Ultimate Killer: Diggle talks "Guy Ritchie's Gamekeeper"

Thu, January 18th, 2007 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Jonah Weiland, Executive Producer/Publisher

Preliminary design by Mukesh Singh of the Gamekeeper.
Writer/Director Guy Ritchie's influence on British cinema since the debut of "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" has been immense. Through "Lock Stock" and "Snatch," Ritchie has single handedly given the British cinema the injection it needed to get back on its feet. And it's not just in Britain where his influence can be felt, as both films featuring very bad, but very colorful characters, were well received by American audiences as well.

Can Ritchie do for comics what he did for British cinema? We'll find out on March 28th when the first issue of "Guy Ritchie's Gamekeeper" sees release from Virgin Comics. This will be the first of two five-issue "Gamekeeper" mini-series created by Ritchie, written by Andy Diggle with art by "Devi" artist Mukesh Singh. All five issues will have two or three covers each, with each issue getting a cover from Singh and John Cassaday. Issue #1 will have a third cover by superstar cover artist Greg Horn and issue #2 will feature a third cover by a former Comic Book Idol contestant and someone who's turning a lot of heads right now, "The Nightly News" artist Jonathan Hickman.

CBR News sat down with Andy Diggle to learn more about "Guy Ritchie's Gamekeeper."

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"Gamekeeper" #1 cover by Gregn Horn.
Hi Andy, thanks for talking with us today. Start out by giving us the pitch on "Gamekeeper." What have you and Guy cooked up for readers?

It's a tough little action thriller about the gamekeeper of a vast estate in the Scottish Highlands who becomes the ultimate killer. He's a quiet East European guy with a very, very dark past, who has fled his old life for a new beginning in the UK. Complications, as they say, ensue.

Tell us a bit more about this gamekeeper and some of the other characters that inhabit the series.

The main character is Brock, the gamekeeper, who's something of an unknown quantity to begin with. We deliberately don't reveal too much about him or what makes him tick - all that's apparent at first is that he's not exactly what you'd call a "people person." He's much more at home in the wild, more in tune with nature than other human beings.

The story begins when Brock takes in a young runaway he's caught trespassing on the estate, which is owned by Jonah Morgan, a rich old Scottish academic who shares a dark secret with Brock. They were both damaged by something that happened in the past, and have been unable to move on ever since.

"Gamekeeper" #2 cover by Jonathan Hickman.
Then, out of a clear blue sky, their dark past comes calling again. As the action begins to escalate in the present, we begin to flash back to the past to fill out Brock's backstory and learn what brought him here in the first place. It's brutal, bloody stuff.

When we first talked about "Gamekeeper," you mentioned that the series involves "a killer who's more in touch with the natural world than he is with his own humanity." That's very intriguing. Talk about the themes that idea allows you to explore in "Gamekeeper."

It's all about second chances. A damaged man who thought he'd lost everything - including his sense of his own humanity - finds himself at a crossroads. He has become closed off from the world, shut down emotionally. So when dark forces from his past resurface in the present, there's a danger he'll go completely over the edge - but there's also a chance of salvation, a second chance that he never dreamed might be possible. So it's about revenge, regret, and the possibility of redemption.

Have you and Guy had a chance to discuss the origin of the story and where it came from?

Everything's been done through Virgin Comics so far, although I'm hoping to hook up with Guy in the near future so we can really get brainstorming. Guy's initial idea was simply that of an emotionally scarred individual who works as the gamekeeper (or groundsman) of a British country estate, and who uses his intimate knowledge of wildlife and the nature to become the ultimate killer - a reluctant assassin of sorts. I just took that seed of an idea and ran with it, creating a detailed plot and backstory for the Gamekeeper and the supporting characters who populate his world.

What is it about "The Gamekeeper" that made this project a compelling one for you? I'm guessing the opportunity to work with Guy is a no brainer.

The Gamekeeper by Singh.
Right. The chance of working with Guy Ritchie was the unique selling point for me, no question. "Lock Stock" and "Snatch" reinvigorated the British film industry like nothing else in years. That and the fact that they wanted a mainstream contemporary thriller, which is just my cup of tea. Zero spandex.

How did you come to be involved with this book and how did you find yourself over at Virgin Comics?

They headhunted me, pure and simple. They'd initially approached me without realizing I was exclusive at DC, so I reluctantly had to pass. I assumed they'd simply go ahead with another writer, but the moment my exclusive ended several months later, they pounced on me again and made me an offer I couldn't refuse. They really put their money where their mouth was. Guy Ritchie was apparently a fan of my work on "The Losers" and was dead set on getting me for this project one way or another. It's hard to refuse that kind of attention - and really, why would you want to?

With so many people behind "Gamekeeper" - whether it be Guy, Virgin Comics, your artist, yourself - this could be a very challenging project for anyone on the creative side. What's the creative process been like thus far? And what sort of say does Guy have on this book? Does he have final script approval?

I was initially wary about getting into a "too many cooks" situation, with the various interested parties all wanting to throw their two cents in. The kind of situation where you try to please everyone and end up pleasing no-one, including yourself. But we agreed that all feedback and discussion would be filtered though my editor Mackenzie Cadenhead, who has done a wonderful job of distilling and focusing any competing voices into a single clear vision.

So yeah, while I imagine Guy doubtless has some kind of script approval, I've been given a very great deal of freedom to tell exactly the kind of story I want to tell. I guess that's why they wanted me for the job in the first place - they figured my "voice" would be a good fit for the project. To paraphrase Terry Gilliam, "If you cast it right, you don't have to direct."

Guy's movies are very stylized, using unique cinematic and storytelling approaches to tell his story. How much of Guy's "style" will be seen in this comic? What are some of the challenges of bringing that style to the printed page?

I'm not trying to ape Guy's directing style on the page. This is an Andy Diggle comic, not a Guy Ritchie movie, with nary a Cockney gangster in sight. That said, we are favoring a "widescreen" storytelling style, with lots of full-width panels to convey the scale of the vast landscapes these characters inhabit, as well as spectacular action scenes. Fans of "The Losers" will probably enjoy what they find in "Gamekeeper."

Once your story is written, how involved and how much input will you have once the art starts coming in?

I always like to do a final dialogue rewrite once I've seen the artwork, just to make sure word and image marry up as smoothly as possible. Beyond that, I guess I'll just have to wait and see!

What does your artist, Mukesh Singh, bring to a project like this? Of what you've seen thus far, what do you think?

His work on "Devi" has been slick and stunning, and he's loosening up his style for "Gamekeeper." His design sketches have a wonderfully gritty, somewhat European flavor to them, which suits the tone and subject matter of the story perfectly. I can't wait to see him start bringing the story pages to life.

Thanks, Andy.

 
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