Kyle Starks is about to make his Big 2 debut, writing a character that is so Kyle Starks-ian, it’s almost hard to believe he hasn’t written him before — Peacemaker. Specifically, a version of Peacemaker very similar to the one that was popularized of late by the (excellent) HBO TV show.

Yes, Starks is writing a six-issue miniseries, Peacemaker Tries Hard, which has a first issue due out May 2 (with FOC April 9, so get your preorders in ASAP at your local shops…). And he’s not the only one on the book who is an absolutely perfect fit — the artist for the miniseries is Steve Pugh, who has illustrated some of the funniest Big 2 comics of all-timeThe duo are also joined by colorist Jordie Bellaire and letterer Becca Carey.

It is — in my humble opinion — just a perfect creative team-to-character fit. Add to that Peacemaker getting an adorable French Bulldog (with a very hilarious name I won’t spoil here…), and you’ve got a must-read comic.

Starks was kind enough to make time recently to talk about the first issue, Peacemaker, and why most of his comics have both big dumb guys and dogs in them. You can check out our conversation below, along with the first six pages from the book!


ZACK QUAINTANCE: What drew you to this specific project?

KYLE STARKS: Obviously, Kyle Starks isn’t calling his shots at DC Comics, but the Peacemaker character is in sync with the type of characters I’ve written in my career — big, dumb action hero guys who have a lot going on, a lot of subtext and themes that are underlying.

So, I love the show. It’s one of my favorite shows I’ve seen in a long time. I never would have thought about actually writing it, but someone Tweeted, ‘Hey DC, why aren’t you making a Peacemaker comic, and why isn’t Kyle Starks writing it?’ So I retweeted it, and then they reached out to me.

I never would have thought about being like, ‘Hey, I’d like to write this,’ but as soon as I saw that tweet, I couldn’t think of a superhero book that I’d be more suited for.

Peacemaker Tries Hard

ZACK: Yeah, it really feels like this new version of Peacemaker has become a Kyle Starks character.

KYLE: It’s thrilling that it worked out. It’s also my Big 2 debut, and I couldn’t have asked for a better way to start that phase of my career.

ZACK: Have you done another book where the big dumb macho guy has an animal buddy, and why do you think Peacemaker and an animal buddy works so well?

KYLE: There’s probably a dog in all of my books, or I at one point attempted to put a dog in all of my books. I don’t know why. I have three dogs. I like dogs. I might be showing my heart a little too easily with these things. 

You know, he has Eagly in the show — and certainly we’d have wanted to use Eagly initially but there were things in the way of that — I just think he’s a big tough guy, and it shows an emotional side of him, a softness he doesn’t easily give with his juvenile behavior. He’s a big tough guy, and he’ll do anything for peace — even kill, obviously — but also he has a soft spot for pets. In this particular story the dog serves the function of being a symbol of something that will love unconditionally…for someone who has never been loved.

The thing about a pet is it’s shorthand for, ‘See he is lovable and capable of loving’…and also, no one ever wants to see anything bad happen to a dog. That’s writing facts.

ZACK: I really liked the line in the flashback sequence where he tells his dad, ‘maybe a dog’s superpower is being able to see good in anybody’, and I was wondering if that was a line that came while working on this, or is that something you’ve said about your dogs before?

KYLE: I don’t know. I do think that’s true. I’m sure I’ve said it. What people always say is with a cat you have to earn its love, but dogs just give it so freely. I think cat people like to be like, ‘Don’t you want to work for it?’ But I don’t know. Isn’t it beautiful they have this innate ability to see something lovable in anybody? I’ve not always been a dog-heavy person. I grew up in mixed-pet families with cats and dogs — and I certainly like both — but as I’ve gotten older with teenage daughters, I really need a dog to give me the love unconditionally that they won’t. 

I don’t know if I ever thought of that before, but for the purpose of the story, that concept and why it plays into why Peacemaker is so instantly taken with this pet is he always wanted one, he always had a reason for wanting one. My favorite bit in that particular scene is that his dad is like, ‘You can’t trust anyone or anything who would form an allegiance with no ideology to it.’ 

It’s also a setup for how awful his dad was, but you really want a McGuffin. I’ve introduced a McGuffin, and with that dog, in this first issue if not the whole series, a new character for the DC Universe. I can’t wait for people to find out what the dog’s name is and why his name is that way.

I love dogs. There’s two things I’ve always done in my career. I’ve always had at least one hitman in every book, and I’ve always had a dog. I understand I shouldn’t keep doing it, but also, don’t we all just love dogs? It’s going to be like, ‘Oh, Starks is writing X series, can’t wait for the dog to show up.’

Peacemaker Tries Hard

ZACK: This one though it’s almost like the dog is the point. I think everyone has had a bad day where you feel like the entire world hates you except for your dog. This is like a pure expression of that in comics form.

KYLE: I love to hear that, because at this point in the story where the dog comes in, Peacemaker is being made incredibly aware at how unliked he is and maybe how unlikable he is. He’s trying to get a party together that no one wants to go to, even if they know him. In fact, if they know him, they more don’t want to go to this party. 

When the terrorist cell you break up tells you nobody likes you, that’s a tough one. The dog comes in to be his emotional support dog in many ways. Hopefully nothing bad happens to that dog…

ZACK: You’ve done a lot of comics about cocky macho buffoonery. What draws you to that and why does it make for such good comics?

KYLE: I’m definitely drawn to that idea of hypermasculinity because I was raised on ‘80s action movies. Every one of those leads is so incredibly macho, not necessarily in a toxic way, but the concept of that kind of machoism has become toxic. I’m very interested in tearing that down but also respecting the idea of the male power fantasy in comics. It’s a comical situation to be like, ‘Look how tough I am.’ There’s no value in it walking around, being at McDonald’s and being like, ‘Look how tough I am.’ It’s such a weird bit.

If you look at any sort of hypermasculinity posed in a way that is toxic, it’s comical. I think shining a light on how ridiculous that is diminishes it. Men being extra man is dumb and funny. It just always is. There’s no example that isn’t baseline hilarious when you look at it from the right angle.

ZACK: It’s maybe applicable in .000001 percent of situations, but a lot of your comics are like, what if someone was like this all the time?

KYLE: What if they never stopped…because they’re too dumb and don’t have any self awareness. I think not having selfawareness is a steady thing through all my books, because most of us don’t have it, but with Peacemaker, why I like him so much, is that why he does lack self awareness — this goes for the comic and the show, because we tried to recreate the vibe of the show to the best DC would legally allow us — is he is sort of doomed to be over masculine and as you said a buffoon, but he sort of has just enough self awareness to understand his opinion isn’t necessarily right and maybe there’s other ways to do things.

What I love about this character is there’s soft growth from being so self involved to being considerate of the things around him. I think it’s really beautiful. It’s one of the things I really liked about James Gunn’s take on that character, for someone to own themselves so completely but be like, well maybe I’m wrong about things. Maybe I need to get better. It’s a really beautiful idea and a journey you’ll go on through the course of this story.

ZACK: When people are done reading this, how do you hope they’ll feel about Peacemaker? It’s not unsympathetic — I mean, you do really mean things to him — but it’s not unsympathetic to him throughout…

KYLE: The real hope with any sort of series after a big hit is you really hope you enter a very likable character into cannon, even though this is Black Label so it’s not canonical. This is the version we get, the sort of big tough childish guy…who is also kind of sweet, open to new ideas and new concepts. It’s a really interesting take on someone who is hyperviolent. To have that, but to also have him open to things outside his personal existence, I would love that character.

I think he’s a fun character. The big concern is how quickly he’ll turn into low-hanging fruit. That’s my concern with any character who skirts comedy. How quickly they turn into joke-joke-joke. I think he’s above that. I think he’s a really interesting character, and a deft writer could do a lot with what he brings to the table, which I feel like he’s a very modern character. He’s learning as the world changes how to change with the world. 

I hope that stays, in terms of what I want from Peacemaker. I also royalties for the dog. Put the dog in every comic. I’ve got teenage daughters.

Peacemaker Tries Hard

ZACK: Did having a character who so recently broke out in TV or movies make your job easier or harder, and why?

KYLE: For me personally, I think it made my job easier. I did the Rick and Morty comic for five years, and one of the reasons I think I was so well-suited for that book was it did things I did. There’s big dumb action going on with interesting subtext underneath. It was also high-brow, low-brow niche jokes. It was very similar to how I like to tell stories, but also I feel like I have the capacity to recreate dialogue, beats, tones of a show — not for everything, but for shows I really like. It’s the same for Peacemaker, I liked it so much. 

James Gunn’s better than me. You can print it. He’s better than almost anybody, but he does things I do, which is find something no one cares about and make it interesting. Peacemaker does that. Ultimately, it’s a big dumb action thing, but the things that are great about it are not the big dumb action things. It’s all these characters, growing into each other, and that’s what I do. 

In this case, it was easy. It’s already the type of story I would write, so what’s my Peacemaker story? I didn’t know I wanted to until I was asked, and then I wanted it so badly. And I think we did a banger six issues.

And they gave me the best possible team to do this book. That’s something we’re obligated to say in interviews, but for something you want to look like a superhero book but maintain that air of humor? Who’s better than Steve Pugh. Of course, Jordie Bellaire is also an all-star of coloring. 

ZACK: It’s like a hats off to the editor who greenlit this. One more question…even for a Black Label book, this struck me as especially uncensored. Were there any gags visual or otherwise you all thought might be a little too much?

KYLE: Some issues are still to be drawn. I’ve written the whole thing, and there are a few things — I don’t want to say them and thus draw attention to them. But there are a few things currently in the book where we’re like, ‘we’ll see if that gets through!’

There was one in issue one…there’s a dick puppets bit. We were like, will that get past, and I think it did…

ZACK: It was in my copy.

KYLE: You don’t see it! But that was one. There’s another where I created a phrase for a sexual act, and we’ll see if that gets through. That’s pretty much it. For the most part, my concern was how much profanity, and I think I didn’t do as much profanity in this book as a normally do. But I say that, and what’s the metric for that? Like, I don’t know.

ZACK: It felt like a good amount of profanity in this one.

KYLE: It’s the correct amount, the correct amount of profanity. But yeah, there’s a couple things in the book that might be too far, so we will see. 

ZACK: Well this has been fun, anything else you want to add as we wrap up here?

KYLE: Steve Pugh is a real pro, he’s been great to work with. That’s important. Humor is so hard to do. To have someone who knows how to handle it at all — there are a lot of visual jokes after issue 1 that he throws in that I didn’t write. 

I’m just real happy about this book. I think the number one thing I want to put out there is if you liked Peacemaker the show, we endeavor to give you that vibe. We want to give you a fix between now and season two. We want you to read this book and go, ‘Yes, more Peacemaker! This is what I want, I’m happy, I have my Peacemaker sandwich.’ That’s what we’re endeavoring to do, and I think I can say with confidence we did. It’s big, it’s dumb, it’s funny, it’s over-the-top. There’s a bunch of DC Easter egg stuff that’s funny and super dumb. It’s a big fun book.

FOC for Peacemaker Tries Hard #1 is April 9, and the first issue is due out May 2.