One of the titles that has us most excited this year is Pretty Deadly from writer Kelly Sue DeConnick (Captain Marvel, Avengers Assemble) and artist Emma Ríos (Doctor Strange: Season One). First announced by Image Comics back in July last year, the creator-owned book from the Osborn team promised to be a Sergio Leone inspired western with a scarred and deadly female lead. Yet things have a way of changing from concept to page, and Pretty Deadly is a perfect example of that process.
When we sat down to chat with Kelly Sue last week, she went into a lot more detail about the book and its evolution. (You can hear the full interview here). While it may have started life as a western, it has evolved into something entirely different, a book that contains elements of fantasy, surrealism and the odd dead rabbit as a narrator.
In the early solicitations, Pretty Deadly was described as a kind of spaghetti western. “Well, it was,” corrects DeConnick. “This book is my favourite thing I’ve ever done and also the bane of my existence. It is not at all the book I set out to write, and every time I think I have a grasp on it, it does a 90-degree turn on me”.
“It’s probably now as much fantasy as it is western. It is macabre. It still has the ‘Pinky Violence‘ elements. I told somebody…that I was worried that I had called it a spaghetti western so many times when I first started talking about it, because that was the book we were going to write. I don’t know if that’s accurate anymore. Somebody pointed out that some of the Sergio Leone stuff is pretty weird too. So I should let it go and not worry about it”.
Yet Sergio Leone has nothing on the magnificent, sprawling and just plain ‘out there’ set-up that DeConnick laid out for us. “The storytelling is dense,” says DeConnick. “It is narrated by a butterfly and a dead rabbit. It starts with a kids’ story about a mason who falls in love with a beautiful woman, and takes her as his bride, but their happiness doesn’t last for long because he becomes so obsessed with her beauty. He’s concerned that other men are also obsessed with her beauty that he builds a stone tower for her, and keeps her there. Without the sky and the wind, she has no joy in her life”.
“Death comes for her, and Death is also taken by her beauty. He sires a child with her, but the child isn’t enough to keep her in this world. She passes, and Death takes not just her, but the baby, and raises the girl as his own in the land of the spirits as Death’s child, and she returns to Earth to protect those whose freedom and innocence would be compromised.”
“That’s just the intro,” she adds. “Then it gets weirder”
If the story sounds like it is rich and complex, then artist Emma Ríos is sure to be a perfect companion. “I will say this. It is stunningly beautiful. Every page in this book. Emma is pulling out all the stops. It is tremendous, she is so gifted”.
Having worked previously with Ríos on Marvel’s Osborn mini-series, DeConnick says that it would be more accurate to say that they both had a hand in writing the book. “This is so co-created. Oh my god, is this co-created. Artists own all of their pages…and they can sell their originals. So there’s an extra pay cheque in there for artists. Which is awesome, and they totally should. In my contract with Emma I carved out an exception, because I also wanted to be able to do a script book when I’m done with this. It’s the equivalent of an artist being able to sell their pages, I’d like to be able to sell my script…There is so much back and forth between us, that the script isn’t quite going to be able to cover it without the email exchanges”.
“There’s a fight scene that Emma’s working on right now. Swords versus butterfly swords. I choreographed it, but Emma really makes that come to life. There was a thing that she asked me about somebody’s motivation. She said in this one gesture, ‘is the person trying to protect their opponent’?’ I was like no, the person is trying to kill their opponent! But for that moment, and for the thing that was happening, that was not my intention, but my god that is interesting. So now it is, now that’s what is happening. Everything is now shifting because of that one notion Emma had”.
We can look forward to the series coming out from Image Comics later in the year, and hopefully for some time to come after that. “We want it to be ongoing, but we’ve got an initial 5-issue arc then we’ll see. It’s a really big world, so we could keep going on this for quite a while.
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