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Ed Brubaker Believes It's Kill Or Be Killed

by Vince Brusio

What pressure is drilled into the mind when the option to kill is no longer an option? What happens when taking a life becomes the only solution? If you’re a soldier, the transition from a civilian mindset to that of a combatant is part of your training. But if you’re Joe Normal, and living on the streets, where’s the manual on how to kill people without getting caught because you don’t have a choice? Or do you? Mind games on a rollercoaster powered by anxiety can only barely describe the first-person mental trauma you can expect from Ed Brubaker’s Kill Or Be Killed Volume 1 TP (978-1-5343-0028-6) from Image Comics. Want to hear what the killer would confess from the couch if you were a fly on the wall? Let’s start with this PREVIEWSworld Exclusive interview with the one and only Ed Brubaker.

Kill Or Be Killed Volume 1 TP (978-1-5343-0028-6) is in comic shops January 18.

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Vince Brusio: Tell us a little about the man in the mask. Do we have an Everyman for the main character? The lone gunman who thinks he’s Robert DeNiro minus the mohawk? Or are there more layers to this young man than we can guess?

Ed Brubaker: No, I wouldn't say he's an everyman type. You'll find pretty early in the first issue that he's a deep troubled grad student in his late 20s. He's got a lot of issues, and anger, and the book is really narrated almost stream-of-consciousness by his slightly hyperactive mind.

And yeah, there are layers beyond that, too. I think our hero — Dylan — will actually come across as fairly sympathetic. He may have some darkness in him, but he doesn't set out to be a killer, this is something that is thrust onto him. This isn't just a guy who snaps one day because he got mugged. This is a guy who never imagined he'd be a killer having to learn how to do it and get away with it. Can you imagine the anxiety?

Vince Brusio: This book seems to be more of a street view of crime. The first-person shooter game we can play on our X-Box. Is that a fair assessment? You do more to put the reader into the driver’s seat for this story? 

Ed Brubaker: If you mean the way it's kind of first-person, then yeah. I hope we're playing the violence in a very real way. I want it to have impact, because this is a story that is playing in that lone killer vigilante genre like Taxi Driver and Death Wish and so many others, but at the same time it's kind of flipping it around, too. Examining it from a different point of view.

I wanted to really get deep into what it would be like to have to become a vigilante. The kinds of things that physical violence will do to you, to your mental health and your body. It's a story that will grow in scope as it goes along, too, because becoming a killer creates a lot of ripples in the world, and I want to follow those, too.

Vince Brusio: Why tell a story like Kill Or Be Killed as an ongoing series?

Ed Brubaker: It just felt like an idea that, once I started digging into it, had a lot of different avenues to explore, and I wanted the freedom of an ongoing series to do that. It's a very "what happens next?" kind of story, and few things do that as well as a monthly comic book series. Kirkman told me to aim for at least 50 issues, but we'll see.

Vince Brusio: How does the tone of this story compare to your other works, like The Fade Out, Criminal, or Fatale? Will the supporting “friends” and “loved ones” of the masked vigilante make Kill Or Be Killed more real world? Something that might be happening down the street from us, and we never knew it?

Ed Brubaker: I'm sure to the people who've been reading me and Sean's books for the past 15 or so years, they'll see a similar tone. We always try to change things around a bit, with each project. So I think Kill or Be Killed has the same noir-ish tone all our stuff does, but I think structurally it's a bit more playful, and while it's dark, in some places too dark, I think it's also got a lot of humor in it. Black humor, but still, humor. But if you mean does it take place in the real world, yes. It takes place in New York City, just like most comics do.

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Vince Brusio writes about comics, and writes comics. He is the long-serving Editor of PREVIEWSworld.com, the creator of PUSSYCATS, and encourages everyone to keep the faith...and keep reading comics.