Fanboy Comics Interviews William Harms (‘39 Minutes’)

The following is an interview with William Harms, writer of the trade paperback 39 Minutes from Top Cow Productions. In this interview, Fanboy Comics Contributor Tony Caballero talks with Harms about his inspiration for the story, how he got his start in the industry, and where readers will be able to find him next.

This interview was conducted on August 23, 2013.

Tony Caballero, Fanboy Comics Contributor: When and how did you begin your work as a comic book writer?

William Harms: I started writing comics way back in the early 1990s, when I was in college. First work was published by Boneyard Press, and from there I went on to do things for Caliber and Slave Labor Graphics. I spent a few years away from comics and then in the early 2000s, I published two graphic novels through AiT/PlanetLar and then started to do stuff for Top Cow and Marvel.

In my day job, I work as a writer in the video game industry, so it's nice being able to move back and forth between the two mediums.

TC: What can you tell our readers about how the idea for 39 minutes came about? What were some of the inspirations that you drew upon for your story, and what sort of research did you have to do?

WH: The original idea came from the North Hollywood bank robbery in 1997. Several years ago I was watching a documentary about it, and I thought, "What if there had been five or six of those guys? And, what if they had professional training?"

This was back in 2005 or so, when the Iraq War was spiraling out of control, and I was reading a lot of articles about the growing rift between members of the military and independent military contractors, who are not bound by the same rules as the real military. I thought there was something interesting there, specifically the idea of a squad of Marines catching some contractors carrying out an illegal operation and then getting the shaft for doing the right thing.

When I write something, I really like to know what it's like to live in that world, so I read some books, watched shows like Generation Kill, and watched a lot of documentaries. I don't think you want to beat the reader over the head with your research, but it's important to demonstrate that you're credible.

TC: 39 Minutes was the winner of the 2010 Top Cow “Open Season” contest. How would you describe the process of entering and your experience of winning?

WH: I already had a relationship with Top Cow because of my book IMPALER, and I was discussing new projects with them. I originally pitched them something else, but at the last minute I sent in two or three sentences for 39 MINUTES, and they said they wanted to do it as a part of Pilot Season.

TC: The graphic novel has a very cinematic feel to it. Do you find it challenging to keep the story kinetic without losing the threads and characters?

WH: I work from an outline, so I know the primary story beats and characters before I start writing the script. That's all subject to change, of course, and I write notes over the top of it as I work. By the end, it's a big mess of scribbles that probably wouldn't make sense to anyone but me.

TC: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?

WH: My next big project with Top Cow is SHOTGUN WEDDING, and I think it'll come out early next year; there's actually a 20-page preview of it in the back of 39 MINUTES.

It's being drawn by Ed Pun, who also works in the video game industry at Sucker Punch. We met during the development of INFAMOUS, which I wrote, and hit it off. I'm really excited for it to come out, and I think Ed's work is going to blow people away.

I'm also developing a horror comic with Ale Aragon, who illustrated a big chunk of 28 DAYS LATER for BOOM! It's a real ball-buster of a story that I think will really appeal to fans of IMPALER.

TC: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about your work?

WH: I maintain a basic website at, and I'm on Twitter, @wjharms. I really don't believe in pimping my stuff all that much on Twitter, so I mainly write about Husker football, heavy metal, and my never-ending war against pigeons.

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