Danish cartoonist Palle Schmidt made his name in illustration working out of Gimle Studios in Copenhagen. He has worked in role-playing games and commerical art in addition to authoring "Night of the Long Faces" and "Fusion." With the release of his first graphic novel from IDW Publishing, he may just make a new name for himself here in America.
Previously released in Denmark, "The Devil's Concubine" revolves around two assassins hired to deliver a mysterious package who find themselves pursued from all sides when the delivery goes awry. Worse, they haven't even managed to get paid for the job. But herein lies an opportunity: the more gangsters who die trying to obtain the unopened cooler and its contents, the more valuable the package appears.
After a long road, the book is finally on sale in the US and CBR News spoke with Schmidt about the heist tale and why this story is best suited to an American audience.
CBR News: Palle, you mention in the back of this book that "Devil's Concubine" took quite a while to come together. I'm hoping you could talk a bit about how this project developed, any delays along the way and why it's finally being published now.
Palle Schmidt: I think the idea for the book started back in the mid-nineties. I wasn't working as an artist professionally in those days, I was studying English and Film at the university, so it took me a while to get the story together. I wrote the script in English to begin with because I always knew the US market was where I wanted to be. Also, I did some test pages that I tried shopping to US and UK publishers, without much luck, I must say.
I had huge expectations for myself and the final artwork, and actually I almost lost my way in the long process of scripting, sketching and finding an international publisher. I got tied up with other projects and was making a living from illustration work that ate up quite a lot of my time. There was a point where I thought I would never get the book done. I never doubted the story, the script or the premise, it was just too big for me to handle on my own, with no publisher in sight. Luckily I sort of stumbled upon a Danish publisher who was really keen on putting it out over here, so I dug in and finished the book in 2008, and it came out in Danish just a few months later.
Obviously it was a lot easier to sell the book to other countries once it was finished, and the Internet is a very convenient way to showcase your work. Back when I started sending out samples, it was all expensive color prints, SASE and signed waivers, then months of waiting for a reply. This time I had the web page and trailer for the book and was able to send a PDF by email. Other publishers were interested but I'm really happy that IDW picked it up. Everyone tells me it's a good company to be with.
How was Danish reception to the book on its initial release?
"The Devil's Concubine" got a lot of good press, some fantastic reviews in major newspapers and online communities, but Denmark is a small country without much of a comics industry. So I'm really glad to see the book come out in the US, where hopefully it will find a greater audience. The reviews were great for my ego, though. I'll have to translate some quotes for my blog, show off a bit.
In the back section of "Devil's Concubine," you also indicate that this is a very American story. What makes you describe it this way?
In Denmark comic book fans either grew up with the French-Belgian album tradition, or the US superhero comics. I read a lot of both, but I've always been a much bigger fan of Batman than TinTin. I've also watched a lot of American noir and action movies, and read tons of American crime novels by Chandler, Ellroy and Elmore Leonard. So though "The Devil's Concubine" is set in a non-specific city in Europe, the whole gangster/hitman/heist-gone-wrong genre is very much inspired by American media. It certainly doesn't look like any other Danish comic I've seen! On to "Devil's Concubine" itself -- how would you describe the story? Who are the players, and what are they after?
"The Devil's Concubine" is like an action movie in the form of a graphic novel. Its goal is to be thoroughly entertaining and unpredictable, a fun ride. It's about greed, mistrust and betrayal. Everyone sort of has their own agenda, from the two hitmen, Jean-Luc and Linda, to the erratic crime boss out for their blood. We also have a gang of scary Rastafaris and a pair of police detectives trying to find a pattern in all the mayhem. All the main players are part of the underworld, some are trying to get in, others want out, but they're all chasing after a cooler, the contents of which I won't reveal here. You'll have to read the book to see who makes it out alive.
Jean-Luc and Linda make for a rather odd pair. How did they come to be working together? I have this idea, that Linda kind of bluffed her way to becoming Jean-Luc's assistant on this mission. She probably told outrageous stories about her merits as a pro hitter, but I don't think she's ever done anything like this before. She certainly gets the hang of it, though! Jean-Luc is more like the quiet, stone-cold professional with a background in the French Foreign Legion. He's all about getting the job done, not much else. Linda is much more impulsive, ambitious and radical in her approach. Between you and me, I don't think she's a very sane person! But Jean-Luc doesn't know that.
Linda's impulsiveness causes their problems to escalate pretty quickly. What do you enjoy about a character like her?
What's not to like? It's great to have a completely unpredictable, trigger-happy sidekick to get the story going. What is it, seven bodies dropped before page ten? I love to take a character and just drive them off a cliff, so to speak. Linda was also fun to write because she's so disrespectful and fearless, and at the same time pretty clueless about a lot of things.
Is it correct that you're working on a sequel?
The sequel is well on the way! Actually, it's more a spin-off than a sequel, with some of the supporting cast from "The Devil's Concubine." But with "Stiletto," I've changed styles and the tone is very different. It's a cop story, much more gritty and realistic in a way, more personal. The book is scripted and more than halfway done in terms of inks and colors. There's more on the project at my web page, where I try to share some of my work in progress, methods and recommendations for other artists and writers.
Are you working on anything else right now?
I've written a crime novel that I'm trying to find a publisher for. And I have ideas for new novels and graphic novels, half movie scripts, treatments and otherwise. Between that and my ever-growing family, I'm sure I'll be able to keep myself busy for years to come.