While you may have heard the news that we recently became a part of the Legendary family, let me assure you that I would be covering this epic-looking comic even if they hadn’t, so naysayers be warned. We first caught wind of Tower Chronicles, Legendary Comics’ first original comic IP, at C2E2, where we caught up with Editor-in-Chief Bob Schreck. Since then, we’ve been hungry for details about it, counting down the days to its September release. With Matt Wagner (Grendel, Mage) penning the story, Simon Bisley (2000 A.D.) illustrating, and a cover by none other than Jim Lee, Tower Chronicles is shaping up to be one hell of a book. Last night, though, not only did we have the chance to catch up briefly with Matt Wagner at Legendary’s SDCC Preview Night press event, but we were able to get ahold of the artist extraordinaire of the cover for the second part of Volume One, Mr. Alex Ross. If this article were a comic, that would have been a good place for a “’nuff said,” but we’re not done just yet; we have an SDCC exclusive preview of the Alex Ross Tower Chronicles cover, so read on and don’t forget to use a keyboard guard to protect your laptop from excess drool.
Nerdist: We know that you were hand-picked for the project, but tell us, in your own words about the Tower Chronicles and how you got involved.
Matt Wagner: As you know, I’ve worked with Bob Schreck before since, well, the beginning of time. [laughs] Thomas Tull, CEO of Legendary Pictures, had the germ of an idea and it quickly grew into something huge. He wanted someone who would challenge him, so Bob called me up and I came in for a meeting with Thomas and him and we went from there. [Tower Chronicles] will ultimately be three books, each of about 280-plus pages, with Simon Bisley doing the art. His art is just so dynamic and vibrant.
N: Simon’s art has a rather iconic look to it, which seems well-suited for a dark tale like Tower Chronicles. What has working with him been like?
MW: As with a lot of things that I do, it’s very genre-bending or genre-busting. If you look at the work I’ve done on Mage or Grendel, it mixes elements of fantasy, there’s superhero stuff, horror – Simon handles it all so very well. Truthfully, now that we’re so deep into it, I couldn’t imagine anyone else drawing it.
N: How far are you into completing the project?
MW: Like I said, there will be three books, with each book published as four Prestige-sized volumes, which is 68 pages, so you get a nice chunk of reading each time. Simon just finished drawing the second book, so he’s 120-pages in. I just finished writing the second book, so I’m over 500 pages into it. It starts in September, which is nice because we’re so far ahead, so when this train starts rollin’, we’ll hit every stop on time. We just released a preview edition here at the show.
N: John Tower is a supernatural bounty hunter, which is a badass profession no matter how you slice it. Tell us about creating a compelling character from someone else’s concept that will resonate with readers.
Right, the storyline follows a supernatural bounty hunter by the name of John Tower. As we delve deeper and deeper into the story, we realize there’s much more to him than meets the eye. Well, he’s a very dour, brooding character, but at the core of that, he has a dark, distinct, human reason why he confronts these supernatural creatures, why he does it for money. At first, he seems very aloof and, as I’ve said before in other interviews, he’s Clint Eastwood-esque. But, as time goes on, we realize that we do like him, he’s very heroic. The harder thing for me is, when I say supernatural bounty hunter… it’s kind of been done before in certain regards. You can feel elements of that there’s certain TV shows like that. Buffy’s kind of like that. How do we make art that’s unique and distinct? It’s that voice, it’s the way that it’s approached. A big part is Simon’s art, which is so rich and dynamic. It really brings it to life.
Nerdist: How did your collaboration with Legendary on the cover for the Tower Chronicles come about?
Alex Ross: They contacted my website. Of course I’m familiar with Bob Schreck and he worked for years at DC and other places. So, I’ve known him. Of course I know the other talents of Simon and Matt. It was an easy fit. Everybody is paying attention to what Legendary is doing in the business so I certainly was curious to hear from them.
N: What are your thoughts on Legendary’s move into the comics space?
AR: I’m happy for them to be putting themselves into the mix of making comics, because the more that these large companies like Legendary can show a faith in comics as a part of the process of creating ideas and nurturing concepts is always good. For those of us just on the side of comic books, it’s nice to know you’ve got some real effort and, frankly, some real funds coming into the art form to help keep things going. Say what you will about the Frank Miller graphic novel they recently produced, it was still an ambitious effort to put out a vision of something someone had been working on for ten years. It was a passion project.
N: With your cover, how did you come up with the piece? You’ve put John in an action pose, how did you choose that?
AR: [Legendary] had a lot of recommendations. I had done a number of sketches with him posed in different ways and there was one that they gravitated toward. Thankfully, it’s one I would have liked to have done. Actually, come to think of it, I had done the pose and the composition for the figure and then Bob Schreck requested I put in a stained glass window for him to be coming through. It kind of worked out as a subtle collaboration.
N: The last time we spoke, you mentioned you were going to be on some big properties coming soon. Are you able to elaborate on that now?
AR: Some stuff I can say is… Dark Horse, I’m going to be doing some images for them. I’ve got a full project I’m doing interiors for with Dynamite that’s going to be announced [this] week. Some of those big projects are going to be in that. One that was finally announced was covers I’m doing for Planet of the Apes for Boom! Studios.
N: Can we look forward to more work between you and Legendary?
AR: I’d be happy to hear from them.
And now, without further ado, here is the Alex Ross cover: