Get Your Spy On with Mikhail and Codename Baboushka Creator Antony Johnston (Interview)
GWW Writer, Editor and podcast host Mikhail Shlyuger attended New York Comic Con and while he was there getting the latest scoops and interviews for your reading pleasure, Mikhail has the chance to sit down and chat with comics creator Antony Johnston. You may know him from his work with Image and Oni but Mikhail and Antony chat his newest comic Codename Baboushka.
Antony: well, Codename Baboushka is a modern pulp spy thriller, about the titular women Baboushka who is actually an ex Russian mafia crime boss who was driven out of Moscow by rival crime lords and is now living in exile in the US secretly under her civilian name of Contessa Anika Malakova the last of a noble Russian line, but a shadowy government agency the extra judicial operations network have somehow discovered who she really is and they black mail her into taking on secret black ops missions for them.
Mikhail (GWW): Very, cool so is she an older woman because Baboushka tends to mean Grandma?
Antony: She is actually a young beautiful woman; she adopted the name when she was a mafia crime boss. She has pure white hair, there are other reasons which are story related and I’m not going to spoil but one of the reason is that she has this pure white hair and it was a way of impression upon people when she was a criminal her authority and that even though she was a young woman she was still to be respected and feared throughout the crime world.
Mikhail (GWW): So this is like you mentioned a noir, pulpy kind of book, is that right?
Antony: Yea, it’s not even noir really, but very pulp, it’s very much in this James Bond style of high action stuff; the real high concept is what if the sexy Russian bond girl was actually the main character. What if these were her adventures, not Bond’s and she is the spy globetrotting around the world, high kicking, making things explode, and snapping necks.
Mikhail (GWW): Let’s talk a little bit about you; is this your first series or what other things have your written for Image?
Antony: Oh no, I already have, well I have been around for quite a while, I have another book at Image for the moment called Fuse. Which is a cops in space story, a murder mystery set on an orbiting space station. I also did a book recently called Umbral also at Image for a couple of volumes and I am actually probably best known for a long running epic sci-fi series I did called Wasteland at Oni Press. Which was a big 60 issue post-apocalyptic epic series which we wrapped up early this year after 60 issues and 10 years, and that was quite a wild ride.
Mikhail (GWW): Very, very cool. So let me ask about the influence of Codename Baboushka. Did you have a fascination with Russian culture? What made you want to write this book?
Antony: I do have a certain fascination with Russian culture but that’s not actually why I wanted to write the book. The book came about of, well the initial idea come about when I was watching the Blu-ray of From Russia With Love, which is my favorite Bond movie. And one of the reasons that’s my favorite Bond movie is because it’s so unusual compared to what we now think of as a Bond movie. It is an actual spy story, you know it has actual espionage and a cold war code breaking machine and the Bond girl is, yea she is a very attractive and sexy women but she is a spy herself and she’s not just walking around in a bikini the whole time.
It’s an unusual story and I thought I would like to see what this story looks like from her point of view, and so that got me thinking about characters like her, characters like Modesty Blaze who is a British comic strip character, another criminal turned spy that ran for many years in the UK, very well know over there. Or Emma Peel, Mrs. Peel from the TV Avengers, the 1960s series. It got me thinking about those sorts of characters and I decided I wanted to create a character like that, a kick-ass female spy, who was iconic, who had an iconic kind of look, and could be in all sort of action filled adventures.
Mikhail (GWW): Absolutely. So I have to ask as a writer, you are always sort of looking at other people’s work and evaluating it against yourself right, that is just something that all writers do. So what has your attention at the moment, what are you reading?
Antony: Well, I do, do that and I would actually advise all writers not to do that because it’s not very healthy, but we all do it anyway. It’s like reading review you know, we can’t help it we have to read them. I am reading a lot of Image books actually at the moment, Lazarus by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark. Greg is a great friend of mine and my opinion is one of the best writers in comics at the moment. I love The Fade Out, Ed Brubaker’s book, again Ed I think is one of the best writers working in comics. Sex Criminals, who doesn’t love Sex Criminals, what else, what else, oh Revival Tim Seeley and Mike Norton’s Revival, I love Revival.
Mikhail (GWW): I think right now Image is sort of going through this sort of golden age. Everything they are coming out with seems to be exploding over and over again.
Antony: Undoubtedly, yea and I think part of that, I mean there are other publishers putting out great work as well, I don’t mean to focus entirely on Image but part of the reason for it is that they encourage us to as creators to just do what we want. And many other publishers are doing this as well Oni Press bless them, has been doing this for many years and I’ve made a lot of books with Oni Press and the attraction again is the same, they just let you do you, what they want to publish is what you are enthusiastic about creating, not what the market demands, not what the demographics and markets surveys says will sell, because frankly those things lie. You can’t rely on those numbers, but if you are passionate about something you want to create and enthusiastic about it and excited about it, I think that comes across in the work and that’s what readers respond too.
Antony: It actually went on sale this week for the convention. So it went on sale this Wednesday, and issue 2 will be out next month and so on. This first run is a 5 issue series for her first mission as it were. Then we will take a break and next year we will do another 5 or 6 issues, her second mission. We are hoping to do one every year so it will be like getting a new action spy movie every year.
Mikhail (GWW): That’s Awesome, that’s a great idea. Well Antonie it was a pleasure speaking with you, I can’t wait to go pick this thing up right now, as soon as I get out of New York Comic Con. It was a pleasure and where can people find more of you?
Antony: People can fine me at my website www.AntonyJohnston.com, or on twitter @AntonyJohnston or on Facebook search Antony Johnston. Bascially because my name is spelt slightly unusually its very easy to find me. You look me up on Google and I’m like the first for pages of hits, there all me.
Mikhail (GWW): Perfect, we will see you there. Thank you so much for your time.
Antony: It was my pleasure.