The following is an interview with creator/director/animator Stephan Franck regarding the upcoming release of the special hardcover edition of Silver: Of Treasures and Thieves through Abrams ComicArts. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Franck about revisiting the world and characters of Silver, the overall impact of the series with readers, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming release of Silver: Of Treasures and Thieves! For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about the premise of this incredible story?
Stephan Franck: Thank you so much! I’m incredibly excited to see Silver in hardcover, with this gorgeous new edition! Silver is a supernatural heist story that takes place in what I would call a meta word on Pulp. It starts in 1931 New York City, when con man extraordinaire James Finnigan comes across the late Jonathan Harker’s diary, during a heist at the mysterious Harker foundation. The diary tells a tale of love, death, and undeath. It also lifts the veil on a deep lore going back thousands of years, and introduces The Silver Dragon: a fabulous mythical treasure hidden in Dracula’s castle. In search of a glorious final score to cap his career, Finnigan and his band of thieves team up with Sledge (a.k.a. Rosalynd Van Helsing – last of the Van Helsings) and set out to infiltrate the mysterious world of the undead–which is full of intrigue and devious agendas– to pull off the heist of the millennium and steal the Silver Dragon from a castle full of vampires.
BD: In the series, you deftly intertwine noir, heist, and vampire genres into your narrative. What can you tell us about your creative process in melding these genres in bringing the story to life?
SF: This particular blend of genres is a concept that has lived in my head rent-free for years. I think it all came from a late night movie program we had on TV late every Friday night when I was a kid. It curated 1930s and 1940s black-and-white movies across various genres, and in my mind they all existed within the same universe. That’s what I call a meta-world of Pulp–a world in which you can be with gangsters in New York City, and hop on the plane to England to chase werewolves, or board a ship to a lost continent. Altogether, that’s a world whose operating word is mystery. A pre Google-Earth theater of light and shadows that thrives on discovery, yet embraces the charm of the unknowable. In a nutshell, that’s the world of Silver.
The most important rule in building such a world is self-consistency. Of continuity, events, and rules of the world, of course, but also consistency of tone. For instance, the horror elements in Silver are handled as they would be in an Indiana Jones movie, so that they fit within the thrills of the adventure. Comedy is another key component in Silver. It’s coming from a third genre that has its roots in movies of that era: the Screwball Comedy. Movies like the Thin Man series, or the Bogart/Hepburn stuff, where two characters feel that immediate attraction for one another, but whatever happens between them either happens after the credits rolls, or is happening on the sidelines of the adventures and kept private from the audience, supercharging the adventure with that fun tension between them. That’s what happens between Finningan and Sledge. From the second they meet, that spark is there and the banter is on! Which also means that the humor–and there is a lot of it in Silver–is all coming from the characters themselves. It is their coping mechanism as they react to extreme situations, which makes them feel more human, and lifts the tones without ever lowering the stakes.
BD: How would you describe your experience in revisiting Silver, its world, and its characters as you crafted this new, revised edition of the series? Likewise, what are some of the special additions to the book that readers will be excited to enjoy?
SF: Because Silver is an almost 500-page saga, and because I’ve done it over a few years, I constantly rediscover little panels I had forgotten about. Of course, I remembered the plot points, but I had forgotten a fun expression, an interesting piece of staging, or a little joke that was layered on top of the main storytelling… which is super fun. Looking back, the overall feeling is that I really gave it my all in every aspect, and on every panel. That book is cranked up to 11 end to end. So, for this new hardcover edition, we have a new cover, of course, which is fun because it introduces a color approach to the black-and-white world of Silver. Previous editions have always included a huge amount of behind-the-scenes backmatter. I’ve approached it as a journal tracking my personal storytelling journey in creating Silver. That material has always been super popular with readers, because it’s way in depth and specific. But it is a journal, and the journey has continued, so the point of view has kept evolving. For this edition, I did an update to all that backmatter, which takes it even deeper.
Lastly, one of the funnest aspects of creating Silver was to design a black-and-white look that offered a strong, appealing, complete visual statement, and that both paid homage to the vintage roots of the story, while looking modern and radical. To that end, very specific questions like “exactly how black should the black ink be,” and “how white should the white be?” majorly come into play, and we worked extra hard on this edition to make sure that all those choices were the best possible to present these images the way they were intended.
BD: You found incredible success through Kickstarter throughout this series’ journey. Looking back, what was your biggest takeaway from your crowdfunding experience?
SF: It seems like pop-culture is one of the last few places where people of all backgrounds can come together and share their enjoyment and participation in the retelling of our common human experience. I also think that that’s why “fan culture” is under constant toxic attacks, because, you know, it’s like a last bastion of sorts where people can just geek out together if they so choose. In that spirit, I found that, whether at cons or on crowdfunding platforms, people immediately recognize and respond to work that comes from a genuine excitement for the stories, and love for the characters. As the world feels like it’s getting more destructured everyday, people are taking it upon themselves to come together and create their own cultural structures on these platforms, and–generally speaking–that’s a very good feeling.
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 Silver’s story continues to connect with and impact readers?
SF: First, there’s the spectacle of it. I remember being in the story room at a big studio years ago, when this one exec kept telling us, “Our movies cost a million dollars a minute. Is the minute you just pitched me worth a million dollars?” As goofy as that sounds, that kind of thinking stayed with me. Silver is chock-full of action, adventure, suspense, character comedy, and drama, and you have the heist aspect, with fun twists and fake outs that, I believe, will keep you guessing until the end. Second, there is the human truth to the story, which has only grown more relevant over time.
All the characters in Silver share a common struggle, which is to choose how they should interact with a world that they see as irreparably broken and dark. That is true for con men, who I think of as good guys trying to be bad, and that is true of our vampires, outwardly living, but dead inside. It also applies to Sledge, who spends more time with the dead than the living, and whose relationship to the world has been hollowed out. All are walking the tightrope over an abyss of nihilism that’s threatening to swallow them forever, and they have to find a way to get to the other side of it–or not. So, you have the threat of the undead, but you also have the threat of being unliving. That fundamental theme of how to find meaning and happiness in a broken world, which emerged organically, and which I probably wouldn’t have been able to formulate just a few years back, means even more now than it did when I started the series.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find out more about Silver: Of Treasures and Thieves and your other work?
SF: People interested in Silver can pre-order it from AbramsComicsArt, who has been doing an incredible job with this new hardcover edition.