Wednesday will see the release of the eagerly awaited Criminal Special Edition by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, with colors by Elizabeth Breitweiser. For the uninitiated, Criminal is not the first work of this powerhouse comics team, but the powerful, gritty, and five-star series has helped to develop a loyal following (including myself) that has made subsequent titles such as Fatale and The Fade Out must read comics.
We’re grateful that Mr. Brubaker was able to take some time to talk with us about the new special edition issue, which is on the stands February 25, 2015. Make sure to buy both the classic and magazine versions, which has all kinds of cool extras!
Sam Marx: How does it feel to come back to this cast of characters and setting after spending a few years focusing on other titles?
Ed Brubaker: It was a lot of fun, actually. I’ve missed the world and the characters, and that full-on pulpiness that CRIMINAL always wallows in a bit. It’s a lot different than FATALE or THE FADE OUT, which is something I hadn’t thought about much. But I had to really put myself into a different mindset to start this script.
SM: Have you and Sean learned anything new while working together on Fatale and The Fade Out that you wanted to introduce in this issue? Were there any brand new approaches you wanted to try specifically for this special?
EB: God, I hope we’ve learned something. Mostly it feels like we’ve just learned to become even more obsessive about every detail of our books, sometimes, but I think there’s a lot of experimentation in how we tell stories that always keeps us evolving. But honestly, that’s something you can see in CRIMINAL as early as the third volume, THE DEAD AND THE DYING, which told a story from three different perspectives. I’m always interested in us pushing ourselves, so we don’t get bored or worse, boring. And of course, now we have Bettie Breitweiser coloring us, too, and she adds a different flavor to Sean’s art that was amazing to see in CRIMINAL for the first time. Bettie’s the best.
SM: The Lawless family has become a cornerstone the Criminal series – why was Teeg the character you wanted to focus on in this issue?
EB: It just kind of happened that way, because the initial kernel of the idea started with the title, SAVAGE SWORD OF CRIMINAL, and there being a comic within the comic. Then when I started notebooking it, it just made sense that it would be a Teeg story. I’d heard years ago from a writer friend that back in the 70s and 80s, a lot of comic mags, like Savage Sword of Conan and Eerie and Heavy Metal, the more adult magazines, basically, all had a lot of subscriptions to prison inmates. And I had this image of a guy reading some barbarian comic, lying on his bunk in a cell, and that just stuck with me.
So when it came time to do this, I knew I wanted to do a variant that would look like the magazine be’s reading, and that it’d take place in the mid-70s, which is such a great era for neo-noir pulp. So I threw Teeg in a cell and the rest of the story just flowed from there.
SM: Fantasy and horror comic magazines play a large role in the issue. What were some of your favorite comic magazines and how did those stories influence your writing of this issue?
EB: I was such a devourer of comics and magazines most of my life, so all those mags – EPIC, HEAVY METAL, Savage Sword of CONAN, Marvel’s Bizarre Adventures magazine, all the Warren horror and sci-fi mags… those were all things I loved growing up. Even, or especially, when I was too young to be reading them, really. And of course, when writing the Zangar pages of this issue, the comic within the comic, I looked at a lot of those old mags, trying to get the overwritten narrative voice as close as I could.
SM: Who decided to produce a magazine cover edition? What do you think it brings to the reading experience?
EB: The whole magazine replica variant idea was something I pitched to Sean because we’d had so much success with the magazine variant of THE FADE OUT, and he was into it. Then of course, as we got closer to press, we both got very obsessive about all the details, even putting in typos in the letters page on purpose, making period-era fake ads, getting friends to write letters as if it’s 1976 and this is a comic that’s actually coming out then. I think, especially for print, that packaging is yet another layer you can add to the story, for the readers experience. It adds a bit more of the nostalgia that’s already in the comic, I think, and I hope it shows what a true labor of love this book is for us.
SM: If you envisioned a soundtrack for the Criminal Special Edition issue, what songs would you put on it?
EB: I would want it to be an original score by Cliff Martinez or Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, I think. Or just a lot of Sly and the Family Stone.
Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ Criminal Special Edition arrives in comic shops and online this Wednesday, February 25! Don’t miss it!