Here we have a writer's commentary from Frank J. Barbiere for his new Dynamite series The Precinct. The series is set in the Legendarry universe created by Bill Willingham. The commentary is for the first issue which came out today and features art by Crizam Zamora and a cover by Joe Benitez.
Frank J. Barbiere here, and I'm going to take you through the inaugural issue in a Writer's Commentary that will shed a little light into the creative process and the mysteries at hand in The Precinct! Let's dive in!
PAGES 1 & 2
I'm a big fan of opening with action, and I really love how these pages came together. Crizam (Zamora, the artist) really sells the aesthetic of the book immediately, and the coloring evokes a really dreamy/almost horror vibe. I wanted to get one of these steampunk monstrosities out front and center, and this is a nice intro to the craziness that's waiting on the pages following. Writing Mort's narration was also a joy, as the idea of a hardboiled detective in a fantasy world is a pairing I don't see often.
PAGES 3 & 4
It was very important to me to do some preliminary "world building" upfront, and Crizam was really up to the task. It's all too easy to just write "a cityscape" description, but Crizam really brought dimension and a strong steampunk vibe to the world of The Big City. Mort is our guide, and we learn a bit about him and the world—this is stuff I love as a reader, and I think we executed it well. Also, the obvious nod to Jules Verne with Mort's cat.
We get to see Mort at "work" and introduced to the characters of Ames and The Chief. Ames is lovingly named after Jonathan Ames—I find slipping homages and references into character names more and more fun these days. We're seeding a really fun murder mystery in the series, and this is our first glimpse as readers—we also get more wonderful shots of the city and the steampunk technology, beautifully rendered by Crizam.
Our first intro to Jo—Josephine Winters, and acolyte of the ALCHEMY ACADEMY. I wanted Jo to immediately be adversarial, as the whole idea of her world and views colliding with those of Mort and The Precinct is a big part of the book. Jo represents a whole other view on religion, society and order—the fact that she's already ignored by the members of the The Precinct is telling and certainly doesn't start the relationship off on a great note.
So much great work by Crizam here. We get a glimpse into what The Precinct looks like, and it's a wonderfully realized steampunk police station. We also get the fun interrogation sequence, which really sells the difference in thought between Mort and Jo, as well as Jo's weirdly mystic persona (as she freaks out the bum).
More awesome steampunk setting, and a really fun convo between Mort and Jo to further get their characters out. I really like how Mort's dialogue came together in the last panel.
The mysterious Alchemy Academy is revealed. For starters, Crizam really just knocked this sequence out of the park—this is a very different setting to mirror the worldview of the Academy, and the visual differences and architecture are so wonderfully realized in the art. It was fun to come up with a fictionalized history of the world, and to let readers in with the sequence explaining the Academy. And obviously, things are not all what they seem.
The coloring really is delightful in this "fire" sequence, and carries the exact tone I was hoping for. Yet again, we get to see Mort and Jo in action and the difference in how they compose themselves. Also, we see Jo use our form of "magic" in this sequence—an alchemical reaction to create spells. It's really fun to lean on fantasy and come up with steampunk pseudo-science, and it's something that will carry on in the book. And how about that cliffhanger—our mechanical monstrosity revealed, and things are going to get physical! "Some dark just don't die," indeed.
Thanks for reading and make sure you check out THE PRECINCT #2 next month!
For more on The Precinct #1, click here.