This July, Top Cow Productions’ Minotaur Press imprint is coming out with their first original graphic novel, Sunset. Written by Christos Gage and featuring art by Jorge Lucas, Sunset tells a good old fashioned noir revenge story… starring senior citizens. I recently got the chance to ask Gage a few questions about Sunset, his mad research skills, and the possibility of more creator-owned work.
[Editor’s note: This interview was conducted before it was announced that Gage would join Neal Adams for Marvel’s First X-Men]
I believe I’m right in saying this is your first work for Top Cow. How did Sunset come about? Did you approach them with this story in mind?
Christos Gage: It actually started a couple years ago when I was talking to them about possibly doing a Darkness story set in Vegas in the 50s. That didn’t pan out, but I said, “You know, if you like that, I have another idea you might dig.” It was serendipitous, really. And yes, this is my first work for Top Cow. I’m really honored that they’d make it their first original graphic novel, and set me up with an artist as amazing as Jorge Lucas!
How easy is it to tap into [protagonist] Nick Bellamy? Is he a way to vent your frustrations with the modern world?
Well, I’m not a tough guy at all, but I am crotchety and I do have the disposition of a man twice my age. I like to nap, eat dinner at 5 pm, and my frustrations with the modern world just keep growing. Nick is definitely a sort of power fantasy character for me, in the sense that every time I see some idiot texting while driving I want to run him off the road and knock his teeth out with the butt of a .45.
The older I get the more fascinated I am by the classic Las Vegas era. Did you have to do much research for the Vegas flashback?
I could always do more, if you want to pay for it! Actually, I did make a research trip to Vegas and went to some sites that are still around, like the oldest casino in Vegas, the Golden Gate, which opened in 1906. They had the first telephone in Las Vegas. Their phone number was “1.” I’m not even kidding. It’s a very loose inspiration for the Seven Seas casino in Sunset.
Without giving a lot away, Sunset feels like a tribute to some of those classic 70s crime flicks, right down to Gianelli looking not a little unlike Jack Palance. Did you draw inspiration from anything in particular?
Christos Gage: That’s very high praise, thank you! There wasn’t a single source of inspiration…it’s sort of a distillation of those classic 70s movies, plus vintage noir films, Unforgiven, hard boiled crime novels, James Ellroy, Ed Brubaker’s crime stuff…just a bunch of stuff knocking around in my head until it came out like this.
The first ‘chapter’ of Sunset is being released at the same time as the OGN, but in color. It’s an interesting take on the notion of ashcan comics. What prompted the decision to do the preview in color?
Christos Gage: It actually comes from the fact that Sunset was originally going to be a color miniseries. The first issue/chapter was colored to be included in the bargain-priced $5 Top Cow First Look trade paperback a little bit ago, but after that the guys at Top Cow asked me what I would think of doing Sunset as their first original graphic novel, and also what I thought of it being black and white, since they really liked the way the art looked. It actually happened that my wife and I had been talking about how much we liked it in B&W as well, so all that sounded great to me. But since the first chapter was already colored, it seemed like releasing the preview book in color, at the low price of a dollar, was a nice way to give people who sampled it something a bit different, so if they bought the OGN they weren’t just getting something they already had. And for process junkies like me, it’s always interesting to compare the same story in color and black and white to see how it comes across in different forms. So I hope people enjoy it!
Might we see more of Nick in the future?
Christos Gage: If enough people want it, I’m game!
And is this your resurgence back into creator-owned material?
Christos Gage: I never really stopped, although being Marvel exclusive for the past two years, and working on Angel & Faith at Dark Horse, has definitely kept me busy – in a good way – so I did slow down. But I am absolutely excited to increase my output of creator-owned material. It’s an exciting time for it; while the market is certainly still tough for comics in general, I think there is an increased open mindedness on the part of retailers and readers as far as accepting new material, not just established properties. That said, I have been working on creator owned books all along, such as a second “season” of Absolution from Avatar Press, a miniseries with Darick Robertson that started at Wildstorm and has now become a DC book – Darick’s recently started drawing that again and it looks amazing! And of course, the long-gestating original graphic novel my wife Ruth and I are writing for Oni, The Lion of Rora, which has hit some bumps in the road artist-wise, but hopefully is now back on track.