William Harms (39 Minutes, Impaler) stops by the Outhouse to talk about his latest project, Captain America and Crossbones!
William Harms first began working in the comic book industry almost twenty years ago. However, it wasn't until the last two years that his writing career in the industry really took off. He stopped by the Outhouse to talk about his latest comic: Captain America and Crossbones.
The Outhouse: William, you've been part of the comic book industry for over a decade. How did you first get your break in the industry?
William Harms: I actually got started nearly twenty years ago, writing small press horror comics for places like Boneyard Press. I eventually ended up interning at Marvel Comics in 1994 or so, and from that I landed a couple assignments, one of which was writing an issue of The Ren & Stimpy Show. (The other was a revamp of Werewolf by Night; unfortunately, my editor got laid off and after that it didn't go anywhere.)
From there I wrote a graphic novel called Abel that was originally published by Slave Labor, and then I got a job as an editor at PC Gamer magazine and I kind of gave up on comics for a few years. In 2001, I was working at CNET and when the dotcom bubble burst, I found myself unemployed for a little over a year.
During that time, I read that AiT/PlanetLar had re-released Brian Wood's Channel Zero, so I emailed them and asked if they'd be interested in doing the same thing with Abel. They agreed and Abel came out again, and then I wrote a graphic novel for them called Bad Mojo.
After that, I created and wrote Impaler, which started off at Image and then moved to Top Cow. Impaler is really what put me on the map, so to speak. It made 39 Minutes possible and led to the work that I've gotten at Marvel.
OH: Probably your best known work to date has been 39 Minutes, 2010's Pilot Season winner. For those unfamiliar with the series, what's it about?
WH: It's about a group of ex-Marines who rob small towns across the Midwest. They hit isolated towns that are miles and miles from the next city, and when they first go in they kill all of the cops. The title refers to the amount of time they give themselves to get in and get out.
The FBI is unable to stop them, so they bring in a man named John Clayton, who's currently locked up at the Leavenworth military prison. He was also the commanding officer of the men now robbing the towns, so he has a pretty good idea about how they operate.
OH: When will we see the next installment of 39 Minutes?
WH: Probably later this year or early next year. Top Cow only publishes a handful of titles a month, so it's mainly a matter of getting slotted into their schedule. I have the rest of the book plotted out, though, so I know exactly what happens. It's just a matter of sitting down and writing it when they give me the go-ahead.
OH: Let's move on to your latest project, Captain America and Crossbones. Tell us about the premise behind the story.
WH: Crossbones is imprisoned at The Raft, and a government spook comes and offers him a job. Initially, Crossbones has no interest in doing anything for the government, but when the spook tells him that Steve Rogers doesn't know about the operation (and that's how they want to keep it), Crossbones agrees. He'd do anything if it tweaked Rogers.
From there, Crossbones is dropped onto a small island in the Caspian Sea. Unfortunately for him, the mission isn't quite what he was expecting.
OH: How did you handle the interactions between Steve Rogers and the man who killed him? What would motivate Crossbones to help one of his biggest enemies?
WH: Rogers only appears a couple of times in the story, and both times are in flashbacks. But his presence overshadows Crossbones in ways that Crossbones probably doesn't even realize. They really are opposite sides of the same coin.
OH: What do you feels separates Captain America and Crossbones from all the other Captain America books hitting stands this month?
WH: The thing I've loved about the one-shots is that they place a spotlight on characters that are an integral part of Captain America's universe but that don't always get the opportunity to shine on their own. A character is only as good as their supporting cast.
OH: You've also done work in the video game industry. Which games have you worked on?
WH: I've worked on inFamous, Supreme Commander, and a few other games. Right now I work at Petroglyph on End of Nations. It's being published by Trion, who just released the awesome MMORPG Rift.
OH: What are the differences between plotting a video game and plotting a comic book? Which do you prefer?
WH: They're very, very different from each other. If you want to have a big scene in a comic, you simply write what you want and then stand back and let the artist work their magic. In a game, there are a lot more considerations. Does the scene have to be animated? How will it be rigged? Is there audio, and how will it be layered on top of the action? If you want something destroyed, are there art assets to support that or do they have to be created? (And do you have time to create them?)
The other big difference is that a game constantly changes. Certain things in a comic may change, but nothing on the scale of a game. You can write and record an entire mission and then watch as that mission gets cut from the game or completely changed. If you want to work as a writer in the video game industry, you have to be very flexible and have a firm understanding of the technical limitations of the game that you're working on.
As for which one that I prefer, I like them both for different reasons. My comics tend to be more personal and immediate, while a game can take years. But when a game finally releases, it's a great feeling. Sony ran inFamous commercials during the NBA Finals, which was really awesome.
OH: Do you have any other upcoming projects you can talk about?
WH: I've been developing a comic called Shotgun Wedding with an artist named Ed Pun. (He works at Sucker Punch and illustrated the 2D cut-scenes in inFamous and the upcoming inFamous 2.) We're hoping to get that into production sometime this summer, and I've also got the six-part inFamous series that DC is publishing and an adaptation of Charlaine Harris' Grave Sight for Dynamite.
OH: Final question: If you had to convince readers to pick up Captain America and Crossbones in fifty words or less, what would you tell them?
WH: Crossbones is a great character, and the one-shot gives you a glimpse into what's rattling around in that fevered, demented brain of his. And Declan's art is simply amazing.
Captain America and Crossbones is available wherever comic books are sold.
Written or Contributed by: Christian Hoffer