets, do you find there’s a difference in your creative process on the book at Image from when you self published it?
DL:The one aspect of doing this with Image and why we’ve never done it with another company is that the process hasn’t changed one bit. It’s still Maria and I doing this book. What Image wanted from us was exactly like what we wanted to do. Very much the same.
CB: The previous arc Killers didn’t have the same level of gratuitous violence as previous stories. Sunshine & Roses seemed to have a return to that level. Was this something you’d gotten feedback from fans about or was this always the route?
DL: No, it’s just the story. With Killers it became a story where I wanted to put a lot of that new love, first time meeting someone, first time having sex, and then of course all the crime stuff came in. With Sunshine & Roses we’re shifting back to all the more hardcore crime characters. The unique thing about Killers is it’s a little more personal to me.
CB: While Killers was more serialized follow along story arc, Sunshine & Roses feels more self-contained in both issues so far with the single unifying thread of the character Kretchmeyer existing. He’s been such a fascinating character so far in all his appearances and mentions; what’s your end game for him?
DL:[laughs] Well I can’t tell you the end game for the character. He’s actually mentioned in Killers. He develops beyond what’s going on in Sunshine & Roses where that [S&R] takes place a few years before [Killers]. Every arc sort of becomes its own thing, after I’ve done a couple issues, it some times goes in a strange direction but always its own thing. I hope at the end of every arc once we make a graphic novel of it that it becomes a complete story. Every single issue should be a complete story and at the end, the collection should feel like a different complete story. With Sunshine & Roses there’s definitely an arc to it, and actually I thought it was going to be just one arc but it’s actually going to be two that connect in the time period it’s taking place in.
CB:Now with the story being two arcs, will it be on a regular publishing schedule or a break in between?
DL:It’s going to be continuing, I think Sunshine & Roses will probably go at least 14-16 issues and then we’ll put it out as two graphic novels. I have it so each one will be distinctive in two parts.
CB:With so many husband and wife creative teams working together now, how would you compare working with Maria for so many years as opposed to other editors?
DL:It’s totally different… we divide up the credits into you do this job, I’ll do that job. But really we’re very meshed, it’s not like any relationship I’ve had with an editor or an artist. The guts of what Stray Bullets is comes out of both of our lives, and our conversations, and our process of doing the book. I’m proud of a lot of my work but definitely Stray Bullets is a cut above everything else. It has a different feel and that’s the product of our collaboration.
CB: With the recent boom of adapting comics to other mediums, is there one out there you’d like to see Stray Bullets adapted to?
DL: Yeah, I guess I could see it being a TV thing or whatever. My focus is on making the comics really great. I love movies, I love television; especially in the last you know 5 or 6 years there’s a lot of great forward thinking television. But that’s also a crapshoot. You’re giving it [Stray Bullets] over to someone else to put their vision on top of it. To do that it would have to be the right person who’d do right by your work. Ultimately what I’m responsible for, and what we do, is just do these comics and make every issue that goes out the door the best it could be.
CB: Before we let you go, I have to ask; what’s the future of Stray Bullets hold? Is there an end you see or do ideas pop in and you say to yourself you can do another 4 or 5 arcs on this idea?
DL: I know in my head right now I have another 3 to 4 arcs that I’m thinking of. Usually in the process of doing it more ideas come. One of the great things about Stray Bullets is we have some main characters like Virginia, Beth, so forth but it’s not just about them. From the beginning it’s been a book that I can accommodate almost any story I can think of. If I come up with something that doesn’t fit any of their lives, I invent a new character to tell the new story. Tell that story and find some way to make it fit in the larger scheme. That said I hope the fans stick with it and I can keep doing this a very long time. There’s nothing like doing your own. It’s fun doing your favorite superhero but there’s just nothing like doing your own.
In a publisher that now has an extensive catalogue of crime genre books, David Lapham’s Stray Bullets manages to dig itself in as a big ol shinny jewel on that crown. Check out the next chapter, Stray Bullets: Sunshine & Roses #3, in stores/digital this week and find previous issues online at Image.