Kelly Sue DeConnick On ‘Pretty Deadly’: ‘It’s Brutal, But It’s Also Really Lovely’
Announced at last year’s San Diego Comic-Con, Pretty Deadly – the western/horror/fantasy pastiche from creators Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Ríos about a butterfly, a dead bunny and the daughter of Death — is next in line for Images’ newest slate of creator driven original series, and one of the most anticipated new titles of the year. For months, DeConnick and Ríos have discussed the project, often at length, while promoting the book in creative ways that clearly illustrate how important it is to both of them, and how close they feel to it. The Pretty Deadly tumblr features a countdown to the release of issue #1, gives readers a peek behind the curtain at the creative process, shows fan art for the series (and there’s plenty of it, despite the book having not yet been published), and more.
With Pretty Deadly due to arrive in stores October 23, and final orders due next week, ComicsAlliance joined a conference call with DeConnick to discuss the series. You can check out a few preview pages below, as well as highlights from the call, where the writer discussed what it’s been like to work on her first creator owned book, how the title has changed since it was first announced, advice legendary comics writer Neil Gaiman gave her, and why Ríos gave her the nickname “Sister Kraken.”
On how Pretty Deadly got its start:
“We first started talking about the book back in 2009. At first we were going to do a ’70s heist thing, and then [Ríos] said ‘I really want to do a western.’ I had been told early on ‘Artists don’t like drawing horses,”‘so I jumped on it. We share a love of both spaghetti westerns and Japanese pinky violence, so we started developing it from there.
On reuniting with frequent collaborator Emma Ríos:
“She is astounding. We have ink done on three issues, so I’ve taken them to a couple of shows to show them off, and people gasp. It’s pretty cool. And we’re working so far ahead of it coming out that we’re able to take some time with it. You couldn’t put the number of lines on the page that she does in just 30 days.
“It has been the weirdest book that I’ve ever worked on, in the way that it is so much a collaboration. This isn’t my story that Emma’s illustrating, or her story that I’m dialoguing. The way we talk about how words and pictures together in comics create a third channel, this collaboration is something that I’ve not quite experienced so intensely in comics. It really feels like the book is being done by this third author who is somehow the channel between the two of us. Honestly, it’s a terrifying way to work, but I’m really fascinated by it, and I’m spellbound by the pages.”
On the anticipation for the book and the social media support it’s received:
“It’s kind of like with Captain Marvel, only more so. We have fan art, and the book’s not out yet. The thing that Captain Marvel didn’t have that I’ve had with this book is that it’s made people’s “Most anticipated” lists and what not. I can’t quite figure out why there’s been this much excitement, but I’m terribly grateful.
“It’s incredibly gratifying. I’m thrilled but also terrified.”
On the tone of the series:
“It’s kind of like a dark fairy tale. It’s a lot darker than what you’re used to getting from me. This isn’t Avengers Assemble.
On influences other than spaghetti westerns:
“There’s a lot there. If you’re familiar with it, you’ll definitely recognize Japanese horror influences, the pinky violence I mentioned earlier. Also, it’s embarrassingly goth! [Laughs]. There are skulls, lots of skulls! The spaghetti western influence doesn’t stop with Leone, and there’s some straight up old school horror stuff in there too. And I guess the goth part is actually the prettier element. It’s brutal, but it’s also really lovely.”
On the experience of working on Pretty Deadly, it’s various themes, and coming up with the title of the book:
“I talk a lot about how hard it is to do press on a book while you’re working on it. It’s like you’re making a painting, and every five minutes you have to stop and turn around to explain what the painting is about, but you don’t really know because you haven’t finished the painting yet. But because of this extended Image schedule we had we didn’t really have to do that. I talked about it at the announcement panel when the book was something very different from what it became, but we’ve had the luxury of really developing it and really discovering what it was about.
The book emerged in a very organic way. The title was one of the last things that fell into place. Yes, it’s all about the ways in which brutality and loss and the cycle of life are all beautiful and horrible, but we got to let that bubble up. We were just trying to write a western.”
On the future of the series:
“Our plan is to follow the Brubaker/Phillips Criminal model, where we do an arc, separate and do our own stuff briefly, come back and do an arc, separate again, come back and do an arc, for as long as the market will allow it.”
On what she’s learned about herself as a writer while working on a creator owned project:
“On the positive side, I’ve learned that I’m a good collaborator. I’ve also learned that I’m wildly insecure. Emma has a nickname for me. She calls me “Sister Kraken,” which I find hilarious. Every 10 to 12 pages I have a freakout, where I decide that I have no idea what I’m doing, and then she doesn’t hear from me for 24 to 48 hours, and then I come back and everything is okay, and I have pages for her and it’s all good. So she says that like a Kraken I have to go down to a deep and dark place, but then I come back up.
“I think it was Gaiman who told me early on that you never learn how to write a book, you learn to write the book that you’re writing. That’s so very true, and Pretty Deadly kind of had to teach me how to write it. And part of that process was letting go, and thinking ‘No, you can’t make this be what you want it to be, you kind of have to surrender to this process, and let yourself be lost and afraid.’
“Right now what I’m feeling is the absolute terror that comes before I go down to the dark place. And I know that, probably, in 12 hours or so I’m going to go for a walk or go for a drive and I’m going to think of the thing that gets me to the next place, and then it’ll all be okay. It doesn’t get less scary, but I’m starting to get to the point where I’m on the roller coaster and I can finally take my hands off and put them up in the air, and enjoy falling a little bit.”