Kurtis J. Wiebe previews ‘Peter Panzerfaust’ 12, ‘Rat Queens’ 1

July 06, 2013 | 2:46 p.m.
peterpanz12 cover Kurtis J. Wiebe previews Peter Panzerfaust 12, Rat Queens 1

"Peter Panzerfaust" No. 12, the second part of the "Cry of the Wolf" arc, arrives Wednesday. (Image Comics)

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Page 1 of "Peter Panzerfaust" No. 12, written by Kurtis J. Wiebe with art by Tyler Jenkins. (Image Comics)

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Page 2 of "Peter Panzerfaust" No. 12, written by Kurtis J. Wiebe with art by Tyler Jenkins. (Image Comics)

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Page 3 of "Peter Panzerfaust" No. 12, written by Kurtis J. Wiebe with art by Tyler Jenkins. (Image Comics)

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Page 4 of "Peter Panzerfaust" No. 12, written by Kurtis J. Wiebe with art by Tyler Jenkins. (Image Comics)

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Page 5 of "Peter Panzerfaust" No. 12, written by Kurtis J. Wiebe with art by Tyler Jenkins. (Image Comics)

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Page 6 of "Peter Panzerfaust" No. 12, written by Kurtis J. Wiebe with art by Tyler Jenkins. (Image Comics)

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The cover for "Rat Queens" No. 1, scheduled for release in September. (Roc Upchurch / Image Comics)

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Page 1 of "Rat Queens" No. 1, written by Kurtis J. Wiebe with art by Roc Upchurch. (Image Comics)

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Page 2 of "Rat Queens" No. 1, written by Kurtis J. Wiebe with art by Roc Upchurch. (Image Comics)

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Page 3 of "Rat Queens" No. 1, written by Kurtis J. Wiebe with art by Roc Upchurch. (Image Comics)

As Kurtis J. Wiebe continues his adventure with Nazi-fighting Lost Boys, he’s also backing a squad of monster-slaying party girls.

And where “Peter Panzerfaust,” which reaches Issue 12 on Wednesday, is serious-though-younger-reader-friendly about its historical villains, “Rat Queens,” set to debut in September, will play its fantastical foes for adult laughs.

In “Panzerfaust,” which grounds a take on the boy who could fly in World War II, Lost Boys in their later years relate their teenage experiences with a young American named Peter who led them out of a French orphanage to resist Nazi invaders –  including the diabolical, sword-wielding Kapitan Haken, who has lost a hand to the brave boy’s dagger in a fight. Peter and his fellows, who have seen death in their ranks, are joined by the orphaned Darling children. While Wendy has, like the half-Native Canadian Tiger Lily, become a part of the group’s resistance operations, her younger brothers Michael and John have largely been in the background. That changes in Issue 12, Wiebe says, and the siblings affect the rest of the current arc.

Cover | Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3 | Page 4 | Page 5 | Page 6

The title’s monthly and trade paperback readers aren’t the only ones caught up in Wiebe and co-creator/artist Tyler Jenkins’ unique twist on the J.M. Barrie tale: BBC Worldwide Productions and Quality Transmedia are producing a motion-comic adaptation of the title featuring the voices of Elijah Wood as Peter, Ron Perlman as Kapitan Haken and Summer Glau as Wendy; the companies are also developing the story as a live-action series (it’s still well before the casting stage).

Wiebe’s new gang with artist Roc Upchurch, “Rat Queens,” is inspired by the writer’s years of playing Dungeons & Dragons. The fantasy-action-comedy series follows four fun-loving adventurers — rockabilly elven mage Hannah, hippie hobbit thief Betty, hipster dwarf swordswoman Violet and fashionable human cleric Dee  — as they take down terrors and use the reward money to party. In addition to the print comic, there’s a free weekly Web comic on the title’s Facebook page, co-written by co-creator Meg Dejmal.

Cover | Variant cover | Fiona Staples variant | Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3 | Pages 4 and 5 (warning: link contains profanity)

The Vancouver, Canada-based Wiebe spoke with Hero Complex backstage at Image Expo in San Francisco on Tuesday about negotiating the balance of boyish adventure and hellish war in “Peter Panzerfaust” and playing with monsters in “Rat Queens.”

HC: “Peter Panzerfaust” seems to be part of a greater trend in storytelling of repurposing myths and literary characters. Do you feel a part of that, or what in particular was appealing repurposing this story in this way?

KW: This is something that I developed years ago with the artist, Tyler …. He had been watching “Apocalypse Now” and for some reason the idea was, “We should do a book like that where it’s a bunch of kid guerrilla fighters in Vietnam and they’re kind of like the Lost Boys.” I emailed him back and I was like, “I hate that idea.” But it was weird because at the time I was doing research for my own reading. I’d been reading “Citizen Soldiers” by Stephen Ambrose and then just general World War II — especially the resistance, I was really interested in all the characters like the “White Mouse” Nancy Wake …. I was just reading for my own pleasure, and then when he came up with that idea, I was like, “I hate the Vietnam idea, but I like the idea of making it a World War II thing.” Maybe because I was reading about the French Resistance … and bam, it just sort of came to me and they tied together so nicely. I just made up a list of, well, how could I take Peter Pan, how would he adapt to a resistance setting? So it all just came out of there …. We’re taking the characters and a lot of the themes Barrie was working with in his original novel and grounding them in a real-world situation. It’s really about the loss of innocence and growing up, and being forced to grow up — they deal with that in the novel.

Page 3 of "Peter Panzerfaust" No. 12, written by Kurtis J. Wiebe with art by Tyler Jenkins. (Image Comics)

Page 3 of “Peter Panzerfaust” No. 12, written by Kurtis J. Wiebe with art by Tyler Jenkins. (Image Comics)

This series strikes a tricky balance between boyish adventure derring-do and very grim subject matter in World War II. How do you strike that balance, and are there deliberations about whether it’s going too far in one direction?

When I originally started conceiving it and writing out the story ideas and plotting it, it was pretty different. It was a lot more lighthearted and more like “Guns of Navarone,” and high adventure and action and more Indiana Jones was kind of the original idea. It didn’t work out that way, it came out a lot differently. I was surprised because I intended to make it this real fun action story, and it turned into a much more character-driven piece. It just keeps happening; it’s more and more about the people who are telling the story. There have been moments where I’ve questioned some of my choices. When I did Issue 9 … there’s a scene that I really had to struggle with, like “Is this going too far?” This was in particular to deal with the character of Hook when we were really establishing him for the first time, and something happens at the end of that issue where I was uncomfortable with it. I wrote it, and I thought, “I think this is too much.” I emailed Tyler, and he said, “Nope, this is our villain. It’s OK.” From there, we had to establish how evil this man could be …. It has always been this balance. One of the things I’ve always wanted to maintain is, yes there are some dark elements, yes there are some people who get killed — it’s a reality of war — but I never want it to come to a point where it alienates younger readers … I don’t want their parents to be like, “Oh, I don’t want you reading this.” So we’ve always been careful not to put in really bad swearing …. We’re never going to show gore, we’re never going to show the real hard stuff. That’s not appropriate to the tone of the story. We’re trying to maintain at the most a PG-13. At most.

You mentioned the people telling the story. Can you talk about the decision to move narrator to narrator among the Lost Boys?

Tyler and I had been working on the concept for a while, and there were two versions. There was a version where we just told it straight out, and then there was the version we’re doing now, where we have the people being interviewed later on in life …. I tried writing it just like a straightforward story, and it didn’t seem to have the emotional resonance I really needed. I was watching “Band of Brothers” at the time … I remembered very specifically at the very last episode where they revealed [which older man interviewed was which younger character] — you’re just overwhelmed with emotion. These guys, you have survived this story with them through the end, and you see them, they’re real people and they experienced these things. That just made it so much more personal …. I wanted that kind of connection. I wanted for you to see how they are now and how they’re changed by their experiences. And it also allowed me to talk about Peter in different ways …. A lot of people have asked, “Are you ever going to have magic in it? Is Peter going to fly?” I’ve never really directly answered that, because there isn’t a direct answer to that. The magic is in the memories of the people that knew him, and that’s how it comes to life.

Do you have plans for bigger roles for the Darling brothers?

They’ve kind of been off, they haven’t really had a major part in it. That is actually directly addressed in the story [of Issue 12], how they’ve kind of disappeared since Issue 3 or 4. Issue 12 opens with them and basically why they’ve been in the background and how they feel about it, how they feel about all these crazy things going on around them. Their sister is out there, and she’s all they have left. Their parents died, and they’re still dealing with that — they’re kids. And then their sister’s off doing all this crazy stuff. So we’re going to get a taste of that. Basically, them being in the scene sets everything in motion for the rest of the arc.

The cover for "Rat Queens" No. 1, scheduled for release in September. (Roc Upchurch / Image Comics)

The cover for “Rat Queens” No. 1, scheduled for release in September. (Roc Upchurch / Image Comics)

Turning to “Rat Queens,” you have characters who are variously rockabilly, hipster, hippie — are they really going to get along?

[Laughs] Yeah, they all have very different outlooks on life …. It’s early on in the story, so they’ve been together a short time, they’ve recently founded their company, the Rat Queens. They’re still trying to figure each other out. They know each other well enough that they can get along, but they’re still trying to figure out their place and their role. There’s going to be some tension between them — it’s definitely going to be part of the comedy.

Any clues as to what sort of monsters readers might see?

Take any fantasy trope monster. The first issue has a big surprise giant monster at the end. If you’ve ever played D&D — I’m going to be even making fun of that — if you’re a first-level character, you can’t take much more than a goblin, the smaller, easier creatures to kill. But as the stories progress they get more experience and they learn how to fight more. It’s almost going to be like that kind of storytelling, where they gain experience and they gain levels — I’m not ever going to address that in the story, it’s just how I’m thinking about the development of the characters, how powerful they are and what they’re able to do. We’ll have orcs and goblins and all the things you’ve seen in “The Lord of the Rings,” plus our own personal spins on things in a bit of a funny way. We’ve got a few secondary characters … you have an expectation of that type of monster or creature, and we’re going to take it spin it and throw it on its head in a funny way.

– Blake Hennon | @BlakeHennon

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