So this is a question I get a lot: why would anyone set a crime thriller in Alaska? Of all places, right? Well, there are a couple reasons…
The first is easy: I used to live there. Just as The Broadcast takes place in my backyard of Indiana, Family Ties takes place in a locale I know well. I spent most of high school and my first year of college in a small town just outside of Anchorage. Just like Indiana, Alaska played a huge part in my life and is still the place I think of as “home.” There’s an old saying that authors should “write what they know.” Well, other than worlds of my own creation, I’ve never known a setting better than the two used in these first books with NBM.
Beyond that, Alaska is a great location for any story. But it’s particularly good for crime. Sound crazy? Well, stay with me. You see, the sixties in Alaska were a wild time. The closest thing to the Wild West since… well… since the Wild West. The oil boom brought people to Alaska in droves. They were promised a good living, and that’s exactly what a lot of them got. The city’s population exploded with hardworking men and women who suddenly had money to spend. But here’s the rub — unless you’re an avid outdoorsman, there isn’t a lot to do in Alaska, especially come winter. Luckily, criminals were there fill the void. Gambling, prostitution, drugs — they were all prevalent in those boom years. In fact, there’s a great non-fiction book called Johnny’s Girl by Kim Rich that details the Anchorage underworld in the 1960s that I can’t recommend enough.
Now, Family Ties doesn’t take place in the 60s. Instead, it’s about a man who prospered in those years but struggles to find his way now that he’s behind the times and “Alaska went and got herself civilized.” But that doesn’t mean the location doesn’t play a vital role. In most good crime stories, the location becomes a character itself. Think about The Sopranos? Can you imagine that story unfolding anywhere but Jersey? What about the great crime movies Ben Affleck has directed over the last few years? Do any of those work outside of Boston? When you watch a movie like Untouchables you actually feel like you’re living in Chicago for those two hours. Hopefully, that’s what will happen as you read Family Ties. Hopefully you’ll put the book down and feel like Family Ties couldn’t have taken place anywhere else. Hopefully you’ll feel like you’ve been there…
About the book:
Family Ties: An Alaskan Crime Drama
By Eric Hobbs and Noel Tuazon
Hoping to secure a future for his children, an aging Alaskan crime boss looks to retire and divide his empire amongst his three heirs. But when his idealistic son refuses the inheritance, the old man disowns him. This turns out to be a fatal mistake when he sees his cold-blooded daughters use their new-found power and influence against him. Inspired by the classic play KING LEAR, THE GODFATHER meets Shakespearean tragedy in this epic tale of betrayal and loss.
Last year, before the publication delay, I wrote a post promising Family Ties would not be your typical crime story. This is still mostly true…
More than anything, Family Ties is a book about the deterioration of a dysfunctional family. But as the finished art rolled in: to be honest, I was a little taken aback by just how much action there actually is. I know I wrote the thing, but I think I’d forgotten that (true to the Shakespearean play it’s based on), Family Ties turns into quite a bloodbath near the close. It’s pretty safe to say, if you’re a fan of violent crime stories — there will be something for you too. There’s a lot of family drama that unfolds early, but eventually that turns to gunplay.
Here are a few preview pages to give you a sense of what I mean.
I hope everyone can appreciate just how great the final panel in that last preview page is. Noel absolutely killed it on this book. I can’t wait to share it with you guys!
Well, we’re almost there. It’s been a bit since I updated the blog with news that Family Ties was delayed, but I’m excited to say that we are almost there. Noel has finished with the artwork and our letterer, Jaymes Reed, is making his pass over things now.
I’ll be stopping in occasionally to remind everyone why we’re so excited for this follow-up to The Broadcast. Until then, I thought I’d offer proof that we’re about to cross the finish line: the book’s final page. It’s spoiler free (as spoiler free as an adaptation of Shakespeare can get, anyway). That said, there was a time when this page seemed a thousand miles away so it’s kinda nice to see. Not to mention, gorgeous. I think everyone is going to love what Noel did with this book. It’s the best work I’ve ever seen with him — but, of course, I’m a little biased.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
FAMILY TIES is an Alaskan Crime Drama. Hoping to secure a future for his children, an aging Alaskan crime boss looks to retire and divide his empire amongst his three heirs. But when his idealistic son refuses the inheritance, the old man disowns him. This turns out to be a fatal mistake when he sees his cold-blooded daughters use their new-found power and influence against him. Inspired by the classic play KING LEAR, THE GODFATHER meets Shakespearean tragedy in this epic tale of betrayal and loss.
This shouldn’t surprise anyone, really. After all, Noel and I already did a book about an alien attack without any aliens in it. The Broadcast was a character-driven thriller about families in rural America and how they might react to an alien invasion. The aliens (or lack thereof) were just a catalyst for the story Noel and I wanted to tell. Family Ties is no different. The crime stuff is there to serve the story we want to tell about this dysfunctional family.
Now, that isn’t to say Family Ties will be a crime book without crime. Not at all. Family Ties will have all the gritty elements that make crime fiction great: violence, coarse language, deplorable characters … it’s going to be fun. But at its heart, Family Ties is similar to The Broadcast in theme. It’s about a family dealing with crisis. Here’s a brief glimpse at what I mean…
So I’ve heard from a few people checking in on Family Ties and its status. Rather than a long post to explain the obvious, I’ll state it as simply as I can: Family Ties is going to be a little late.
Believe me, as a fan, I know what it’s like to expect a book on the shelf only to learn it wasn’t included in that week’s shipment. All I can say is that Noel and I are working very hard to ensure it gets to you as soon as possible.
So… why will the book be late? Well, there are a number of factors that put us behind the eight ball on this one. I won’t go into all of them, but I will say this… most creator-owned books fall behind schedule for the same reason: life gets in the way. Of course, that means something different for everyone. Sometimes the kids need help with homework; sometimes the roof springs a leak; sometimes the boss needs you to put in long hours at the day job; sometimes your wife needs a shoulder to cry on; sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day.
Are these good excuses? Honestly, I don’t know. Probably not. All I can say is that I’m sorry and no one hates that the book is going to be late more than us. But I do hope everyone understands that while creating a 180-page graphic novel is a full time job, Noel and I don’t get to treat it like one. Instead, we steal any time we can find to make comics because it’s what we love to do. Like you, we know that Wednesday is the best day of the week because that’s when new comics hit the shelves. I promise, Family Ties will be on that shelf pretty soon.
I did this with The Broadcast and had some success with it so I figured I would do it again and give readers a chance to win a free copy of Family Ties. Like before, you have to be a member of the Good Reads website to enter, but membership is free and definitely worth it if you’re an avid reader. However, if you’re already a member you can just click below and you are automatically entered to win. Good luck!
So as Noel and I continue to finish up Family Ties, something occurred to me. Together, he and I have created almost 400 pages of comic art. It’s kind of crazy, when I think about it like that. It’s even crazier when I think that it’s been five whole years since I sent him that first e-mail introducing myself and a little book called The Broadcast.
I have a number of people I collaborate with, but Noel has always been my favorite. Mainly because he’s good, but also because we’ve developed a great working relationship through the years. At first, my panel descriptions were fairly detailed. But now, I don’t say much. I don’t have to. First of all, Noel usually knows exactly what I’m looking for — we’re like ballplayers who have been playing together for a really long time. But even if he doesn’t know what I’m expecting, he usually comes up with something even better. That’s one thing I’ve learned working with a great artist: when it comes to the art, his vision is almost always going to be better than mine. I didn’t always write that way. There was a time that I was married to every idea I had, but with Noel it has always felt like a true collaboration. The books we do aren’t his or mine — their ours.
But here’s the one thing that makes our collaboration a little strange … we’ve never met. Not once. In fact, in five years, we’ve never even talked on the phone.
Sometimes I wonder just how difficult it must have been to find a (good) collaborator before the internet made the world so small. I guess creators are better off now. When I was a kid, just finding someone interested in comics was tough enough. Finding someone interested in making them — even tougher. But now, if you’re a young creator looking to make his mark, all you have to do is jump online and you’ll find there are thousands of people just like you. If you want to be the next Stan Lee, it doesn’t matter if the next Steve Ditko lives next door or a thousand miles away — you can find each other online and come up with the next Spider-Man.
Still, as great as my collaboration with Noel has been, there are times I wish we were in the same town, meeting once or twice a week to go over our work and talk things out. After all, if we were closer to one another he wouldn’t have to send me pictures like the one below. I could just sit there with him, flip through those giant art boards … and smile. (I imagine Stan Lee did a lot of that.)
All those pages scattered across Noel’s floor will be bound together in Family Ties. Please be sure to pre-order a copy as pre-orders are vvvverrryyy important for an indie book like this. We are really excited for this one. Fans of The Broadcast will love it. But if you don’t let your comic shop know that you want a copy, there’s a really good chance it won’t make it onto their shelf.
As I suggested in the post announcing Family Ties
, I really struggled with Shakespeare in school which meant writing an update of King Lear was a bit intimidating. So much so, in fact, that before starting, I bought a book called No Fear Shakespeare.
These books are great. I wish they’d been around when I was in high school. If so, I probably would have gotten an A in my AP literature class instead of… well… the embarrassing grade I actually brought home.
Anyway, these No Fear books are different than the yellow Cliff Notes booklets you may remember. As readers flip through the book, they can either read the original play on the left hand page or the “plain English” translation on the right. It’s a great way to read Shakespeare if you can convince yourself to use that right hand page as little as possible. In the end, the play wasn’t nearly as difficult as I remembered. And after several read-throughs, I sat down to begin planning the adaptation.
And this is where the trouble began…
While I was intent on leaving the plot and character arcs largely intact, I had a really hard time deciding how I was going to update the setting and the circumstances. After all, Lear deals with a family fighting over an aging king’s kingdom. While family issues are timeless, how was I going to write a modern re-telling that made sense? Some of the family infighting revolves around control of knights — not exactly something that translates to modern times easily.
For a while, I considered writing Family Ties as a superhero book. Yes, another superhero title for the comic book shelf. In the end, that felt like a cop-out. I liked the idea — still like it, actually — but I didn’t like that it was the easy way out. I wasn’t going to write it because I was dying to write a creator-owned superhero book — I was going to write it because it was an easy way to explain away some of the problems I was having. That didn’t seem like the best thing to do.
But then, my wife and I were watching a documentary about organized crime and inspiration struck. Amazingly, the hierarchy in a crime family is almost an exact parallel to the family dynamic in Lear. And while I wasn’t dying to do my own superhero book, I looooove gangster movies and have always wanted do a crime book of my own. Not only that, I knew I wanted to do another book with Noel, and his art is a great fit for a crime book. (Tumor, anyone?)
So after months of hitting my head against the wall, the details quickly began falling into place.
Lear became a crime boss.
His madness became dementia.
His kingdom became a criminal empire.
His knights became the soldiers in his crew.
His power-hungry daughters became captains within the organization.
His idealistic son became a young man hoping to make a life for himself outside of the family business.
“I loved Broadcast, man. What’s next?”
I’ve heard that from comic fans a lot over the last few years.
Response to that first book was more than I ever could have hoped for. Reviews were great, fans enjoyed the work — Noel and I were thrilled. But as I started to hear that question again and again — I’ll admit, my nerves began getting the best of me. The Broadcast
was my first published work. Noel had already developed a following of his own, but I was a relative unknown. Readers went into that book without any preconceived notions about me. But with a follow-up? A follow-up to a critical success? That would be different. That would bring something I hadn’t had on the first book: expectations. And expectations can be a very scary thing.
So that’s probably why it’s taken this new project some time to come to fruition. Noel and I have been busy, of course. He illustrated a brilliant comic called Foster. I wrote a short Batman piece for DC and published a kids’ series on Amazon’s kindle called The Librarian
. We even did a short together in Dark Horse’s Once Upon a Time Machine
anthology. That said, we were both knew eventually we were going to collaborate on another full-length graphic novel – we just wanted to make sure this new project was a worthy follow-up to the first.
Family Ties is about an aging Alaskan crime boss with dementia who is looking to secure his family’s future by dividing his empire amongst his three heirs. His cold-hearted daughters jump at the chance to take their spot at the head of the table, but his idealistic son refuses the inheritance. Fueled by his anger, the old man disowns his son only to realize he’s made a tragic mistake when his daughters use their newfound power and influence against him.
Sound familiar? It should — it is a retelling of William Shakespeare’s classic, King Lear.
In school, I struggled with Shakespeare like most kids — probably more than most, actually — but King Lear always resonated with me as a timeless story that was ripe for an update. Family issues are just as common today, after all.
Noel and I are still finishing up, but I’m going to do my best to get in here and post about the production of Family Ties; the struggles that come from trying to adapt Shakespeare; and how a family tragedy helped inform the book when, strangely enough, a member of my family was diagnosed with dementia shortly after I began writing the book.
In the meantime, if you enjoyed The Broadcast
, I hope you’ll take a few minutes this week to tell your local comics retailer about Family Ties. It’s available in January’s Previews and is spotlighted on page 320.
This weekend I’ll be making an appearance at the Kokomo Con.
This is a great little con with a lot of indie creators. It’s only the con’s second year, but it is a great time. I can’t speak too highly of it. I know the guys who put it together and it is well worth a few hours drive if you are in the Midwest and can make it. I’ll be there for most of the day and will be appearing on a panel at noon on the writing and publishing of comics!
For those that can’t make it, and I realize that will probably be the majority of you, I recently a couple podcasts interviews that were a whole lot of fun. We talked about a wide range of topics. The guys on the Bizarre Podcast are huge fans of The Broadcast and we spent a great deal of time talking about the making of that book. Then, over on the It’s All Up To You, I got a chance to discuss some of my other work too and the uphill battle of trying to make it in the comics industry. You can listen to either online at the above links or do a search and download them via iTunes. Both interviews are pretty long but well worth the time if you want a little behind-the-scenes glimpse.
Hope to see some of you this weekend!!
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