IDW Publishing’s Steven Scott gives readers an EXCLUSIVE in-depth interview
JACKBOOT & IRONHEEL creator, writer and artist Max Millgate.
For the uninitiated, can you give us the elevator pitch for Jackboot and Ironheel?
Lead protagonist, Eddie Neale goes rapidly from footballer, to R.A.F. tail-gunner, to P.O.W in an ancient castle where supernatural activity is rife and where the Nazis are the least of his worries!
Jackboot and Ironheel begins like a traditional war story set during WWII, but then takes a turn for the supernatural horror. What is it about these two genres that attracted you to them and what made you decide they would work well together?
Well, World War II/Supernatural stories are an established sub-genre within horror. Paul F Wilson’s novel ‘The Keep’ was a book that made a big impression on me. That story was a big influence. I have to give a nod of respect to Mike Mignola’s work in this area too. I have every Hellboy comic book out there!
There’s also some examples from cinema, like the Nazis trying to locate the Ark Of The Covenant in Raiders Of The Lost Ark. These ideas are all based on some historical fact because a lot of the top Nazis were obsessed by the Occult. Heinrich Himmler even sent scientists out to try and locate the Holy Grail and the Spear Of Destiny. He really believed that these religious artefacts would bring his SS unimaginable power! He was really insane!!!
As this is a period piece, how much research goes into a project like this in order to make it feel grounded, or are you more focused on the horrific elements while just using the WWII setting as a backdrop?
I’ve been interested in WWII for years, but I never had any intention of using it in my work. It was actually more of a hobby and something I did as a way of getting away from my work in comics. I watched hundreds of documentaries and buried myself in books on the subject. So, without realising it I was doing all this research and just absorbing it all. I got a great book on Germanic Myths and Legends and there’s a short story in it called ‘The Fire Bell of Cologne’, which is about a bell-maker obsessed with creating the perfect bell, but by invoking the name of the Devil during the casting of it he ends up unleashing pure evil! I had a hunch this simple premise could maybe serve as a really good backbone to a much broader story, set during WWII. Initially, I set about developing it as a screenplay, but as I didn’t have any contacts in the movie industry I didn’t think I had a hope-in-hell of getting it picked up. So, I decided to try and do it as a comic book instead, as I already had a career doing that. Obviously it’s now been published by IDW, so I’m now very pleased I took it in that direction!
You wear many creative hats tackling story, art, and colors. What do you enjoy about having that kind of creative control over a project versus collaborating with others?
Yeah, it kinda makes me look like some kind of comic book egomaniac, but how that happened was not altogether intended either. I had a twenty page synopsis of the story written and it was originally my intention to find a known comic book writer to do the actual script. I asked Joshua Ortega who’d written the Gears Of War comics to write it for me. He really liked the premise, the characters and the historical vibe, but I’d already been developing the idea for five years by the time he came on-board. Ultimately, he thought that as I had this entire world so clear in my mind that maybe I should be the one to write it. He gave me the ‘nudge’ I needed and was instrumental in giving me the confidence to actually go and do it. I also had some amazing artists line-up to do all of the variant covers. Kevin ‘Ninja-Turtles’ Eastman was going to do one of them, but for different reasons it never came to pass. It was no ones fault, but it was a shame as I would’ve loved to see another artists ‘take’ on my characters. So, without meaning to I ended up writing, pencilling, inking and colouring the whole thing myself. I did everything except the lettering. As ironic as it sounds…I think of myself as a really good team-player!
Without giving anything away, can you tease the final issue and what readers can expect?
Well, by the time we get to the fourth and final issue Eddie Neale has been incarcerated in a solitary confinement cell deep within castle Lungots-Luftzig, He’s at the mercy of the Nazis, has no obvious means of escape and his prospects seem very bleak. However, events then unfold that allow him to attempt another break-out, but this new trajectory is a one-way-path and once things start to roll, there’s really no going back! By the time the reader gets to the end of the series I’ll have answered some questions for them, but maybe asked them some new ones too? This is all intentional on my part as I’ve always had a sequel story in mind. It’ll be set in Mother Russia and the title is ‘Iron Curtain & Ironheel’
If you had to summarize Jackboot and Ironheel in three words, what would it be?
War, Horror, Football!
Check out JACKBOOT & IRONHEEL issue #2, IN STORES NOW!