The End Of ‘Glory’: Joe Keatinge and Ross Campbell On Ending Their Story in ‘Glory’ #34 [Interview]
Of all the books that were part of the excellent Extreme Studios relaunch this year, Joe Keatinge and Ross Campbell’s Glory was far and away my favorite. The epic story, the beautifully drawn battles, the quiet character moments, all of them combined to make it one of my favorite comics of the year. With Glory #34, though, a story that was originally planned to run for over 70 issues is coming to a close — and the creators are perfectly happy with that.
I spoke to Keatinge and Campbell to find out more about their experience on the book, how it changed from a century-spanning epic to a smaller, more personal story (that still involved bloody battles against demons), and how there were almost several issues devoted to mystical warrior dairy cows. Really.ComicsAlliance: When it’s all said and done, you will have done Glory for twelve issues. What did you want to accomplish with the book when you set out? It feels like a very big, idea-driven book in a lot of ways.
Joe Keatinge: Sometimes, what you start off doing and what you end up doing are two different things. When I first came on, even before I had an artist, I wanted to have a massive story that went on for 70 issues, but the combination of actually working with Ross and, it’s so cliché to say it but it’s so true, the characters kind of take over sometimes. In this situation, it wasn’t really as grandiose a story as I initially thought as much as it was a story about the relationship between these two different people, Riley and Gloriana, and how they each affect these huge and small situations. When we really started re-plotting things out as it went along, after the 12th issue, without saying too much, it would become a totally different book. So maybe we should just leave the party early before our welcome’s worn out and tell this one story that seems to be what it’s about anyway.
It evolved as it went along, and a lot of that’s Ross. Ross is really great with character stuff, if you read Wet Moon or… I don’t know, Ross, have you ever done another comic? [laughs]
Ross Campbell: Yeah, I’ve done a couple. [laughs]
JK: But that was just what my interest became, too, as opposed to this big thing that would take 70 issues, it became this really, really personal story, both for the characters and, I don’t know about Ross, but for me too. A lot of the stuff about Nanaja and Glory’s relationship comes from things in my own life.
CA: Because you also have a demon sister?
JK: I’ve got siblings.
RC: That part came from me, the demon sister.
JK: How they interact is very much based on me. I mean, I’ve never had a punch with a sibling that was so hard her arms exploded or anything…
RC: I have!
JK: Anything fantastical in any sort of literature or movie or whatever comes from some personal truth, and that’s definitely the case with a lot of stuff for me.
RC: I didn’t mean that I made up the demon sister, just that my real sister is kind of like that.
CA: Is there anything in particular that you feel like you had a larger hand in changing or shaping?
RC: It’s a hard thing to quantify, how to parse it out. Obviously the visuals are all me, and Glory’s sister, I had to convince Joe to put her in the book at first. Joe, did you just think that she was too silly?
JK: I don’t remember there being much resistance.
RC: I remember I was like “Okay, she should have this little sister who’s just this asshole,” and I think I just nagged you enough that you were like “yeah, okay, she’s cool.”
JK: Also, as the series evolved and became more, it became more natural.
RC: Once her place in the story became clear, I think we were both on board with it.
CA: Was she not part of the original idea, or something that was planned to happen way further down the line? You build it as a big reveal and a big moment in the story when Glory reveals that she’s going to go recruit her sister, but was that always part of the plan?
JK: It had to be early on, because she’s in the first issue, isn’t she? She’s in the background of either 23 or 24. There’s a flashback way early on. There’s a lot of development for this book, because I was hired in November of 2010. I had a pitch that got approved in December 2010 or January 2011, and I think Ross was brought in in March.
RC: No, it was January, because I remember in December, I was like “Welp, I’m outta money! I’m gonna have to go work at this bakery!” Then in January you sent me this email, and hey, I have a job after all.
CA: You were drawn back into the lucrative world of creator-owned comics.
RC: I was very close to leaving and going to get a day job, because 2010 was just dismal. I think I made $2,000 that entire year. It was awful.
JK: Good lord.
RC: I had some saved up, so I wasn’t destitute yet, but Glory swooped in in the nick of time.
JK: So yeah, Glory came out February or March 2012.
RC: We did a ton of stuff in 2011, just hashing it out. At some point, I came up with Nanaja, because I wanted Glory to have this jerk little sister. All these ideas that we were just throwing around at first.
JK: It was long in development for us, but in terms of the actual comic, it was pretty well figured out by then. We’ve adjusted stuff along the way. As we figure out the characters, they go in a different direction. When Henry had the camera collection, that just came out of writing that one scene, and I thought “Well, this guy collects cameras now.” It just came out of this one scene, because it just seems natural. Why? I don’t know, but it fits his personality well.
CA: When did you know you weren’t going to do that big 70-issue story? Was part of your pitch that you wanted it to be that big?
JK: It wasn’t part of the initial pitch, because that’s only like a page long. But when I was developing the book and tweaking stuff, even before Ross was on and especially after, I had this huge spreadsheet that was what was going to happen until Glory #100. I think it was around the third issue, Glory #25, the future issue. There’s a lot about Riley’s relationship with Glory in that issue in particular, and I was like “yeah, it’s not that story. This is about these two women from very different backgrounds, what their relationships are, and how they deal with their family and what develops because of knowing each other.” That was very clear around then that it was going to be a much smaller story. It was going to be more character-driven.
CA: There’s a great aesthetic between them, because Glory and her world are so alien, but Riley’s world is so normal and quaint. Ross, your work has a very distinctive look to begin with, but there are a lot of different styles in Glory, and that contrast is a big part of it, even just between Glory, this twelve foot tall Amazon, and Riley, who’s this tiny little sad girl.
RC: That’s my specialty: mopey teenagers. But yeah, I don’t remember thinking too much about that aspect of it in the beginning, I just thought Riley should be a small character and that Glory should be gigantic. All the monsters are just made up on the fly, because there’s no time in a monthly schedule to sit down and design monsters, and I kind of figured that the real R&D on a book like this is just sitting down and doing it. There was preliminary stuff for Glory herself…
JK: You had a few different versions of Riley.
RC: There were some different hairstyles.
JK: Did you do much for Nanaja?
RC: I did some expressions to try to figure out her hair and her costume, but that stuff, so much of it is on the fly. I just thought “This’ll work itself out, there’s gonna be monsters but I don’t know what they’ll be yet. All I know is that Riley is small and Glory is giant.”
CA: And it seems like Riley gets smaller and Glory gets bigger as the book goes on.
RC: Yeah, I think she does. It’s just playing that up. I think most of it is that Glory gets bigger. I didn’t really have a height set for her, but she was shorter than Supreme, so that means she’s like six-something. Then, the second or third issue, I figured nobody was paying attention at that point, so I was just going to go nuts. I think 8’6″ is what I wanted her to be, and she just kept getting bigger, and Riley appears to shrink in comparison.
CA: I feel like if the book would’ve gone on for 70 issues, #100 would’ve had Riley as just a tiny little figure riding on Glory’s shoulder.
RC: Just wait for #33.
JK: No, he’s serious.
RC: Glory’s kind of like the Hulk, the Ang Lee Hulk, where the madder he gets, the bigger he gets. In #33, Glory is gigantic, and Riley’s so tiny.
CA: What was it that drew you both to the book and the character?
JK: It was two parts. Like Ross, this year 2010 was the year I went freelance, so I was like, “this could pay my bills!” [Laughs] I think even more than that, and for Ross too, I was a huge fan of Image. I still am, obviously, but back when it started, I was a huge fan of Image, and of Rob Liefeld, and a huge fan of what Alan Moore did with the book. One thing Ross and I talk about is wanting to portray women in comics, well, the way we want to portray women in comics, and it seemed like a good opportunity to be able to do that with a lot of freedom.
RC: I keep saying “oh, it was the money,” but I don’t think I would’ve taken any job at that point. Just the fact that we were getting to rebuild Glory from the ground up was super appealing. It’s not this job where I’m going to be miserable. “You have to draw it this way! Here’s Captain America, but you can’t change anything!” I’d rather work at the bakery, you know?
JK: The way Eric Stephenson approached me about it was comparing it to what Walt Simonson did on Thor and what Frank Miller did on Daredevil, and that seemed like a really interesting experiment. To take this character and not negate any continuity — and even as far out as Prophet is, it doesn’t negate any continuity — and that intrigued me. I liked the challenge of it, to take this thing that’s been lapsed for a long time and do something new and cool with it.
RC: It’s fun to have that thing to do a riff on and use as a springboard. Working within some kind of limits, I think, fosters being creative and going nuts, and that was fun too. I could just look at all the old Glory art. I can’t remember who drew the old stuff –
JK: Mike Deodato.
RC: Right, yeah, and the Moore stuff, I don’t know who the artist was on that –
JK: Brandon Peterson and Marat Mychaels.
RC: Man, you are on top of things tonight.
JK: I am.
RC: But yeah, it was fun looking at those and figuring out what I liked and what I didn’t like, and bringing my own stuff to the table.
CA: Do you feel like you got to do all that? Did it live up to what you expected when it started?
JK: I think so. We got to reinvent the characters, we got to do the kind of comic we wanted to do, and ended up telling the story we wanted to tell.
RC: I don’t know if I’m really satisfied. I feel like there were some stupid ideas I had that we didn’t get to do, or that you thought were too stupid.
JK: Like the cows?
RC: Oh my God, that’s right! The cows! Man, that was brilliant. Such a good idea.
JK: You should tell him about the cows.
RC: Okay, so, here’s one thing that we didn’t get to do. Joe would not have it, but I’ll tell you so that maybe, if they bring on another creative team at some point down the road, they can use this idea because it’s really good.
My idea was that Glory’s dad, Silverfall, is hunting her, right? So Glory’s like “My dad is gunning for us, we have to come up with a plan!” So Glory, she’s 800 years old and has all these friends, gets a farm with all these cows and starts up a dairy farm, and she and her friends dress like dairy farmers. That’s their cover, and they have this dairy business on the side, and they secretly train in the barn for this war where Glory’s going to wage war on her dad. But meanwhile, she’s going around the globe recruiting all these other warriors that she knows or comes across or whatever, but she can’t have a farm with all these mystical warriors running around, right? So she uses some magic spell or demon science or whatever to house the warriors’ forms within the cows, so the cows are actually these mystical warriors that seem to be regular dairy cows. So they milk them, like you do with cows, and they make ice cream and stuff, but they’re really these mystical warriors. So Glory’s like “Silverfall’s going to find us eventually, but when he does, I just hit my magic button and all the cows take on these warrior traits and become a cow warrior army.”
So there was going to be stuff where Silverfall’s goons were doing surveillance stuff, and reporting back going “Lord Silverfall, all we found was this dairy farm! There’s nothing!” And later he’s like “Argh, the cows!”
JK: I think you misunderstood my resistance. I love that idea, but there was no place to fit it in.
RC: Yeah, that’s a typical writer’s response.
CA: Whatever plans you had, if you think they were better than that, I really can’t wait to see how this book ends.
RC: That was my big idea. I don’t know. Like everything in my life, kind of ties back into Ninja Turtles. One of my favorite things in Ninja Turtles is the farmhouse they go to.
JK: Yeah, that was cool.
RC: It’s in the movie, it’s in the old comics, and I wanted to draw Glory and Henry on a farm, doing farm stuff. Glory’s there and she’s got giant tailored overalls and a giant straw hat like a farmer, and they’re making homemade ice cream. That was what I wanted to draw.
CA: I like this book a lot, but now I don’t want it to end because I haven’t seen that.
RC: You haven’t seen the cow stuff. But yeah, that was my big idea that didn’t happen.
CA: Is there any chance you guys could do an annual?
RC: With the cow farm?
JK: You know, I do have one more Glory story that I want to do. I don’t even know if you know about this, Ross, but it would be an eight to ten page thing, so I don’t know when it would ever happen. Other than that, I don’t know. I guess you’ll have to do the cow stuff on your own.
CA: Do you feel like this is a character that you’d want to come back to, or is your story completely done?
JK: Our story has a really definitive ending. The last issue is just called “The End,” and it’s very much the end. I would only do it if Ross would do it too, and it has to be a story that I’d really have to tell.
RC: I don’t know. It would really depend. I feel like it would have to be, not specifically the cow thing, but something like that, where it’s just Glory farting around. I think I’d be interested in something like that. Not that the fighting stuff is bad, but I feel like I’m just out of my depth when I’m doing stuff like that.
JK: That’s so funny, because you’re so good at it.
RC: Thanks. I’m glad I can pull it off, but I really wanted there to be a pizza party. The idea I had, I think the longform plan was that she recruits all these warriors, and I thought “where do they stay when they’re doing this?” So they should just stay at seedy motels, and there should be a point where they’re sitting around the motel thinking of who they should find next, and Riley orders pizza and they have a pizza party. That’s why there’s that panel in #25 where Riley has that picture of Glory with “Glory’s First Pizza.” That’s where that was going to come in.
I wanted it to be half an issue, if not a full issue, of a pizza party. But if there was another Glory story, I’d want it to be something like that.
JK: I don’t want to say too much, but we do get a pizza party in #34.
RC: It’s not quite as sprawling as I wanted…
JK: [laughs] It’s not the epic you intended?
RC: It’s not the 20-page pizza party that I wanted, but it’s there.
CA: Was that the process of the book? You guys getting together and trading ideas? And Joe shooting them down?
RC: I feel like there’s some of that, but even after the plan got changed, he’s always had a pretty direct thrust for the story. There was some shooting down, too, but I think I’ve shot down some of his, too.
JK: You have, yeah.
RC: It goes both ways.
JK: Work-for-hire works like this too, but it ended up being a lot like a creator-owned book, where some of the ideas were Ross’s, some were mine, we’d bounce back and forth and talk stuff out. I think you’re building me up in the wrong light, that I was knocking stuff down. [laughs]
RC: Such a drag!
JK: When we decided to do 12 issues, if you’ll recall, there was a draft of the plan that had the cows worked in.
RC: Yeah, but it wasn’t quite as cool. It didn’t have any homemade ice cream.
JK: Well, it didn’t say no homemade ice cream. But when we decided to do that guest issue, there wasn’t really a place for it. So what we ended up doing, and I don’t have any regrets about it, is that #32 now has Sloane Leong, Emi Lennox, Jed Dougherty, Owen Gieni, and Greg Hinkle doing those short two-page stories. It was one of those things where I thought it was more natural to have these small character moments, right before everything just goes crazy. In the end, I feel like that’s helped everything out a lot.
RC: I’m not trying to paint you as this wet blanket, but I think you either have to do the cow idea for several issues, or you don’t do it at all.
JK: You know, I hope that twenty or thirty years from now, we’re on some retrospective panel about Comics In 2012 or whatever, and you’re still bitter about this cow thing. You’ll be 60, 70 years old going “Oh God, we never got a chance to do the cows!”
RC: “I never got a chance to draw Glory milking cows and then doing that homemade ice cream thing where you spin it with that spinner thing!” Would’ve been pretty good.
CA: Joe, what was an idea that you wanted to do that Ross shot down?
RC: I’m trying to think. There was some stuff in the last couple of issues, but I can’t remember what it was that I didn’t like.
JK: I can’t say. It’s super spoilery. There was a version of the ending that… I can’t say, but he totally shot it down. I can’t get into it without spoiling what does happen.
RC: I pretty much hated it, though. Sorry, Joe.
JK: I remember you being really upset about it.
RC: Yeah, I was pretty mad about it. I would’ve drawn it, but…
JK: But I feel what happened ended up being more appropriate for the book anyway. There’s nothing I can recall, and feel free to correct me, maybe it’s the cattle for you, but neither of us lost a battle to the detriment of the book. It was always what was for the good of the book, I think.
RC: There’s a couple things that happen in the issue right now that I’m working on, but it’s just me being like “I wish they could all be happy! Why can’t they all be friends at the end? Why can’t they just get sundaes?”
CA: Obviously you need a variant ending for the paperback, just a last page where everyone’s eating mystical warrior cow ice cream.
RC: It could almost work, too, the way the ending is. I’m not going to spoil it, but it could almost work.
JK: I can actually see that.
CA: It definitely sounds like you guys had a good time working together.
JK: I don’t want to get too emotional here, but I’m going to miss it. I’m going to miss it a lot. I had a lot of fun working with Ross, and he was really an ideal collaborator. Even when we disagree on collaborators, it was easily one of the best experiences I’ve had in any sort of collaboration. For me, anyway.
RC: Yeah, it was good.
JK: We clicked pretty fast, became buddies, and in about a month here, it’s done. We’ll still talk, maybe, but we’re not going to have that regular collaboration. It’s going to be a bummer.
RC: I think it turned out really well. I haven’t done a whole bunch of stuff with writers, except for short stories. My first big book I did with Oni was with a writer and that was really good. I’ve never had any really bad working-with-writer experiences, so I was really unsure of what it was going to be like, but it worked out really well. We weren’t stepping on each other’s toes all the time. We can talk about poop, it’s not a stuffy thing. There’s a lot of situations where the writer does the script and just hands it off to the artist and that’s the end of it, and they never talk. They never hash anything out.
JK: Here’s a mushy thing: I feel you made me a better writer.
RC: Aw, thanks, man.
JK: I feel that through this experience, I learned a lot. Glory, especially #29 through #34, is the purest version of what I want to do in comics. Not just in terms of my writing, but in the type of artist I work with and the visuals. When #23 started, I was much more conservative and reserved in what I was doing, but when #29 started, it was a turning point, for both of us I think. It changed how I approached comics. Until then, I’d written Hell Yeah #1 – 5, the first five issues of Glory and some short stories, but that’s where I came into my own as a writer.
RC: You made me better as an artist, just by giving me a ton of crap to draw that I don’t want to draw. Just “Panel One: Battle Scene. Panel Two…” It takes you one second to write and takes me three days to draw!
JK: [Laughs] I like how the panel description is just “Battle Scene.”
RC: But all the Mont St. Michel scenes, that’s something I would otherwise never draw. It’s such a challenge to be thrust out of my comfort zone. I’ve never drawn a tank before. How do I draw a tank? Giving me stuff to draw that’s out of my zone is good.
JK: You’re welcome.
CA: Do you have a favorite moment, looking back on the book?
JK: Yeah, but it’s in the last issue. I can’t say.
RC: I really liked the part in #28 where Nanaja is killing the ninjas, and in #27 where Glory bites that guy’s face off. There’s one panel where there’s this cat dude with elf ears, and she’s just pulling his face off with her teeth.
And just #29, having Glory and the characters fartin’ around at this house in the countryside is really good. I don’t know if I can name a favorite moment, just the little things like that.
JK: I really liked bringing in Roman Muradov, a guy you’d never associate with the kind of book we were doing. I was pretty happy about that, and that we could work the Lost Generation into there.
RC: Overall, not a specific moment, I just like that I was able to draw Glory in the way that I did. There wasn’t anybody telling us what to do. I could just do my thing and not have to worry about a committee being “she’s too muscular! Her hair’s too long! She has too many scars!”
CA: Whose idea was it to give Glory the kitty sweater?
RC: That was all me.
CA: And giving Nanaja the pink koala sweater?
RC: That was me too. I told Owen, the colorist, that my only color note was that he had to make sure Glory’s cat sweater was the brightest pink you can make it. She should just have regular outfits.
JK: I’m thankful we had the opportunity to do the book we wanted to do. There was no one telling us “no,” and if anything, Rob encouraged us to do crazier and crazier s**t. I’m really happy that we got to do a book that had women of all shapes and sizes and personalities and background, and I’m really happy with how it all came out.