Christos Gage, a writer you probably know from his time writing for “Avengers Academy” and “Angel & Faith” among other titles, is releasing a new creator-owned title from Top Cow/Minotaur called “Sunset.” Today we’re chatting with Gage about “Sunset” along with his possible plans for more creator owned work! Read on!
“Sunset” is the first graphic novel that Top Cow’s Minotaur Press has released. For those that aren’t familiar with it yet, what is “Sunset” all about, and how did you find it a home in Top Cow?
Christos Gage: “Sunset” is about Nick Bellamy, a Korean War veteran in his late seventies who, thirty years ago, was a legbreaker for a Vegas mob boss. Realizing the future did not hold a gold watch and retirement dinner — more like a bullet in the head and a hole in the desert — he pulled off the fabled “one last heist” to set himself up for life. It worked…he got his boss sent to jail and made off with a stash of his money. Nick’s lived quietly since then, but now the mob boss has been paroled, and sends his men out looking for revenge. They find that Nick may be old, but he’s hardly an easy target…
This project came about when I was talking to Top Cow a few years ago about doing a “Darkness” story set in the past, with noir flavor. For various reasons it didn’t happen, but I mentioned that if they liked noir stuff, I had an “old man noir” pitch they might enjoy…and they did!
You’ve had a rather full dance card lately, with your work at Marvel including your heralded run on “Avengers Academy” and your recent turn on “X-Men Legacy,” plus the recently announced “First X-Men” title, as well as “Angel and Faith” from Dark Horse. We’re not even sure how you have the time to sleep, let alone write new graphic novels. How long have you had “Sunset” in the works, and how important is it to you as a creator to have creator-owned books like this in the mix when you’re working?
CG: I began “Sunset” a couple of years ago, and it’s actually been done in terms of the scripting for a while…originally it was going to be a miniseries before the guys at Top Cow suggested doing it as an OGN…which I thought was a great idea! I think it’s always smart to have creator-owned books in the mix, or original ideas. I adore working on characters I know and love, but coming up with your own thing is its own kind of awesome, and I think makes you stretch yourself creatively.
You obviously have a varied library of books you’ve worked on, including the aforementioned titles and your Vertigo OGN “Area 10.” When you’re working on something like “Sunset” does your approach as a writer differ if you were working on “X-Men Legacy” or “Angel & Faith?”
CG: The main differences are in the fact that a serial — an ongoing title — is meant to be open-ended to an extent, whereas with an OGN or miniseries it’s got a more traditional three-act structure. Also, of course, when you’re working on original characters there’s less research you have to do to keep them consistent, since you’re making up the rules…but I’ve discovered that doesn’t mean you won’t break your own rules if you’re not careful!
Both “Area 10” and “Sunset” could be positioned into the genre of “noir.” As a writer, what appeals to you about that genre, and which genres appeal to your writing style the most in your opinion?
CG: I like the type of characters you find in noir…people with checkered pasts, often significant flaws, battling the odds and just fighting to stay upright. I gravitate toward procedurals, heroic adventure stories, and horror…or a combination thereof. Humor is fun too; I don’t do it as often, but every now and then, as with a couple standalone issues of “Angel & Faith”, I really enjoy it.
You have written quite a few films and TV shows in the past, and this certainly has a cinematic feel to it. Did you draw any inspiration for this title from any films or TV shows while working on this project?Continued below
CG: More in terms of the feel than anything else, I had Unforgiven in mind. That’s one of my favorite movies and it influences me a lot in general, but with this project especially. Aside from that, everything I watch or read is inspiration in some way. The film The Cooler provided some inspiration… Ed Brubaker’s crime stuff; Darwyn Cooke’s “Parker” adaptations, and his “New Frontier” as well, in a different way.
For characters like Nick and Gianelli, there is a very specific voice and sense of identity to them. When developing them, what–or who–did you base them on?
CG: A variety of sources. People I’ve met, people I’ve read about…they all have a little of me in them as well, though not the tough guy parts…I’m about as tough as Jell-o. I find that I approach characters with an idea of who they are, and then somewhere along the way, they start telling me who they really are.
Could you see yourself coming back to this world? Are there any threads you’d like to pick up after this, or do you feel you achieved a sense of finality with the characters and their story?
CG: The story is written so it is complete in itself, but there are certainly other stories that can be told in this world, and if enough people want it, I’m more than game. I’d love to do a period tale of Nick in old Vegas.
How do you feel Nick would stack up against other great noir characters? While on that subject, who are some of your favorites?
CG: Nick would fight dirty and do pretty well for himself, I think. Some of my favorite noir characters are not so much the icons — the Sam Spades and Mike Hammers — but the more hard-luck ones, like “Sin City’s” Marv — who is just smart enough to know he’s not smart enough — and L.A. Confidential’s Bud White and Trashcan Jack Vincennes.
You obviously have a lot of projects coming through the pipe, but are there any other things you’d like to tease now that Sunset has finished? Are we going to see more creator owned work any time soon?
CG: My Marvel exclusive is up in August, so while I certainly intend to keep doing company-owned characters (assuming publishers want me to), I definitely want to devote some time to expanding my body of creator-owned work. While the market for comics is still tough, I think we are seeing it turn around, and there is definitely an exciting open mindedness among readers and retailers toward taking a chance on good original material, not just established characters. As for upcoming work, I’m really excited about the “First X-Men” miniseries that allows me to work with the legendary Neal Adams. My wife Ruth and I are writing an original graphic novel for Oni Press that’s creator-owned. It’s a Braveheart-style historical epic, the true story of her ancestors, called “The Lion of Rora”. We have just lined up a terrific new artist, Jackie Lewis, who drew the “Play Ball” graphic novel for Oni, so we’re excited to see that move forward. I have a creator-owned miniseries with Darick Robertson for DC that I can’t talk too much about…I wrote it a couple years ago, for Wildstorm actually, and Darick’s busy schedule has finally allowed him to really delve into it lately, so that should be out soon. It’s a fun book. There’s also going to be a “second season” of my Avatar Press title “Absolution” coming in 2013, with one of the issues being a standalone origin story for the breakout fan favorite character Happy Kitty, drawn by the awesome Paul Duffield of Warren Ellis’ “Freakangels.”
Thanks to Christos Gage for taking the time out to discuss “Sunset” with us and be sure to check out “Sunset” when it comes out July 18th!