Shutter is the new urban fantasy/adventure series from Image Comics, brought to you by the creative talents of Joe Keatinge and Leila del Duca, who first met and bonded at NYCC 2012 over a bottle of wine but no bottle opener. The result of their friendship and collaboration comes to us in the form of Shutter #1, out today.
Broken Frontier: Joe, Shutter marks a return for you to creator-owned comics after a couple of years of mostly work-for-hire at Marvel, DC and even at Image. How important was it for you to get back to writing your own characters and what kind of balance would you like to strike between creator-owned and work-for-hire in your career going forward?
Joe Keatinge: While I don’t know what comics got me in as a reader — they’ve been in my life from before a time I can ever recall — the comic that made me realize writing comics was not just something I could do but The Thing I wanted to do for the rest of my life was Spawn #10, written by Dave Sim and drawn by Todd McFarlane, which was their manifesto on what creator-owned comics are, why they need to exist and so on.
I immediately started drawing and writing my own comics in the back of the class room and I haven’t really stopped since. The last year and a half has been almost entirely work-for-hire for me, which can be enjoyable, but having been so heavy on work that’s essentially developing someone else’s intellectual property, it’s nice to work on something that’s entirely a comic book made up by me and my partner/collaborator (in Shutter‘s case, Leila del Duca), without caring if it’s in line with what’s happening in some movie or crossover event.
Don’t get me wrong, I do love working with Marvel and have had pleasant experiences at DC, but Shutter’s a comic book through and through. I don’t give a fuck if it’s optioned for a movie or whatever. And that lack of giving a fuck is pretty liberating, creatively speaking.
Leila, this is essentially your big break in the industry after almost giving up. Was it made any more special because it was with a property that you co-created? Did you feel any extra pressure than you might have if you had been working on someone else’s characters?
Leila del Duca: Unbelievably special. In the past, I’ve mostly worked on other people’s characters, or worlds already developed or scenarios more grounded in reality.
With Shutter I was able to put so much more heart and soul into the project because I could do whatever I wanted, and Joe trusted my decisions every step of the way. It was actually way less pressure to work on my own property, because I only had myself and the ever-supportive Joe to answer to.
In the first issues, Kate’s dad mentions the importance of “shifting one’s perspective” and you’ve mentioned that the title Shutter partially refers to “how we see things from our own point of view, through our own shutters.” Can you talk a little about how shifting perspectives play a part in the story?
Joe: Our differing perspectives — both amongst people and our own ever-evolving perspectives on the people we know, the experiences we’ve had — is pretty much one of the two main thrusts of the entire story, from issue #1 until the final spread of the final issue, which I have already written.
The other main thrust is an extension of what I touched upon slightly in Glory, but want to get into much more with Shutter — examining the importance, function and evolution of family as we get older and how our perspective warps over time.
I’m finally at the age my parents were when they had me, and it’s giving me a completely different view on, well, everything. And while I’m very lucky to come from a well-rounded, very supportive family, I find the whole structure fascinating, something I want to keep examining.
And not just the family we’re born into, but the families we create over time. The people we meet in our lives who become brothers and sisters every bit as real as those we share blood with. And eventually, the families we make ourselves, whether by procreation, adoption or however you go about it. And then mix those two threads together with a bunch of ghost ninjas and robots and you’ve got Shutter.
Leila, the page layouts and storytelling in Shutter are top-notch, but at art school you were mostly trained in fine arts and illustration. What sort of things did you do outside of school to work on your comic skills and sequential art?
Leila: Every time I read a comic I would look at it with a critical eye, trying to decipher how each writer/artist team used storytelling techniques. I was part of a Comic Book Club for a brief time in college, and my colleagues and I would have discussions, picking apart various books, attempting to reach storytelling enlightenment.
One very useful book was Scott McCloud’s Making Comics. I learned so much from reading that one! But with all the philosophizing and analysis, I really learned most of my storytelling skills by finally just drawing comics.
Sequential storytelling was daunting and confusing — so complex — but like anything, the more I drew comics, the more questions were answered, more problems solved, and things gradually got easier.
Family seems to be an important theme in Shutter and to the main character, and yet in the first issue we only get to see Kate’s dad, with no mention of her mother. Is there some sort of mystery involving Kate’s mother, and when can the reader expect to learn more about Kate’s maternal lineage?
Joe: Yep. That is basically all I feel comfortable saying right now. “Yep.”
Leila, the setting of Shutter is that of an alternate reality of modern-day earth where demons, gods and monsters are commonplace. I’m sure it’s been fun to draw, but have you found it challenging to present all these fantastical elements in way that is supposed to come across as “normal”, at least to the characters in the story?
Leila: Aside from the difficulty of drawing so many things I’d never drawn before, making the world of Shutter seem normal has never seemed very challenging.
Even though I’m going “Holy crap! That’s so weird and amazing!” in my own head, the characters in Shutter aren’t reacting that way to their surroundings, so the reader understands that this is a normal thing for the characters we’re reading about.
One last question for you, Joe. I have to say, the ghost ninjas looked pretty cool, but they didn’t hold up very well in a fight. Are their fighting skills equivalent to the shooting accuracy of stormtroopers, or is Kate Kristopher really that much of a bad ass?
Joe: Kate Kristopher has been trained her whole life to go on adventures all over the world (and even to other worlds). She’s born and bred to be a total bad ass.
Shutter #1 is available now from Image Comics.