Crime and romance are two genres that work exceptionally well together, as the thrill of crime fuels the passion of romance when outlaws fall for each other. Writer Frank J. Barbiere and artist Victor Santos explore this dynamic in their new Image Comics series Violent Love, telling the story of two bank robbers who become lovers during a crime spree in the American Southwest.
Barbiere and Santos did excellent work together in the past on Boom! Studios’ superhero-tinged Black Market miniseries, but Violent Love has them moving in a new genre direction with a more grounded point of view. “The story really came from talking to Victor and figuring out what we wanted to do,” said Barbiere. “Victor smartly suggested incorporating romance, and when I started thinking what my specific take on that would be (combined with knowing Victor’s amazing style), this is what we came up with. I think the love story is rarely explored in a satisfying way in the comics medium, but with the rise of Image and creator-owned stories we’re seeing some excellent examples of how to do it in an elegant, relevant way. As a writer, it brings a unique set of challenges and I’m drawn to stories that challenge me to do something new.”
The book’s “inspired by true events” tag is a nod to the Coen brothers and Fargo, but the narrative is rooted in reality, even if Daisy Jane and Rock Bradley weren’t real people. “When we settled on doing a crime/romance story, I started to do some research and one of the obvious touchstones I approached for reference was the story of Bonnie and Clyde,” said Barbiere. “As we continued to build our story, our characters took on their own lives and stories and I continued to draw from personal experience, family stories, and genre elements. I think what we ended up with is a really unique story that has a nice blend of folklore and Americana—truly ‘inspired’ by many things, but wholly its own.”
“Violent Love is a revenge story—there are some truly despicable characters doing some awful things, and it definitely is not going to be for the faint of heart,” said Barbiere. “When we committed to doing this kind of story, I didn’t want to shy away from the violence—it’s meant to be unsettling and to bring out a wild, dangerous side of our characters. Love is a brilliant mirror to the passion of violence and revenge—at its core, this is a story about building something, about finding your ‘other,’ and setting that against a stylized crime story holds a lot of appeal for me as a storyteller.”
Having already worked together in the past, Barbiere and Santos have a strong understanding of each other’s strengths, and Barbiere is giving his collaborator plenty of freedom to interpret narrative beats in his own distinct style. “I take Frank’s script and play with different storytelling options, trying to go far beyond his purposes,” says Santos. “I want to impress that guy. I explained to him, ‘Stop me, because I can go nuts with subjects like the composition,’ but he not only loves it, he took some of these graphic elements from the first issue and added them to the next scripts fluently.”
“Victor is one of my favorite artists, so a chance to collaborate and co-create a book from the ground up with him is a dream come true,” said Barbiere. “The way he is able to infuse personality and emotion into not only his characters, but layouts and color choices, is uncanny—he is a truly gifted storyteller. The work Victor has been able to create from the scripts is extraordinary—as a huge fan of his work in general, I am really hoping this book really rises his star, so to speak. More people deserve to be exposed to his extraordinary talent, and I’m so glad to be along for the ride.”
Appropriate given the Bonnie and Clyde influence, Santos is looking at ’60s and ’70s films like Assault On Precinct 13, Badlands, Dog Day Afternoon, and The Italian Job for visual inspiration. “I also have books about advertising and design from every American decade,” says Santos. “Google makes the day-to-day research really easy as well. I need to be careful with my research, as most people make mistakes with the quotidian elements. Besides movies and art books, I still have my own influences ([Jack] Kirby, [Frank] Miller, [Bruce] Timm, Goseki Kojima, Matt Wagner), but I checked the art of people like Gene Colan and Paul Gulacy. Revisited a lot of Will Eisner´s graphic novels. Artists with what I call an ‘organic sensibility’.”
Santos is also coloring Violent Love, and this exclusive teaser shows how his dramatic color choices energize Barbiere’s writing. “I’m always thinking about the coloring, even as I first sketch out an issue,” says Santos. “I try to search for the main emotion of the scene or if I want to emphasize a specific element. It could be a character, a lighting effect. Sometimes I use the symbology of a color and I build the scene around it. The key for a basic emotion is color, a powerful storytelling weapon like a direct arrow to the heart. I think the labor of a good colorist is often underrated.”
Readers can discover more about Daisy, Rock, and their dangerous romance when Violent Love #1 hits stands on November 9. But in the meantime, Image has provided The A.V. Club with the official solicitation information and a preview to whet readers’ appetites.
VIOLENT LOVE #1
STORY: FRANK J. BARBIERE
ART / COVERS A & B: VICTOR SANTOS
NOVEMBER 9 / 40 PAGES / FC / M / $3.99
Daisy Jane and Rock Bradley were two of the most notorious bank robbers in the American Southwest. And then they fell in love.
Join FRANK J. BARBIERE (FIVE GHOSTS, The Revisionist) and VICTOR SANTOS (THE MICE TEMPLAR, Polar) for a pulp-infused criminal romance oozing with style and action! Double-sized debut issue!