Everyone's a liar. At least, that's the case in Steven Grant's new BOOM! Studios miniseries, "Deceivers." Featuring art by Jose Holder ("Mars Attacks The Real Ghostbusters"), the 6-issue series debuts in December and shines the spotlight on a pair of con men from the U.S. plying their trade in Europe until a CIA agent named Patrice enlists their help to capture a mysterious super-thief known only as Ulysses. Versions of Lincoln McCord, Janez Aleksander Nikovic, Patrice and, of course, Ulysses have been kicking around in Grant's head for over 30 years, and the writer is excited to get them on the page and in front of readers after such a long gestation period.
CBR News spoke with Grant about his lie-loving leads, working with Holder on this new project and his methods for keeping all the details of the heist-filled story straight.
CBR News: "Deceivers" is an interesting title. In this case, does it refer to the two Americans masquerading in Europe, the thief or both? Does the book follow one group more than the other?
Steven Grant: At first, it's focused more on Lincoln McCord and a woman he runs into named Patrice Andauer than on the other lead, but he has a fairly strong presence in the first issue. The title refers to pretty much everyone in the book, in one way or another.
What can you tell us about Lincoln McCord and Prince Adony Zaruka before the thief starts attacking their marks? How does life change for them once they're enlisted by the rogue CIA agent?
I decided after the pitch I didn't like the name Adony Zaruka -- sounds a bit too much like a character from "The Prisoner of Zenda," which is a little too on the nose, so his name is now Janez Aleksander Nikovic. Lincoln calls him Nicky -- in an impolite, not friendly, way -- but he's the only one who does. They don't like each other very much, and their worldviews are rather different. Lincoln's a little more freewheeling, Nicky a little more with his eye on long-term ramifications of the lifestyle. The mystery thief, Ulysses, doesn't attack their marks, though; he operates in a completely different world that they end up dragged into. As a result, Nicky's pretty put out by the whole thing and sees it as a big disruption to his life. Lincoln, who lives in the moment, just says, "Sounds like fun. Let's do it."
"Marks" is the wrong word, though. It's more appropriate to Nicky, who's working a long game, though ultimately he's not looking to fleece anyone, he needs them for other reasons. Lincoln doesn't view them as marks at all, though. He's a con man without criminal intent, though he has plenty of criminal skills that he's more than happy to put to use for anything but crime. He thinks more of himself as an entertainer and the people he moves among as his audience. In his ideal world, he provides entertainment value for everything he gets.
Is there anything more you can say about Ulysses, the international thief they're up against? Does he have a personal stake in this game?
The name is Ulysses, because wherever he hits, he leaves a copy of James Joyce's "Ulysses" behind. His stake is personal, yes, and political and professional. The interesting thing about him is that he never seems to actually steal anything, if you believe his victims -- and there's plenty of reason not to -- but he manages to get through all kinds of high-end security systems without even being seen. On the surface, you'd think he was the literary Santa Claus of international crime. But there's a big, big game going on, and he's only the latest player to play his hand in it.
Ulysses doesn't attack Lincoln or Nicky's interests, though. The world they operate in is something of a fairy tale bubble. What he does do is provoke a situation that drags them out of that world, to bait a trap. But a strong possibility exists that one of them is Ulysses. It's a sticky situation.
What can you tell us about the rogue CIA agent who brings Lincoln and Nicky together? What's his or her skin in the game and what makes these two crooks the right people to help catch Ulysses?
Patrice. She's not exactly a renegade, though she would seem to be working against the Company's interests. Like everyone else in the series, she's running a game of her own that others are unaware of, and it's that game she needs Lincoln and Nicky for, not the hunt for Ulysses. Ulysses becomes a smokescreen for a lot of things. She's rather pragmatic, and has no problem with turning things to her own advantage. On some levels she's the villainess of the series. On others, the heroine.
When working on a story that not only utilizes con artist techniques, but also heist elements, how do you keep track of all the moving parts from issue to issue? Do you keep a document with just certain elements and refer back to that, work out of your own memory or something else?
Scripts. I'm constantly riffling through the scripts to remember this detail or that. I also have a notebook I keep next to the keyboard and constantly jot things in but my note-taking style is so chaotic it's almost impossible to find anything in it afterward. It's not easy to keep track, especially when you change things all along the way until the script is done. Whenever I turn in pitches these days I always preface it by saying many of the details will inevitably change on the story's way to script, because a pitch is like a very rough concept drawing for a skyscraper, but it's only when you work on the blueprint that you realize an idea isn't strong enough to bear the weight of the entire edifice, or, as mentioned above, a name just sounds wrong, or you simply get a better idea in process. Fortunately, "Deceivers" isn't especially difficult because despite the title the characters and plot aren't all that complicated. There will be plenty of twists and turns but the through-line is relatively straightforward and easy to keep track of.
"2 Guns" recently found success on the big screen. Has that changed how you approach your comic projects?
Not that I've noticed, except that it has made it a little easier to sell projects I actually want to do. If you mean, do I now focus on comics projects for the purpose of selling movie rights? "2 Guns" convinced me that's the dead wrong way to go. Do what you want to do, the way you want to do it. If Hollywood wants it, they'll come to you. But no, I just approach the comics I pitch as stories I want to tell, with characters I want to write about. I've wanted to do "Deceivers" since 1980, though of course it has changed considerably since I first thought of it.
Is it difficult keeping an idea alive in your head for such a long amount of time?
Not as difficult as you'd imagine, if it's a strong idea that doesn't lose its pertinence over time. Of course, conditions change, and you have to adapt not only to cultural changes but to what other people have done in the meantime, so the specific action's considerably different from what I originally imagined, but the main idea is still good and has luckily become more accessible since 1980. I wouldn't necessarily say it was ahead of its time, but it's much more of this time than that one. Fortunately, no one's really ever come close to something like "Deceivers" that I'm aware of.
"Deceivers" #1 from BOOM! Studios, Steven Grant and Jose Holder hits stands in December.