You’ve heard the news, but now it’s time to forget the past and start talking Dead Eyes, the brand-new Image book from Gerry Duggan and John McCrea. It’s a gangster tale with a difference and we chat to Gerry and John about it right here at Comicon. (Any similarity to anything you might think you’ve seen is all in your own head!)
“A crime story set in post-middle class America, and we’ll meet the crooks that knocked it all over”.
Once upon a time, L.A. based director, photographer, and writer of fabulous comics, Gerry Duggan met similarly fabulous Belfast born comic artist John McCrea in a Dublin Bar. “Gerry was playing the fiddle, I was lapdancing, we got in a brawl with some locals and made a hasty getaway from the Garda in a Ford Focus – this was the inspiration for Dead Eyes”.
Well, that’s the way John McCrea tells it, at least. Too much Guinness? Exaggerating for the fun of it? Whatever it is, one thing is for sure… Dead Eyes really looks and reads as one of the best, most thrilling, and out and out fun comics you’re going to read this year. It’s out in October with a big first issue that will guarantee that Dead Eyes is a comic everyone will be talking about.
“We’re very happy to introduce you to the violent, funny, and sad world without justice in Dead Eyes,” says Duggan. “A former stick-up man must return to his life of crime when the pressures of living in a Kleptocracy push him to the breaking point.”
Dead Eyes was a masked criminal back in the 90s who’s convinced that he’s descended from one of the original gangs of New York. Back then, he cut a swathe through Boston’s cash-rich businesses, whatever side of the law they were on. He took from big business, he took from banks, he took from the folks in power, and he took one last big score from the mob and then vanished. It’s that last one might well turn out to be a big, big mistake.
We’re going to catch up with the character in his in retirement, where he’s just a normal everyday guy called Martin. He keeps his nose clean, works his Wallyworld job, and looks after his ill wife, Megan. Trouble is, those medical bills have eaten up all the cash and Martin is up against it with nowhere to turn.
So, it’s back in the game… provided his bloody haemorrhoids aren’t playing up too much that is!
Duggan again, “Nobody ever discovered the truth. He retired to be with the love of his life, but now he’s back in the mask to save her. No one—not his wife, the mafia, or the cops—is happy that he’s out of retirement.”
It’s one of those comics that grabs at you from the very first image… that striking image of the facemask, those red crosses for eyes, it’s a look that’s designed to capture the reader’s attention. And once in, you’re going to be sold.
Writer Gerry Duggan definitely agrees about the killer design, although he credits McCrea for that, including the very distinctive eyes! “That was all John. What a killer image, right? We had a chat about it and settled on seeing what a thin mask and a cap would look like. John went away and did a few drawings and the rest is comics history. Also, gotta shout out Drew Gill for the great logo”. McCrea’s version of doing a “few drawings” sounds like it took a little more time, though: “I threw all the design elements together, added some more things, and then spent a few hours moving things around and eliminating as much as possible- keep it simple, is a good design policy!”
As for those eyes, McCrea agrees – “They look way cool and give him a creepy appearance… plus look good in a silhouette with the Xs the only thing seen”.
But, as with Duggan, McCrea is quick to praise the rest of the team, highlighting Mike Spicer’s colours and Joe Sabino’s letters; “I’ve worked with Mike before and he’s just brilliant, he adds so much depth and mood to the pages, Joe is a craftsman and goes the extra mile for the storytelling. We have such a strong team!”
McCrea creates the art old school style; “I always work traditionally, I haven’t got the Computa Skillz to do otherwise… I can noodle enough in Photoshop to do a bit of digi-tidy-up but little more”.
As for the stylised look of McCrea’s art here, it’s all to do with the crime noir aspect of the comic; “I decided to push the stark contrast, lots of heavy bold black areas. I always try to make my art fit the genre of the story, but my art has also been changing a bit since I decided to overhaul my style completely about 10 years ago. It now has a lot of hatching lines in the inking that have been influenced by 30’s American illustrators”.
And whilst it’s a great team effort and a comic well worth a look, it’s not the only great series Duggan has been responsible for in the last couple of years. I’d definitely recommend you take a look at the excellent sci-fi tale Analog, with artist David O’Sullivan, again from Image Comics.
This naturally cinematic comic already has a movie deal in place at Lionsgate, with Chad Stahelski, of John Wick fame, at the helm. Duggan says; “I’m very lucky, and happy to say all my Image work is set up to be adapted, each with some very real traction. Ryan Condal is deep into a draft for Chad. Keep your fingers crossed for us”.
As for the obvious cinematic potential of Dead Eyes, he’s not counting his chickens quite yet; “Right now we’re just focused on getting the best comic we can to roll off printers for the next few years. The Hollywood stuff takes care of itself. The work is the best agent”.
But before all that Hollywood stuff, there’s the small matter of Dead Eyes coming out in October. It’s obviously a passion project for both writer and artist, with Duggan telling us that “I think the best thing anyone can do is to put something into the world that doesn’t exist, that you would spend your hard-earned money on, and that you would love. Make what you love. Be bold. Don’t play it safe”.
It’s a book Duggan and McCrea have planned out into the future, as Duggan says; “Our second arc is a story that has deep Boston roots, and our third is an escalation of the problems that you’ll see kick off along the way. We have an end in mind, but we have a lot of mayhem to enjoy before we get there”.
Dead Eyes Issue 1, by Duggan and McCrea, is published by Image Comics and out on the 2nd of October.