Yesterday Image released a teaser for David Lapham's STRAY BULLETS. The series' fortieth issue was released in 2005 and the conclusion to that final story hasn't been seen. All that will change as STRAY BULLETS is making its way to Image.
The series returns on March 12, 2014. Not only will you finally see STRAY BULLETS #41, Image will simultaneously release The Über Alles Edition, which collects issues #1-41, as well as STRAY BULLETS: KILLERS #1, the beginning of a new story arc. That's not all. Starting right now, all back issues of STRAY BULLETS will be available digitally on the Image Comics website (imagecomics.com) and the official Image Comics iOS app, as well as on Comixology on the web (comixology.com), iOS, Android, Google Play, Apple iBooks and Amazon Kindle. So you will have time to catch up if you haven't read the series before.
A press conference was held in which we and other outlets were able to ask some questions to find out more.
QUESTION: Why return to STRAY BULLETS?
DAVID LAPHAM: Ever since we stopped doing STRAY BULLETS, Maria [Lapham] and I have been trying to figure out a way to do it again. It was just a matter of other priorities preventing us from giving it that 100% commitment that we had to the book for so many years. We've been trying to figure out how to get back to it. With this deal, we were able to work together on this. It was so great to work on so many characters I grew up with and other projects but this has always been home to me. I couldn't wait to get back to it.
QUESTION: You're finishing the story arc but you're also simultaneously launching a new one. What is that like? Did you plan it that way?
DAVID LAPHAM: With the way we went on hiatus and leaving some strings dangling, there was no necessarily perfect way to go back to it to really give the fans everything I promised them before. To move forward, we decided to wrap up the old business and start the new business at one time. It was way more exciting than to drag the whole thing out.
One of the things about STRAY BULLETS is the stories are separated into arcs, which have themes. Individually, every issue I've always given a complete story. It's always just a continuation from one into the other. Obviously 41 wraps up the things that were going on and then in the KILLERS arc, we'll have some new themes and ideas. We can start fresh and allow new people to come in and we decided to come back with #1 and renumber by arcs. Group them by arcs.
QUESTION: In bringing this back after such a long absence, did you find you had to sort of sit back and re-familiarize yourself with your creations? Or was it like riding a bike?
DAVID LAPHAM: I would say it was a little bit of both. Over the years while doing other work and working on other things, I've always had this in my mind. I've always had ideas. Once we were on, I went back and read everything I had done before. It was a matter of getting back into that mindset of STRAY BULLETS. It's a little bit different than all the other work I've done.
QUESTION: Previously STRAY BULLETS was self published. Where did the idea come from to move it to Image?
DAVID LAPHAM: Over the years since we stopped, we had a lot of great offers from lots of companies. It never clicked with us that this was the right way to come back. STRAY BULLETS, the important aspect was that it was Maria and I working on this book together to bring the El Capitan vision to it. Image was like the first company that got that. They wanted us to bring the El Capitan production to them every month. Other than having the Image "I" on the cover, it's the same 32 pages of what we want to bring to you. That was the key that made us look at Image and say, "We can do this. We can come back and do this like we did it before."
QUESTION: With KILLERS, will there be any new characters or will you focus on characters from the original series?
DAVID LAPHAM: There'll be some characters from the original series as well as new characters. With every issue being a complete story, I was always able to use whatever character I needed to tell almost any kind of story I wanted to dream up. If that meant it related to characters I had created before, then that was great. If it required a brand new character, just some innocent Joe who had this thing happen to them, I never felt like everything had to happen to this one person or character. Everything evolved organically. So, yes, there will be new characters as the story dictates. It is a larger sort of tapestry and the old characters are not forgotten.
QUESTION: Do you feel like your style has evolved since the series came out originally?
DAVID LAPHAM: Yeah, I think it has. When I critique people's work, I tell them is that you always improve and you keep improving, hopefully forever. If you don't then you go backwards. One of the elements of this that's so exciting to me is bringing everything I've learned since going on hiatus from STRAY BULLETS, back.
QUESTION: What is the release schedule going to be for the Killers arc?
DAVID LAPHAM: We're starting in March, and we're going to be monthly. We're going to go by arc, so right now my schedule is to go monthly. I'm highly confident that one of the things I've gotten over the years is doing what I can do on a monthly basis.
QUESTION: Can we assume the new #1 will be new reader friendly?
DAVID LAPHAM: I've always designed STRAY BULLETS for the kind of reader that I am. I don't go into comic book shops regularly, so when I go in, I don't want to pick up stuff that I'm going to be confused by when I'm reading. If I get stuck with my life and come back to something three months later, I just want to be able to pick up an issue and read a story. One of the elements about STRAY BULLETS is that every issue is new-reader friendly. When you start getting up into 30, 40 issues, people see the number and feel alienated, like they have to go back and read the previous stuff. I think people could jump in on "Killers" #4, but seeing the #1 makes it easy for new readers to jump in.
QUESTION: So it's been a number of years since STRAY BULLETS, so do you think this new series is any different from what you would have done without the hiatus?
DAVID LAPHAM: I really don't know. I want to say that when I work and write whether it's a superhero thing or a creator-owned thing, I have notions that comes to me while I'm working on the concept. So in order to do it, I have to run with those and as far as Killers, that was the concepts I had from when I stopped so I know I am going in the direction I would have gone. I couldn't possibly tell you if it would be the same story as it is now. I feel I have so much more to bring to the table now. I'm sure there would have been differences but I couldn't tell you what they were.
QUESTION: Can you talk about the work that went into going into restoring the old issues for digital and hardcovers? Did you make any modifications with the lettering or art?
DAVID LAPHAM: To start with the last question, no, I didn't make any modifications. I'm just going to let the past stuff be in the past. That was the best work I could give you at that time. Going back and re-reading it all, I see there are parts I didn't draw it so well or my lettering was terrible. Everything is kind of punk rock. It's like the motion is there, a simplicity and it's raw and just there. That's what I hope to bring back to it. To change anything, any flaws, would be a disservice to it. That's what it was at the time. It impacted people. To change it would be wrong.
QUESTION: Are there any plans for splitting up the 41 issues into separate trades?
DAVID LAPHAM: That will come in the more traditional way by arc. That will come down the line. The issues will be available digitally. We said, let's just do one volume. Then we can back up and do the individual arc trades down the line after that. We just wanted to make sure all the material was out there for the people that want it. Then we can give people a way to just start fresh with the new stuff.
It was noted that the Uber Alles Edition is a paperback release similar to the WALKING DEAD COMPENDIUMS coming at over 1200 pages. It'll cost $59.99 and be a one-time printing for the direct market.
QUESTION: How long do you see the series going?
I have not thought about that in terms of an ending. I'll just know it when I get to it or when I run out of stories. I have an idea for this arc and the arc after. I'm not thinking about an "ending." It's like my own way to do short stories and have it still have continuity. While there may be an ending in the future, I guess I'm just not thinking about that right now.
Issues #1-4 are available for free on comiXology.