Decapitated Dan: Hey Mike thanks for taking time to talk with me about Gravel . First of all lets talk about you. Who are you and what do you do?
Mike Wolfer: I'm a writer and artist, usually either one or the other, but occasionally I get the opportunity to do both on the same project. Some of the titles I've written are GRAVEL, STITCHED, LADY DEATH, FRIDAY THE 13TH, and all of our zombie series, NIGHT/ESCAPE/PLAGUE OF THE LIVING DEAD. I've been the artist on a slew of books including all of the ones I mentioned above with the exception of LADY DEATH, plus a bunch of others like George R.R. Martin's SKIN TRADE and Garth Ennis' STREETS OF GLORY.
DD: How did you find yourself getting into making comics?
MW: I was always a comic reader and an artist, so it only made sense to go the Joe Kubert School after high school, and from there I went into self-publishing for several years before hooking up with Avatar Press. At that time, I was self-publishing WIDOW. I brought that to Avatar as they were forming, so WIDOW became one of their company launch titles.
DD: So what can you tell me about Gravel, what's it all about?
GRAVEL is freaking awesome. The premise is that there's this British S.A.S. soldier, but he's what's known as a "Combat Magician." There are very few like him, and the fact that he wields magic isn't common knowledge. There's a secret programme within the British military, where naturally-gifted recruits with occult powers are trained for combat missions, usually conflicts in which average soldiers aren't enough. In past series, we've come to know William Gravel as a real bastard, a vicious little guy very much testing the tolerance of his superiors because of his moonlighting activities and his pressing obligations to Britain's occult hierarchy, outside of his military service sphere. Throughout the last three story arcs ("The Minor Seven," "The Major Seven," "The Last King Of England"), Gravel ripped through that hierarchy, killing nearly everyone and dismantling the whole dysfunctional system, but while he was off settling scores, he was AWOL from his military service... And that's where COMBAT MAGICIAN begins. Gravel's been arrested and locked in prison, and what we're going to see is that while he was off dealing with the Major and Minor Seven, his absence as a trainer from the Combat Magician Programme has resulted in more than a few recruits being placed in the field who aren't prepared, and who are making quite a mess of things which will threaten the secrecy of the whole CM Division.
DD: Who are the main characters?
MW: Because of the nature of his work and the world he lives in, both natural and supernatural, there are very few who come into contact with William Gravel who walk away alive, so a supporting cast? Ha! Most of them are dead. But COMBAT MAGICIAN is giving me an opportunity to expand on the premise, and perhaps give us a few continuing characters, some of whom are the lucky few who have survived previous adventures, which is something we haven't really explored until this point. Another great opportunity for me, and something which Warren Ellis wanted to see in CM, is that we'll get to see Combat Magicians who serve foreign powers. For example, the first story arc takes place in Tokyo, so we'll get to see the unique fighting style and magicks employed by Japanese Combat Magicians.
DD: Where did this idea come from?
MW: The first appearance of William Gravel was in a mini-series written by Warren Ellis titled STRANGE KISS. It was just a one-off series, a nasty little story about elder gods, sex with pseudopods and magic bullets. But the concepts behind the horror really intrigued readers, so Warren wrote several more mini-series, all of which I illustrated. I eventually became a co-writer, working from Warren's plots, and now I'm writing solo. But I've been with the series since the beginning and have been involved with every issue produced, so long-time fans of GRAVEL can be assured that the series is in good hands.
DD: If you were to give this book a movie style rating (G, PG, PG-13, R, X) what would it get, and why would you say that?
It's definitely R-rated, for horrific, gory violence and nasty language. And drinking. And smoking. Lots of smoking.
DD: What are you hoping readers can take away from this story?
MW: One of my major objectives is to deliver just what the reader is expecting: Over the top action, violence, and crazy, horrifying magic. But it's the depth of Gravel's character which is what sticks with readers. You're expecting one thing, but when you step back and think about what Gravel says and does, you realize that there's far more integrity and honour in this man, and much of it should come as a complete surprise. The world sees him as one thing- And that's just how they should see him- But the readers know what's really going on deep inside him. It's our secret, and that's what provides the added dimension which his fans have come to expect. With every issue, we keep learning new things about William Gravel, and that fun of discovery is what keeps the series fresh.
DD: Were you into any titles growing up that lead you to want to create a book like this?
MW: As a kid, I was reared on EERIE, CREEPY and VAMPIRELLA, which to this day stand as some of the strongest, most beautifully written and illustrated horror tales ever published. So as far as horror goes, that's where I'm coming from and what I consider inspiration for my writing. As for traditional, four-color comics, I was a big fan of Marvel Comics, particularly MARVEL TEAM-UP. I loved the whole dynamic of two protagonists with different viewpoints and moral compasses trying to cooperate to achieve a common goal. In COMBAT MAGICIAN, it's very much the "Gravel Show," but because the series will have a more international flair, we're going to see Gravel either battling or allying himself with an exciting assortment of occult practitioners. And he's not going to like it, trust me.
DD: Is this a series that we can expect more from in the future?
MW: Oh, absolutely. Although I haven't heard any news in several months, GRAVEL was optioned by Legendary Pictures two years ago, so if the project moves into production, we'll be seeing much more GRAVEL outside of COMBAT MAGICIAN.
DD: What else are you working on at the moment?
MW: Aside from writing COMBAT MAGICIAN, I'm also writing and illustrating a 6-issue arc of CROSSED, and I have several other projects which I'm hoping will move into the production stage very shortly. And here's a scoop: I haven't mentioned this publicly yet, but I'll be self-publishing a graphic novel called RAGDOLL. It's a 76-page story which was originally published in installments in the X-rated Avatar Press book RAW MEDIA. I (and the few who actually saw it) consider it an under-rated "classic" of mine and think it deserves larger exposure, so I'll be rewriting and redrawing certain scene to bring it down to an R-rating, and I'll be crowd-source funding it through Kickstarter sometime in early 2014.
DD: So where can readers find out more about this book?
is a good place to find info on the series, but a more direct pipeline is the GRAVEL COMBAT MAGICIAN Facebook page, at https://www.facebook.com/GravelCombatMagician
. I moderate the page myself, so there are lots of updates, sneak peeks at art and covers, and a lot of generally silly stuff which I think is worth sharing.
DD: So in summary give me a quick recap on Gravel and why fans should give it a try.
MW: GRAVEL: COMBAT MAGICIAN launches in January 2014, beginning with a #0 issue. It's a double-sized book, which has a full-length story, plus 18 pages of back-up material which summarizes every single past appearance of Gravel. Although I'm writing this series to make it totally accessible to new readers, the 18-page "Gravel Combat Log" will give fans a complete run-down on what has gone before.
DD: Thanks so much for your time Mike.