Interview: Conor McCreery Talks ‘Kill Shakespeare Volume 5: Past Is Prologue: Juliet!’

Conor McCreery, Kill Shakespeare Volume 5, Past is Prologue, Juliet, IDW Publishing

In an exclusive interview with Villain Media, writer Conor McCreery discusses everything you want to know about Kill Shakespeare Volume 5: Past is Prologue: Juliet (IDW Publishing). With its compelling plot and engaging characters, readers will definitely get to feel the epic scope behind William Shakespeare’s masterworks.

As we previously mentioned, five months have taken place since the death of Romeo, Now we have an angry and heart-broken Juliet who is still mourning. When another death strikes, this time a murder, resonates close to her heart. The proud young woman must work to uncover who the murderer is–lest she becomes the next victim.

With the fifth volume out in stores now, McCreery takes readers inside the creative process behind the Kill Shakespeare series, how Juliet’s origin story came about, and his other upcoming projects. 

Kill Shakespeare Volume 5, Past is Prologue
Kill Shakespeare Volume 5: Past is Prologue: Juliet #4 (IDW Publishing)

Villain Media: Tell me about setting The Past is Prologue six years before Volume 1.

Conor McCreery: Well, I wanted to do a couple of things that fans had asked for.

The first one was to answer probably the #1 question we get: “How does Juliet go from being the girl you know in the play, Romeo & Juliet, to the woman you meet in Volume 1 of Kill Shakespeare – this leader of a rebellion?”

By jumping back in time, we were able to tell an origin story, which I thought was an interesting challenge.

The other thing we heard a lot, was for people new to the series, they were a bit intimidated by jumping into a series, four books long and counting. So I thought that doing this Past is Prologue line would make it easy for people to jump into the world to see if it was for them.

VM: Juliet is such a fighter and warrior-like in the Kill Shakespeare series. She’s different here because the story takes place after Romeo’s death. Tell me about her characterization at this point in the mythology.

CM: In a lot of ways, she’s still the same woman. This Juliet is also a fighter, you can tell that from the very first panel, but what’s different is who she’s fighting. Later in the Kill Shakespeare series, Juliet is very clear on who the enemy is, in Past is Prologue, everyone is the enemy.

Juliet is angry at herself, for her role in Romeo’s death. She’s furious at her Mother, who she thinks is shallow. She takes aim at her new Father-in-Law for being an opportunist (or so she believes), even Benvolio – Romeo’s cousin, and someone dedicated to ending the feud between the Capulets and Montagues feels her wrath – simply because he’s honoring Juliet’s mother’s wishes to escort Juliet.

A big part of this story is Juliet learning to channel this passion in a positive direction, so that she can escape what seems like a cycle of death, and make a real impact on her world.

VM: The Past is Prologue is also an origin tale between Othello and Juliet. Was that a challenge breaking down their relationship to their early beginnings?

CM: It really wasn’t. We had a few thoughts about what it could be. Including the idea that Juliet might save Othello when they first met. So I knew the general direction I wanted to go.

The biggest thing for me, was to make sure that both of them were kindred spirits in dealing with the loss of people they loved, and in how they had internalized that and blamed themselves. Both of them are, at their heart, heroes but because of their actions, they can’t see that. Hell, they don’t want to see that about themselves, because then they couldn’t hate themselves, and if they lost that — well does that mean they are minimizing their role in the deaths of Desdemona and Romeo?

What’s great about these two characters, throughout the series, is their true friendship. And in Past is Prologue, we get to see how they both, literally and figuratively, save each other’s lives.

 Kill Shakespeare Volume 5, Past is Prologue,
Kill Shakespeare Volume 5: Past is Prologue: Juliet #1 (IDW Publishing)

VM: Tell me about your portrayal of Benvolio. He is both the comic relief and a tragic figure.

CM: I wanted to play with Benvolio as someone who was truly kind. He loved his cousin Romeo dearly, and because of that he loves Juliet as well (platonically). He’s torn because while he wants to give Juliet the space to mourn – both Romeo and the other people whose death gets the story started – he is also afraid that if she’s not watched, Juliet’s anger will consume her.

I really wish we had more time with Benvolio – he’s such a nice character and you like to see those guys thrive.

VM: Shylock is the villain in The Merchant of Venice but is so memorable because of his layers of dimension. Was Shylock a tricky character to peg down for The Past is Prologue?

CM: He was! It was something I’d wanted to do for a long time ever since (series co-creator) Anthony [Del Col] and I went on NPR YEARS ago, We got a call where someone asked us to use Shylock to help combat anti-semitism, which I thought was a wonderful notion, but felt impossible.

Now I’m not saying our comic does that in any way, shape or form, but it was satisfying to me to find a way to put Shylock in our world in a way where he could have those same layers.

He doesn’t get a lot of time in our story, but I think he’s key to why it works. As Juliet’s Father-in-law, he gets to share the wisdom he gleaned from his play, while still keeping some of that edge that made him so compelling, and controversial in the Bard’s original.

VM: I love Corin Howell’s artwork, especially with the wardrobe and scenery. Tell me about this collaboration.

CM: ‘Rin is the greatest! She’s so incredibly talented, and so funny and nice to work with. I learned an awful lot about her cats, Savannah, what it’s like to go drinking with Sean Murphy, and the annoyance of writers who don’t hit their deadlines (not me, honest!).

She’s also incredibly fast, which is amazing given that her speed doesn’t do anything to the quality of her work. She has a lot of stuff coming up and I think she’s going to be a huge name going forward.

VM: I love the portrayal of these fierce and strong female characters in the Kill Shakespeare series. Tell me about the inclusion of 12th Night. Did you give any directions/advice for writer Keith Morris, artists Jason Loo and Meghan Carter, for Viola and Perdita.

CM: Viola originally appeared as a “hidden” Pirate in the fourth Kill Shakespeare trade, Mask of Night. Keith really loved that character and he wanted to expand on her play’s mythos – and so he wrote a back-up story for us in that issue that showed what had happened to her brother Sebastian.

Perdita was someone he thought would be cool to have as a co-star to Viola – partially because she’s another great female character, but also because of her crazy background in the play, The Winter’s Tale. Through the talks we had about his story, we’ve come up with some really cool ideas for how Viola, Perdita et al are going to play a vital role in the series going forward… especially with one Lady Macbeth….

VM: Is there another Shakespearean character (from the Kill Shakespeare mythology) you would like to give an origin tale?

CM: Tons. It would be great to do something with Othello — but going farther back to right after Desdemona’s death. Iago would also be really interesting. It could be really fun to let Macbeth get a bigger role, by showing how he and Lady M. succeeded in our world in holding on to power.

I’d also like to do, well not an origin story, but a comedic continuation for one of our dead character’s Falstaff. I’ve always wanted to put him in a “Nick Fury and his Howling Commandos” scenario where Falstaff’s ghost seeks out all his illegitimate (and homely) children, and leads them on a quest to help Shakespeare.

Of course, we’ll quickly realize that Falstaff is just as lousy as a ghost as he was as a Dad.

 Kill Shakespeare Volume 5, Past is Prologue,
Kill Shakespeare Volume 5: Past is Prologue: Juliet #1 (IDW Publishing)

VM: What other projects are you working on now?

CM: I just finished off a series for BOOM! – Adventure Time/Regular Show that mashes up those two worlds. I have a couple of more projects with them that will be announced soon.

I’m also writing a couple of creator owned projects – one’s a YA adventure story with Papercutz. And the other is a magic realism bio of the Nigerian musician/activist Fela Kuti with my friend and brilliant artist Jibola Fagbamiye.

And of course, there are always a couple of other things in the hopper. 

Kill Shakespeare Volume 5: Past is Prologue: Juliet is out in stores now.

– By Jorge Solis

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