You may have seen that we’ve been covering Fatale on Daily Dead for the last couple of months. I’m more of a casual comic book reader, so although I’ve been hearing good things about this book when it was first released, it wasn’t something I picked up until recently.
Without going into too many details, Fatale is a horror noir tale that should especially appeal to fans of Lovecraft and the first eight issues have been a huge success for Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips.
I wanted to learn more about the series and where it is headed, so I got in touch with Ed Brubaker and sent a number of questions his way. For those that haven’t read Fatale, you’ll learn a bit more about how it all got started. If you’ve been a fan since the first issue, you’ll be happy to know that the series is going beyond it’s planned 12-15 issues…
For our readers who may be unfamiliar with Fatale, can you tell me a little bit about how this series came together?
Ed Brubaker: I’d been wanting to write something with some supernatural or horror elements for a while, trying to find a way to do it that still felt like me, not me trying to write like Neil Gaiman or something. I got to thinking about immortality and curses, and noir fiction archetypes, and Weird Tales and Black Mask coming out around the same time, and it all just kind of fell into place. This mix of Lovecraftian and Hammer horror with noir and having this epic scope that allows real history to be part of it all. It’s probably the most ambitious project me and Sean have ever tackled.
Critic and reader reaction to the first story arc seem to be overwhelmingly positive. Did you think that there would be this much interest in horror noir?
Ed Brubaker: I’m not the first to blend the two genres in comics, I know Steve Niles has been doing Criminal Macabre for a long time, and quite successfully, and a lot of the old EC horror stories have a noir feel, because of their artists and the era, but I have to admit I was shocked that we hit so big. I mean, we went through 5 printings on issue 1, and they all sold out before they shipped from they even hit stores. My biggest fear was that we just wouldn’t know how to pull it off, but with Sean and Dave on art, I knew it would at least look right, since they’ve both worked on horror titles like Hellblazer and Hellboy.
The series shifts from the 1950s to the 1970s Hollywood in the current story arc. What interested you about this particular location and time setting?
Ed Brubaker: The late 70s was like the death rattle of the 60s, I think. Hippies and even disco were fading, and new wave and punk and Reagan and Iran Contra and all that was on the horizon. It was that weird time post-Manson and just after Son of Sam, where Satanism and heavy metal scared people. I wanted to do a story in that milieu, and where better than Hollywood?
It’s clear from the first 7 issues that Josephine mesmerizes everyone she encounters. I feel like you do a great job of keeping her mysterious and interesting to the reader as well. Is it difficult for you to balance keeping parts of her life a mystery while still letting the reader know enough to sympathize with her?
Ed Brubaker: It’s been more a struggle to find out where to reveal her secrets, honestly. Each storyline just keeps getting bigger and bigger, and I keep finding more ideas for new characters in the cast, so just focusing more on her can be a struggle. I had a scene in issue 8 I had to move to 9, because there was just no room.
Will the reader eventually come to know everything about Josephine’s past or is keeping that a mystery important to you?
Ed Brubaker: Probably not everything. But there will be a lot more revealed about her, and about the women who had this same curse before her.
After the two of you have worked together for more than a decade. Has the creative process changed at all? Can you tell our readers a bit about how you two work together to create an issue of Fatale?
Ed Brubaker: It’s still pretty much the same as it’s always been. I tell Sean the gist of whatever story I want to do to see if he’s okay with it, and then I send him the script pages in parts as he starts drawing. He never wants me to tell him what’s coming next. Then he emails me the pages as he’s doing them, with all the lettering in place, so I can see how it all reads. Very rarely do I decide I need to change a line or something, but I think that’s because I agonize more and more over every caption. I’ve struggled with simplifying my narration and dialog the last several years, and it takes much longer to say something well in 12 words than it does in 30.
Other than that, it’s the same way we’ve been working since we started Criminal and Sean started doing all our design and lettering, too. I suggest a few cover ideas, and he does a sketch, then we email back and forth if it’s not exactly right, which it usually is, and he does the painted cover the next day, usually. He sends me logo designs and layouts to give feedback on. It’s a great process to be a part of, really. The few times we haven’t been working together regularly these past twelve years, I’ve missed it immensely.
The story does a good job of setting up this world that you can just see out of the corner of your eye and the art sells it. Will we get a better look at this other world, including the creatures that inhabit it?
Ed Brubaker: I don’t want to say yes or no, but if we get any looks, they won’t be long and lingering ones, for sure. We’ll get different views of the world soon, though. Issues 11 through 14 are standalone stories all in different eras. From medieval times to WW2.
Do you two pay attention to reader feedback? Will that shape future artwork/storylines or do you have everything pretty much planned out?
Ed Brubaker: I wouldn’t know how to do anything other than the way I’ve always done it. I just follow my own instincts and try to make the story as good as it can be, and make the characters have depth and be people I care about. I’ve never worked any other way, even on Marvel or DC books. But I love reader feedback. I’ve just always followed the advice of writing the story you want to see, and hoping readers come along for the ride.
I’ve heard that Fatale was originally planned as a 12 issue series and then expanded to 15. With the success of the first 6 issues, do you have any interest in continuing the story past the 15 issues? If not, is there a chance that we’ll see future stories take place within this world, but with different characters?
Ed Brubaker: All possibilities are open right now, really. I’m just starting to figure out what exactly Sean and I will do post-Fatale (either Criminal or something else new) but even recently I decided that 15 issues wasn’t enough to fit everything I wanted to do in Fatale, and added a new arc of single issue stories, so now Fatale will be running at least 20 issues. It just keeps getting bigger in its scope.
I know you can’t give too much away, but can you tease something that readers can look forward to in the upcoming issues?
Ed Brubaker: Witches being burned at the stake in ye olden times? Does that count as a tease?
Ed, I understand you were working on a film adaptation of Coward. Is Fatale something you’d be interested in seeing as a movie or TV series?
Ed Brubaker: I try not to think about that too much when I’m still writing a story, but there are elements to Fatale that could work as a cable show, down the line. We’ve had a lot of interest in both film and tv for Fatale, but I haven’t pursued any of it yet. Thankfully, I’m being kept busy with the comic and some other TV and film work. But I think if it ever goes that way, it’d have to be different from the comic in some major ways, to work as a show. But it could be a lot of fun, to have a show that takes place in a different time period each season.
What are some of your favorite horror movies/books/comics? What inspires your work on Fatale and what would you suggest to our readers?
Ed Brubaker: My favorites, some of them influential on FATALE, in no specific order: Joe Hills books and his LOCKE AND KEY comics, Rosemary’s Baby, the Omen, Lovecraft’s stories and the video games and boardgames spawned by them, EC Horror comics, especially the ones by Johnny Craig, early Creepy and Eerie magazines, Richard Corben’s horror work with Bruce Jones and Jan Strnad, Wuthering Heights, Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing run, From Hell, Ken Russell’s The Devils, the Hammer film The Devil Rides Out, Hellboy, The Keep, Wicker Man. And recent ones that scared the shit out of me were the Last Exorcism and Kill List. I’m actually kind of a horror wuss, as you can see. I prefer the kind that leaves most of it to your imagination.