Joe Casey and Ian MacEwan discuss MCMLXXV and 1975.
AiPT!: At the risk of sounding of stupid, I have to ask: why is the title MCMLXXV?
JC: The simple answer is… because that’s the year the story takes place in. Makes for a pretty cool-looking logo, too.
IM: It’s a way to set the tone of a mythic story that takes place in a city surrounded by myths. I like the graphic appeal of it as well, and seeing it over images of New York is just the right combination of info we want audiences having when they start reading. And New York in the 70s is closely tied with film for me, so it also makes me think of seeing roman numeral production dates at the end of movie credits.AiPT!: I imagine we will find out the story behind it, but why did you choose a tire iron as a weapon?
JC: There is definitely a story behind it. From a practical point of view, every taxi driver needs a tire iron. But in MCMLXXV, it goes far beyond practical reasons.
IM: Well yeah, readers will find out more about that in the book, but it just made sense. It ties in with Pamela’s job of course, and it’s sort of a blue collar weapon. Something that anyone might have. It’s easy to go a little overboard with fantasy elements in a story like this, and a tire iron feels real down to earth, a tool rather than some extravagant sword or what-have-you. I like that when she picks it up, it’s immediately conveyed that she’s about to go to work.
AiPT!: MCMLXXV is cinematic in the way the story unfolds and in how it is drawn. Would you like to see it brought to movies or television?
JC: When I make comic books, I don’t think about that aspect of it at all. I love comics, I love the medium, I love making comics. Full stop. That’s where it begins and ends for me. Having said that, I’m certainly not naïve about the world we live in. Hell, one of my comics — Officer Downe — has already been made into a movie. But getting this right as a comic book was enough of a challenge. I’d like to think we nailed it, so I’m more than satisfied if MCMLXXV is a comic book and nothing beyond. That’s more than enough.
IM: I mean, I can’t say I wouldn’t like that? In general, I’m mostly concerned with MCMLXXV as a comic, and love what it can do AS a comic. A film would hopefully bring more attention to the source material, but I probably couldn’t get too involved because I’d get too precious about it, when it should be its own thing and stand apart from the comic. Because why see the same story twice?AiPT!: What is your favorite movie set in or about the 1970s?
JC: There’s no way I could name just one. Jaws. Five Easy Pieces. Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Taxi Driver. Superman the Movie. Boogie Nights. Network. King Kong. The Bad News Bears. All the President’s Men. Assault on Precinct 13. Rocky. Smokey and the Bandit. Escape from the Planet of the Apes. Saturday Night Fever. Almost Famous. I could go on and on…
IM: There are so many! But if we’re talking about ones set in NYC: Marathon Man, The Seven Ups, Three Days of the Condor, Kramer Vs Kramer, and The French Connection are all classic and great. The 70s is a big film decade for me. William Friedkin, Walter Hill, Kinji Fukasaku, Andrei Tarkovsky, and Dario Argento are some of my favorite directors, and they did some of their best work in the 70s.
AiPT!: The book has a great tone and atmosphere. It looks and reads like comic books from when I was a kid. (I grew up in the 80s.) How important was this to you?
JC: I think a good piece of Art is both of its time and timeless. That’s what I’m always going for. I grew up on 80’s comics, too, so they’re definitely a big part of my DNA. I never know how much that translates, though. To me, it’s just a natural thing. But I appreciate the compliment.
IM: I put a lot detail and texturing into my pages, and I think I pull some of that from the 80’s black and white boom, yeah. Manga too, and other work that does the majority of the lighting in the ink. I was afraid I wouldn’t be giving Brad Simpson much to color, but he made them sing. His color stories are fantastic, and something I tried to mirror in my cover colors. But yeah, lighting was an important thing for me with this book, and late 80’s comics are what I grew up on, so it makes sense if some of that seeps through in my pages.AiPT!: What are some of your influences when working on MCMLXXV?
JC: We took from just about everything. The scratch mix approach is my preferred method when it comes to making comic books. It keeps things fun for me on a creative level, and I think it makes for a more interesting and multi-dimensional final product. At this point, I couldn’t even tell you all of the things we threw into the mix. Some of the influences should be pretty obvious. Beyond that, I’d rather let the readers have their fun dissecting the book and looking for all the different shout-outs.
IM: I looked at a lot of movies for reference. And I was looking at a lot of Pepe Moreno comics, stuff by Jordi Longarón, Blutch, and Jademan Comics, off the top of my head. I’m usually always reading through something, and some of that I pull direct inspiration from. But I think everything I take in informs what I’m drawing a little. The ones I mentioned were great for working out my own way to light things and stage action, though it’s hard for me to know how much that shows through.
AiPT!: You two have worked together in the past. What brought you back together for MCMLXXV?
JC: Fate. Kismet. Predestination. Take your pick. Whatever the reason, it was meant to be.
IM: Pretty simply Joe liked the issue of SEX I drew, and quickly after suggested doing our own thing. Later on, he pitched me MCMCLXXV as a fairly thought out concept, and the promise of going wild and big with the action. The timing was right, and it was exactly what I wanted to be doing.AiPT!: Prefect Patterson as a pseudo narrator was a nice touch. What was your inspiration when adding him in?
JC: Prefect — and his function in the story — is an amalgamation of several DJ characters in movies of the past. Super Soul from Vanishing Point. Wolfman Jack in American Graffiti. Obviously, the role played by Lynne Thigpen in The Warriors. Senor Love Daddy in Do the Right Thing. Put them all together and you get Prefect Patterson, the voice of WMAK. Although Prefect actually gets involved in the story in a very significant way. He doesn’t remain stuck in the booth.
IM: He’s all Joe’s idea. It’s a nod to The Warriors, but also fits perfectly for the mythic NYC Joe wanted to portray.
AiPT!: Music adds a nice backdrop throughout the book. What is your favorite song from the 1970s?
JC: Again, there’s too many to pick just one. Honestly, there’s too many for even a semi-comprehensive list. Just trust me when I tell you I’m a big fan of 70’s music, across just about all genres.
IM: “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?” by Prince
AiPT!: What upcoming projects do you have?
IM: I’m working more with Jason Leivian, the writer on an earlier book of mine called The Yankee, as well as a wuxia fantasy book with Zack Soto. A few other smaller things in the near future that are still early stages, but I’m really excited about them.