‘Tower Chronicles’: Matt Wagner on monster hunting, Simon Bisley

Sept. 26, 2012 | 6:46 p.m.


Legendary Pictures launched its comic book division with “Frank Miller’s Holy Terror” last year, and now the company that’s produced films including “The Dark Knight Rises,” “Watchmen,” “The Hangover” and the upcoming “Man of Steel” is releasing “The Tower Chronicles: Geisthawk — Volume 1,” the first in a series that hits stores this week. Written by Matt Wagner (“Grendel” and “Mage”), developed by Legendary’s Thomas Tull and drawn by Simon Bisley (“2000 AD” and “Lobo”), the story follows a supernatural bounty hunter with mysterious motives for why he’s bringing in his prey. Hero Complex contributor Jevon Phillips caught up with Wagner, who has loads of experience with both lone characters and fantasy, to get a bit of insight into what John Tower is all about.

HC: Is John Tower based on any particular kind of bounty hunter? Or is he a mash-up?

MW: Only in that all is not what it seems with him. When the story starts off, he’s a very aloof character — very much in the kind of Clint Eastwood, taciturn type of adventurer model. But as the story progresses, we learn more and more about him — that his actual goals are not quite what they seemed at the beginning.

HC: He’s a supernatural bounty hunter, so what kinds of creatures is he going after?

"The Tower Chronicles," cover by Simon Bisley (Legendary Comics)

“The Tower Chronicles,” cover by Simon Bisley. (Legendary Comics)

MW: All sorts. Some that are based in horror, some that are based in fantasy. When we first started outlining this project, between myself and Thomas Tull, who is the owner of Legendary, we knew that with all of the things that we wanted to include it’d be a pretty epic story.  Tower Chronicles is a collected title that’s going to be a trilogy of books, each with about 280 pages of story and art, and will be  serialized as four 68-page “prestige” format editions. As we sat around talking, the story got bigger and bigger — and we had enough background on him that we didn’t want to skimp on that. We really just wanted this cold, bad-ass, tough-as-nails bounty hunter who would hunt as many monsters as he could.  At one point, I had so many monsters that I had to draft a chart for myself that said ‘OK. He fought this monster in this kind of environment using these types of weapons.’ I did it so that I didn’t end up repeating myself and could keep it lively so that he’s not fighting the same kind of creature every time. You’ll see your traditional monster and ghosts, but with this kind of narrative, you’ll see that the details are a little ubiquitous in how we make these versions special.  For example: vampires. They are everywhere, so how do we do it to give it a different spin?

HC: Legendary is a comic book imprint, but is it different working with them as a start-up, as opposed to working with a DC or Marvel or even another independent comic company?

MW: Sure. Yes in that, unlike the majors, they’re starting out brand new, so there’s quite a learning curve as they figure out the difference between a publishing venture and a movie production, of course. Luckily, their editor in chief is Bob Schreck, who’s been in the comic business from one side to the other since the beginning of time, and has worked with a lot of the greats over the years and he’s worked with me a whole lot. When Thomas had the idea for this character he asked Bob to find him a very accomplished and well-respected writer in the comics field, and also somebody who would stand up to the boss and tell him when his ideas weren’t so great.  Luckily we hit it off and came to pretty good agreements right off the bat. So, you’ve got Bob Schreck at the helm, the sea captain steering the ship. So it’s different in that regard. But at the same time, Legendary is a very well-established entertainment corporation. They do have great advantages in how they can address the publicity of a project, how they can market a project — so in many respects, it’s the best of both worlds.

The Tower Chronicles - Jim Lee cover art

“The Tower Chronicles” – Jim Lee cover art (Legendary Comics)

HC: You’ve got Jim Lee on the first book and Alex Ross on the second as cover artists — are there any others that you may want to work with on the book that could be coming up?

MW: Yeah, they’re great … but drawing interiors is Simon Bisley, who I worked with a few years back. The way he came on the project was at Comic-Con a few years ago. We’d had the first inaugural panel to introduce the company to the public. At that point, their first publication was “Frank Miller’s Holy Terror,” which had originally been a Batman book. As far as “The Tower Chronicles,” we didn’t have any art. We only had my story outline and the original scripting, so we needed a piece of art. So Thomas contacted Simon.  He did this one panel as a PR piece, and he just so nailed the character right out of the gate in a single image, which is very tough to do. We didn’t think he could do [the series], but he said yes. So, as of now, besides the cover artists you mentioned, I can’t picture anyone else doing it. He’s so perfectly suited to it. He tells me, “It feels like you’re writing this just for me.”

HC: With someone like Legendary as a backer, are there already thoughts for the after-comic life of the “The Tower Chronicles”?

MW: I would be a fool to say no to that, considering who Legendary is and their place in the industry. Obviously they would love for this to be more, but since the very beginning, both Thomas and Bob said to me that that’s not the main consideration right now. The main consideration right now is that you’ve got to have a great story. Because if we don’t have a great story as a comic book, there’s no way it’s going to go anywhere else. I’ve always approached my comics that way. I’m not a comic creator that wishes he was writing movies or a frustrated novelist … I’m a fully realized comic book writer and that’s my goal from the very beginning.

– Jevon Phillips

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