If you’re a fan of indie comics, there’s a lot to be excited about in Toronto. Blue Banshee Press is a new publishing house that started there recently and they’re getting excited to start printing their brand new comic series, Tommy Gun Banshee! Currently running a successful Kickstarter campaign, they are already fully funded and ready to bring their comic to the world. Tommy Gun Banshee is a period piece that follows the story of a legendary hit man working for the Irish mob and the spirit of a beautiful woman who haunts his existence. The art is beautiful, the story is quietly mysterious and the entire piece feels like it was plucked out of the past. We had a chance to chat with two of the creators, writer Miike and artist Todd Sullivan.
Rogues Portal (RP): Where did the idea come from to do an old fashioned comic like this?
Miike (M): I’ve always loved the Prohibition-era because it seemed like America had this sudden upheaval, this wild, decade-long party, wherein this really corrupt, narcissistic version of the “American Dream” suddenly became this tangible thing. Criminals were getting rich off liquor, WWI had ended, and everyone in North America is saying, “Why NOT me?” It seems like the mythology of the 20s is that everyone was ambitious, everything was larger-than-life. So we wanted to make a comic like that- a story that revels in the fact that it can be noir, and pulpy, and macabre at times, and really push those elements to 11 when we wanted to.
Todd Sullivan (TS): Miike is the creator of Tommy Gun Banshee, I saw it and loved the idea so went home and drew up a mock cover. At first I wasn’t sure if he’d think I was a jerk. Haha. Thankfully he liked it and we started kicking around the idea of making it happen and things went from there.
RP: What other comics inspired the gangster aesthetic of Tommy Gun Banshee?
M: I’ve always been a huge fan of old gangster movies- stuff with James Cagney, Paul Muni. The really old, quick-talkin’ knows everyone on the streets-type of gangster flicks, and I wanted to write something like that. So when I started looking around to see who else was doing crime comics, that lead me right into Torpedo by Enrique Sánchez Abulí and Jordi Bernet, and Jew Gangster by Joe Kubert. Writing-wise, I practically studied Criminal by Brubaker and Phillips like it was a school textbook. Those are the biggest influences on the aesthetics of the book.
TS: I can’t speak for Miike but for me I’ve always been a fan of the 1920’s. So it wasn’t so much other comics that I found inspiration from but the era itself. The clothes, the cars, the architecture. Everything had style to the smallest detail. As well of course the drama and ingenuity that prohibition brought out of people in those times. Whether on the bootlegger side or the law enforcement. As for what other comics, for myself it would be mainly the works of EC horrors and Will Eisner, both his writing and art. His storytelling in general was so unique. More art than comic book in my opinion. The other would be the original Phantom comic and the radio show The Shadow. I think because they were heroes but didn’t have that ‘super hero’ feel. Despite the Phantoms purple suit. They both seemed to have that pulp style. I never put them in the same category as the mainstream super-heroes.
RP: I love that you are going to print the comic on newsprint! What inspired that decision?
TS: Both of us prefer the old newsprint look and feel and it seemed a good fit for Tommy Gun Banshee. Luckily we found a press in Gravenhurst Ontario who still do that. Most places only do digital printing, which doesn’t work so well on newsprint. If they even do newsprint, that is. It turned out to be a good move I/we (I hope we) feel, haha.
RP: What about the supernatural aspect? What kinds of mythology or folk tales did you draw from to create the banshee?
M: I’m a huge fan of mythology- I think Irish myth gets forgotten about a whole lot, and it’s a real shame. For research into the project, I read quite a bit of old Irish stories, mainly about the Tuatha Dé Danann, and the Fae folk. The Banshee in our story isn’t completely like its mythological counterpart, but we wanted to respect and draw from the existing legends. I think it has served to make the story better.
TS: For the look, originally it was more wispy and no real features but as the story progressed it seemed more interesting to make the Banshee almost ghost like in appearance to add intrigue into her/it’s origin. We also had her a blue hue at first until some added research revealed Banshee’s are usually greens.
RP: What plans do you have for the future of the series? Can you give us any hints about what you’re hoping the story will focus on?
M: We’re hoping to explore a lot of different topics throughout Tommy Gun Banshee – we want to make each individual issue fulfilling on its own, but also move forward the overarching plot. “Is Nicky, our protagonist, going crazy, or is the Banshee real? And if it is real, why is it haunting HIM?” Nicky NEEDS to know, and at the start of our story he’s been driven a point where he’ll do just about anything to get a straight answer. He’s becoming utterly obsessive, and he’s losing all of himself in this hunt- so we’re following this sort of downward spiral, and we’re also witnessing the birth of the modern concept of the American Mafia as we know it. The criminal underworld warring with itself, shifting and forming some sort of organized structure out of chaos. We’ve got a ton of ideas for individual stories within this framework- but like Todd says, we’re trying to focus on one thing at a time!
TS: Hard to say. Lots of ideas but can’t throw them out there without really thinking of the whole story. At the moment we’re focusing on this storyline though thinking three moves ahead. It gets hard at times as one idea spawns another etc. then we have to go over things. Miike is the guy who has the solid storylines. I tend to throw ideas out as they pop in my head. Sometimes I have good ideas. haha
RP: What excites you the most about this project?
M: Working with Todd is basically a dream come true. I’d love to work with any artist, but his version of Tommy Gun Banshee is like, the “true” version in my mind. He’s basically Jordie Bernet on Torpedo, and it’s always fun to brainstorm with him. We both spit out ideas, and we figure out what works, and it’s never a frustrating process.
TS: For me it’s getting to bring Miike’s storytelling to the comic book pages. He writes so well sometimes it’s hard to put it in pictures because I’m not sure I can always interpret his words as well as they deserve. So there’s been a number of occasions where he’ll write a description for me so I get a better idea of what he means and I find his description stronger than any visual I could come up with so I’ve opted to put his description in text rather than trying to draw it out. Now and then we use both as long as it’s not redundant.
RP: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
TS: We have other titles planned for the near future. We fully intend to expand our universe as they say in comicdom these days. Wytches of Rupert’s Land is one I’m particularly excited to delve into.
Malcolm Derikx, also of Blue Banshee Press: Like Todd says, we’ve got a lot of ideas. We’re constantly coming up with new stories, and we’re hoping that Blue Banshee Press will become our own little spot on the map, so to speak. We’re especially excited about the idea of doing some YA-books. Tommy Gun is a little more mature, but one idea we’ve got in the works, Wytches of Rupert’s Land, is going to be this comic set in a fantasy world, inspired by the landscape and history of early Canada. So basically, expect more from us soon!
If you can’t wait to pick up your copy of Tommy Gun Banshee, make sure to check out the Kickstarter campaign, which is still live until Friday, November 24th!