You may remember Joe Caramagna dropping numerous hints over the past few weeks that he had a secret project in the works, a comic he would be writing at some point in future. Well! The project has been revealed as being The Further Travels of Wyatt Earp, a digital comic series about the life and times of the gunslinger. Written by Caramagna and drawn by Scott Koblish, the project went up on Kickstarter a few days ago, and is well worth taking a look at. And pledging to!
I certainly have. But if you want to know more about the comic before you join me, then good news! Because here’s an interview with Caramagna himself, in which he talks about the premise of the book, the structure it’ll take… and his love for Rango. As a bonus, there’s also a picture of Dan Slott wearing a promotional moustache! Read on…
Steve: Why Wyatt Earp? What made you want to tell his story?
Joe Caramagna: I’ve always been a fan of American history, but was never really interested in westerns. Some years back, my cousin convinced me to watch the movie Tombstone and when I found out is was based in a true story, I gave it a shot. I had a vague idea who Wyatt Earp was, but I didn’t know that much about him. My cousin was right, I loved the movie, and over the years started learning more about his life. I’d been thinking about self-publishing a book for a while, and this was exactly the kind of out-of-my-comfort zone challenge I was looking for.
Steve: How will the 5-issue miniseries follow his story?
Joe: This is a different take on Wyatt Earp than anything you’ve seen; it’s the part of his story that most people don’t know anything about. Most of what we know comes from the movies – not just Tombstone, but the Kevin Costner movie as well – and they end on the Gunfight At The OK Corrall, which is what Wyatt’s most famous for. But that happened when he was about 32 years old.
He lived for another 50 years, traveling the West in search of his fortunate and glory. After retiring from the law, he was a card dealer, a horse racer, a gold miner, a boxing referee. The digital series peeks in on Wyatt Earp at different times and places in his later years and imagines what his life must have been like.
Steve: Will there be a common thread linking the issues, aside from the main character? Is there a longterm story here?
Joe: Each chapter is its own story, but there is a definite progression and a larger story when you put them all together. And it all starts with a character that I introduce in the first chapter in a very interesting way, who acts as a link between them all.
Steve: What are the challenges in taking a character whose past is half myth and legend, and telling a story about them? Are you planning to keep this biographical or are you more interested in exploring the myths which surrounded him?
Joe: That’s the fun of it! After he cleaned up Dodge City and Tombstone, Wyatt was known nation-wide as a ruthless lawman – the symbol of frontier justice. But by most accounts, he was a private person, so aside from public records all we know about him is what was printed in the newspapers, which were usually stories told to a reporter second-hand – sometimes by his enemies.
Each chapter of The Further Travels of Wyatt Earp is based on a real place and real time in Wyatt’s life, but imagines what his life was like in that place and time based on what we know from public record. And I get to add to the legend by filling in the holes.
Steve: The plan is for the series to be published digitally to begin with – will you eventually bring this to print, if the Kickstarter succeeds?
Joe: I don’t have any plans currently. I’m a big fan of digital comics and how comics look on a tablet, and I really think that it’s a great way to get younger people into reading them. But even more than that, as a self-publisher, I love the idea of not worrying about orders and inventory, and I can just concentrate on the part that I love, telling stories. But who knows? I can’t say it’ll never happen, I’m just not planning on it right now.
Steve: You’ll be working again with Scott Koblish on the project. What does he bring to the book, as an artist and collaborator?
Joe: It’s simple, Scott makes me a better writer. He always knows exactly what I want, even when I don’t know what I want, and he adds all of the perfect details that turn a good idea into a great one. And his style is perfect for what I’m going for – his art looks the way that my writing sounds, if that makes any sense to you at all, haha. This isn’t an adult comic, it’s not a kids comic, it’s a comic for a general audience, and Scott’s style is as good at keeping one feet in each as I’ve ever seen. I always love to work with him.
Steve: You mention that you only recently got interested in Westerns as a genre. Which was the film or book which finally caught your attention? And why?
Joe: Because I love American history, TOMBSTONE and Kevin Costner’s WYATT EARP were my gateway into Westerns years ago, but I still never really had much interest until just a few months ago. One night, I saw that THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY was on HBO GO and decided to try it for no good reason. Man, I was blown away! As soon as it was over, I hated myself for not giving it a chance sooner! So I bought the movie right away and have seen it maybe six or seven times since.
Now I’ve seen A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS and A FEW DOLLARS MORE, both versions of TRUE GRIT, RANGO, haha! I can’t get enough of them. Right now I’m watching THE LIFE AND LEGEND OF WYATT EARP SEASON ONE on DVD. Great stuff!
Steve: Finally — Who’ll letter the book?
Joe: Ha! My budget is extremely small, so it’s very fortunate that I know a thing or two about lettering comic books!
Thanks to Joe for his time! You can find The Further Travels of Wyatt Earp on Kickstarter, as well as on Tumblr - where Joe’s just written a few posts about Hurricane Sandy which are worth reading about, just in case you still weren’t entirely certain that he’s one of the nicest people ever.