CULLEN BUNN: David, this is Shaft’s comic book debut, isn’t it? For me, that would be a little daunting. Were you nervous at all when scripting this book? And how did you fight those nerves off long enough to actually script the book?
DAVID F. WALKER: Writing in general can be daunting. It daunts me all the time. And for sure, I freak out at least once a day over writing Shaft. The character means a lot to me, and so does the creator, Ernest Tidyman. I feel like I have to do right by both of them. I’m very fortunate in that I’m surrounded by some very creative people, and they helped remind me that I’ve got what it takes. Part of being a writer is being honest about being nervous. I think most of us have those moments of insecurity, which is when we turn to the character. If I don’t know what to write, I just ask Shaft, “What do you want me to say?”
CB: My guess is most readers are familiar with Shaft from his cinematic incarnation, but I believe the novels helped to inspire this series. What differences can we expect to see between the movie, novel and comic book versions of Shaft?
DFW: The comic version is steeped in the literary incarnation of the character. As much as I enjoy the films—and I do enjoy the films—the cinematic Shaft is merely a shadow of the literary character. In the films, Shaft just sort of exists. He has no real back-story, no personal history to inform him or his actions. But there’s a lot of that to be found in the books—bit and pieces, that make for an interesting tapestry. I’ve been developing the character based on the bits and pieces that are laced throughout the books.
CB: How did this series come about for you?
DFW: I reached out to Chris Clark-Tidyman, the widow of Shaft creator Ernest Tidyman, and told her that I wanted to bring Shaft to life in the medium of comics. It all started from there. I then reached out to Dynamite, made some introductions, and then waited for a deal to be hammered out. Of course, there was a lot of stress and worry in between all of that—like what if the deal didn’t go through? But it all worked out in the end, and I think everyone is happy. At least I know that I’m happy.
CB: So, all comic book writers have a “bucket list” of characters they want to write. Is it safe to assume Shaft has been on your list for a while? Any other characters you’d love to write?
DFW: Shaft has been at the top of the list for a very long time. There’s a long list of characters that I’d love to write, but it is an odd list. I’d love to do a comic starring Clubber Lang, the villain played by Mr. T in Rocky III. It could just be a version of Rocky III, only from Clubber’s point of view. My bucket list is filled with stuff like that. I mean, if I got a call to write Batman, it would be cool, but there’s already a million Batman stories that have been told. I’d rather tell the story of what happens to the Chief, after he escapes the mental institution in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. That’s a story that’s more intriguing to me than how Batman beats up the Joker. I’ve found that once you get ahold of one of those “bucket list” characters, you start to discover new facets you may not have thought of before.
CB: Anything surprise you when it comes to Shaft?
DFW: Just about everything with Shaft has been a surprise. Chris Clark- Tidyman once told me that for Ernest Tidyman, Shaft was like an old friend who would come over and tell him stories. It’s kind of like that for me, only I feel like I’m Shaft’s therapist. “So, John, you just killed a bunch of guys, and screwed three different women ... why did you do it, and how did it make you feel?” In the books, even more so than the films, he is a very violent and dangerous man. Deconstructing what makes him tick has been really fascinating. When I get into a groove with the writing, it really does feel like he’s talking to me. For me, that’s the sign of a strong character.
CB: What else are you working on? What should we be watching out for from you?
DFW: I just wrapped up a creator-owned project called The Army of Dr. Moreau, which is coming out next year from IDW. Meanwhile, I’m toiling away on Shaft’s Revenge, the first prose starring Shaft since 1975. I’ve got a few other things in the works, but you know ... nondisclosure agreements prevent me from talking about the cool stuff.
Make sure to check out SHAFT #1 from Dynamite Entertainment, on sale now! He's a bad mother- Shut my mouth! Hey. I'm just talking about Shaft. Can you dig it?
Check out the rest of the preview below!