To many British audiences, Jonathan Ross is the voice of the weekend. He's the host of the award winning chat show “Friday Night with Jonathan Ross” and hosts his own radio program, which airs Saturdays on BBC Radio 2. Ross is also a vocal and devout comic book fan. He's produced and presented several documentaries about comics like “In Search of Steve Ditko,” but he's never actually written his own comic. That's about to change.
“Turf” is a new creator-owned series by Jonathan Ross with acclaimed artist Tommy Lee Edwards, and it hits stores in 2010. Edwards was a guest at last weekend’s Cherry Capital Con in Traverse City, Michigan, where he announced the project. CBR News was there and spoke with Edwards about the book and what it's like to work with Jonathan Ross.
CBR: Jonathan's love of comics is well documented, so it comes as no surprise that he's working on a comic book of his own. But how did you guys come together and how did “Turf” come about?
TOMMY LEE EDWARDS: Jonathan's been wanting to do comics his whole life and for one reason or another he felt this was the right time to do them. He had some really great ideas and was wanting to find an artist to collaborate with.
Jonathan had read “Marvel 1985,” the recent series I did with Mark Millar, and he and Mark know each other. So basically Mark recommended that Jonathan and I talk. He thought it would be a good match. Mark put us in touch with each other and Jonathan contacted me. He had a few different ideas. Two were really developed and I had a hard time choosing which one I wanted to do the most. That's how good his concepts were.
Tell us a little bit about those concepts. What's the nature of the world you guys are creating in “Turf?”
It's a Prohibition Era story. We're planning on doing it as a four-issue series of 24 pages each and it's going to be a mix of genres. I'm trying not to give too much away yet because we've just narrowed it down to two possible publishers for the series. Basically, though, it's a crime story set in Prohibition Era New York City. You've got gangsters, obviously, but the series is also a mixture of horror and sci-fi. It's a really fun and cool concept that's even stronger than I thought it would be when we first started tossing ideas back and forth. I'm so thrilled that this is going to be something that Jonathan and I own, because I think it's something that could end up being the best thing that I've ever been able to do.
What can you tell us about the protagonist of “Turf?”
There are actually several main characters. There are so many characters and so much story that unlike a lot of comics I'm having trouble fitting everything into 24 pages. There is so much character development, story, and action that the biggest challenge of the series has become how do we make it all fit?
Basically, we're dealing with a lot of gangsters who are battling over different areas of turf. Then we threw in some very scary horror elements along with some high concept sci-fi stuff and we ended up with something really unique with a lot of unique characters. Some elements of the series we have seen before, but they're done in a new way and most of that has come from Jonathan's love of classic horror and comics.
You mentioned sci-fi and horror, but Jonathan is also a really funny guy, so can we expect some humorous elements in “Turf” as well?
There is humor but it has its place. When we first started pitching 'Turf' to different publishers you could almost see the story done as a spoof or a gag comic. And knowing Jonathan, because he is so funny and has such a great level of wit, there is that in it, but generally things are played very straight. The whole story is played very straight, but at the same time it doesn't take itself too seriously.
Are you just providing the art for “Turf” or are you and Jonathan collaborating on the story as well?
All of the writing and dialogue is Jonathan's. He had this concept of the setting and the characters. He would send those ideas to me and I would send back some feedback. And in that back and forth I came up with a certain way I wanted to draw some of the 'species' in the story. That gave Jonathan ideas like, “Oh if they're going to be like that maybe we can do this?” So it's a great collaboration and he's genuinely one the nicest people I've ever met. He's generous, friendly, and wants to do a comic because he loves comics so much. And that's why I do comics.
Besides the intriguing concept, what are some of the other appeals of working on a creator-owned book like “Turf?”
On certain books that I do, like say,“1985,” everything is completely written out already and I come in and try to do justice to the script. To be able to create these characters and this setting though is something that we all wish we could do. And it's nice that I'm getting to do this opportunity with somebody as creative and fun as Jonathan. So I'm super excited and I think that's inspiring Jonathan to do the best writing he's ever done and me to do the best art I've ever done.
Speaking of look, tell us about the artistic style you’re employing for “Turf.”
This is going to be all drawn with a brush and ink. It's going to be much more of a traditional style comic. John Workman is lettering and it will be my colors. It will be in the vein of “1985” or the recent issues of “Wolverine” that I did with Daniel Way. Jonathan and I are heavily inspired by Golden and Silver Age Marvel Comics, so it's got a real Ditko and a heavy Kirby influence; not just in the story and the artwork, but also in the way we're laying out pages. There aren’t going to be any bleeds in the artwork or overlaid panels. It's going to feel like a comic with a timeless quality. So I want the artwork to reflect that.
Is “Turf” just a standalone style story? Or if people respond to the project, would you and Jonathan Ross like to revisit the world and the characters some day?
We can definitely revisit this. We have an idea on how to set up a sequel and one of the main characters goes through a transformation and becomes almost an entirely different person. So he basically begins a whole new adventure at the end of the series and I would love to do some stories just about him. Because there are so many great characters you can pick and choose any one to do follow up stories with. It's that dense.
When is “Turf” #1 tentatively scheduled to be released?
Probably in the spring. I'm wrapping up a “Prince of Persia” graphic novel for Disney Press and after that 'Turf' and designing a movie for Warner Bros. are going to be my fulltime jobs. “Turf” is four issues, which we'll take me about eight months. So we're looking at maybe April.