Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the recent release of Hired Guns #1! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the series’ premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Paul J. Salamoff: Hired Guns is an action espionage thriller about a rag-tag squad led by a presumed dead CIA Agent and an old-school assassin that’s assembled to take out an elite CIA special operative who goes rogue. They might not be the best of the best, but they’re the only hope to stop a new world war.
This story actually began its creative life years ago as an all-female spin-off to successful action franchise that I developed with a production company, but the film never got made. I retained the rights to the actual story and being a great believer that no work is ever wasted, I reworked it, changed some of the characters, and created my own unique story from the idea.
I’m a huge James Bond fan, and the original inspiration for the story was the idea of what if someone like a James Bond got fed up because he was sidelined due to his age and went rogue sparking an international incident. Who would you send after him?
BD: What can you tell us about your shared creative process with artist Ana Teresa Rivera in bringing this story to life, and what (or who) have been some of your creative influences?
PJS: I was introduced to Ana by artist Diego Molano who I had worked with on Tales of Discord: Iridian. Ana is an up-and-coming artist who specialized in these absolutely incredible portraits. She had never done sequential art before but wanted to give it a try, as she’s always been passionate about comics. It was abundantly obvious to me that she had the skill and drive to succeed.
I made it clear that this was going to be a 50-50 collaboration, and we would be each other’s checks and balances. We initially got off to a slow start as we were both finding our footing, but once we got in the rhythm of it, the process really solidified, and we’ve managed to stay on our schedule.
It’s been a learning process for both of us and we’ve found ways to support each other and find techniques and a workflow that works for the both of us.
And this has worked out better than I could have hoped. I couldn’t be happier, as Ana has adapted to sequential art at such a fast rate and continually surprises me with her instincts. It’s exciting to finally see my words come to life with such vivid art.
You can check out Ana’s amazing art on ART STATION.
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Kate’s story will connect with and impact readers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
PJS: I have been told that I write female characters really well, which is something I am very proud of. This was one of the reasons I was brought in to develop the original film version of the story that was to ultimately become Hired Guns. So, it was important to me (as it should be!) that the series characters were not stereotypes and had inner lives, especially the female characters.
I feel Kate is a very well-rounded character and empowered in the right way. She is a soldier first and has earned the respect of the teams she commands. Coming from a family of soldiers, most of who gave their lives defending freedom and democracy, Kate has learned to trust her gut instincts and isn’t afraid to think out of the box to get things done. She’s also not needlessly sexualized, as that is not what she’s about.
Natasha is the only character who has a sexual component, but that’s because I’m trying to subvert the idea of a “Bond-girl.” She knew Victor Lennox (the main antagonist) back in the late 1980s during the fall of the Berlin Wall. He swooped in as this dashing secret agent for the US and used her, then discarded her once his assignment was over. Natasha always resented him for that, but due to her inner strength, she didn’t let it derail her ambitions in life. Because her primary role on the team is to use her past relationship with Lennox to distract him, she’s well aware of how her teammates perceive her. But she’s not ashamed of her past and they soon learn that she is far more complex than they initially gave her credit. She gives a speech in Chapter 3 that really hits home who she is and I’m hoping if you already don’t love and respect her, she’ll win you over with that.
My goal is always just to tell a compelling story with equally compelling characters, no matter what gender or race. So, given the mixed bag nature of the team in regard to race and culture, Hired Guns is now even more timely than when I originally conceived the story almost a decade ago.
BD: How many issues do you have planned for this story arc of the series?
PJS: The first story arc (which sees the formation of the team as a cohesive unit to complete their first mission) is 4 issues. But it’s looking likely that Chapter 4 might be an oversized issue so we can let the action really breath.
Even though the first arc tells a complete story, it certainly leaves the door open for further adventures, and I’ve already started thinking about what’s next for our “hired guns.”
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
PJS: On the comic side, I am currently working again with Giuseppe D’elia on Discord II which is a sequel to the original graphic novel and utilizes story threads hinted at in the prequel series Tales of Discord.
Because of the success of my feature film, Encounter, I’m also developing a number of film projects as both a writer and writer/director. Encounter won a number of awards since its release and is currently nominated for a Saturn Award for “Best Independent Film.”
I’m also working on a few novels, as well as a project involving VR technology.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Hired Guns?
PJS: Hired Guns #1 is available from Markosia and can be found on ComiXology.