The ‘Clankillers’ creator talks King Lear, Irish myth, and a lot more.
Clankillers from Aftershock Comics is a “less talk and more do” kind of book. The comic is brutal and filled with action, while the story is deep with rich characters. Writer Sean Lewis spoke with AiPT! about where his ideas came from and Celltic mythology in an interesting interview.
AiPT!: How would you describe Clankillers?
S.L.: Clankillers is like Game of Thrones meets Kick-Ass. Finola is a girl who just wants to love her dad but the bastard is a psychopath killer who runs one of the darkest clans in Ireland. Without her dad’s love and feeling the whole clan control of the island is stupid, Finola decides to do the one thing she can and burn it all down. With her best friend Cillian, who is on the run from some demented priests, she starts killing the clans one by one in an attempt to take her father down.
AiPT!: When I came across a king with three daughters, I thought of King Lear. As I read Clankillers I realized that may have been premature. What did influence you when you wrote it?
S.L.: Not premature. Clankillers is a twisted take on King Lear. I come from a theater background and that was my first draw. I always was fascinated by the top of the play — Lear forces his daughters to tell him how much they love him — an act of hubris that makes the two eldest plot his murder. Very similar in Clankillers.
We tend to think of Lear as a noble man who has lost his mind when we watch the play. I just took the losing of one’s mind WAY further.
AiPT!: After just one issue there is a good amount of lore. There are goddesses, monsters, warring clans. How much research went into Clankillers?
S.L.: Honestly, I grew up with these stories. I’m first generation Irish and I had an older uncle I lived with who used to collect weird arcana. Specifically, around Ireland. When I was a kid he had this weird spell book that was supposed to conjure Celtic myths into reality. He used to warn me never to read it. That worked! I had to be nine years old. I read it constantly. It was filled with Banshees and the Dullahan (like a headless horseman) and Balor (basically like the Thanos of Celtic myth). I always had them in my mind. When this book came around I realized I could run with them.
AiPT!: How historically accurate is the book?
S.L.: It gets all the facts and timelines of the Banshees and their takeover of Ireland correct. Everything else there are liberties!
I kid. It’s a work of fiction. I really let my mind run with the possibilities of medieval Ireland more than have it driven by fact. It’s more a story of a girl who wants her father’s love more than a representation of medieval Ireland.
AiPT!: Padraig the Grotesque certainly lives up to his name. Is he modeled after anyone?
S.L.: Nah. He’s just fun to right. His name comes from Padraig Pierce who was a Republican soldier. But his actions and behaviors are a mix of all the murderous madmen we’ve read about: Vlad the Impaler, Pol Pot, Stalin… it actually doesn’t take much to think of the lengths of destruction human beings will go to, unfortunately.
It makes me almost ashamed to say how fun he is to write.
AiPT!: The interactions between Finola and Cillian are great. How did you manage to capture the naivety and petulance of childhood so well?
S.L.: Thanks! I like writing kids. They have no filter. They’re selfish and funny and completely vulnerable all at once. We forget how much armor we build up as we get older. How we learn to not let our real emotions show through and how to present out “best face.”
Kids don’t do that. They think everything is right now. They think they are more mature then they are. They think ghosts are real. They respond with their hearts on their sleeves. That is compelling to write.
AiPT!: Clankillers is filled with flawed characters giving it a very realistic feel. How important was this to you?
S.L.: I like flaws. Superman was always a hard hero for me to read growing up. He seemed so perfect. I didn’t feel perfect. I gravitated toward the X-Men and Colossus when Claremont was writing about him breaking Kitty Pryde’s heart. He was an outcast and an idiot and selfish and vulnerable… I don’t know, that made sense to me.
I personally find adulthood a giant mess. It’s not ordered or simple or like I expected. It’s really flawed and I feel flawed within it. I want characters who represent that for me. It makes sense to me.
AiPT!: The first issue gave a clear picture of its characters and the story. I know you can only say so much, but what can readers expect to see in Clankillers going forward?
S.L.: So much carnage! I think it will continue to be funny and mystical with a core story we can understand at the beginning — how do we rectify having a parent who has let us down? Do we stop loving them? Do we forgive? Do we make a deal with a Banshee to murder them and topple their kingdom? All relatable stuff.
AiPT!: What future projects do you have coming up?
S.L.: I start putting out Coyotes again with Caitlin Yarsky through Image in August. I’ve loved doing that book with her. And then Hayden Sherman and I are doing our first book together since The Few. I also have a few more projects under wraps for now with different publishers. I’ve been very lucky in this business. It’s nice to have the opportunity to do this.