I came up with the initial conceit for this book way back in 2012. I wanted to do a story set in a prison for supercriminals, cape villains, and that was where I started. From there, I spent a while breaking story. I thought this would be a mini. I had my lead character, Macbeth, and I knew he’d have the power to shrink, but from there I kept following dead end alleys. I had good set pieces, one ripping action sequence, but the story never clicked for me.
So I eventually shelved it.
If it isn’t working, dump it. After a while – and this was a while – you are throwing good money after bad. So the story got shelved but the idea continued to percolate – as ideas tend to do.
A little while later, it came to me – run this character, this setting through some short stories. It all seemed so right and in quick succession two scripts poured out of me. The first one, Macbeth’s first day on the job, is the one you’ve probably just read. And I must say that all of this in a short does make much more sense to me. It gets to be more flippant, more action packed, more grindhouse, more fun. I don’t generally write ‘action’ stories [my wheelhouse is generally the weepy fatherhood emotional world] and so to just let loose and write a shower brawl and NOT worry about the symbolism of it was pretty bloody ace. And wait’ll you see the fight in the second story, being illustrated right now.
So despite this not being a ‘deep’ comic [and, well, maybe because it is just some sweet sweet action], I thought it could be interesting to delve into how this comic was made and what we were trying to do. We hope you dig.
Eric Zawadzki is a cover god. I went to him as my very first choice to cover this story and he did not disappoint in the slightest. He actually came through with a different thumbnail, and it was pretty good, but being the guy he is he wasn’t happy enough with it so he retooled and then this came out. And isn’t it gorgeous?
We get a sense of Macbeth’s look, as well as his size, and the location, all in this moody image that represents it all so damn well. I also think those tentacles might have been a post-thumb addition and Eric was totally right about it.
This is how to launch a new character/story/world – thank you, Eric.
Look at Ferrier’s design on this page! Look at this little Macbeth upside down in the top right. This is so keeping in tone with everything I want this project to be, Ferrier is a genius.
Opening silent splash was a bold choice, but once this page came in I shuffled the captions and words and knew this was how it had to be. It’s such a great image from Paul, and if you consider it launching out at you, no context, no sound, no idea, then I hope it’s an attention grabber. And then we fly into the meat of things.
I wrote and rewrote this page dozens of times. No hyperbole, dozens of times. Getting the balance right – I like the left and the right of my page to often hold balance. It feel it tempers out the ideas and pacing better. I probably couldn’t explain it without sounding crazy.
Then I kept rewiring the ending because initially Macbeth’s family die and this propels him to the new job and as Paul’s art came in I realised how goddamn dumb this was. How terrible, really. Why did he need this motivation to make this change? It was lazy, shitty, lazy writing. So I changed it to be the – somewhat better – idea that he was worried his superheroics might put a target on his family’s head and so he’s avoiding that possible outcome by getting out of the game.
This is probably just as bad but I couldn’t introduce his wife and daughter on Page One and have them dead by the last panel of that page. It wasn’t needed so I made the change. i hope it works. I know I want to use his family in future stories so that should work.
That establishing shot is so gorgeous.
Flinders is a figure from Australian history. I love using Australian names in my work.
I also rewrote the first two panel’s worth of captions a tonne of times before getting them just right, and I’m finally happy with what I have – which often isn’t the outcome of too much rewriting, sometimes then you are never happy.
The visual of Macbeth is pretty well based of my brother, a prison guard in far north Australia. Short, stocky, heavy, imposing, so it was cool to have a character come from him in this respect.
The Warden is our James Remar with the expos dump, but at least he gets to say “The situation’s shape, indeed, is a pear.” which in my mind makes him sound exactly like Nixon.
This Warden is so useless, he’s all reaction, not a leader. He cracks me up.
The gag of Macbeth enlarging the paper was something I wasn’t sure would work but when it pushes right into old mate’s face, and he doesn’t budge, and it pushes his nose aside, it’s such a silent moment, and it’s so funny to me.
I also wanted this page to both set up the story’s mission as well as play back story for Macbeth. This took a lot to write to pace well so it wasn’t too lumpy.
More set up on the situation, and then we get eyes into the scene. As far as things go, this page is perfunctory, and I’m not smart enough to know how to do it better.
And it’s beyond the set up and character, now we introduce the foil of the piece – Hard.
Went through a tonne of ways to show Hard as a character as well as exactly what he’s been doing in Cell Block D. Hooper’s tone of voice pleases me for exposition, he’s an annoyed suit, that’s fun in this situation.
This is one of my favourite pages I’ve ever written. I always saw it in my head and tried to script it well, and then Paul just knocked it out of the stadium and into the ionosphere.
This is the selling shot, this is the tone I’m after. Glorious. Put this into the Top 10 Pages I’ve Ever Written List, and it’s silent which makes me happy. I got out of the way, yay.
Paul goes crazy on the colours and this fight scene goes psychedelic. I love the way he shows Macbeth using size manipulation, it’s so clear and cool.
Took me ages to choreograph this in my mind before scripting it. Fight scenes are hard to do, you gotta read a million other comic fight scenes before you script to get that flow going just right.
More fight choreography. Mostly just trying to use his size skills in a cool way. Chopping off hands and then enlarging to make a big sorta bolo-boomerang was fun. I toyed with the idea of having him cut the dude’s head off but that’s just a repeat of the hands cut off, and he really shouldn’t be killing people in there. Non-lethal force and all that.
BOUSHK is one of my new favourite SFX.
The initial script of this had Macbeth beating on Hard and he just repeats the word “YIELD!”
Then I saw Jonathan Hickman use that in an issue of Avengers just a few months later. Took me ages to come up with something new, bastard.
Though I dig Hard saying “Nope.” so straight up. In my mind, he’s Mark Brandon ‘Chopper’ Read in a big degree.
I snuck one YIELD in, figured it wouldn’t hurt here. And the idea is Macbeth’s gigantic body can produce one hell of a giant voice. Don’t ask me how the science on that one works, it’s a story.
Octo-Kid is such a lame ass.
I wanted the Warden to be so useless that despite all the victory and things occurring on his own CCTV, he wasn’t watching, he was having a sandwich.
Tried to tie in this whole ‘big’ aspect to the issue, from them asking for big solutions, and him asking if it’s ‘Big enough for ya?’ It’s not a big thing but I tied back to it when I could.
The final panel was initially silent but I dropped that caption in so everyone knew the story was over, because I worry about stuff like that.
So I hope you dug this. Someone just this very second described this book as ‘The Atom meets an 80s low budget prison film’ and that’s perfectly what I was going for. This is comics as fun. And I love that we can leave the story online but also offer a PDF. That sort of thing excites me when I see it in the wild so I like to give in return.
Macbeth will return in ‘THE MASSIVE’ hopefully later this year, the issue is being knocked out now by another artist and it’s another fight bonanza of fun. And it needs less expos set up, so it’s a real rumble.
And also make sure you noodle around the Challenger Comics site because it’s full of all sorts of really ace things. Some of my favourite short comics are on there, enjoy [LINK]