Kill Shakespeare creators at Folger Shakespeare Library

Kill Shakespeare co-creators Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col are as charming as their comic.

I already knew this, of course, since I’ve met them before, but the two of them are incredibly smart, witty and fun. They’re clearly good friends and have an easy-going rapport with each other. While I know they’ve made presentations like this before, it didn’t feel over-rehearsed or artificial. They were very natural on stage.

The majority of the audience last night did seem to be those who attended productions and other events at the Folger, but there was a group of the messenger-bag types (like myself) and, surprisingly, a few parents with older children (preteen to middle teens, I’d say). But overall, it wasn’t really a crowd of comic-book readers. Obviously, this title is reaching a type of person who usually doesn’t read them.

McCreery and Del col started out with how the idea for the comic was born (Kill Bill had just come out and so they were joking about other “Bills” they could kill. In one of their many jokes about being Canadian, they said they rejected William Shatner because he was one of them) and that they originally thought it could be a video game before shelving the idea for a while.

They then ran through a basic summary of the plot (including a sneak preview of issue #9 that will be out next week) and a rundown of the characters. They discussed the changes they made to the ones they’ve picked and said that while they’ve played loose with some of the details, they try to keep them recognizable and just extrapolate what would’ve been next for everyone.

Most telling for me was when McCreery mentioned that he has a lot of teenage girls telling them they really like the take on Juliet in Kill Shakespeare. I tend to agree — Romeo & Juliet is not my favorite play by Shakespeare, but Juliet was the driving force and decision-maker for most of the events there. It’s great to see her get to be strong.

Del Col and McCreery also showed some before-and-after examples of how comic pages get made, which was probably more interesting to the rest of the Folgers audience than it was to me. (They continually praised artist Andy Belanger, who couldn’t be there since they were making him stay in Canada and draw their comic.)

They both talked a lot about that reading Shakespeare on the page can be kind of overwhelming and boring but his work is pretty well-suited to comics (I feel like comics do have a great deal in common with theater — more so than film). They’ve said that both teachers and students have been pretty excited by Kill Shakespeare and it’s created more interest in the source material.

In one of the night’s lighter moments (and there were many), Del Col said he wants action figures, because to him, that “equals success.”

The audience question-and-answer portion was a mixed bag, as they usually are. I was most surprised at the answer to a woman’s question of “Is this your day job?” They both said yes, and McCreery said before they started, they worked very hard on crafting a business plan. I think that’s an excellent thing.

The Sandman and Neil Gaiman came up a few times in the Q&A portion, since, you know, Gaiman did write some stories involving Shakespeare in his comic. People wanted to know if that was an influence, and McCreery said he was kind of intimidated by the comparison, but that Kill Shakespeare is a different thing. It’s not better or worse, but just different.

That did make me think about something though — The Sandman reached (and still reaches) a lot of people who don’t read comics (and in fact, there are a lot of people who just read The Sandman and don’t ever branch out beyond that). It’s hard to say if Kill Shakespeare will still be read 20 years from now (but you never know) but it is connecting with non-comics audiences right now. It’s a very different comic than The Sandman, sure, and Del Col and McCreery are very different writers, but they do share Gaiman’s interest connecting with fans. I think there are worse comparisons.

ComicsDC‘s Mike Rhode questioned the loose geography of where Kill Shakespeare is set. Del Col pointed out that they just mention it’s in a “strange land” that’s vaguely European and vaguely in the middle ages. They compared it to the island from Lost before joking it was actually set in Canada.

Someone asked about their future plans, and both said they have more Kill Shakespeare planned out (they would love to use The Tempest) and they’re currently writing a screenplay and want to do video games and more.

But ultimately, they’ve been happy with Kill Shakespeare and the reaction it’s received so far. Both seem genuinely appreciative of it. McCreery said he just wants someone to pick up the comic and think “It’s not Shakespeare, but it’s not half-bad.”

Del Col said that should be the blurb on the back of the book.

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