Comic book publisher and icon Stan Lee and 1821 Comics co-founder Terry Dougas unveiled their latest graphic novel Romeo and Juliet: The War at the 2011 New York Comic Con. The hit stores January 25th, is Shakespeare’s classic Romeo and Juliet reimagined as a sci-fi fantasy set in the future. It was written by Max Work with artwork by Skan Srisuwan.
From the press release:
ROMEO AND JULIET: THE WAR takes Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers and places them in the futuristic sci-fi/fantasy Empire of Verona, the most powerful territory on Earth. The MONTAGUES, powerful cyborgs made of artificial DNA, and the CAPULETS, genetically enhanced humans known for their speed and agility, worked in tandem to destroy all threats to the city. With no one left to fight, the Montagues and Capulets found themselves a new enemy: each other.
“This is the graphic novel I’ve always dreamed of doing. Take one of the world’s greatest stories, known and loved throughout the globe, place it against the background of a future age, a more violent, science-gone-mad age–embellish it with the most powerful, dazzling, illustrations ever seen and produce it in the largest, most impressive format of all. Romeo and Juliet: The War! It’s the crowning achievement in this, the age of the graphic novel.”
Added Terry Dougas of 1821 Comics, “Last year we announced the formation of our company and our plans to create the first in a series of graphic novel books and today we are proud to unveil one of the most highly anticipated books of our time ROMEO AND JULIET: THE WAR. We are treating this book like a studio tentpole release, and judging from the fan reaction today this property has a tremendous amount of sequel potential beyond just books. It is also an honor and privilege to be working with one of the most iconic and creative minds today comic legend Stan Lee and POW! Entertainment, we have the best partner in the business.”
I caught up with Lee and Dougas on the first day of the New York Comic Con.
What was the genesis of this particular project and how did you get involved?
Lee: Actually Terry Dougas came to me one day and said, “Why don’t we do Romeo and Juliet and update it?” And I loved the idea. He decided if we set it in the future, the Capulets and the Montegues can each have a superpower. And when they fight, it becomes the kind of story that superhero fans love to read, but we tried to keep all of the ingredients and all of the elements of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. So hopefully if you’re a Romeo and Juliet fan you’ll love it, and if you’re a superhero fan, you’ll love all of the excitement and the superhero stuff that’s involved in the story!
Dougas: It’s just cool to set in a different environment for everyone to see. Because I knew it took place back then, of course, but setting it in a futuristic environment with all of these gadjets, all types of audiences can read it or watch it. We kept the skeleton, we just made sure we respect the original piece of art.
How is the process working together? How it is working with Terry, and how is it working with Stan?
Dougas: He is such a diva. (laughs).
Lee: It’s great working with Terry because I can brow-beat him. I yell at him. (laughs). No he’s a great guy. He has more ideas and more enthusiasm than anyone I’ve met in a long time. I mean every time I talk with him he comes up with something new. I thought I was creative, but I’m learning from him!
Dougas: For me it’s been an honor. I grew up in Greece reading his comics, it’s just an honor. I learn every day, he helps us with the company and the ideas also. And every couple of weeks we brainstorm and figure out a way to make it the way we want to see it and read it. That way we go to bed happy. Hopefully everyone likes what we’ve done, that’s why we’re doing it as a big hardcover book, 10” by 13” and give enough to the readers to hopefully satisfy them and pay homage to Stan Lee and Shakespeare.
Lee: I never knew anybody that put so much of himself into a project. The average publisher would just publish a book, promote it a little, but this man [Dougas] has been working with this, and living with it, and making posters, and setting up meetings and designing statues. He puts everything into it which I think is wonderful.
What medium was used for the artwork? Was it done mostly with computers or traditional pen and ink?
Dougas: Mostly computers. This artist, Skan Srisuwan, is a great artist. It took us a long time to find him. We went through 200 artists in order to find him in Thailand where he’s working. But he’s amazing. The cover (of the book), he did that in 48 hours, which is incredible. The hardcover book is 155 pages, so you can imagine how much work when into it because all of the panels have the same look to them. We had to make sure it’s the absolute way we wanted it to come out.
Do you think this is the future of comic publishing? Moving away from pen and ink?
Lee: More and more the artwork in comic books begins to look like illustration and is computer aided if only in the coloring. But I think there will always be a place for the regular pen and in drawings. People love those, too.
Any hints on your next project after Romeo and Juliet?
Lee: My lips are sealed, he’d kill me! (laughs)
Romeo and Juliet: The War debuted at #7 on The New York Times Best Sellers list on both the hardcover and paperback graphic books best-seller lists.
Special thanks to Theo Dumont of Dumont Marketing for the opportunity to interview Lee and Dougas.