On the Scene: Jason Aaron, Greg Rucka, Jason Latour Talk Crime Comics at Heroes Con 2013

Vito Delsante hosted a gathering of some of the purveyors of the gritty, and often all too reality-based comics handling crime and violence at Heroes Con, and when they noticed that everyone on the panel was bald, they decided that this was a call to “embrace the dark side of humanity” by shaving one’s head.  This kind of genre writing almost calls for creators of these works to be put on the spot about their motivations, ethics, and what value they think crime stories have beyond sensationalism in society. But Greg Rucka (WHITEOUT, PUNISHER), Jason Latour (LOOSE ENDS, WINTER SOLDIER), and Jason Aaron (SCALPED, PUNISHER) were up to the challenge, and often spoke with even greater honesty than fans might have expected. It turned into quite a moving discussion about humanity and suggested that comics only portray the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the dark aspects of life in the 21st century.

IMG_6060Most of the questions that Delsante and the audience posed during the panel were hard-hitting, but it all kicked off with the most direct question of them all: what’s so appealing about working on crime comics, and what’s the appeal for readers? Aaron injected some dark humor, but was no doubt being deadly serious. “As a writer, I like doing bad things to good characters”, he said. Rucka took up the implicit suggestion that it might be odd to want to write about crime by saying, “Crime writers tend to be the healthiest people. I like writing about worlds that we don’t inhabit. Most of us don’t, at least, but we know they exist”. But Rucka added that though he comes to crime in comics via detective fiction, he has never really thought of himself as a “crime writer”. Latour’s response was that he likes to “project” himself “into scenarios he would never really be in”, and explore things he doesn’t “understand” or “have a grasp of” since writing helps him understand. Rucka jumped in to agree that such an approach is “legitimate” but that there’s also a “pleasure in doing horrible things to good people and also to horrible people” as a form of “wish-fulfilment”.

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Garth Ennis talks about launching Dynamite’s new Crime Line With “Red Team”

Crime comics are something that are usually popping around in the background of the direct market, but usually only one or two takes hold at a time.  In recent years, Vertigo held the crime candle, but their line of original graphic novels folded and Scalped came to an end.  Today, Dynamite is announcing their plan to step into that void with a formal line of crime titles.

Their first title will be called “Red Team” written by Garth Ennis and drawn by Craig Cermak (recently seen on Voltron: Year One).  The title concerns what happens when a NYC Major Crimes Task Force decides to Murder a suspect.

I had a chance to ask Ennis a few questions about his new book.

Q: While the SF/F and horror genres have been alive and well in comics, the detective/crime genre has really only popped up here and there in the last 20 years with any heat behind it.  Ms. Tree, Stray Bullets, Sin City, 100 Bullets, Scalped.  Where do you see the crime genre fitting in with comics?

A: It seems a very natural fit, particularly for mature readers stuff.  But instead it survives from project to project, as you say. This is largely because the industry is dominated by superhero titles, and all talent is encouraged to work in that genre to the exclusion of all else. This will continue indefinitely.

Q:  What’s the difference between writing the Punisher, a clear decedent of Mack Bolan/Executioner pulp crime novels, and writing something in the vein of The Wire?

A: You’re that one step nearer to the real world. That said, the closest  thing I’ve written to Red Team would indeed be my run on Punisher Max.  Less military-style action- at least at first- but the same focus on  the darker side of life.

Q: Since The Shield was mentioned will Red Team have anti-heroes as the leads?

A: No, they’re all essentially pretty decent people. The fickle finger of  fate has them doing some pretty indecent things, however.

Q: Do you have a certain number of issues in mind with Red Team, as with Preacher or the Boys?

A:  Seven issues.

 Official PR follows:

Dynamite is proud to announce that Garth Ennis will write a new series – Red Team.  Joining Garth is Dynamite up-and-coming artist Craig Cermak.  Red Team is the first in a series of books of a new crime books from Dynamite Entertainment.

Red Team is the story of a Major Crimes task force unit in the NYPD, four of New York’s finest- and smartest- who decide to murder a suspect. Very soon, the worst possible thing that could possibly happen… happens. And that’s just episode one. Seven issues of hardcore crime drama in the tradition of The Wire and The Shield.

“Earlier this year, the four members of the NYPD’s elite strike unit Red Team decided to murder a suspect,” says writer Garth Ennis.

“And the worst possible thing that could happen…

happened!”

“It’s such a huge honor to work with someone as high caliber as Garth Ennis on a brand new series,” adds artist Craig Cermak. “Dark and moody are what I think some of my strong points are artistically, and that is what this series has. Interesting characters, a great premise, and hard situations. Being able to step into this world is such a treat to draw and I’m pushing to really deliver the quality it deserves.”

“Garth has built his fan base and reputation on holding nothing back,” adds Dynamite Editor Joe Rybandt.  “Red Team continues that tradition, and tells an open and accessible story for old fans and new.”

“We’ve been working on putting together a line of crime books for quite a bit of time, but needed to ensure we had the right caliber of creators. We’ve had conversations with multiple creators over time, and as luck would have it, in the last few months, quite a few were coming to fruition. The timing to announce and launch Garth Ennis’ Red Team seems ideal with the end of The Boys nearing.  And this is a huge project for Craig (Cermak), one in which he’s earned.  This is the first of multiple titles in our crime line-up that are being announced this week.  The excitement will build with tomorrow’s announcement featuring a high-profile writer whose exclusive contract has recently ended and will be working with Dynamite for the first time.” – states Dynamite President Nick Barrucci.