Bringing The Bard To A New Generation
Transmedia and Shakespeare. At first glance this may appear to be a rather awkward pairing. Yet, for Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col, a new Shakespearian audience awaits just beyond the internet, video games, and comic books.
"The "Kill Shakespeare" series is a transmedia franchise," said Del Col. "The story is meant to be told through a number of different media. It works as a video game, as a comic book, as an iPhone series, on a number of different platforms."
The "Kill Shakespeare" series picks up one month after the end of Shakespeare’s popular tragedy, "Hamlet." As the story unfolds, Hamlet is visited by many other familiar characters who perceive him to be "The Shadow King," the one who will lead them to a mythical wizard named "William Shakespeare" that must be killed. Hamlet is also visited by a band of rebels out to protect Shakespeare at all cost. Hamlet is faced with the choice of protecting Shakespeare, or killing a man he has never met.
"Hamlet was created as an indecisive character," said McCreery, "but he is now faced with having to make a choice. The question we are exploring is how do you deal with the consequences of your choices?"
Co-creators and co-writers Del Col and McCreery took some inspiration from Quentin Tarantino’s "Kill Bill" movies, where Bill (David Carradine) is being protected by a group of former students from The Bride (Uma Thurman) who’s on a quest to kill him. In "Kill Shakespeare," Del Col and McCreery have incorporated popular Shakespearian characters such as Lady Macbeth, Falstaff, Iago, and Juliette, and allows their character traits and flaws to evolve and develop as they encounter Hamlet.
"Josh Chance, an average guy from today, was our original main character," said McCreery, "but we replaced him with Hamlet. Shakespeare’s characters present an accessibility. Folks are already committed to these characters and have a knowledge about how they generally behave."
"It’s almost like working on a sequel," said Del Col. "The characters still feel the same, but they are in different situations, and they’ve grown from their past experiences. Juliette, for instance, was a school girl who, through tragic events, has become a crusader for a cause."
Del Col and McCreery also took great care in selecting the setting. Because most readers generally associate Shakespearian plays with England, they’ve set their story in a general Elizabethan time frame filled with forests, quaint towns, and seaside settings. Feeling that modernized Shakespeare can sometimes be too jarring, they prefer to follow in the influence of Tom Stoppard’s Oscar winning "Shakespeare in Love,’ which was a throwback to the Shakespearian era and proved very relatable to audiences.
Del Col and McCreery are dedicated to keeping the spirit of Shakespeare alive throughout the "Kill Shakespeare" series. A Shakespeare historian is consulted to fact check and verify the quality of the writing, making sure the context and language is Shakespearian in nature. As they sit together and write the adventures, Del Col and McCreery also read the lines out loud.
"Shakespeare was meant to be spoken and heard," said McCreery. "If the words don’t come out of the mouth easily, then they need to be cut."
Del Col and McCreery first developed "Kill Shakespeare" as a videogame, but shelved that goal to focus on developing the plot of the story first. Their second ambition was to turn their idea into a film, and they are currently shopping around a treatment. To get their fan base started, however, they decided the comic book format was the best way to go.
"We’re putting out a 25 page book each month," said Del Col. "We can really focus on characters, action, and plot this way, and really develop the story."
After the series has been well established, the video game concept will be revisited. Del Col and McCreery have also established a strong "Kill Shakespeare" fan base on all the social networks and encourage fan interaction. "Kill Shakespeare" is available on iPhones and iPads. "Kill Shakespeare" has begun its transmedia presence, and the fans have been responsive. During their first Comic-Con participation in July, their booth had a steady flow and plenty of fan requests.
"People were coming up to us and asking for our autographs," said Del Col.
"It was really such an amazing experience," added McCreery.
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