Comics

Lady Macbeth’s Breasts (SFW – honest!)

We’re a week away from the release of the new JULIET trade to bookstores, and to help celebrate that we have something cool for you Shakespeare academics.

Michelle Ephraim, who was one of the scholars who helped to put together our Backstage Edition has thoughtfully provided us with a copy of a Kill Shakespeare inspired essay, entitled, rather provocatively: Lady Macbeth’s Breasts

Lady Macbeth gets the academic treatment thanks to WPI Prof: Michelle Ephraim

Lady Macbeth gets the academic treatment thanks to WPI Prof: Michelle Ephraim

Michelle talks in her piece about the role that sexuality plays in the depictions of Lady M, both in our comic, and in culture as a whole. It’s a funny, thought-provoking and insightful take on one of my favourite characters in the canon, as well as one that gives us a pat on the back for having Lady M transcend her “femme fatale” tropes (yay, us!).

It’s a short and enjoyable read – and you can go here to get in on the fun!

Or if you’d rather just read the whole thing now i’ts here below:

 

Lady Macbeth’s Breasts

 

Before venturing into the influential (and notoriously censorious) Texas library market, the Kill Shakespeare team took some professional advice and gave Lady Macbeth’s ample breasts a bit of a nip/tuck. Especially to the “side boob” swelling out from the periphery of her metal tank top.

 

Even with this strategic augmentation, Lady Macbeth’s breasts are a formidable presence in KS. And even more than her signature props—daggers, poison, wine—the breasts are Lady Macbeth’s most defining accessory. At the end of Issue #6 (also the concluding chapter of Kill Shakespeare: Volume 1), Lady Macbeth is serving up plenty of wine and cleavage to her obsequious paramour, Iago. (You can practically hear him panting.) Issue #7, with which Kill Shakespeare: Volume 2 begins, picks up with the same tableau of booze and breasts, establishing the latter as a key visual and symbolic theme in KS’s grand design.

 

These prominent breasts seem appropriate given Kill Shakespeare’s literary context. In Shakespeare, Lady Macbeth’s most famous speech, her furious response to Macbeth when he tries to renege on their plan to murder King Duncan, concerns this part of her anatomy:

 

I have given suck, and know

How tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me.

I would, while it was smiling in my face,

Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums

And dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you

Have done to this. (1.7)

 

The speech has launched many an academic publication on Lady Macbeth’s maternal history. Did she give birth? What happened to the kid? Regardless of the true story of little Macbeth, her anecdote is meant as a testimony to her toughness, her refusal to wuss out of any promise.

 

Ultimately and ironically in Act I of Macbeth, Lady Macbeth cites the female breast to articulate her strong masculine attributes and, by contrast, her husband’s weak, feminine nature. We hear her plea to be rid of any and all nurturing attributes: “Come you spirits/Unsex me now, and take my milk for gall.” Just in the highly unlikely case there’s a residual drop of motherly compassion. But her real concern lies with her husband who’s “too full of the milk of human kindness.” Whereas she’s manned-up to the task of killing the king and usurping the throne, Macbeth has not; she must bully him into it. To this end, Lady Macbeth shames her husband: if he refuses the chance to kill Duncan he is unmanly, but if he takes this opportunity he will be “so much more the man.”

 

Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth demonstrates her feminine side by the end of the play, but it’s not a pretty sight. Senseless, sleepwalking, and suicidal, she embodies what contemporary medical discourse would have identified as textbook female hysteria. Modern American psychiatrist Isador Henry Coriat in his 1912 book The Hysteria of Lady Macbeth goes to town with this interpretative tradition: “Lady Macbeth is a typical case of hysteria; her ambition is merely a sublimation of a repressed sexual impulse, the desire for a child based upon the memory of a child long since dead” (28-9).

 

KS, however, clears Lady Macbeth of any trace of maternal trauma or desire. She’s homicidal, not hysterical. She’s characterized by malevolence, not madness.[1] In gaining and maintaining the Scottish throne, she also succeeds where her Shakespearean prototype fails, but this is hardly enough for her. And unlike Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth, she doesn’t rely on her husband to get what she wants; she simply rids herself of Macbeth, a nuisance of a husband and an obstacle to her own political ambitions. In fact, KS’s Scottish Queen doesn’t give her husband much thought at all. It’s Iago who comments on their inverted gender roles: “[Lady Macbeth] has none of the soft parts of her husband.”

 

No soft parts, indeed. Those impressively pneumatic breasts are definitely not filled with milk, not even a drop of it. Instead of milk, she’s full of the sinister liquids of liquor and poison, which she administers without a trace of human kindness.

 

Lady Macbeth’s breasts in KS might be seen as inflated, metaphorically, with her voracious ambition. Appropriately, they are also her most formidable weapon, insuring her husband’s lusty oblivion as she straddles him in bed . . . and murders him.  Instead of drinking the “nectar” between her legs as he happily expects, he gets poison thrust down his throat. As Lady Macbeth forces her liquid into him with her phallic vial, she is so much more the man.

 

Like the stage and film productions that have depicted Lady Macbeth erotically, KS emphasizes a connection between a woman’s verbal and sexual aggressiveness. In the Renaissance, the oft-open mouth of a woman who talked excessively or forcefully was thought to have an analogous “openness” in her nether regions as well. In KS, Lady Macbeth’s skill at verbal manipulation hooks not only her husband, but Iago and King Richard II. In bed, she and Richard spar with “wit”–a word that for Shakespeare’s audience would have a double entendre as genitalia. Like their battle of wits, their competition for Shakespeare’s quill, an object with clear phallic symbolism throughout KS, is ultimately a fight for sexual and political domination.

 

The most audacious adaptation of Lady Macbeth’s character in KS, more than her inspired cup size, is her new identity as a bona fide witch. Her magical cred supersedes that of the incanting Weird Sisters who submissively mumble their toil and troubles in her shadow.

No matter how many Shakespearean scholars have argued for their similarities in Macbeth, there is no evidence that Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth knows the three Weird Sisters, save for Macbeth’s mention of them. In Shakespeare’s tragedy, all four ladies may take gratification in controlling Macbeth, but only the witches have true agency; as she discovers, Lady Macbeth is just a poor player strutting and fretting her way to a really crappy fate.

 

By promoting Lady Macbeth to witch status, KS ups the ante of the threat she poses to Macbeth, to Shakespeare, and, if we think about King James’ influential 1597 treatise on witchcraft, Demonologie, to the world of men in general. Richard is warned that she is “bewitching” and to “stay safe from her spells,” but he counters that she is merely his “possession, nothing more.”

 

Nothing more, Richard? Are you sure about that? Shakespeare’s witches are sexual deviants who gets their kicks from screwing with men. Maybe from literally screwing them, too. They brag about removing a sailor’s thumb, a castration narrative KS evokes in Lady Macbeth’s fantasy of snatching the quill from Shakespeare. A well-endowed caricature of a Sexy Woman, Lady Macbeth would evoke a grotesque and subversive (and transgendered?) figure should she gain possession of the phallic quill, that penile appendage. With the quill, she would, as she declares to Richard, be “crowned king of this infinite space.”

 

In Demonologie, King James’ deep paranoia about his subjects’ loyalty is on full display. He writes that women are susceptible to becoming “entrapped” by the “gross snares of the Devil” because they are weak, frail, disloyal creatures by nature. Once they become witches, the devil’s servants, they will launch a sexual and thus, political assault on every man they can get their hands on. Witches, he argues, have the power to:“[weaken] the nature of some men, to make them unable for women.” Unlike the bearded ugly witches in Shakespeare’s play, the extreme sexuality and physical beauty of KS’s Lady Macbeth only underscores, by contrast, the potentially sterilizing, castrating, and generally emasculating effects she has on men.

 

What would King James make of her controlling the dagger that flies around trying to stab Hamlet and Shakespeare? Like the phallic vial of poison, the dagger is a weapon that is both physically and ideologically threatening in its symbolic usurpation of phallic power.

 

It’s easy (and pleasurable) to imagine King James quaking with anger and pointing a shaky finger at this comic book Lady Macbeth.

 

“See?,” he would mutter through clenched teeth, “I told you so!”

 

At the end of Issue #12, after the big fight scene, Lady Macbeth disappears in a puff of magic smoke. It’s her own version of “I’ll be BAAACK.” Suddenly, that visually arresting eye candy of a body is gone, and we are left with . . . well, with eyes. Her eyes, staring out at us from the page. There is no body here, no breasts. Yet their gapingly absent presence is as much of a threat as they are, in all their gloriously visible cleavage, to the horny Iago.

 

Shakespeare’s suicidal Scottish Queen becomes undone by her physicality—she just can’t seem to get that damn spot off her little hand. Not to mention the trauma of that lost child, the pet theory of Coriat and other psychoanalytic critics. There’s nothing little about Lady Macbeth’s character in Kill Shakespeare, but her enormous breasts, and perhaps her entire body itself, is a ruse. As the disembodied eyes suggest, she maintains a purely utilitarian relationship with her own body. Her real power isn’t her well-endowed physique but rather her ability to deploy it and collapse it. In this sense, her magic allows her to transcend the physical body, freeing her from the matters of flesh and blood—such as the prophecy of Banquo’s children who will succeed the childless Macbeths—that sunk her sixteenth-century prototype.

 

Michelle Ephraim

Associate Professor of English

Worcester Polytechnic Institute

 



[1] In Shakespeare, Lady Macbeth betrays a soft spot early on: she says she won’t kill King Duncan because he resembles her father. On the other hand, a reader could imagine KS’s Lady Macbeth nonchalantly offing a family member should she get the chance.

Issue #3 is FINALLY here — it got a little Shakespearean there for a second.

Hey everyone,

Today is a bittersweet day for the Kill Shakespeare team.  On one hand we’re thrilled that issue #3 of Juliet is out. We think it’s the best issue of the series – a giant sized 28 pages of story that we hope feels as Shakespearean as anything we’ve ever done. Corin Howell’s art has hit another level for this one, and I think it’s one of the best issues I’ve ever written.

Adam Gorham's Cover for #3 was definitely worth the wait!

Adam Gorham’s Cover for #3 was definitely worth the wait!

You may have noticed, however, that there’s been a delay in getting this issue out — originally #3 was supposed to be out LAST month and #4 was supposed to hit stores now.

That’s the bittersweet part. You see, it’s been fairly Shakespearean behind the scenes here in the ol’ KS world. Corin’s Dad got sick early this year. He had to go into the hospital for surgery a couple of times. Thankfully he’s going to be o.k., and we’re so happy about that, but as you can imagine helping to take care of her family was Corin’s top priority, and so that meant the book had to come second. Which is the right choice.

For those of you who have the book you MAY have noticed that the colours seem a bit different. Well, that’s part of the drama too…

The OTHER bittersweet moment came because we had to say adieu to long-time colourist Shari Chankahamma. Shari whose been with us since Book 3 was offered an amazing opportunity to pencil and ink a project and there was no way we were going to stand in her way. That DID result in a delay though as we found a new colourist who could fit into Shari’s style.

Enter Alex Lille, our saviour (and big thanks to Keith Morris for helping us find her!)

And one of Shari's final pages -- see -- they're both AWESOME!

And one of Shari’s final pages — see — they’re both AWESOME!

One of Alex's first new pages in the book

One of Alex’s first new pages in the book.

 

 

This is Alex’s first crack at a regular series, and she’s still finishing up her degree in SoCal, so we decided that rather than rush her, it was best to take our time and make this book look as good as possible. All that add’s up to a longer production cycle than we were hoping for, and it means that issue #4 is also going to be delayed — with it looking to come out in August (it’s almost finished on our end.)

So, our apologies for the delay, but I hope you’ll all understand the reasons behind it.

Thanks to all of you.

C

Conor hits the airwaves!

Ah yesh, all the STUFF you need!

Ah yeah, all the STUFF you need!

 

A couple of days before Juliet #1 was released I had the privilege of going on the radio in NYC to make an appearance on the Stuph File – an  eclectic radio program hosted by Peter Anthony Holder. We talked about Kill Shakespeare, the new series Juliet, the hidden city of my birth, and EXACTLY how arrogant we were in deciding to rewrite this little known literary hack called Shakespeare…

I’m on with a doctor who invented a “Hangover Heaven Bus” to help the, uh,  overly enthusiastic denizens of Las Vegas, and a super  talented writer/producer of the web-series ‘Riley’ – about a child star’s life gone horribly, hilariously wrong as an adult.

Go here to check out the episode — we’re #0398 if it’s no longer at the top of the page.

But if you’re not interested in one of the most bizarre news summaries you’ll ever hear, the Doctor to the Drunk, the fate of a child star all-  grown up, and The Idiot of The Day, you can just listen to my segment here.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Afternoon (and early evening) in Paradise!

Just wanted to write a quick thanks to everyone who took the time to come out to our signing for JULIET #1 at the AMAZING Paradise Comics.

I had a great time seeing some old friends (Keith WTS Morris, yes! Doug and Peter), and making LOTS of new ones (including Peter’s terminally cute little girl, Violet.) Below are pictures of super fans, Rachel, Dominic (aka the Kiwi Kid), The Voltron Sisters, the Big A and Terran – whose also the winner of out Twitter picture contest and will now win a copy of Juliet #1 when it comes out in trade.

Can’t wait to do it all again for issue #2!IMG_20170405_160050847IMG_20170405_165958354IMG_20170405_164931700IMG_20170405_181959411

IMG_20170405_155908087

CAPTION CONTEST

It’s contest time!

With Kill Shakespeare – Past is Prologue: Juliet #1 just a week away (WEDNESDAY, APRIL 5th), it’s time to do some fun things to get us all ready for the latest chapter in our tale. Below is a panel from issue #1 of Juliet.

Send us your best caption for it and the winner will receive a Kill Shakespeare prize-pack including books, t-shirts and more!

 

Send us your best captions to muchado@killshakespeare.com to win a KS prize pack.

Send us your best captions to muchado@killshakespeare.com to win a KS prize pack.

For those of you not familiar with Juliet it takes place roughly five months after the end of Romeo & Juliet, where our heroine, still mourning the death of her beloved Romeo again comes face to face with death. This time the victim is her mother, and this time Juliet has reason to suspect it was not suicide, but a murder most foul. Now the headstrong and passionate young woman will be plunged into a world of rebels, mercenaries, and wise fools as she tries to bring her Mother’s killer — before Juliet herself is the next victim.

It’s the perfect place for a new reader to jump into the Kill Shakespeare Universe, and for you, our dedicated fans, it answers some of the questions we get the most: how did a girl, best known for being a star-cross’d lover come to lead a rebellion?

As the Bard himself wrote “…be not afraid of greatness.”

All the best,
Conor

 

I’ll be at New York Comic-Con this week!

Hello fans!

Things have been busy here in Kill Shakespeare Land with lots of work and deadlines of late. Many things to announce in the coming months…

But first, I want to announce that I’ll be attending New York Comic-Con this upcoming week in my adopted city!

I’l be at Table 1249 the entire weekend, along with some helpers at the table. I’ll have copies of all Kill Shakespeare volumes, our board game, our ShakesGear t-shirts, and copies of Assassin’s Creed (Volume 1 and issues 6-12) and Sherlock Holmes vs Harry Houdini. And you’ll be able to find out more about our future projects as well!

I'll be there!

I’ll be there!

I’ll also be attending a few panels and signings. These include:

Dynamite Comics’ Panel – Thu, Oct 6 @ 7:45pm (Room 1A02)

How to Self-Publish – Fri, Oct 7 @ 11am (Room 1A02)

Assassin’s Creed Signing – Sun, Oct 9 from 12 noon – 1pm (Titan Comics’ Booth)

So come by and visit me – it’s gonna be a great show!

 

Sneak Peek at NEW PAGES!

As some of you have seen, Kill Shakespeare is coming back to the page.

We’re working on our fifth book, “Juliet” which is going to take a step back from the main story to show you how Juliet started on the path towards becoming Prodigal leader. Set just a a few months after the end of Romeo and Juliet, we pick up our heroine as an angry young woman, who still feels guilt over Romeo’s death, and isn’t sure that she deserved to have survived.  A horrific murder will give Juliet a cause, bloody vengeance, and pit her against one of Shakespeare’s nastiest villains, Cornwall from King Lear. Can Juliet get revenge? And will she lose herself in the process?

Unfortunately for us, the uber-talented Andy Belanger can’t join us this time out, so instead we have tapped the ALSO uber-talented Corin Howell! She’s best known for her work with BOOM! (Power Rangers), Viz Media (Bravest Warriors), Oni (The Mighty Zodiac) and IDW (Transformers), and now we’ve got her doing pencils and inks for our baby!

Vaneda Vireak, whose work featured in the back-up story for The Mask Of Night is on-board to colour the book and we could not be happier with their work.

Ah heck, why don’t we stop gushing and SHOW you?

Below are some pencils from the first chapter of the series – we’d love to hear your thoughts on this new comic-adventure!

Juliet_1_Pencils_2

Juliet_1_Pencils_3

Juliet_1_Pencils_5 Juliet_1_Pencils_7

FanExpo, here we come!

It’s that time of year! No, I’m not referring to cooler weather or the purchase of backpacks and pencil cases… I’m referring to FanExpo Canada in Toronto!

Conor and I will be attending this year’s show for our fifth straight year. Wow, it’s been five years! Maybe six? I’ve lost track by now. It’s always one of our best shows and this year we’re excited to have it serve as the official launch pad for our new book SHERLOCK HOLMES VS HARRY HOUDINI! Though the book hits stores on September 10th you’ll be able to find a limited number of copies at the show this year.

You may even be able to find Anthony and Conor's doppelgangers, Sam and Keith!

You may even be able to find Anthony and Conor’s doppelgangers, Sam and Keith!

This year’s FanExpo runs from Thu, Sep 3 – Sun, Sep 6th at the Metro Convention Centre. Conor and I will be located in Artist Alley at Table P59 all weekend.

 

 

New Yorkers, learn how to write comics!

Now back from my West Coast mini-vacation with my uber-lovely wife, I’m hitting the ground running. For those curious, we are not attending San Diego Comic-Con this week but in our absence expect one or two announcements about forthcoming projects (no hints – yet)!

And once all of that is done, I’m happy to announce that I’m putting together a comic book writing workshop in New York City next week! The Screenwriters’ Collective has asked me to come in and do a seminar on how to turn your idea into a comic book. The details are:

GRAPHIC NOVEL WRITING SEMINAR & NETWORKING HOUR 

BAM! POW! BOOM! HOW TO TURN YOUR IDEA INTO A COMIC BOOK  

The NYC Screenwriters Collective is happy to present Graphic Novel Writing with Anthony Del Col.  With the success of the Marvel Studios films and TV series like The Walking Dead blazing trails in pop culture, comic books have never been bigger. And comics are not just superheroes these days -­ it’s everything from historical drama to romance. But what does it take to write a comic book series? Acclaimed comic book creator Anthony Del Col (IDW Publishing’s “Kill Shakespeare”) teaches this seminar on how to turn your ideas into a comic book. He will address the process behind the creation of a comic, how to write a comic book (it’s not just word balloons!), how to navigate the industry, and everything in­ between. 

Workshop

WHEN: Thursday JULY 16th — Seminar 6:30p-8:00p, Networking 8:00-10:00pm

WHERE: At the People’s Improv Theater at 123 E 24th Street.

Price: $25 discounted to $15 with NYCSC promo code. 

FREE NETWORKING EVENT. If you can’t make the workshop, please attend our free Monthly Networking Evening 8pm-10pm…cash bar… located in the bar at the People’s Improve Theater. Partnered with the M/E/T.  

Tickets can be purchased here. This is a non-profit venture – all funds go towards covering costs for the venue and event.

So come on out!

 

 

The Mask of Night collected edition is out next week!

I’m excited to announce that the collected trade paperback of THE MASK OF NIGHT is being released next week in comic shops around the world (and bookstores will be the following week).  So if you’re looking for a great holiday gift idea for that comic and/or Shakespeare fan in your circle, our fourth volume could be it!

Cover by Andy Belanger

Cover by Andy Belanger

This collected book includes the original four issues, a new backup story detailing the backstory of our protagonist’s brother Sebastian (tying it into our Kill Shakespeare universe), and a page-by-page dissection of script-to-artwork.

We’re excited to see the final product when it arrives (after LA port delays) and we know you will too!