Let’s Keep Killing Shakespeare!

Eric Jean

Hey Brawlers! It’s finally “next time!”

No, that doesn’t mean a new recording of Titus Andronicus – though we’re hoping to finally get some Brawlers together to  get act V out Soon™.

I mean that it’s finally time to find to talk about IDW Publishing‘s comic series Kill Shakespeare again! You know the awesome graphic novel / comic book series created and written by Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col.

As Daniel pointed out, we’re reading the hella slick “Backstage Edition,” a hardcover edition of all twelve issues of Kill Shakespeare. If you can swing it, I highly recommend picking it up here. May as well pick up the other volumes while you’re at it. And while you’re shopping, why not load up on some Kill Shakespeare t-shirts.

On an unrelated note, Christmas is coming up in a few weeks…

Issue Five: O Coward Conscience

Courtesy – IDW PublishingSoft! I did but dream.

“O coward conscience, how dost thou afflict me!”

– Richard the Third, V.iii

“Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.”

– Hamlet, III.i

Hamlet’s still confused about what’s going on in issue 5. He’s still convinced that Richard III is a good guy and that Juliet, Othello and the rebels are disruptive elements of the benign king’s just rule. Also, Iago just saved Hamlet’s life so he’s still pretty convinced that Iago’s on his side. Juliet and Othello aren’t buying any of it though. And Othello’s pretty mad, bro.

It’s hard to take Hamlet and Falstaff seriously of course as they’re still walking around in dresses after their getaway in the last issue but what’s Shakespeare without cross-dressing?

Meanwhile, Lady Macbeth and Richard are negotiating. He wants the use of her Black Guard troops but she’s not budging: she’s planning to keep them stationed in her lands. She’s smokin’ hot but Radcliff’s right – she’s trouble for sure.

Hamlet tries to run off in the middle of the night with Iago but Juliet spots him and tells him he’s got to go on alone if he wants to leave. So off he goes and wanders into a walking nightmare. Hamlet sees his father’s image go all zombie undead, pulling at his skin and growing snakes out of his flesh.

That drives him a little nuts but he comes to his senses as he wanders right unto a scene of Don John and Richard’s conies beating up some townsfolk to find out where Hamlet’s hiding. Don John even cuts out Shallow’s tongue and, like a wuss, Hamlet hides in the bushes until they pass.

When Juliet and company arrive in Shrewsbury, they are told not to stick around seeing as the fear of Richard’s men might make someone rat them out. Seems like some good advice.

Finally, Hamlet eventually falls and knocks himself out in the woods trying to run away from Don John and his troops. He’s found by Lysander, Demetrius and Adriana who are on their way to Shrewsbury. Along the way, they drop some truth about their beneficent King Richard.

Characters introduced: Lysander, Demetrius, Adriana

Issue Six: Lend Me Your Ears

Courtesy – IDW Publishing

“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar.”

– Julius Caesar, III.ii

Turns out that crazy walking nightmare wasn’t just some bad food but was some sort of spell cast by Lady Macbeth and the weird sisters. (You know, the ones who tell Macbeth he’s be king one day but that Banquo’s kids will take over from him.) In this version, it seems like Lady M’s tapping into their juju to mess with Hamlet (and Skype with Iago, eventually).

In Shrewsbury, Iago’s messing with Othello’s mind by playing nice but “accidentally” saying stuff to set him off. And Juliet and Falstaff find Hamlet sleeping in some stables and guilt him into working the fields to pay for his free lunch.

While they work, Adriana drops some hints to Hamlet who’s totally clueless (Hey dude! Wake up! She wants to “care for thy coat!,” know what I’m saying?) But Hamlet’s too busy being emo Hamlet on account of his being a wuss earlier and not fighting Don John to save the peasant’s tongue.

Elsewhere, King Richard sleeps with Lady Macbeth.

Juliet makes a rousing speech to convince the people of Shrewsbury to join the rebellion against Richard. Rolls a natural 20 on her Diplomacy check. Everyone’s all in!

Ooops! Guess that was a little loud. Seems like Don John and co. hear that, too and now they’ve got the place surrounded and have started beating up on folks!

This time, Hamlet’s ready to throw down though and he clubs a guard in the head. A rumble breaks out and Juliet brains Don John. Even Iago gets in on the action and after they win the fight, beer and food for all.

Oh, and it turns out that Iago’s been serving Lady Macbeth this whole time because he, too, has been hypnotised by her gratuitously giant comic book boobs. (I mean just like Richard, not me. I don’t get hypnotised by cartoon boobs.)

Characters added: no one, but Don John is dead, which is a nice bonus!

Issue Seven: The Play’s The Thing

Courtesy – IDW Publishing

“[…]I’ll have grounds
More relative than this: the play ‘s the thing
Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.”

– Hamlet, II.ii

So Iago’s been using his own magic to Skype with Lady Macbeth who is totally willing to keep using the promise of her body to get stupid men to do stupid things. This isn’t like real life at all, guys.

It’s Twelfth Night in Shrewsbury (well, everywhere else in England too, I would imagine) and Juliet and company are convinced to stick around for a play staged by Feste and Sir Toby Belch. Or just plain Belch here.

Hamlet finally gets a clue and dances with Adriana but the dance is interrupted by the start of the play. Feste’s asking for an audience member to join them on stage.

Feste: “No, not you. No… Ah, Hamlet. Shadow King. You’ll do. Get your ass up here! Here’s a costume.”

Hamlet” What the hell am I supposed to do?”

Feste: “Oh, it’s just an old play called the Murder of King Hamlet. Errr, I mean,Gonzago. The murder of Gonzago. You get to be the murderer. Fun, right?”

Hamelt: “GAHHHHHHHH!” (Exit stage right, running and screaming)

Feste: “Was it something I said?”

Of course, the Murder of Gonzago mirrors the Mousetrap play in Hamlet. This one retells the story of the murder of Hamlet’s father by his brother Claudius. But the names are different so how did Hamlet figure it out? Must be because he’s always making everything about him.

So where does he end up when he runs off? In a crazy, trippy house of mirrors of course. Could there by some symbolism going on? Anyhow, Juliet’s worried about him so she runs off after him and discovers him going all emo again about his dad. So she confides in him about how her lover Romeo (I’ve heard that name before…) killed himself because he thought she was dead but she was just knocked out by some special totally creepy knock-out juice that made her sleep for 2 days.

Hey wait! I thought Juliet died in R&J? Yup. But she gets saved in this version just before she stabs herself and ends up leading the rebellion.

Then cue full-page image of Juliet and Hamlet on either sides of a wall, all Pyramus and Thisby style, talking through a wall and commiserating.

Characters added: Feste, Sir Toby Belch

Issue Eight: Journeys End in Lovers Meeting

Courtesy – IDW Publishing

“O mistress mine, where are you roaming?
O, stay and hear; your true love’s coming,
That can sing both high and low:
Trip no further, pretty sweeting;
Journeys end in lovers meeting,
Every wise man’s son doth know.”

– Twelfth Night, II.iii

Hamlet and the others run into Morton. (Not to be confused with this Morton.) He was discovered spying for the rebellion and just barely managed to escape. Falstaff’s had enough of Hamlet’s waffling and declares that it’s time to find Shakespeare and get all this shit fixed.

In the mean time, Iago and Othello are training the resistance militia. Iago is giving some advice on how to beat stronger opponents like Othello. Seems that some of the advice is doing a number on Othello who gets his butt whipped and then walks off. Iago’s doublespeak is starting to twist and turn him and Othello starts his own #guiltfest.

Didn’t he shaft Iago when he passed him over for a promotion? Maybe murdering his wife Desdemona was all his fault and not Iago’s? And maybe Othello’s just a cool blooded killer anyhow?

Hamlet’s standing on his balcony musing about this whole Shadow King stuff when Juliet calls down from below and then climbs up to him. Some more clever R&J reversal. And finally they make out! The next morning, Falstaff, Iago and Hamlet set out towards… somewhere, to find Shakespeare.

Remember how Lady Macbeth was holding the Black Guard in reserve? Yeah, well Richard kinda went behind her back and invited them and their leader Philip the Bastard to join him in fighting the rebels. Pwnd!

Iago and Falstaff are poking fun at Hamlet about this whole Juliet thing when they are accosted along the road by a bunch of well-armed and armoured paladins or holy warriors. They’re not really buying this Shadow King stuff so their leader steps forward and asks Hamlet to prove it.

Who’s their leader? Romeo Montague, much less dead that previously reported.

Oh snap!

Characters added: Philip the Bastard, Orsino, Romeo


What happens next? Well, I know but you should probably pick up the graphic novel to find out for yourself. But if you’re willing to wait, we’ll eventually tell you when we cover issues 9 through 12.

Enjoy, Brawlers!

Stay in Touch Brawlers!

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Like our Facebook page.

Email the Bard Brawl at bardbrawl@gmail.com

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Let’s read a comic and kill us some Shakespeare

Daniel J. Rowe

Sometimes, the title just makes you want to grab the book. I feel like there are few titles less tempting than IDW Publishing‘s comic series Kill Shakespeare.

I mean, dang, it’s called Kill Shakespeare!

Even the haters got to like that one.

I know for a fact, the true brawlers will like the series created and written by Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col. We’ll wait for Eric’s review of the next four issues to find out for sure, but I’d put smart money on him liking it. We’re going to break the series down by issues of four, and we’re reading out of the slick “Backstage Edition,” which is a finely packaged piece in itself.

Props to the art by Andy Belanger, and the covers by Kagan McLeod.

Issue one: A Sea of Troubles

Courtesy - IDW Publishing
Courtesy – IDW Publishing

“Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

and by opposing end them.”

– Hamlet, III,i

In issue one we’re introduced to the Shadow King, Hamlet (naturally), who is shipwrecked and washes up on the shore of Richard III’s kingdom that he rules with MacBeth (well, more like Lady MacBeth). I’m going to try to stay away from plot points, as I would rather not ruin the joy of getting introduced to the various Shakespearean characters in new and fun ways. And, no, I’m not talking about them being cast as steam punk robots or high school sweethearts. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that).

The series starts well. There’s a shipwreck, a ghost, good art (the panels with the swords coming out of the water are great), comic-style voice over, pirates, mystery and magic.

The first issue gets you hooked in, and a classic line to end. It establishes that these are Shakespearean characters, but this is a different world.

The idea of Hamlet having to kill Shakespeare to bring his father back to life is a nice touch.

Bonus about the backstage edition: there are character and line descriptors at the end of each issue giving those without an encyclopedic knowledge of characters a taste of the original text.

Characters introduced: Hamlet, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern, Richard III, the Witches, Lady Macbeth

Issue two: Something Wicked This Way Comes

Courtesy - IDW Publishing
Courtesy – IDW Publishing

“By the pricking of my thumbs

Something wicked this way comes”

– Macbeth, IV,i

Enter Ratcliff, and others, as well, as new locales, new intrigue and more about this civil war between RIII and Juliet. Tell me I just didn’t sell you on that last sentence. What’s nice about the series is that characters come into play in different ways. Sometimes, they just show up, and sometimes they’re alluded to previously.

Iago shows up, and is very well written. We all know he’s evil, but we only know that because we’ve seen Othello. What if he’s part of a story that includes other cruel and conniving characters like R III and Lady Macbeth? How does he fit?

Read a find out.

Also, we have the introductions of the “prodigals of Shakespeare” adding a lovely touch of superstitious masses mixed with nerds that obviously really love the bard. Hmmm. Do I know any of those types?

The writers do a clever thing where they add Shakespearean lines or scenes into different situations. Richard III does his best Cornwall impression and takes some poor guy’s eyes out, while Iago ironically delivers the gem, “keep up your bright swords… or blood shall rust them” riffing on my favourite of Othello’s catchphrases.

Characters added: Ratcliffe, Iago, Falstaff (naturally), Tamora, Angelo, and Hastings.

Issue three: The Fool Doth Think He is Wise

Courtesy - IDW Publishing
Courtesy – IDW Publishing

“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wis man knows himself to be a fool,”

– As You Like It, V,i

Alright nerds. Get ready for some boobs. It’s a sad fact about comic books that they focus particular attention to the vivacious curves of the well-endowed, and Kill Shakespeare is, unfortunately, no exception.

Yes, I like boobs like the best of them, but I mean come on. Every female character in a comic book does not have to have huge knockers no matter if they are the Merry Wives of Windsor or Lady MacBeth.

Ok. Rant done. Feminist inside of me argued for.

The Fallstaff/Hamlet scenes that take up a few pages in this issue are very fun, and one of those great ‘what ifs’ of Shakespeare. What if Fallstaff’s bombast was paired with Hamlet’s melancholy. A great what if answered in issue three. Also, what if Richard III and Macbeth were sitting at a table together? Answered.

Puck (Robin Goodfellow) shows up and his design is great. This is what makes comics fun: no reliance on human actors.

I should give a belated shoutout to colourist Ian Herring. His work stands out in the comic series.

And, dang, if Connor McCreery and Anthony Del Col go right into Poe-land, where Christopher Moore did in The Serpent of Venice. It’s a killer ending, and I won’t ruin it. I will, however, point out that Moore’s book came first. I’m not saying the idea was stolen, or that it doesn’t work every time, but still…


Characters added: Macbeth, Puck, Titus (referenced), Olivia


Issue Four: So Wise, So Young, Never Do Live Long

Courtesy - IDW Publishing
Courtesy – IDW Publishing

“So wise so young, they say, do never live long,”

– Richard III,i

Great first page. Well drawn, well coloured and well executed.

Nothing makes a comic hum like a great first page.

The continuation of cross-dressing from issue three is a nice add to the story, as you can’t have Shakespeare without a little Gender Bending. Hey ho. Have you bought your copy of ‘Zounds! yet? I don’t know why I just thought of that. Hmmmmm. Click here.

Again, the writers are careful to hold characters back, so that we get humdingers like in issue four when probably the best ‘what if’ turns up when Juliet is paired with Othello. Yes! Can’t say I don’t dig that. Oh, and see how Juliet is designed? More of that.

Also, the weaselly Parolles is a great addition, as is Nerissa.

This is the first look at the other side of the civil war (although I feel like there may be more than just two sides). Much of the issue is build up with a very well-done payoff in the end. The close ups of Othello and Don John are nice, and when Othello lays eyes on Iago, even better. It’s an amazingly designed page with all the passion and emotion one would expect from the two if they were to see each other after the play Othello is finished.

There’s a reason why Othello is one of the Bard Brawl’s favourites. The characters from that play always add a huge chunk of amazing.

Characters added: Juliet, Othello, Parolles, Nerissa, Robert Shallow, Don John

Come back next time when Eric continues with issues five through eight of Kill Shakespeare.

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BB: Coriolanus, Act III

(Podcast recorded and edited by Daniel J. Rowe, Show notes by Eric Jean)

After a break, the brawlers return and dive into the third act of the Tragedy of Coriolanus.

Listen to the podcast here.

Over the past two shows the Brawlers have brought up T.S. Eliot a number of times. He rather famously claimed that Coriolanus, and not Hamlet (as is commonly thought), is Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy. This Slate article looks at T.S. Eliot’s claim. There’s a link to Eliot’s original essay “Hamlet and His Problems” in the article, if you’re curious to read it first hand.

For those of you who won’t read the article (shame on you!), here’s a little synopsis of Eliot’s position: he argues that Hamlet is a bad play with a defective plot that barely holds together. He considers it an unfinished work, barely cobbled together. According to Eliot, the only reason Hamlet’s so popular is because others (Coleridge, notably) have written in a whole psychology and depth to the character which Eliot thinks was never there to begin with. Coriolanus, on the other hand, is all action and (according to Eliot) is one of Shakespeare’s best plotted plays. (As in, the plot and the timeline sort of makes as is.)

While I’m not sure I can agree that a better plot makes for a better tragedy, he wouldn’t be the first to argue that. Here’s a short outline of Aristotle’s theory of tragedy from the Poetics: you’ll note that plot is the most important thing to him. Maybe that’s why it’s so important to Eliot. Don’t know if Shakespeare would really agree or not. He didn’t seem to pay much attention to what Aristotle thought.

Which is more important: plot or character – Coriolanus or Hamlet?

Tell us what you think! (And read the article already!)

Bard Brawlers for Act III of Coriolanus are Benny Hedley, Jay Reid, Eric Jean, Miki Laval, David Wheaton and Daniel J. Rowe

We promised you an action-packed act this week and Coriolanus doesn’t disappoint!

Coriolanus’ appointment to the consulship was practically a done deal before the tribunes turned the people against him once again. Act III, Scene 1, start with Coriolanus hearing that his enemy, Tullus Aufidius, has returned to Antium after his defeat at Corioles. The common people of Rome have been swayed by the tribunes to revoke their support of Coriolanus’ election to the consulship. They have taken to the streets to protest his repeated mocking of them. The tribunes provoke Coriolanus who makes many fiery and hateful speeches targeting the common people of Rome. Seizing on their opportunity, the tribunes accuse Coriolanus of being a traitor to Rome and seeking to make himself king. (Side note: Even during the period of the Roman Empire, it was illegal for anyone to call themselves King of Rome.) The tribunes order their aediles to take Coriolanus into custody to answer the charge but he draws his sword and tries to resist. Menenius talks him down and sends him home to avoid a riot. He agrees to convince Coriolanus to answer to the people’s accusations.

I think every Brawler had their own pronunciation this week. Just to set the record straight:

ae·dile:  noun \ˈē-ˌdī(-ə)l, ˈē-dəl\: an official in ancient Rome in charge of public works and games, police, and the grain supply.

Act III, Scene 2 takes place in Coriolanus’ house. The patricians and his mother try to convince him to return to the people of Rome and make a show of begging their forgiveness. Coriolanus is incensed that she would suggest he abase himself  by bothering to lie to the commoners to gain their votes. She suggests that once he’s consul he’ll no longer have to do that but that he shouldn’t piss them off while they still have the power to deny him the honours he deserves. Menenius adds his own counsel to Volumnia’s and Coriolanus, despite himself, agrees to do as they suggest.

As Coriolanus prepares to return to the forum in Act III, Scene 3, the tribunes are busy preparing the crowd for his arrival. They instruct them to support whatever decision the tribunes will make. The tribunes agree on their strategy which is to provoke Coriolanus so he loses his temper then they’ll have free rein, and the support of the mob, to guarantee the outcome they want: getting rid of Coriolanus. Coriolanus tries to appease the crowd and Menenius reminds them that Coriolanus’ rough words should be considered as those of a soldier untrained in politics and flattery. He asks the people plainly why they’ve refused him the consulship which he feels he has deserved. At that, the tribunes waste no time and immediately accuse him of having tried to seize power and declare him a traitor to Rome. Coriolanus will have none of this and flies into a rage. As the tribunes banish Coriolanus from Rome, he turns his back on commoner and patrician alike and in one of the most dramatic stage exist in Shakespeare, declares that “there is a world elsewhere.”

You’ll need to download the next episode to find out where he finds that other world. I guarantee you it will be worth tuning in. You won’t want to miss it!

If you’ve missed any of the previous episodes, they’re just waiting to be downloaded! Better yet, subscribe on iTunes for your (mostly) weekly dose of Bard!

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