|Standard and Variant covers to "Dead Men Tell No Tales" #1|
"Dead Men" sprang from MacPherson's life long love for the golden age of piracy and it's many infamous historical figures. He began working on the comic in early 2003. He completed the script for issue one of the book and presented it along with some finished art pages by Fernando Acosta, the series original artist, to a number of publishers. He kept all the rejection letters he received from shopping "Dead Men" around.
Everything started to fall into place for MacPherson when he met Michael DeVito who became the series colorist. De Vito introduced MacPherson to Mike Fiorentino, who would become the new artist for the series, and the rest of the book's creative team.
All that hard work paid off earlier this year. "Michael and I sent a submission to Arcana Studios," MacPherson told CBR News. "It was accepted and superstar Editor Egg Embry was attached to the project."
The three stars of "Dead Men Tell No Tales" are some of history's most feared corsairs: Captain Kidd, Blackbeard, and Black Bart Roberts. The three sea dogs seek a fabled treasure well hidden by the Knights Templar, the Lost Relics of Christ.
Each of these men became Buccaneers because of a foul personality and insatiable greed. "Kidd is a cutthroat, cold-blooded killer with delusions of grandeur," MacPherson said. "He carried Letters of Marque from both the crowns of England and France to find and destroy pirates wherever he found them. Of course, the call of wealth was too great for the man and he soon became one of the very men that he hunted. Greedy, shifty and arrogant: that is the portrait of Captain Kidd that I paint in Kidd's appearance in the pages of the first issue of 'Dead Men Tell No Tales.'
"Edward Teach, or Blackbeard as he is most commonly known, is the personification of evil. He is greedy, cynical, unrelenting, cold, cruel and merciless. Blackbeard loves to laugh, but it is always at the expense of someone else. Blackbeard loves to intimidate and ties hemp in his beard and lights the hemp on fire, giving him an aura of smoke about his head and face. It had to have been pretty intimidating to see a man smoking like he had just exited from the pits of hell!
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The creation of "Dead Men" involved quite a bit of research for MacPherson, not only on the history of piracy and the three captains, but the men who hid the treasure they seek, the legendary Knights Templar. "The Knights Templar is another fascination that I have had since the late 1970s when I first saw an episode of 'In Search Of' about the mystery of the 'money pit' on Oak Island, Nova Scotia," MacPherson said. "One of the possible theories involved a story that it was the Scottish Temple Knights who created the pit and had buried the lost Holy Relics there far from the British Crown who wanted to claim them for their own. This prompted me to research the Knights Templar in the 1980s and I found an overwhelming amount of literature on both the Knights and the myths and legends surrounding their Order. Steven Sora recently wrote a book entitled 'The Lost Treasure of the Knights Templar' which I found after writing the synopsis for 'Dead Men Tell No Tales.' In a way, it was validating to see another author who thought the legend may actually be the veridical origin of the pit."
The Lost Relics of Christ, the treasure that the Pirates seek, include some of the legendary artifacts from Christian mythology. There is one item of particular significance in the treasure, but MacPhereson wants to keep which item it is a mystery.
Those who seek the relics risk the divine wrath of a powerful guardian. "The real guardian of the Relics is God. These are items that he wishes to remain hidden from man's greed and lust," MacPherson said. "His mechanism of protection, if you will, is to curse those who seek out his treasures out of greed and a desire to use their 'power' to their own self-serving ends. I won't say how men are affected when they fall under this curse, but it should be perfectly clear by the end of issue 1."
It's the actions of Captain Kidd that send the pirate captains after The Lost Relics of Christ. "Kidd and his crew are off the Malbar Coast of India. It was there on a warm night in 1698 that Kidd and his crew captured the heavily-laden merchant ship called the Quedagh Merchant which contains the map," MacPherson stated. "This is the major dream sequence of the first issue because it ties the story together, as readers will understand as the story unfolds. This sequence is essential in that it explains where the map to the fabled treasure came from"
Kidd and his crew find the map when the Age of Piracy was in full swing. "During this period of time, the seas were filled with privateers, which were civilians who owned ships and were basically commissioned by their respective countries to destroy the ships of opposing countries, but also to find pirates and destroy or capture them to stand trial for their acts of treachery," MacPherson stated.
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"When Bart enters the story, he and his crew are actually on the island of Barbados awaiting the return of one of their comrades," MacPherson continued.
Blackbeard and Black Bart enter the story in the twilight of their villainous careers, during the end of the golden age of piracy. "During this time, the seas were filled with British, Spanish, Dutch, French, and North African ships. All these countries were on shaky ground with each other and the result was almost constant war on the seas," MacPherson said. "Merchant ships required escorts from their respective country's Navy in order to protect them not only from the ships of other countries, but also from the notorious pirates whose allegiance to their home countries (or feigned allegiance) was disregarded in the pursuit of gain. So no ship was safe in the seas during that time."
"Dead Men Tell No Tales" is a generation spanning saga. In addition to the two previously mentioned time periods a very important part of "Dead Men" takes place in the year 1398. "The 'far past' sequences are set in the last days of the Knights Templar. There are some questionable historic documents written by Nicol Zeno which claim that Henry Sinclair made a voyage to Nova Scotia and the Americas in 1398. There is also a confusable text that places Henry in Jerusalem during the Crusades. I drew from both of these vague texts and took them a step further by stating that he was the actual Master of the Knights Templar along with Hugh de Payns and Geoffrey de Saint-Omer. So I had to bend the historical timeline a little in order to accommodate this notion. It was necessary to do so to place Lord Sinclair in both Jerusalem and in his confutative voyage to America. It also chronicles the making of the most important item of the first three issues: the map to the Holy Relics' resting-place.
Readers looking for the complete history-spanning epic of "Dead Men Tell No Tales" should pick up the Tsunami relief benefit book "Hope," published by Ronin Studios. "There is a fourth time period that is covered in the 'Dead Men Tell No Tales' prequel story which is featured in this important anthology," MacPherson explained. "That time period is late in 1577. Sir Francis Drake is preparing to leave for a monumental voyage to the Nile, and ultimately, off the coast of America."
"Hope" will debut this August at Wizard World Chicago. All proceeds from the book will go directly to the Red Cross for Tsunami relief and recovery.
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Much of the sense of dread and doom is established by the book's art team."This was accomplished with the help of Mike Fiorentino and Fernando Acosta. Their realistic pencils brought the characters to life! I simply cannot say enough about Mike's pencils and I'm really anxious for issue 2 to be released in September! Mike handled all the penciling chores from issue 2 on. Tony DeVito did a really unbelievable job uniting the two artist's work and giving them mood with his masterful inks. And last, but certainly not least, Michael DeVito and Jon Conkling's moody, dark coloring work pushed it over the top."
"Dead Men Tell No Tales" is just the first in a series of high seas adventure tales that MacPherson has planned. "This is the first story arc of a much larger story. But it is self-contained in that the main conflict of the larger story is resolved by the end of the fourth issue. I am actually working on the sequel to 'Dead Men Tell No Tales' right now!" MacPherson said. "There is also another mini-series that I am developing which contains a story about one of our infamous pirate captains."
Creating "Dead Men Tell No Tales" was a massive, but enjoyable undertaking for MacPherson. "Well, it involved an exhaustive amount of research. Tying together the Knights Templar and the three pirate captains was very difficult. It involved researching not only historical and quasi-historical records, but also studying timelines in history, the culture and language of the period and also the world climate during the various periods of history throughout the book," MacPherson explained. "It was a very daunting task to flesh out the synopsis for the book. But once that was complete, it was a labor of love to put it onto paper."