A writer of true talent often finds themself in the enviable position of having their abilities being used in a number of mediums. One such writer who fits this bill is William Harms. A professional writer since the mid 90’s, Mr. Harms CV boast writing credits for such high-profile organizations as Sony Entertainment, 2K, Ubisoft, Techland, Sega, DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Top Cow, Image Comics, and SLG (just to name a few). Gaining acclaim for his work on Impaler (Top Cow Productions) as a finalist for the prestigious International Horror Guild award, Mr. Harms is creating waves with his latest venture in the pages of the four issue series Shotgun Wedding (Top Cow Productions.) Shotgun Wedding is a high-octane thriller that pits a former bride to be against the man who left her standing at the altar; things take on a special brand of “ugly” as the two former lovers happen to both be assassins. Taking a bit of time away from his myriad crafting duties, Mr. Harms shared a bit about his latest series, writing and where his super-spy geek lies.
Mark Turner: Shotgun Wedding can best be described in the form of a Hollywood log-line that reads something like “Shotgun Wedding is the surly love child born of the one night stand union of Mr. & Mrs. Smith and Kill Bill”. Was this intentional? What about the dynamic caused you to say, “Hey! There is a story there?”
William Harms: Shotgun Wedding does share some structural similarities with those two movies (both of which I love), but the real inspiration was Grosse Pointe Blank. That’s one of my favorite movies, and I absolutely loved the way it skated between the two worlds of Martin’s life — his life as an assassin and his life as a guy going home to attend his high school reunion.
When I started working out Shotgun Wedding, I wanted that collision between violence and normalcy that made me love Grosse Pointe Blank. The initial kernel of the idea was of a semi-retired assassin — who has a $10 million price on his head — is getting married and his enemies find out about it. They all crash the wedding and the shoot the hell out of everything.
MT: You come from a writing background that includes journalism and writing for video games. What about the sequential art medium drew you to it? What are the greatest differences between writing for comic books and writing for video games?
WH: I’ve been writing comics off-and-on since the early 90’s, back when I was in college. (I even did my college internship at Marvel.) I just love telling stories in this medium — it’s visual without having the constraints of other visual mediums, like film or TV. And seeing an artist bringing your words to life is pretty awesome.
As for the differences between comics and video games, there are some pretty big ones. With comics, I can basically just write what I want to write — the only focus is on telling a story.
When it comes to writing to video games, you need to constantly be conscious of the fact that the story is interactive and that someone needs to build everything in the game. If you want a big fight on a spaceship, for example, artists will have to build the spaceship, engineers have to ensure that the AI can navigate through the space, and designers need to make sure that it’s fun to play.
Because of that, everything needs to be planned out and there has to be a lot of coordination between all of the departments. I’ve had to make some dramatic changes to game stories in the past simply because we ran out of time or resources to build what we had originally envisioned. You need to be extremely agile to work in that environment.
MT: In terms of scripting is there a particular format that you prefer to work in (Marvel vs full script)? How much of the relationship between you as the writer and the artist figures into this decision in terms of composing your script?
WH: I’ve only written the “Marvel way” once, and that was back when I did some work on The Ren & Stimpy Show comic. It was fun, but I much prefer full script. It’s much easier to get across your intent — and character emotions — when you can provide the artist with the description and the dialogue.
That said, it’s common for me to go back and rewrite dialogue so that it better matches the art. There’s a page in Shotgun Wedding, for example, where Mike is climbing up the side of a building and he looks super pissed. I rewrote that page to better reflect the rage on Mike’s face.
MT: With Shotgun Wedding you show an aptitude for writing the gritty hit man/woman style thriller. Do you have a particular affinity for the genre? If so any particular authors whose work you tend to read that spark your imagination in that arena? What other genres would you like to tackle?
WH: I’m a big fan of thrillers and crime novels, especially ones with a hard edge. I love Jim Thompson (The Killer Inside Me, especially), the Parker novels, Donald Ray Pollock, Daniel Woodrell, and George V. Higgins.
Thus far, I’ve been pretty lucky in that I’ve been able to write crime and horror — which are two of my favorite genres — and I’m starting to move into science fiction via a comic series that will be announced later this year. That’s one of the great things about comics — you can move between genres and no one really tries to pigeon-hole you.
MT: Shotgun Wedding is published under the Top Cow banner, can you speak to what made this project the right fit for them?
WH: I started working with Top Cow several years ago with my horror series Impaler, and I enjoy working with them. I tend to be a pretty loyal person, so if a publisher treats me right, I’m more than happy to keep working with them as long as they’ll have me.
MT: Writing is a very solitary pursuit. As a creator, how do you test your ideas and ensure they resonate with others besides of yourself?
WH: I have a handful of good friends that I bounce ideas off of, and they’ll also read my scripts and provide feedback, which is pretty invaluable.
WH: It can be difficult sometimes to keep things straight, but I’ve learned over the years not to work on more than two or three things at a time. I tend to tackle things in chunks, so if I’m writing a script for an issue of Shotgun Wedding, I don’t work on anything else until that script is done. Then I’ll go off and work on something else until it’s done, and then go back and forth.
It’s kind of time-consuming this way, especially since I’m constantly re-reading what I wrote previously, but it’s the only way I can make it work. I’ll never be the guy who’s writing six titles a month. I think I’d lose my mind!
MT: Your professional career is something that many fans dream of. Do you still find time to participate in being a fan? Are there any titles that you enjoy reading or creators that you follow?
WH: I don’t have a lot of friends in the world of comic books (most of my friends are in video games), so I’m still able to slip in sometimes and get things signed. I’m a big fan of Bernie Wrightson, Joe Kubert, Mike Zeck, folks like that. One of my most prized possessions is a Hawkman hardcover signed by Joe Kubert and Murphy Anderson.
As for contemporary folks, I don’t have the time to read a lot of comics, but I do try to follow pretty much everything that IMAGE and BOOM put out. They release some great books.
MT: Will you be hitting the convention circuit this year? If so, any significant appearances that you can mention that you’ll be making?
WH: I did some cons earlier this year — Emerald City and Calgary — but I don’t know if I’m going to any others.
MT: The hit-man espionage slant of Shotgun Wedding leaves me with one question for you. Bond or Bourne?
WH: Bond. He doesn’t need any weird physical enhancements to kick ass. Besides, Bond has fought in space!
Shotgun Wedding TM and © 2014 William Harms and Top Cow Entertainment. All rights reserved.
This article is ©2014 Mark C. Turner. All rights reserved.