We always like to keep our eye out for exciting new creator-owned projects here at the Big Comic Page, and as soon as VIOLENT LOVE – a brand new pulp-infused criminal romance from Image Comics – popped up on our radar, we simply had to find out more.
The series introduces readers to Daisy Jane and Rock Bradley—two of the most notorious bank robbers in the American Southwest. Who, as the title may suggest, fall in love.
So, with the book set to hit shelves next Wednesday, we were thrilled to be able to sit down and have a chat with writer Frank Barbiere (FIVE GHOSTS, The Revisionist) and artist Victor Santos (THE MICE TEMPLAR, Polar) about just what readers should expect from the series.
BIG COMIC PAGE: Thank you so much both for taking the time to talk to us, really appreciate it! Now, straight off the bat, the first few pages are incredibly visually striking. Frank, was this something you always had in mind, or did you let Victor take the reins?
FRANK BARBIERE: I had collaborated with Victor on Black Market (BOOM! Studios), so I was very familiar with his sense of the page/design sense. I wrote the opening sequence to serve as a “prologue” of sorts and we talked about how we wanted it to feel, what we wanted it to evoke in the reader in terms of tone/theme. That being said, Victor then took the script and knocked it out of the park; he’s drawing and coloring the book all himself, and his brilliant use of color to enhance the pages wows me every time I see new pages. Victor is a true co-creator and collaborator and I’m thrilled to be working with him here.
BCP: Speaking of art style, Victor, there are some very clear pulp influences on the page, albeit with a very modern twist. Can you tell us where the tone of the book came from?
VICTOR SANTOS: I love comics and I love the history of the medium. I read European albums and American comic-books during my childhood, manga when I was a teenager… Now I read all genres and styles from graphic novels to superheroes, old samurai gejika classics, indie or bestsellers, anything I find interesting. So when I face a new project I try to transform myself into a suitable artist for the specific project. I think on the masters of the genre and the things I love in these kind of stories. In Violent Love you can find influences from old stories like Alex Toth or Simon & Kirby´s romance books, Gene Colan´s 70s marvel comic-books, Tezuka or Goseki Kojima manga books… to modern artists like Eduardo Risso or Matt Wagner… I can´t say I take specific elements from specific sources, I simply I try to capture the correct mood.
BCP: Frank, how did you stumble upon the story of Daisy and Rock?
FRANK: When we first started conceiving Violent Love, Victor threw out the idea of incorporating romance into the story. We knew we wanted to do something pulpy, but when Victor said that my head immediately started thinking about how we could combine a love story with a pulp revenge story and Violent Love was born. Looking at a lot of the crime/romance stories that have been done (and there are a lot!) I really started focusing on how to make ours different, without relying on some crazy hook like “they’re aliens!” or anything like that. We ended up with our “faux true crime” story that is grounded in reality and influenced by a lot of real events and places.
BCP: Will we be seeing more of Rock in future issues, or is Daisy our lead for the series?
FRANK: This is a love story, so Daisy and Rock can be considered “co-leads,” but Daisy is our actual protagonist so we’ll focusing a bit more on her. Rock will show up and we’ll get his story as well, but for this arc we really are keeping Daisy as our lens and keeping her the focus. Rock has a huge part to play in the story, however, so we’ll be seeing him enter the story in issue #2.
BCP: The story takes a very dark turn early on, with the art taking on an equally deeper saturation. Was there much direction in the script about how these scenes should feel?
VICTOR: Frank isn’t strict with his script, he gives me a lot of freedom. Of course, he gives me number of panels, dialogue, and structure where I can develop the issue, suggestion of scoops… these things. He thinks visually, and it´s great because this help me a lot. Then, I “dig” on the story and try to increase that feeling he is suggesting to me. I try to be faithful to the script but at the same time surprise him, moving that mood far beyond. It´s real teamwork, he´s drawing with words and I´m writing with drawings.
BCP: There’s a very “Japanese Revenge film” feel to it, especially in the latter half of the story. Do you feel these styles of story compliment the pulp/noir genre, both narratively and visually?
VICTOR: Yeah, of course. My second Polar book “Eye for an eye” was exactly a rape & revenge/ japanese revenge tribute. That cathartic elements of this genre connects completely with the pulp spirit. And I´m also an absolute fan of Meiko Kaji, the actress from 2Lady Snowblood” and the “Female Prisoner 701 Scorpion” movies.
BCP: What does “noir” mean to you both as a genre?
FRANK: I’ve spoken a bit about how I feel most modern writers have a very unique interpretation of genre, and I think “noir” and “crime” fall into this. I can only speak directly for myself, but I feel it’s true amongst many of my peers, but because we’ve seen SO MUCH in terms of genre I think our current takes are much more of amalgamations than 100% classic noir or crime. I think Violent Love is a really nice example/almost mission statement of what I think modern noir embodies, to me. That all being said, there are some genre conventions and tropes that I love and include — one of which is knowing that things are going to end badly for our protagonists, which we tease right in those first 8 pages.
VICTOR: It´s my favorite genre because it talks about the dark corners of the Human Soul. It´s not simply crime and and mischievous, gorgeous ladies. Yes, I love the aesthetics, the shadows and you know, venetian binds and fancy things with impossible light focus. It has great visual possibilities for an artist. But the most important, the reason I never will quit of reading noir, is because these stories talk about testing the human spirit. It´s fascinating.
BCP: Noir and pulp were genres I fell into more in my adult life. Were they a part of your own lives growing up?
FRANK: My first real introduction to pulp was through movies that carried a strong pulp influence, most notably Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark. At the time I didn’t know what it was that made these movies stand out, but as I got older and started to study film and literature more seriously I quickly discovered it was the pulp influence. I think comics really spoke to me more, reading the early Brubaker and Bendis stuff, and seeing what kinds of stuff you could do in the medium of comics that was so far from traditional superhero/action stuff. Those books are the reason why I ended up wanting to write comics in the first place.
VICTOR: I grow up as a fantasy fan. I read and love Kirby, and overall fantasy novels. Not a great fan of Tolkien, I loved Poul Anderson nordic sagas and Michael Moorcock and his ambiguous Eternal Champions. I really loved noir without knowing it because the elements of noir were there, in the dark fantasy characters, in the stylized Bruce Timm´s Batman, in the samurai films I discovered in the wee hours public TV… Then I discovered Dashiell Hammet when I was in college, so I link this discovering to my real growing as an artist. I knew these years authors like Eisner, Steranko or Miller and at the same time I was reading Red Harvest, 1280 souls or The Maltese Falcon.
BCP: What is it about the pulp genre that appeals to you each so much? It seems to be back in a big way again.
VICTOR: I had no idea what pulp really meant until I read a lot of books and comic-books. I read compulsively works from different decades at the same time. So later I read about the origins and then I ordered all these books in my mind and understood was pulp was. I love the visceral elements, that pure connection with the reader. I can understand those old times of scared people with hard jobs, searching for a refuge in over-the-top heroes and dark vigilantes. Well, we’re still scared and need these refuges sometimes.
FRANK: I like the simplicity of pulp narratives — for the most part they aren’t plot heavy, convoluted stories. Revenge stories and adventure stories normally have a clear goal that makes them more character driven and gives us more room to explore what motivates our heroes vs. wondering what’s in the box or what could be behind door #2. I think this purity really makes a lot of pulp stories more about character and aesthetic, which is why comics do them particularly well — we can easily lean into different visual styles that work with the genre far better than trying to force it onto something that is visually inconsistent with the genre.
BCP: Victor, have you made any intentional adjustments to you artistic style to fit the tone of this series as opposed to your work on, say, Polar?
VICTOR: Of course. As I said, I try to find the correct tone and transform myself as a suitable artist for each project, trying to search the best look for the series. This story is very different to Polar. Polar plays with the hyperstylization in all the levels of the story: storytelling, characters, plot. For this reason that black and white extreme contrasts work so well. Violent Love is like an urban western. It needs sand a concrete, a more texturized work in color and inking. It´s a very different approaching and every new project means a previous investigation. It´s a hard task but at the same time is one the most funniest things of this work. I would hate to draw and tell similarly in every project.
BCP: Can you tell us a little more about where the story is going? Will we be seeing more of Johnny Nails and his gang?
FRANK: Issue #1 really sets the stage for everything to come. I wanted to take our time and introduce Daisy so she felt more like a character rather than a caricature, and really get readers invested in her backstory. Also, I’ve become very interested in frame stories and how they affect narrative, so I found Violent Love to be the perfect story to implement it. Our frame story has a big part of the narrative, and I’m excited for readers to see where it goes. Nails is our main antagonist, but the story jumps around in time and we’ll see how he grows and changes as the years pass as well. It’s an interesting narrative that spans 20+ years, so there’s certainly going to be a lot going on, haha.
BCP: Frank, Violent Love feels like a significant departure from Five Ghosts, which fans might be a little more familiar with. Do you see yourself sticking with pulp for a while?
FRANK: As I mentioned, I feel like “pulp” really speaks to me as a genre and will probably influence everything I continue to work on in some way. I’ve been fortunate to create a lot of my own properties, and I’m starting to see that connective tissue a bit more. Five Ghosts will be returning in 2017 which I’m very excited about as well, and we’ll have more to say about it as we have more to report.
BCP: And finally, if you could each sell the series in just five words, what would they be?
FRANK: A pulp-infused criminal romance!
VICTOR: Screaming with British accent: “A bloody intense love story!”
The double-sized debut issue of VIOLENT LOVE goes on sale Wednesday 9th November from Image Comics.