Kill Shakespeare Creators Pull Back The Curtain With New Backstage Edition

Kill Shakespeare: The Backstage Edition Vol. 1In their series Kill Shakespeare, Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery (with artist Andy Belanger) brought many of the Bard's best-known characters together to slay the man who would cause them such misfortune. But the authors didn't simply reference well-known names from William Shakespeare's works, but included many references to his plays' subjects and dialogue as well. Now, the creators pull back the curtain to reveal the full detail of their work in Kill Shakespeare: The Backstage Edition Volume 1 ($49.99, 978-1-61377-851-7) published by IDW Publishing.

The Backstage Edition collects all 12 issues of the first Kill Shakespeare comic series, in which Richard III and Lady Macbeth recruit Hamlet to assassinate a reclusive wizard named Shakespeare – but forces led by Juliet and Othello have other plans in mind. In addition to the full story, the Backstage Edition includes annotations from each issue by noted Shakespearian scholars as well as new short stories.

In this interview with Diamond BookShelf, Del Col and McCreery discuss the new edition of Kill Shakespeare, feedback from teachers using the series in class, and Anthony's recent talk at Shakespeare's Globe in London.

You wrote on Facebook that it took over two years to put the Backstage Edition together. What was the process like? What kind of work went into it?

Anthony Del Col: As they say, Rome wasn't built in a day. Now that I think of it, I'm not sure who actually said that, but when it came to creating this book that was definitely the case. We wanted to create the ultimate book for fans of Kill Shakespeare, those of the Bard, and everyone in-between.

Conor McCreery: It was something we'd always wanted to do, but we felt we needed to wait until we had everything just right. That meant finding the right team of academics as well as building our fan-base so we'd have enough people looking for a luxury item like this.

Diamond: How did you connect with the academics and experts for the annotations and teachers guide? Were they familiar with KS before you worked with them?

Conor: We were really lucky that people like Katie Musgrave out of Oxford, Carrie J. Cole (out of Arizona at the time), Doug Lanier from the University of New Hampshire and Peter Holland from Notre Dame were all early champions of our work. They and Dr. Toby Malone, a super-talented dramaturge here in Toronto, encouraged us to reach out to their peers. They opened a lot of doors for us and we're really blessed to know them (and so many others.)

Anthony: A lot of them had definitely heard of – and were fans of – Kill Shakespeare. There was a bit of trepidation when we first launched Kill Shakespeare that scholars would thumb their noses at us and not enjoy our approach to the Bard. But most academics thoroughly enjoy the series and we’re now taught in many schools.

Diamond: Why did you feel it was important to have an edition of Kill Shakespeare with these materials?

Anthony: The most important thing for me was to create a high-quality, amazingly-looking hard cover book. We're known as a high-quality, literate series so it felt natural to have our first adventure collected in a stately book like this.

Conor: Anthony mentioned earlier that we're being taught in several schools – we thought a book like this could really help teachers and librarians champion comics, and Kill Shakespeare, in the classroom. It makes it really clear how much REAL Shakespeare can be learned from our series. It's why we've done a teaching guide as well.

At the same time we've always said that Kill Shakespeare is meant to be accessible for everyone. We thought the annotations were a great way to give Easter Eggs to fans who've already 'brushed up on their Shakespeare'. At the same time we wanted to reassure people worried they didn't know enough Shakespeare to read the series that they'd be fine – if they have any questions they just need to flip a few pages.

A page from Kill Shakespeare with the corresponding annotation 
(click images for full view) 

Diamond: Have you gotten any feedback from teachers or librarians who've used KS in class, or as part of a library program (or even just recommended it to their patrons)? What have they told you?

Conor: We've received a lot of excellent feedback. There is even a course at the University of Ohio in Pennsylvania that did a whole course on us (thanks Carrie!). Generally teachers are amazed at how engrossed their students become and how much Kill Shakespeare ties into what they're teaching. They're also happy that the students see what they see in Shakespeare – that the Bard is a TON of fun.

Anthony: We received an email last week from a high school teacher saying that she just introduced the class to Kill Shakespeare and that all 35 students have been devouring the books and enjoying them. She says it's rare to get everyone to like something at the same time but it happened in this case. Receiving an email like this is music to my ears!

Diamond: Where can teachers find the teachers guide?

Anthony: We're just putting the finishing touches on the teacher's guide and it should be ready this fall.

Conor: We're also asking teachers to share with us anything they've put together. We'd love to become a great resource for anyone who teaches Shakespeare, even if they aren't K.S. fans.

Diamond: Anthony, could you tell readers a little about your talk at the Globe Theater? How did it feel, and what was the reception like?

Anthony: To paraphrase a wise writer, it was the stuff that dreams are made of. To be able to do a talk at the theatre that re-creates the experience of Shakespeare's time? I could almost feel his ghost winking at me at one point. The talk went really well – the people at Shakespeare's Globe and the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse were great to work with and hopefully we'll be able to return in the future.

Conor: (sobbing in the corner).

Diamond: What's next for Kill Shakespeare (or at least the creators of Kill Shakespeare)?

Conor: (still sobbing in the corner)

Anthony: We have a couple really cool things, all of which we'll be able to announce in the coming months. But in the meantime, I'm busy wiping up all those tears in the corner…



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