Official Press Release
Next year Oni Press celebrates the Ides of March with the release of JULIUS, a new original graphic novel by writer Antony Johnston and artist Brett Weldele. Following in the footsteps of such films as O and 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU, JULIUS takes Shakespeare's tense political thriller JULIUS CAESAR and gives it a modern urban twist.
"Like any fan of theatre, or literature for that matter, there's a special place in my heart for the Bard," said editor James Lucas Jones. "Old Billy's work is truly timeless. The themes he explores and the archetypes he uses to examine them really transcend time and setting. Watching Antony rip the politics and intrigue out of Rome and inject it into a world of British gangsters expertly rendered by Brett has been an absolute treat. I just can't wait until we can share the sweets."
Julius' territory continues to grow, consuming the streets of London. The residents of his 'hoods adore him like a king and his enemies fear him more than they do the devil. The heads of the other organized crime families share this love/terror feeling for Julius. Their feelings are so pronounced that they're considering what should be unthinkable-dissolution of the individual family leaderships and consolidation under Julius' organization. Not everyone is happy with this turn of events though, including some close to the man himself…
"Adaptation is a tricky business," Johnston added. "Changing not only the setting and period but the medium as well presents a wealth of obstacles and challenges."
Johnston is no stranger to adapting tales written in other mediums for the graphic novel format. He's responsible for bringing several prose stories by comics luminary Alan Moore (FROM HELL, LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN) to the paneled page, including THE COURTYARD and ANOTHER SUBURBAN ROMANCE. Johnston also brings practical experience from working in other creative arenas to JULIUS-his debut novel, FRIGHTENING CURVES, garnered him an Independent Publisher Award for Best Horror Novel and his experience as a designer working on various British magazines such as .NET and others gives him a special edge when approaching a page of comic script. Combine that with his growing resume of original comic work such as THREE DAYS IN EUROPE, and February's SPOOKED graphic novel, and you have a truly versatile talent capable of doing just about anything the medium can.
"There are always limitations when you produce work for the stage, and that was even more true during Shakespeare's time," continued Johnston. "Much of the epic action had to happen offstage as a result and Shakespeare turned this to his advantage by focusing instead on character and situation. But graphic novels have no such restrictions, so Brett and I have the freedom to depict as much or as little as we want of both the politics and action in this story. Balancing the two is tricky, sure, but I think we've pulled it off, and a large part of that credit has to go to Brett's excellent storytelling and character depiction."
Veteran comic artist Brett Weldele burst onto the North American comic scene with the graphic novel COUSCOUS EXPRESS with writer Brian Wood. He followed that tale of scooters and firearms with SHOT CALLERZ, the brainchild of gritty mystery novelist Gary Phillips (THE JOOK, THE PERPETRATORS) as well as providing art for the Marvel Comics miniseries THE B-SIDES. In addition to JULIUS, Weldele is also hard at work on THE LAST STRAW MAN, a four-issue Western from writer Jim Krueger and Image Comics schedule for this coming winter.
"The moment Antony pitched this project I knew Brett had to be the one to draw it," Jones offered. "He's a versatile talent that adapts his style to the project in front of him with careful consideration. I know he's worked on several projects that fit under the crime umbrella, but his work on JULIUS is a unique take that blends the mood of the play with the gritty realism of the setting to create pages that both tell the story clearly and convey a memorable visual experience to the reader. Antony and I had discussed a very specific approach for this project-one that would relied heavily on the pacing opportunities available in the graphic novel format. Brett grabbed those opportunities by the horns and hogtied all of those ideas into one gorgeous graphic novel."
JULIUS joins the growing list of OniGNs-original graphic novels from veteran comic publisher Oni Press that explore a variety of themes and genres. It joins books from critically acclaimed creators like Steve Rolston, Christine Norrie, Andi Watson, and Ande Parks & Eduardo Barretto.
"I've always admired the marriage of literary merit and popular appeal the Bard managed in his works," Johnston concluded. "Updating JULIUS CAESAR for a new audience feels like a natural extension of what Shakespeare did throughout his writing. It's a great opportunity to present what many see as a stuffy, highbrow classic as pop art for the masses."
JULIUS is a 152 page black-and-white graphic novel for $14.95. The digest-sized volume features a new color cover by Weldele and contains mature situations. It ships to comic book stores on March 31st, 2004.
[Ed. Note: For more on 'Julius,' read CBR's interview with Antony Johnston from August 5th.]