Lovefool 03.21.11 | A Very Public Love Affair

Trekking to Chicago for C2E2, our Lovefool gushes over Rich Johnston and his upcoming Kate-n-Wills bio comic.

Oh, nerdlings, you cannot possibly imagine the delight that I felt upon hearing that Prince William and Kate Middleton were getting engaged. It was glee, complete and unadulterated, and my squeeing might have broken the sound barrier. And, of course, because no event in this world of ours can pass by without being turned into a graphic novel, it was only a matter of time before Kate and Wills met the same fate. I know, I know—you’re thinking of those Other Bio Comics. The bad comics, the ones with the iffy stories and the awful, awful art that get churned out in a matter of weeks, it seems. The Marriage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, however, is getting much better treatment and you know I had to get the scoop on that.
Many of you out there probably know Rich Johnston and, if you don’t know his name, you probably know about Bleeding Cool, his delightfully gossipy and incredibly informative comics and media website. Johnston is something of a polarizing figure in the comics universe and his very name brings an automatic and often non-verbal response, either expressing delight or dismay. I first ran into him on Thursday night at the CBRbar during C2E2 after Jason Green, Fearless Editor, pointed him out and, seeing my blurred look, reminded me exactly who Rich Johnston was. Seriously, I have no idea how anything gets done at these events. Because, among other things, he is the writer behind Kate and William: A Very Public Love Affair, an upcoming book I have been all a-flutter about for months. I spent the night in an agony of indecision on a bar stool and, while gently weaving my way back to my room later that night, had Johnston pointed out to me once again, almost tauntingly, because I’d been wibbling for ages.
Well, readers, your Lovefool is no coward and neither is Captain Morgan, whose guiding spirit held me in the palm of his hand. Naturally, I immediately peeled off of my group and, sadly, dear nerdlings, accosted him. There’s really no other word for it. I dropped to the other end of his loveseat, shamelessly gushed something about Kate and William, thrust out my replica engagement ring (yes, really) and walked away with a business card and a promised interview. JGFE tells me there’s this thing called “journalistic detachment” that I should figure out but, Jason! KATE AND WILLIAM AND COMICS! I cannot help myself in the face of such things. I can’t even believe Jason expects me to. (I really can’t believe it. Honestly, he knows better.) I next encountered Johnston on Saturday during two panels, Sequart’s 2011: Year of Warren Ellis and his very own inaugural Bleeding Cool Fan Awards. It was after the latter that he kindly took the time to talk to me about Kate & William: A Very Public Love Story.
Lovefool: Tell me about your Kate and William engagement comic.
Rich Johnston: It’s…well, it’s a romance comic, but it’s a romance comic for men and women. It’s specifically written with two perspectives so half the book, the first half, is Kate’s story. And it’s drawn by the artist Mike Collins and it’s drawn and written in a similar style to the 1970’s girls’ comics in Britain, when girls’ comics were mainstream in Britain and most girls read comics, things like Bunty and Jackie and Mandy and the like. You just don’t see them anymore and it’s a shame. I believe that some of that audience there got tapped by manga in different ways, as well, certainly for a time, and I think this is the perfect opportunity to bring that back.
So you’ve got half of the story written in that style, and the other half of that story, William’s story, is a romance comic from the boys’ side. So it’s a romance comic with guns and tanks and soldiers and helicopters and a little about the girl because that’s William’s [take], that’s the male take. So, you’ll see Kate’s story is school and the boarding houses, it’s swanning off to Florence, spending time with her family and a lot going back and forth over the man who she’s attracted to and everyone else thinks she’s destined to marry. It’s all about her insecurities there and leading to the event of her wedding. And, from the male side, with William, it’s basically a man being a man and not realizing what’s going on and not realizing how certain things he does may have impact. So when he’s seen out on the town with a Brazilian bombshell and it’s in all the papers, how that might make his girlfriend feel is the last thing on his mind.
So it’s looking at those two very different perspectives but, rather than putting them in the same story, it’s splitting them into their own stories as a flipbook that comes together in the middle in a big double-splash page, which is going to be set on the date of the wedding. It’s using the comic book medium to tell a story in the way that only comics can. You couldn’t do this in any other way.
Could you tell us the size of the book? Is it going to be trade-sized?
There’s three ways: you can buy just the Kate book, you can buy just the William book—those are just a little bit bigger than a normal comic book—and there’s the compilation, the flipbook, which is about the size of two or three issues of a normal comic book. We kept it that size, relatively small, so we could get it out on time, to be honest. But it’s also condensed, it’s not a full-scale graphic novel. This is not a manga-style digest where things are extended, it’s a compressed book. You get a lot of storytelling for your money, multiple panels per page, a lot of good dialogue and beautiful, beautiful artwork.
One of the problems I’ve seen with a lot of recent biographical comic books is that they just don’t look that great. The likenesses aren’t that great, the drawing just isn’t that inspired. You could argue the writing, as well. They just don’t look as good. And one of the things I was able to do with this book was to get two really, really good comic book creators [Mike Collins, currently on Doctor Who, and Gary Erskine, artist on Jack Cross and Army@Love] with decades of experience and a lot of reputation behind them to do the book. And they both jumped at the chance. They thought it was a fun experience, a chance to work with me and do something that would pay and be fun. And then, of course, they get themselves in the newspapers and I don’t think they were quite expecting that.
We’ve had Reuters around, we’ve had the Associated Press, all the news agencies have come around. And now we’re doing a big signing at Forbidden Planet for the launch and they’ve just had so much media interest from all around the world for the signing that they’re now decking the whole shop out in Union Jacks and flags and bunting and things. The interest that they’ve had from the media and people has been insane. When I get back to England, I’m going to start preparing for a media whirlwind. Which is going to be very, very strange because my comics don’t really sell that well. I do funny, weird art comics that maybe just sell a couple of thousand [copies]. I do a lot of parodies, a lot of jokey things, and this is not a joke. This is written as a dramatic retelling of their lives. I’ve taken an awful lot of license to tell this story, obviously, but I think it makes quite a convincing case for, I guess, people coming to terms with these two people. Kate and William, for many, are almost like plastic figureheads. No one really knows these two people that well. Or they’re caricatures. And here’s a comic book that tries to do the opposite of that, to try to tell people their very human stories.
What made you decide to do this?
A friend of mine suggested it and I thought, “That’s a great idea.” This guy suggested it to me via instant messenger, this publisher I knew was also on there so I mentioned it to the publisher, who asked how soon I could write it, which is the fastest response I’ve had to a pitch in my life. But when you hear the idea, you think “Obviously, that should be a comic book.” And these people clearly wanted to make it happen. So they did. It came up as an idea that this should be a comic and the fact that it wasn’t a comic would’ve been a loss. It was like destiny made me do this because, without it, what’s the point?
What do you think the appeal behind the British monarchy is for Americans?
I think it’s taken to a comedy level. They’re meant to be world leaders but they’re not. So there’s all the glamour of being a statesman and none of the power and Americans don’t really do that well. The equivalent for you guys is the President, who has the greatest amount of power in the country, as the head of state. And it’s kind of strange because, now, whenever America wants democracies set up in other countries, they all seem to say “Don’t use the American version, don’t have a President.” And I think it’s kind of a weird fascination of the position of the Presidency without the power and being presented as these very, very, very human people with the same foibles. So I think that seems to be the appeal for a lot of people. But it’s also—doesn’t every girl want to be a Princess when they grow up? It’s the idea of the fairy tale made true.
This isn’t just a fairy tale, this is an actual Prince [and] an actual Princess getting married. That’s where the Royal Wedding taps in so strongly. And not just in America, around the world. This is a global wedding. Anywhere where Britain has had any influence at all, that’s the moment when all these staunch anti-royalists, pro-separatist groups, they all suddenly fall apart. “Oh, it’s the Royal Wedding, Let’s go see the Royal Wedding!” I think that’s quite funny.
Well, how do you think they’re going to do?
I think that people are much more aware of relationships and marriage. This is a couple that have been living together for a very long time now. This is not a Charles and Diana situation. This is a modern relationship. Two people that weren’t introduced at a royal function, the parents didn’t get involved in a meeting. This is a couple that met at University, just as so many other couples do. This is very much a modern, normal relationship. It’s also very aware of the pressures. These are people who have had enormous pressures and they’re together. So they’ve had a huge amount of problems in their lives with the media hounding them all the time and that becomes a theme in the comic book. But their relationship seems to be strong enough.
It’s not one of these things where Kate needs to marry a Prince to be rich. Her parents were entrepreneurs and, while she might not have had the most privileged early upbringing, now, she’s fine. She’s absolutely fine. It’s not like anyone can say “Ooh, she’s a gold digger.” No, she’s not. Not in any way. This is clearly a royal couple that is marrying for love. Which shouldn’t be a rarity, but obviously it is. It’s different, very different, from the whole Charles and Diana thing and I try to tap into that. The Charles and Diana wedding sits heavily over this Royal Wedding. You can’t have it and not think about that. But I think it’s a very different world and it’s a very different couple.
Any last thoughts?
It’s available on for pre-order. It’s coming from Britain so you might have to pay a little bit of extra postage. It should be a fun thing. Hastings is a store that’s bought a whole host of copies of it, so it’s going to be around, available in America to some degree, but I think Amazon might be the easiest way. But good comic shops should have it too, possibly cheaper than Amazon because of the whole shipping system. It might be a little more effective to buy it through a comic book store instead, which is really quite nice, anyway.
The ever-fabulous Rich Johnston wants to tell us about Kate and William’s epic and true love almost as much as I want to read about it. With an all-star crew telling us what feels like the most all-star love story ever, this is definitely a book that I’m getting a little foolish over. The book will be released on April 1st through Markosia. | Erin Jameson
Click here for a preview of Kate and William: A Very Public Love Affair, courtesy of Jezebel.

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