EDITOR: The Kickstarter drive to fund "Gun Theory," which was not live when this article was first published, is now running here.
Daniel Way has been examining the lives and motivations of four color men of violence for years now. But while the writer enjoys writing characters like Marvel Comics' Wolverine, Deadpool and the most recent incarnation of the Thunderbolts, the comic book killer that's truly and fully captured his imagination is a hitman named Harvey.
Harvey is the star of "Gun Theory," a 2003 miniseries co-created with with artist Jon Proctor and published through Marvel's now defunct Epic line. Two issues were released before the series was cancelled by the creators, who revisited their world in 2006 with a special, self-published one-shot titled "Bye-Bye, Harvey: A Gun Theory Short Story." The pair have always wanted to finish Harvey's tale., and now they're planning to do just that -- but they need your help.
CBR News spoke with the duo about the Kickstarter drive they've just launched in order to help fund a new, original graphic novel version of "Gun Theory."
CBR News: Longtime fans of your work might remember that two issues of "Gun Theory" were actually released through Marvel's short lived Epic revival in 2003. What happened to the book to cause its short run?
Daniel Way: In short, there were contract issues. As those two issues were coming out, Jon and I got called back to the table to re-negotiate our contract, and that wasn't something we were willing to do. So we pulled the plug.
Jon Proctor: Right. "Gun Theory" was an unfortunate casualty in the Marvel Contract War of 2003.
Way: Our understanding is that it had more to do with tensions between departments within the company than with the project or us.
How long have you been looking to revive "Gun Theory?" What made now a good time to bring it back? And how difficult was it getting things together to bring the property back?
Proctor: Neither Dan nor I have ever considered not reviving it -- it's really just been a matter of scheduling and timing. And the time is finally right to bring it back bigger and better than ever
Way: Initially, we were simply going to release the remaining two issues independently, but, after taking a deep breath and really looking at it, we realized that we never really wanted to do "Gun Theory" as a monthly, anyway. It started out as an OGN and then, after we accepted the Epic deal, we trimmed it down and cut it into four parts. After that deal fell through, we eventually realized that if we were going to do it ourselves, there was no reason not to do it our way -- and that meant as a graphic novel. In our commitment to getting the story told, feel that a monographic, one-shot format, as opposed to episodic, allows a complete and whole expression of the story and its arc told in an unadulterated way. This version of the story has all the elements that were cautiously censored in its serialized iteration.
Keep in mind that the whole "contract" thing was very stressful and, coming out the other side of it, Jon and I were feeling more than a bit drained. Between that and our separate careers taking off, we knew that we didn't, at that time, have the amount of focus and passion "Gun Theory" deserved. This is a very personal and important project to both of us, and we weren't going to half-ass it. I mean, we had the opportunity to do that before, and we walked, y'know?
And I'm glad that you asked about the rights to "Gun Theory" because, after all was said and done, Marvel was actually very gracious and expedient when it came to handing back all of their rights to the property. That was classy -- and I say that with no sarcasm, whatsoever.
Why did you guys decide to publish this through Kickstarter instead of taking it to a company like Image, or even back to Marvel?
Proctor: Well, to make a horrible pun, we're a bit gun shy about "Gun Theory" and mainstream comic publishers -- given the title's history.
Way: At every convention or signing I've done since "Gun Theory" came out (and then prematurely disappeared), people ask me about it. They don't ask about where it went, they ask about when it's coming back. It's been that way for ten years! The audience is ready, Jon and I are ready -- all we need is the funding. Kickstarter is the perfect solution.
About how many pages will the "Gun Theory" graphic novel be and how much new material will be included? Will the book reprint the first two issues of the series and the "Bye-Bye Harvey" short story from 2006?
Way: Let me make this as clear as possible: THIS WILL NOT BE A REPRINT. Though the story will remain essentially the same, I've gone back and re-written almost all of the dialogue. In addition, I've brought several things back into the story that were removed for the "Epic version" (a bit of which was used in "Bye-Bye, Harvey").
For Jon's part, he's going to be producing all-new art for the entire book (approximately 120 pages, to answer your question); pencils, inks and colors. Now, I've always been a fan of Jon's work, but the stuff he's doing now? It's really blown me away.
Proctor: We've made some adjustments to keep it fresh, and, obviously, redrawing the original material will serve well to bring continuity to the whole. That being said, the original version was done a decade ago. Times have changed. The zeitgeist of what the story was then has to be updated to include the upgrades of society. The original had Harvey on pay phones. We have upgraded the story to include and involve the tenets of society as they interact now which really allow for more interesting dissertation of how someone in his line of work can provide an "invoice" for services rendered.
One of the fun elements about Kickstarter campaigns are the incentives backers get for their contributions. Can you tell us about some of the things backers of "Gun Theory" will receive -- in addition to the finished story, of course.
Proctor: We have been having a great time putting together the incentives! Let's just say that they truly allow contributors to participate in the process.
Way: We wanted to offer something that appealed to as many potential backers as possible, but without taking the focus off of the work. To that end, the incentives run from having your name appear in the "acknowledgments" section of the book ($5) to having your likeness appear in the book -- being killed by Harvey ($500). That's right -- we are so in love with our readers that we're willing to kill them. That's commitment!
Let's move into story. Now, the original "Gun Theory" starred a hitman named Harvey whose life gets turned upside down by an act of heroism at a laundromat. Is that still at the heart of the story, or has it changed a little bit?
Way: I'd say that's all -- basically still there.
Proctor: Yep. Harvey is still our main character, and his tale is primarily intact from the previous iteration. The minor shifts in narrative and characterization have come in as Dan and I have both grown as artists and writers, respectively, since our original pass at it some 11 years ago.
In many ways, the fact that "Gun Theory" suffered a stunted debut really works to the story's advantage as we've an opportunity to re-visit it with fresh perspective and new experiences -- while still recognizing the quality in the original. The redo brings Harvey into the modern age of interaction. Social media has taken privacy to an all time low. He has more hurdles to climb now, because anonymous interaction has become more difficult to discern. Harvey is a killer, and killers can make mistakes, but Harvey is well aware of how to manage himself within the evolution of social media.
Way: At the outset, Harvey really has no character -- he's, for lack of a better word, a ghost. It's not until an accidental moment of contact -- of recognition -- with a woman at a laundromat that Harvey begins to emerge, after a decades-long chosen absence, back into the living world.
In the interim, his entire life has been about death -- how best to deliver it and how best to get away with doing so. He literally has it down to a science -- hence, "Gun Theory." No one knows what drove Harvey to this point; this isn't that story. This is the story of the possibility of Harvey of coming back from that point.
Proctor: Harvey lives in every one of us who has ever dreamed of something better while persevering through something worse. He lives in the writings of Sartre and the underpinnings of existential philosophy. He lives through his work, which speaks to his devotion to it, despite the nature of his work being axiomatic to life itself. I think that most certainly qualifies him as eccentric. Harvey is a ghost, but he can't see the forest for the trees. Anyone who decides to live a life with no hope immediately and sometimes unknowingly decides to live a life with no fear. The consequence of that decision is what makes him viable for adverse interpretation.
Jon, it's been a while since you last visited Harvey and his world. What's it like coming back to "Gun Theory?" How do you feel your style has changed since the "Bye Bye Harvey" short? Will that impact the look of the new pages?
Proctor: My style for the new "Gun Theory" is going to surprise a lot of people. Coming back to this story is a systematic relaunch of skill that I did not have back then. The cigarette is smoked down to the filter, this time. Anyone who appreciated those initial issues will find that my evolution as an artist has found it's footing in a way that will make this tale more visceral than it ever was before.
I didn't get a chance to read the original issues of "Gun Theory" but I notice that the color palettes on the covers are very unique. How important an element is color in the story you guys are telling?
Proctor: Just expect that when it gets bloody, you the reader will be surprised. Muted tones will make the blood run cold.
Way: I'm very, very picky when it comes to color (as any editor I've worked with knows). It's a wildly under-appreciated element of graphic storytelling. Jon's an amazing colorist and he and I have already had several discussions about the overall palette as well as other, fairly subtle techniques that'll be used -- some of which can best be described as, "experimental."
Jon, who is Harvey to you, as an artist?
Proctor: Well, the character bears such a psychic burden that it will inevitably infuse the art with a certain density. What is interesting to me, as the artist and creator, is teasing out the nuances of variation within that -- it is not a monolith. He's a man of expression and emotion that rise and fall in circumstances. Expressing that, within his greater context, compels me tremendously. Harvey is every person you see in that he is forgettable. Nondescript. Open to interpretation, but lazy in his initial definition. That's what makes him deadly.
Way: By the time you actually "see" him, it's too late.
Let's move from Harvey as a character and into the world he inhabits. Is "Gun Theory" a straight-up realistic crime story? Or are there fantastic elements to it?
Proctor: Definitely elements of the fantastic. To draw and create with anything less is really hard for me. Having said that, the realism is firmly established and the fantastical elements that do erupt are often of a more -- intellectual stripe. I mean, it's not like any of the characters are going to erupt wings or anything but conveying their emotional struggles may easily veer into fantasy or fantastical concepts. Harvey has the ability to disappear within his own narrative after every gig. He's more concerned with indigestion from his breakfast than he is worried about clipping his next victim.
Way: His "life" is something that exists only as a definition within his own mind.
Way: "Gun Theory" plays out at the extremes of light and dark, of hope and despair. Of my published work, the only things I'd say are comparable are my Nighthawk miniseries and that first Bullseye miniseries I wrote, "Greatest Hits."
Proctor: Imagine someone giving you an envelope full of money to simply deliver death. That is a glimpse into Harvey's world.
Way: Extremely impersonal.
Finally, when should fans be on the look out for the "Gun Theory" Kickstarter to begin?
Way: NOW! Go now!!
Proctor: Your support on Kickstarter will make this book sing. Thank you in advance for your support.
Way: If you read those two issues of "Gun Theory" ten years ago and liked them, you're gonna love what they grew up to be. Please believe us when we tell you it was worth the wait.
If this is the first you've heard of "Gun Theory," I can only ask that you take a look -- especially if you're a noir/crime fan. This is a gritty, deep, dark book and if you, like me, are both fascinated and horrified by humanity's capacity for violence then "Gun Theory" is something you should read.
Proctor: This book has been over a decade in the making. Anyone who enjoys crime noir will be left scratching their head until the last page. "Gun Theory" is crime noir with a twist of self-disciplinary, hopeful redemption.
Way: Art's pretty goddamn great, too.