Mike Carroll: Outside of the comic-book industry, you’re perhaps best known for your highly-regarded historical novels… Do you find that your knowledge and understanding of history comes in useful when writing The Shadow, a character who was, after all, created almost eighty-five years ago?
David Liss: To a certain extent, yes, because I had to be mindful of a historical sense of self, even if the setting is not historical. The trick -- and the fun -- or writing The Shadow: Now has been trying to integrate a historical figure into the modern world. Unlike The Spider, in which we rebooted a pulp character into a contemporary setting, this is a story about a pulp character who has to navigate a, largely alien, contemporary setting. In general, I didn't want to play it for laughs, because the Shadow is a force to be reckoned with, even when he's out of his element, but his lack of familiarity with modern technology and social cues is a problem for him. Such problems are fun to write, however, and conflicts like that are the basis of character.
MC: The Shadow Now takes the eponymous character into the modern age, yet he seems to retain much of his 1930s attitude and character. Was this a deliberate choice on your part – to update the world but not the man – or was it a condition of the use of the character imposed by The Powers That Be (whoever they are!)?
DL: The Powers that Be (all praise the Powers!) asked for a Shadow story in which the historical figure was brought into the modern world. We came up with a plausible way that could happen, and once that became the basis of the story, I ran with those conditions. In a way it's perfect, since the pulp character is so historically specific, that a hero from the 1930s finding himself in our times makes more sense than trying to create a theatrical vigilante like the Shadow as a contemporary figure.
MC: The Shadow is one of the most influential characters of the pulp-fiction era (arguably a very strong influence on the character of Batman) – were you familiar with the character before you took on the book? (I like to think that the teenaged David Liss encountered some of the original Shadow stories and they had a considerable impact on his tastes in literature!)
DL: I think it's almost impossible for anyone familiar with pop culture not to know at least a little bit about the Shadow, and, as you say, this is a character that is part of the genetic makeup of some of the most popular contemporary heroes. I've always been a pulp fan, and I did read pulp as a teenager, though I don't think I read any of the original Shadow stories back then.
MC: Like you, I’m a writer of both novels and comic-books, so I feel that I have to ask: do you take the same approach to a writing a novel as you do to writing a comic-book series? (Me, I plot out my novels in great detail before I begin the first draft, but with comics I tend to plot fairly loosely then write each issue separately.)
DL: In terms of planning, I think the process is fairly similar for me, though on a different scale. With my novels, I usually figure out who the characters are and have major plot points worked out before I get to writing. Then, once I begin, lots of things change because I do a different kind of thinking when I'm writing than when I'm thinking about writing. With comics, the end result is pretty similar. I usually have to do a pitch before I begin writing, and that's the basis for the story going in, but, inevitably, I will get all kinds of ideas and see all kinds of connections as things get underway, and if an idea has a lot of energy, I run with it. Once a script is done, I always read through and look for problems or elements than need beefing up or expanding. Many times, I'll see character points I hadn't realized were there before, and I'll tease them out a little. The process, at this point, is fairly organic. People in this biz are so used to thinking about how narrative works, than problems and moments with more potential usually stand out. That's one of the reason I get so frustrated with plot holes in films and television shows. I know I could never get away with crap like that in my comics scripts. I will never understand how a script with millions of dollars on the line is able to be so much sloppier than what we do in comics.
Make sure to check out THE SHADOW NOW #4 by Dynamite, which is available now at local comic shops and digital. Also, go here to check out an extended preview of the issue.