by Vince Brusio
Greg Rucka writes comics. He writes novels. He writes comics that read like novels. Basically, he lays you out, and you wonder how you never saw the first punch coming at your face. He's worked on superhero comics Batwoman and Detective Comics, he's done mystery crime like Whiteout and Lazarus, and now he's doing something spooky with Veil from Dark Horse Comics. It's their biggest book in the January issue of the PREVIEWS catalog, and Greg let us fish for clues in this PREVIEWSworld interview.
PREVIEWSworld: Espionage, foul play, these are familiar fingerprints when one reads something from Greg Rucka. But horror is a new crime scene for you. What brought about the brainstorm? Deep thoughts after a particularly scary movie got the juices flowing? Crib notes on a scratch pad you keep on the night stand? Help us connect the dots on what made you create Veil (JAN140091)?
Greg Rucka: You know, I'm genuinely not sure! I don't tend to think genre, then story, but rather story, then story, if that makes sense. I can say that the idea for Veil is almost 20 years old at this point, that it's existed in my head in one form of development or another for at least that long. It's shifted along the way, it's always been changing, but the root of it has been constant, and the first issue actually opens with a scene I've been imagining since the start. A lot of the first issue comes out of that, actually.
But the fact is, you know, I wasn't looking to write "horror" per se. Rather, I had this idea for this character, this woman, and the way the world treats her, the way the world looks at her and what it expects of her, and the way she reflects that back. That sounds really vague, I know, but I don't want to give anything away.
The funny thing? The idea would still be locked away inside my head if it hadn't been for Scott Allie.
We'd just been chatting, and I mentioned Veil, and he pounced on it like an attacking panther. That was a really good thing, frankly, because I'd probably just let the idea continue trying to hide in my head. Scott made me drag it into the light, really examine it, really think about what it was going to be about.
PREVIEWSworld: You have a penchant for creating strong female characters. One just has to read Lazarus or Queen & Country for evidence. So if we put the female leads from those two books in the same police line-up that would feature the lead character in Veil, how would you go about identifying the different personalities? What makes Veil so different from the others? What makes her tick?
Greg Rucka: Well, again, you're kinda asking me to get ahead of myself. I don't want to give anything away, here. I know that's coy, but in Veil far more than anything else I've written recently, there's a mystery and a journey to be pursued, and I'm really very leery of tipping my hand. I'm not saying it's a terribly good mystery, mind you, but to tell you who she is... that's a compass needle.
It's interesting. You talk about a police line-up, and the fact is, if you put Veil between Chace and Forever, you'd be looking at Veil... if she wanted you to. The biggest difference — at least at the start — is that she's far, far more reactive than any of the other characters I've written. You look at Forever in Lazarus for instance, and she's very task-oriented, very driven. When she's at rest, she's at rest, but when she goes into motion, she doesn't stop until she has achieved her goal.
Veil is much more an observer, and frankly, that's one of the things we're trying to play with, at least thematically. There's an element of gaze and perception at work in Veil that I've never really tried to pursue anywhere else, and which I think comics, as a medium, has an ideal ability to exploit. What is subjective? What is objective? What is she seeing, versus what are other characters seeing. There's one more thing, I suppose. Of all the characters I've written, Veil is — perhaps ironically — the most innocent.
PREVIEWSworld: It seems comics are going through a new golden age. Indie and creator-owned titles are springing up faster than ever, comics are increasingly being tied into TV and film productions, and musicians/bands are making comics at a greater rate. If you had to play the role of classroom professor, what speculation would you offer to explain this comics explosion?
Greg Rucka: This is going to sound remarkably cynical, but I think it comes down to a question of money, and where the Powers That Be see places for money to be made. I think that's what is leading the boom in exploitation, and I think that brings with it inherent risks, obviously.
But that said — and this is really crucial — all of that mainstream attention, both out of publishers and in the wider "non-comics" world, that's allowed creator-ownership and independent books and publishers to flourish. There's an opening now, and we're seeing a lot of very, very talented creators seizing it. We're seeing a lot of what we normally refer to as "indie" or "small press" publishers in positions to exploit that. As a fan of the form, of our much-maligned medium, that's brilliant. Anything that puts the variety of comics in front of more people, that's a win.
Comics are a unique art form, we know this. They're a unique storytelling form. In the U.S., they have for years and years been ubiquitous with superheroes and the like, and for better or for worse, that's limited their appeal, because there are folks out there who just won't give those kinds of titles a try. When there's an opportunity for more books, for different books, you by definition increase your appeal. Something like The Walking Dead hits AMC and racks up millions of viewers, and those viewers then go, “wait, what? that was a comic?” Those are new people coming to stores, and those are people who are looking at the whole menu now.
PREVIEWSworld: What helps you decompress these days? Are there any TV shows you’re following because you find the writing exceptional? Any particular books you’re reading to keep you from falling into a comics coma?
Greg Rucka: I was devoted to Breaking Bad, like almost every other writer I know, and as of yet still haven't found anything to quite fill that void. Decompression for me tends to revolve around my family, honestly, spending time with Jen and the kids. We've been playing a lot of table top games, things like Pandemic and Lords of Waterdeep. I used to have a pretty regular role-playing group, too, but that's become more difficult to maintain in recent years, though, hopefully, we'll have course-corrected on that in the next couple of months. And I've gotten a lot — a lot — of enjoyment out of my XBox 360, both in multiplayer games with friends and just playing other games solo.
Books, I'm always working on something, though I'm a little frenetic about it at times. My "other" hat is as a novelist, so I tend to be picky about the fiction I read, mostly because i'm terrified I'll unintentionally crib something from someone else.
I find Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin, novels a delight, they're so absolutely unlike anything else out there. And a lot of my reading is non-fiction — I'm currently re-reading James Burke's Circles — and a lot of that reading is for research. It's rare when I get to read fiction for pleasure. I just read Lawrence Block's new novel, The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons, and that was just fantastic, not only because it's Block, who is always amazing, but because that series is always so much fun.
PREVIEWSworld: If fans want to reach out to you to get the latest dirt on what’s coming out of the mind of Greg Rucka, are there any particular social media pages they can hit up for updates?
Greg Rucka: Ah, an easy one! I'm on Twitter @ruckawriter, and on Tumblr in two places, actually — I've got a blog called Front Toward Enemy, and a second one devoted to Lazarus called Oderint Dum Metuant. And then there's the webcomic I do with Rick Burchett and Eric Newsom, Lady Sabre & The Pirates of the Ineffable Aether, which you can find at www.ineffableaether.com.