As part of the new wave of Image creator owned comics by big name talent, Velvet by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting reunites the Captain America team for what is Epting’s first creator owned outing.
Velvet, which goes on sales on October 23rd, is a tale of espionage set in the Cold War. It’s an idea Brubaker had kicking around for years—he estimates that from the time he came up with it to when Epting was finally able to start ten years passed. Although it seems like a long time, Brubaker was able to take more time research, resulting in a stronger story, he said as a press conference this afternoon.
Velvet concerns a female agent who is sort of the Miss Monnypenny of her organization. After the James Bond figure at the shop is killed and she’s framed with his murder, a caper ensues. Brubaker says the tone is somewhere between James Bond and Graham Greene, with maybe a bit of Modesty Blasie thrown in. “It’s my attempt to do a more straight version oo the super spy comic book. I wanted to find a way to bring a more realistic Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy element to the over the top spy action thriller.”
After a binge of watching spy movies and reading spy novels a few years ago, “I had the revelation that all the women characters in all those stories were lame and weak,” Brubaker continues. “It’s the Moneypenny archetype in spy fiction, like Mike Hammer’s secretary who was in love with him and so on. But in this story it’s what if that person had a secret history and was the most interesting person in that world.”
Brubaker’s take was informed by his reading about the period—“The US and the UK denied using women as honeypots, but the Russians admitted they did it all the time”—and Greg Rucka’s insistence he watch the old TV show The Sandbaggers. “There’s one episode where the head of Mi6 has has to get a new secretary. The whole point of the episode was to show that the person has to be on eof the most qualified people at the organization. That person has to weed out the stuff her boss doesn’t need to know. So it would be interesting if you took that character and put her in a situation where she was framed for the murder of a James Bond type and had to go on the run. I’ve read lots of spy novels but not a lot where there is a female lead in the Cold War.”
Although Brubaker and Epting have a long association at Marvel, this is their first creator owned effort together. Getting together again has been a breese, as Brubaker has written the action scenes with Epting’s choreography in mind. Brubaker notes that it took a while for Epting to adapt to the Image system and realize that “this wasn’t a huge mistake, but now he’s become even more of a workaholic.” As for Brubaker’s own career, he’s been getting more involved in screenwriting and even pitched as TV show that was much like Velvet—“they said you couldn’t do an action story with a 40-something woman as the lead”—but like many before him, he enjoys coming back to comics at night where “no one who doesn’t know anything is giving you notes.” Although he enjoys his Hollywood work, “I can’t imagine a world where I didn’t have comics coming out every month.”
In observing the growth of the creator owned market in the last year or so, Brubaker also quoted the late Kim Thompson who has once observed what comics need to be successful is more “John Grishams and John Clancys and genre stuff that isn’t superheroes. That world is starting to happen, stuff that is aimed at a mainstream readership.”
Getting back to Velvet, the story will be grounded in the real world, but still have larger than life episodes. “Some of it is about blowback and the consequences of your things. We never see what happens to the Bond girl after she gives up her country’s secrets and James Bond leaves to get on the Space Shuttle. What really happens at the island fortress?”
Here’s a preview of the first issue of Velvet:
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.