Image Comics is the No. 1 place to read new creator-owned original series. There are other publishers, sure, but Image puts out so much more than most and these series are so varied there’s really no touching them. That includes new series Kill the Minotaur, which is on comic shelves June 14. Set in 1500 B.C. after Athens lost the war to Crete, this is a story about King Minos and his horrible labyrinth, in which lives the minotaur. We interviewed the creative team behind this work to understand this brand new series.
AiPT!: First off, Kill the Minotaur is the title, what did the minotaur do to you?!
Christian Cantamessa: We love the Minotaur, man! To me, the title reflects what we are doing with this archetypal story, which is to approach it from a new perspective. So instead of naming the book after the hero, we named it after his nemesis.
Chris Pasetto: Oh, it’s not us! We love the Minotaur! A little part of me secretly roots for him. The title really distills the job of the classical hero. “St. George set out to kill the dragon…” The Minotaur myth that we drew from (and twisted) is one of those big primal hero stories. It seems direct and simple, but our take is that there’s much more to Theseus’ “job.” Why am I supposed to do this? What’s in it for me? What’s in it for these other people who want me to do it? What’s really going on with this monster anyway? The directness of the title also contrasts with Theseus’ journey, which is anything but direct. A journey through a place with lots of twists and turns … Hmm. There should be a word for that.
Lukas Ketner: It’s just got this like, really killable face, y’know?
AiPT!: Chris and Christian, having worked on the feature film Air, is this story something you’ve been working on for some time?
Cantamessa: the idea started hatching right after we wrote Air. That was our first feature and it’s very minimalist, very claustrophobic. So with Kill the Minotaur we wanted to explore a different idea of confinement, with a much larger canvas.
Pasetto: Yeah, this one has been simmering for quite a while for us. Maybe 5 or 6 years? Christian and I work together on lots of different story ideas, many of which don’t see the light of day (maybe for the best). But this story has always been one of our absolute favorites, one we’ve been passionate about for the whole stretch. We were immensely happy when Skybound took an interest. Their editorial team was incredibly supportive and helpful in developing KtM. And I remember when we got the first images back from Lukas. Christian and I were both floored. We’d always believed KtM was a great story, but then Lukas’ artwork really brought it to life and made it into a real boy.
AiPT!: Having worked in the film medium which has budgets and actors, etc. to deal with, is writing a comic story easier in some ways or harder (since there are no limitations)?
Pasetto: Can’t say if it’s easier or harder. Very different. Obviously there are lots of different things we do when writing for comics vs. film, but at the end of the day, for Christian and I, it boils down to building characters that are engaging regardless of medium. What makes them tick? Why do we care about their journey? Regarding budget and spectacle, there’s definitely a shift going from film to comics. In a film script you have to worry about the practicalities of any big spectacle; in a comic it’s almost a requirement. It was fun to work those spectacle moments into the script for Lukas. “This page is all yours, Lukas! Swing for the fences!” On a personal level, I’ve written for many different media – short stories, video games, movies, etc. But I’ve read comics since I was a wee lad. So writing KtM – and seeing it all come together as a full comic – is pretty much a lifelong dream come true.
Cantamessa: Writing is always an amazing process, but any kind of story, no matter the medium, always comes with its own unique set of challenges. And in a way, the unbridled creativity you can have in a comic can make things harder, because once you can pretty much do anything, where do you even start? For me, it’s good to have creative limitations, even if they are self-imposed.
AiPT!: How much research went into capturing the setting of Crete 1500 B.C. visually and historically?
Ketner: Quite a bit of research, but some minor liberties were taken. There’s actually less historical reference than I thought there would be for the Minoan empire. In a lot of sources for ancient Crete, much of what’s in re-creation illustrations is derived from available artifacts and ruins like leftover wall paintings and weathered statues— I’d say the architecture in the story is pretty on point aside from large set pieces like the dining hall and amphitheater. There were a lot of smaller rooms and lower ceilings in the real Cretan palace, and I thought the art needed more room to breathe for those scenes to make the culture ostensibly imposing and in control. The Cretan clothing in the story definitely follows the look of the time, but a few things were tilted a bit toward the Mycenaean cut of cloth in a few places. Cretan style and dress was a bit too utopian (kinda like a relaxed beach resort), so while the detailing is mostly correct, I wanted to bring in a few harsher aspects (like chunkier armor and double-pronged bull spears) to sell the dominant nature of the Minoan empire in the story. The labyrinth is, of course, completely historically accurate.
Cantamessa: After the initial seed of the idea, we started doing our research to see how the myth connected back to actual history and if it matched our concept for this story. We found a treasure trove of crazy connections and possibilities. It really inspired us to tell this story and it’ll be fun to see if our readers will go off on their own to look up all the little details.
Pasetto: We did quite a bit of research on the people, places, clothes, architecture, etc. to really ground the characters in this period. There was a seminal moment when we found these images of ancient Cretan coins. It was historical evidence that supported our crazy take on the Minotaur myth! At the same time, research was a balancing act. We wanted KtM to be a modern story, especially in how our characters are presented, their motivations and personalities. The story isn’t written for an audience of Ancient Greeks; the characters aren’t speaking Ancient Greek. In fact, it was a conscious decision not to make everyone’s dialogue sound mock-archaic (i.e. everyone speaks with an English accent). We tried to make the dialogue more contemporary. Not too much, of course. “Chillax, bro. Minotaur is totes b.s. LOL.”
AiPT!: Lukas, I really enjoyed Witch Doctor (it even appeared in our old column PiPT), should readers expect the same sort of grotesque monster madness in this series?
Ketner: Yes, and thanks for that! There’s even some pretty obvious nods to real-life biology, something that’s always scarier than a completely invented monster or antagonist.
Pasetto: I know this one’s for Lukas, but I have to chime in here and say that I loved Witch Doctor! The creature designs were awesome. Not just typical demon-monsters. You could see that there was a great deal of care and thought put into the creatures’ physiology, which made them very unique. We’re very happy that Lukas brought those sensibilities to KtM!
AiPT!: In the perfect world, how long would Kill the Minotaur run?
Cantamessa: We have a lot more stories to tell, that’s for sure.
Ketner: It kinda is a perfect world in this case since it’s a really concise miniseries; the story has a great rhythm and conclusion— so 180 pages in 30-page chapters (thick issues!). That doesn’t mean there aren’t more things to Kill in the future. *heavy breathing* lots … of … things … *pant, drool*
Pasetto: Is this a trick question? We’re hopeful that readers enjoy the series and want to see more. We’ve talked a lot about all the different directions the series could go with a longer run. There’s so much! We’d absolutely love to continue building the characters, riffing on classical Greek myths, and developing the world that we’ve created. Short answer: It would be great if KtM ran for a long, long time. We’ve got plans. Big plans.
AiPT!: If this were adapted to film, would you see it more in line for TV or a movie?
Cantamessa: I think it could be a fun movie. It all depends on the popcorn.
Ketner: I’d say movie. Nice satisfying arc to the whole thing with an unexpected ending thanks to Chris and Christian! The whole thing has this great Grindhouse quality. I keep envisioning it as a warped Harryhausen film, like John Carpenter meets the original Clash of the Titans. I adore that stuff, and I think readers will see that Kill the Minotaur is partially fed on it.
Pasetto: Oh boy. Either? Both? And a video game.
AiPT!: Lukas, the faces of the characters in this series are wild, including an old man with a droopy face. How many iterations of a face do you go through before landing on the one we’ll see in a book?
Ketner: Oh gods, Aegus’s stroke injury (probably from a battlefield clot, although I never asked Chris and Christian…?). I read that, and I was super excited to draw it— until I found how hard it was to make it read correctly on-page. Real-life facial stroke injuries are mostly a bit subtle, so it was a constant process to exaggerate it enough to read as the Athenian king not just making a face without it being offensively wacky-looking. I almost asked to change it to a scar or eyepatch until I realized that it was a pretty unique way to represent a character’s defeat at the hands of something that proved to be out of his control, even though he’s the most powerful person in his nation. Strife takes the apples of us all and makes awful, tragic pies.
Pasetto: Poor Aegeus…
AiPT!: What’s your favorite method of procrastination?
Ketner: 90s point-and-click adventure games. I’m an artist, so anything that my eyes can see is research, right? I’m gonna say it counts and then plug my ears and sing something loud.
Cantamessa: It depends … if I am staring at a blank page, even cleaning the fridge will do the trick!
Pasetto: I chain myself to my desk at the crack of dawn, because otherwise I’m just, you know, sleeping. But even then, I’ll procrastinate by fiddling on my computer. Check e-mail, surf the web, browse Facebook. Oh look, somebody made a replica Iron Throne entirely out of bacon! Eventually I’ll buckle down and work… but usually the procrastination will continue. I’ll re-format a timeline chart, use a different color or style, search for just the right font. All that fiddling can be a huge non-productive time sink. But sometimes just by fiddling with a document that I’m supposed to be working on, I’ll see something that I want to add, change, improve… and before I know it I’m actually writing! Basically I trick myself to get real work done.