Shakespeare in blood

Brian Baker/Town Crier A LITTLE SHAKESPEARE: Midtown's Anthony Del Col plays with a figure of the bard, as he plays with the poet's image in his Kill Shakespeare series.
Brian Baker/Town Crier
A LITTLE SHAKESPEARE: Midtown’s Anthony Del Col plays with a figure of the bard, as he plays with the poet’s image in his Kill Shakespeare series.

Toronto pair have turned bard’s tales into killer graphic novel series

William Shakespeare’s famous heroine Juliet once asked, “Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo?”

Well, Jules, he’s a man adrift in the graphic novel Kill Shakespeare: Tide of Blood.

“(Romeo) was praising this god Shakespeare, killing in the name of Shakespeare, and he realized he was doing the wrong thing,” the novel’s co-creator, Anthony Del Col, was saying recently from his own balcony somewhere in the Yonge and Eglinton area. “He had lost his god and at the same time he lost his first love, Juliet.

“Now, he’s discovered Juliet is still alive.”And so began a new adventure into darkness: Romeo seeking out a wizard — The Tempest’s Prospero — and putting an end to humanity’s destruction.

Del Col and partner-in-crime Conor McCreery created Kill Shakespeare four and a half years ago. They ditched reasonably established careers, then raised $300,000 in private equity during the height of a crippling recession, to make it happen. McCreery left a career in broadcast media, while Del Col gave up the music industry, one that saw him helping in the management of stars like Nelly Furtado and K-Os.

“We figured, let’s do this, we don’t have any major attachments or anything that would bog us down, and if we don’t do it now we’ll never do it,” he said of the duo’s quest. “Or, if we don’t do it now someone else will steal the idea or come up with a similar idea.”

The idea of Kill Shakespeare materialized before 2009, however. Del Col says the creative fire burned and the cauldron bubbled more than a decade ago.

“Around 12 years ago we immediately tried to find a project that we could both work on together, and it was 10 years ago we were sitting around working on children’s animation shows,” he said. “We were just brainstorming ideas, and all of a sudden Kill Bill (the Quentin Tarantino film) came up and we thought, oh yeah, that would make a great video game.

“The story of Uma Thurman going on this quest to track down David Carradine … and that’s when we went from Kill Bill to Kill Shakespeare.”

Bill, in this instance, is not a snake charmer from the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, but a bard at the Globe Theatre.When the first book, published by IDW Publishing, launched in the spring of 2010, Hamlet was the main protagonist, and the other corner of a Romeo-Juliet love triangle.

But there has been an evolution, Del Col says.“We’ve kind of shifted gears. Instead of Hamlet being the main character, we’ve shifted focus over to Romeo. He is dealing with the aftermath. He had fallen in love with Juliet, basically left for dead, and he came back to life.”Other characters featured on the side of the star-crossed lovers are Puck, from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Henry IV’s Falstaff and Othello.

The wretched include Richard III, Lady MacBeth and Iago, Othello’s nemesis.

Tide of Blood is winding down, with its final book released Aug. 28. But don’t expect this third instalment to be focused on Juliet or Hamlet. Del Col is hoping to expand the universe he and McCreery have created into Shakespeare’s comedies.

“Originally it was written in three parts — a trilogy, basically — and this would have been our middle one, kind of like our Empire Strikes Back, and we have an ending that’s kind of shocking,” he said. “We won’t be going through Hamlet’s story but more an offshoot story — like, hey, here’s what’s happening at the same time with different characters.

“We created this whole Shakespeare universe and all his characters are there, but we haven’t met them all yet.”

Among those being brought to the stage are Beatrice and Benedick from Much Ado About Nothing, The Taming of the Shrew’s Kate, and Shylock from The Merchant of Venice.

Del Col’s mentioning of a video game is not far off. Kill Shakespeare will be making its digital appearance soon.

As for the stage — Shakespeare’s Globe — well, it’s been there too, having had a stage reading at Toronto’s own Soulpepper in 2011.

To quote another Shakespearean character, Malvolio of Twelfth Night: “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”

Del Col doesn’t seem to mind having had success thrust upon him.“To me, the whole goal or mission for Kill Shakespeare is shining a spotlight on Shakespeare’s characters, and exciting new audiences about them.”

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