Big news is coming out of Emerald City Comicon from Dark Horse Comics. The veteran publisher is continuing to expand its Project Black Sky line, which has reinvigorated and revived classic ’90s titles like Ghost, X, Captain Midnight, and more. The latest additions to their murderer’s row of radical revivals will definitely scratch that 1990s nostalgia itch.
First, coming in July 2015 is Barb Wire, a reboot of the biggest, baddest bounty hunter in all of Steel Harbor. Written by series creator Chris Warner and illustrated by Patrick Olliffe, the comic looks to deliver high-octane action in an environment where Barb hunts down some superpowered marks to collect massive bounties.
Next, in August 2015, Dark Horse is reviving their mystic warrior extraordinaire, King Tiger. Originally appearing in the pages of Ghost and, more recently, in back-up stories for BlackOut, King Tiger looks to blend the spirit of classic kung-fu comics with some supernatural mystery for an adventure comic you won’t want to miss. With the reunited Star Wars: Dark Times team of writer Randy Stradley and artist Doug Wheatley at the helm, this is one of the books I’m looking forward to most in 2015.
To bring you deeper inside Dark Horse’s latest Project Black Sky offerings, I caught up with Chris Warner and Randy Stradley to talk Barb Wire and King Tiger, respectively. Plus, we have some exclusive interiors for your perusing pleasure.
Here is the official solicit text:
Barb Wire #1 – JULY 2015
“Nail-hard tough and drop-dead gorgeous, Barb Wire is the baddest bounty hunter on the mean streets of Steel Harbor, where gangsters can lift bulldozers and leap rusting factories in a single bound. The hunting is stupid good and the bounties are hella big—if Barb lives long enough to collect!
Written by Chris Warner (Barb Wire creator, Senior Edtior @ DH) — Art by Patrick Olliffe”
Nerdist: What is it like returning to Barb Wire after all these years? What sort of perspective has time given you looking back at the character?
Chris Warner: I’ve really enjoyed getting back to writing Barb Wire, since I felt there were a lot more stories to be told. Barb is such a fun, kickass character, and the environment of Steel Harbor is like my own person storytelling playground. My writing has changed over the years, but I’ve slipped back pretty easily into the Barb groove, and I think these new stories fit very well with the original stuff without feeling stale or retro. Obviously, I’m older than when I first wrote Barb, so I’ve made her a little older as well. The underlying themes of the series have also evolved, but I’ve kept the book’s same sassy edge. I’m a smartass by nature, as is Barb…though she’s much better looking than I am.
N: Why is now the right time for Barb Wire to return?
CW: There’s a greater acceptance of female action characters today, and there are far more female readers. Hopefully I’ve done everyone a solid and written a book that both traditional and non-traditional comics readers will get a kick out of. If not, perhaps I can take up plate spinning.
N: What can readers expect from the series? Will this be a fresh start for Barb Wire or is it continuing old plot threads?
CW: The series brings some of the past along for the ride, primarily in the Steel Harbor milieu. But I’ve changed things up, turned some elements upside down, throws some monkey wrenches in the works. I think new readers should have no trouble getting on board, while readers of the original books should feel some familiarity. There are no unresolved plot threads from back in the day, but we reintroduce some of the Harbor’s most interesting denizens, like Mace Bltizkrieg and Wolf Ferrell, Steel Harbor’s gang kingpins.
N: How has your experience as an editor affected how you approach making comics yourself?
CW: I was an artist and writer of comics first, which helped me immensely as an editor, and now the pendulum is swinging back. I’d like to think I’ve become a better writer, particularly in terms of visual storytelling, due to my long involvement as an editor. I think I’m better at explaining what I need without being too overbearing in description, and I make a major effort to do the legwork of visual research to provide the artist with as much reference as I can. And I think I’ve gotten better at making deadlines, owing to my long penance as an editor after spending many years as a deadline-blowing freelancer. Oh, the karma!
N: This time around, Patrick Olliffe is handling artistic duties. How did he get involved and how is his involvement helping shape the visual aesthetic of the new series?
CW: As an editor, I worked with Pat a few years ago on Mighty Samson, and not only do I really like his drawing and storytelling, but he’s a great guy and a real pleasure to work with. Pat’s a classic superhero artist, and that’s what I was hoping for. We lucked out that he came available right when we needed to get the series underway, and he’s doing a dynamite job (along with inker Tom Nguyen and colorist Gabe Eltaeb). Pat’s only fault is his sad devotion to the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he can be forgiven for that–unless they’re playing the Cowboys!
Here is an exclusive preview of the interior of Barb Wire #1
Here is the official solicit text:
King Tiger #1 – AUGUST 2015
“Blood, death, and fire—the darkest kind of magic. A monstrous secret from King Tiger’s past has found the mystic warrior, but can Tiger’s skills and sorcery triumph against an unthinkable supernatural obscenity linked to his own destiny? If the Tiger falls, the Dragon with rise!
Written by Randy Stradley (Star Wars, Aliens vs. Predator)
Illustrated by Doug Wheatley (Star Wars, Aliens)”
Nerdist: King Tiger is coming back as part of Project Black Sky. What is it like returning to the character after all this time?
Randy Stradley: “Coming back” to King Tiger is more like starting all over again. I think in Tiger’s original incarnation (back in 1992), I only ever wrote the equivalent of a couple of issues of the character. So, when Doug Wheatley and I reintroduced the character last year in the backup stories in BlackOut, we treated him like he was a whole new character—a reboot really, rather than a return. And this time I was able to focus more attention of Tiger’s character, as well as the personalities of his supporting cast.
The events in the miniseries take place during Milo Sturges’s first day on the job as King Tiger’s assistant, and through Milo’s eyes readers will learn about Tiger’s origins and background for the first time.
N: I have fond memories of reading comics like Savage Fists of Kung-Fu when I was younger, but it feels like martial arts-centric comics have largely fallen by the wayside. What about King Tiger and this genre speaks to you?
RS: The massive wave of kung fu films and Bruce Lee’s rocket to fame hit when I was in high school and lasted for several years beyond. My friends and I devoured those films—and replicated them in our own Super 8 movies. I also loved Marvel’s Master of Kung Fu series, with its integration of Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu and the 007 spy tropes. But King Tiger is only partially about the martial arts aspect of the character. Since we’re billing Tiger as a “mystic warrior,” there is also a large magical component to what he does. Part of the fun has been coming up with the “rules” for Tiger’s magic and how, in order to perform the magic, there has to be a physical aspect to it. The martial arts become integral to the sorcery.
N: Can we expect any crossover with other Project Black Sky characters? I know King Tiger used to pal around with characters like Ghost.
RS: In this story Tiger is on his own. There is a brief cameo from some unnamed Black Sky agents, but as they are woefully ill-equipped to deal with the, uh, problem facing Tiger, they don’t have a lot to do with the outcome.
I’d love to get Tiger and Ghost back together! Who knows what the future holds?
N: So, with that in mind, what can readers look forward to from this series?
RS: Well, without giving too much away, we’ll learn a little bit about the kind of man Tiger used to be compared to who he is now. And Tiger’s past catches up with him in a really huge and horrible way—death and destruction on a massive scale. There’s lots of kung fu, sword fighting, and even gun play, all with a magical twist. But at its heart, this is really a love story. And Doug Wheatley is making every panel of it awesome.
N: You’ve worked with Doug Wheatley a fair amount on Star Wars. What is it like shifting gears with him to tackle King Tiger? Is there a creative shorthand between you two?
RS: We worked together long enough on Star Wars: Dark Times that we both developed the same concerns about telling stories: we want to please and surprise the readers. Nothing is better than convincing readers that the story is going one direction, then to turn the tables on them and still leave them feeling satisfied with the ride you’ve taken them on. Doing that in King Tiger’s modern day America is no different than doing it in the Star Wars galaxy, except that I think both Doug and I are a little relieved to be able to use real people and real things in our stories for a change.
I don’t know if there’s a shorthand between us, but there’s certainly a mutual admiration. I am constantly blown away by Doug’s draftsmanship and the degree of research and detail he’ll embrace in his storytelling. I don’t think there’s a better artist working in comics. And, for Doug’s part, he somehow likes what I write. Go figure.
Here is an exclusive preview of King Tiger #1.
Which title are you most excited for? Let us know in the comments below.