Chad Boudreau. Writer.
Chad Boudreau changes genres like some people change hair color. His first graphic novel was psychological horror. His second project was filled with kung-fu action, and his ongoing work at bohemian-zen.com is riddled with absurd humor. For Acts of Violence, he wrote The Three Princes, in which three young friends grow up on the tough streets of Prohibition era America. Chad reveals what attracted him to the project and what inspired his story.
Was there anything that initially drew you to the project?
The crime comics genre is what initially drew me to the project. Crime comics had been (and are still) enjoying a resurgence so the timing was right. More importantly, the types of stories told in the genre are very appealing to me, including straight-up tales of hardened criminals, but also the stories in which people that are neither “good” or “evil” are faced with situations that will test their morals.
Do you have an interest in crime comics from before starting on this project, or did you see the idea of writing crime as a challenge?
I am an avid reader of many genres so, yes, I did have an interest in crime comics. I was most familiar with modern crime comics like Criminal, 100 Bullets, and Brian Michael Bendis’ early work in the genre. I also have a love for old heist films and noir, so I felt I had a solid foundation of knowledge upon which to build my own story.
Writing in the genre was going to be a challenge because I had never attempted it before, but I never shy away from a challenge when it comes to writing.
How was the editorial process different from what you’ve dealt with in the past and how did you feel about it?
I had never been involved in a project of this nature. I’m not just talking about the genre. The way Ed had structured the project was, in my opinion, well planned and designed for success. (Read the interview with Ed Brisson to learn more about how the Acts of Violence project was structured.) All that was required were committed and talented writers, and a roster of hard-working and skilled artists.
What Ed lined out to me in our first conversations was very exciting to me. I had no problem putting money into the project because I could tell Ed was not only committed, but also experienced with projects of this nature. I strongly feel the best way for a project to succeed is if the creators (in this case the writers) have a vested financial interest. I treat every project like a business investment and was very happy to find like-minded creators in Ed, Dino, Kevin and Todd.
What made you decide to go back to the 20s for The Three Princes?
My favorite crime and noir films are set in the past (mostly because many of the greats were made in the past). I also have an interest in history in general, especially periods of great change or crisis, which includes times of war, but also periods like The Great Depression and Prohibition.
I knew I wanted to tell a story about kids growing up in a criminal environment. I was inspired by stories my dad used to tell me of he and his brothers growing up in the 50s and stories he told about his father and brother growing up. My dad didn’t grow up surrounded by criminals, but the camaraderie that existed between he and his brothers is something I wanted to channel. My grandfather and great-uncle on the other hand, were involved in all sorts of shenanigans on the East Coast of Canada, including rum-running. My great uncle claims to have been a lookout when Chinese immigrants were brought off the boats and hidden in tunnels beneath the city, and he once told me a story in which he dealt cards at poker games attended by certain prominent individuals because the men didn’t trust each other to deal cards.
The actual setting and the three main characters were inspired by photos I found on shorpy.com.
You do a lot of research prior to writing. How much does that dictate the direction of your story? Is your story already mostly formed, and you’re looking to fill in details, or do you have basic ideas laid out and take ques from history/research?
I do indeed do a lot of research. My writing process starts in my notebooks, with scribbled ideas that eventually form the basis for a story. Once I have a loose idea, which includes the characters and setting, I do research to flesh out the idea. I do some amount of research for every project, but The Three Princes required more than most because I wanted it to feel authentic. I researched architecture, clothing, slang, and criminal activity in the 1920s. Much of what you read in The Three Princes is inspired by facts I uncovered in my research, which included offline and online reading.
I also researched crime comics, which had their heyday in the 40s and 50s. (Check out this article written by Chad.) I even ordered a copy of The Mammoth Book of Crime Comics, which is an impressive collection of infamous crime comics from the past.
The Three Princes covers an impressive 16 year period in 30 pages. If you were to revisit these characters, as you mentioned you may, would you be telling stories from within that period, or will it all be after the end of the first part?
I think The Three Princesstands on its own and I wrote it that way, but after the story was finished and the artwork started to come in from Manoel, I found myself falling in love with many of the characters. The more I thought about them the more I realized that the way I wrote The Three Princes leaves a lot of room for more stories to be told. And the more I thought about THAT the more I realized I wanted to tell more stories. And so I turned to my notebooks once again, filling up pages with potential story arcs.
Any hints as to what future tales might include?
The most obvious is to explain why Grady had to hide out in the tunnels beneath the city, which is an event alluded to in The Three Princes. I mapped out the “why” just a few weeks ago in my notebooks. But the story I might tell next is about The Frenchman, starting with the end of World War I and his coming to America, where he meets Henry and Paddy Duke on the docks of the city in which The Three Princes takes place. Other tales might not be so obvious but would be exciting to explore, such as the story of Grady’s two sisters, and Michael’s mom.
My plan is to put more focus on developing these stories in the coming months.
You seem to be popping up all over the place lately. You’ve written Black Salt, Thunderchickens and others. How much do you have out already and how much do you currently have in the works?
I started writing comics three years ago and have been very pleased with the progress I’ve made. I self-published my first graphic novel (Psychosis) in 2007, developed a number of projects in 2008, which then saw the light of day in 2009. A short horror comic called Cutter’s Reward appeared in the anthology IF-X, and I had a short story published in A Thousand Faces, a quarterly journal of superhero fiction. I also had short comics and short fiction published at www.bohemian-zen.com throughout 2009. And, yes, there is Black Salt(a six-part series published by Blackline Comics), and The Thunderchickens, the latter of which was a Zuda contest entry (we didn’t win) which is now being redeveloped for future print publication.
2010 is going to be even bigger for me. There is more Black Salt planned (issue #3 is in the artwork stage, and I anticipate writing the final three issues this year), and lots of attention for Acts of Violence. I hope to have a big Thunderchickens announcement before the end of the year, and I just learned a short horror comic I wrote (Dark Art) has been accepted for a 2010 issue of the horror anthology Tales of the Supernatural. I also have two BIG projects well under way but you’ll have to stay tuned to my blog to learn more about those in the near future.
You seem to write a lot of different types of comics: horror, crime, superhero and martial arts. Is being part of such a diverse array of comics important to you? Is that intentional, or just the way things played out?
It is intentional. I think at this early, critical period of my writing “career” it is important for me to write in as many genres as possible. I have my favorites, but by diversifying my writing I strengthen not only my portfolio but also my skills as a writer.
You self published a graphic novel in 2007 (Psychosis). What can you tell us about that book? How was the experience of putting that together on your own?
Choosing to do a 98-page graphic novel as my first comic project was ambitious to say the least, not what someone might consider a wise choice for a first project. But what I wanted to do was prove to myself and future collaborators that I could commit to and see a sizable project through to completion. I wrote it, hired the creative team out of my own pocket, and self-published it. I knew I would never make a profit on that project but that wasn’t the goal. The goal was to use that graphic novel to open doors. And it did, so I have no complaints nor regrets.
Where do you hope to be two years from now?
I want to grow my portfolio each year, and I want to grow my network of skilled, trusted and committed comic professionals (people like those involved in Acts of Violence). I’d love to do another volume of Acts of Violence. And since Black Salt will have finished by 2012, I’d like to be involved in another miniseries or even an ongoing series. I also want to write more short fiction this year and in the coming years, which I think is practice for my eventual attempt at writing a novel (which isn’t going to happen in two years time). In general, I want to be a stronger writer in two years time, with more partners to work with, and more credits to my name.
What was the first comic you remember reading?
The very first comic I remember is one that my dad had. I don’t remember him having many comics, but for some reason he had two issues of this one. It was a kung-fu comic, and not from DC or Marvel. Anyway, there was kung-fu action that (in my memory) was rather violent. The setting and style has stuck in my mind. Around this same period of time (ages 4 – 6) I saw a bunch of comics at my grandparents house– old 60s and 70s stuff that included Sgt. Rock, Green Arrow, Superman, and other DC titles. I know this because those eventually ended up in my possession. Most of them had torn covers and yellowed pages, but I remember flipping through them often, especially the ones that had a lot of fighting or “horror” elements.
What are you reading these days?
DC’s Vertigo line, in my opinion, is still where the greatest mainstream comics can be found. Y: The Last Man is my all-time favorite completed series right now. 100 Bullets is another solid series that is now finished. Fables, Scalped and Unwritten are also from Vertigo and are stellar reads. I also read The Walking Dead, The Goon, Hellboy, BPRDand almost anything Rick Remender and Doug Tennapel create.
I tend to stay away from superhero stuff. I used to follow some DC titles but the long-running crossovers and “events” that occur in the DC and Marvel universes have soured me on superhero titles. In general, I seek out great, character driven stories across a variety of genres and publishers. I think to truly experience the storytelling potential of comics you need to look beyond mainstream superhero comics.
Acts of Violence: A Crime Comics Anthology is listed in the April edition of Previews on page 299 under New Reliable Press. The order code is APR101035. Head to your local comic shop and ask them to order you a copy.
CLICK HERE for a PDF that you can print and bring to your local comic shop to let them know you’d like to order the book. The PDF contains all the info that your retailer will need for Acts Of Violence.