Five Weapons: Interview with Jimmie Robinson by Jerry Whitworth
Comic Art Community: For those who haven’t yet seen the solicitations or the four-page preview at Comic Book Resources yet, could you tell us the premise of your upcoming series Five Weapons for Image Comics in February 2013?
Jimmie Robinson: In a nutshell, this is like a teenage Sherlock meets The Hunger Games. Sherlock doesn’t use weapons, but you still wouldn’t beat him even if you had a gun. Why? Because Sherlock can find your weakness at a glance. That’s what I wanted to do with Five Weapons. In fact, I go out of my way to leave clues for the reader to figure out how cliffhanger on their own.
I thought wouldn’t it be cool if the hero’s advantage was his disadvantage. So I created a school where everyone has a weapon. A school for young assassins. And each weapon has their own club. Each club has their own class president. And in order to graduate from this school you have to pass not only math, science, English and all that, but also your selected weapon class. The meat of the story comes into play when a new kid is transferred to the school. This new kid has NO weapon. In fact, he refuses to use any weapon. We’ve seen this story before in comics and movies. It’s the typical outsider who challenges a pre-existing system with a new method of thinking or action. Well, I took that platform and gave it a few spins around the block. There are things I can’t tell up front, but it won’t be so simple as that old Hollywood formula.
CAC: Something like this is rather innovative for an American comic book. It seems more at home as a novel, feature film, or anime series. Where do you draw some of your inspiration for Five Weapons?
JR: Actually, the inspiration comes from an old myth. Even the title spins off the name of the myth. The name of the story was PRINCE FIVE WEAPONS. It’s a telling of one of the incarnations of the Buddha
It goes that the Prince was sent to a school where he mastered five weapon skills. Once he learned everything he could from his master he left to go back home. On his way home he went through a forest and ran into a monster called Sticky Hair. The Prince used his weapons. But each one he used failed. He even used all five of his limbs (head, arms, legs) and still it had no effect. But the monster was confused because the Prince did not show any fear — even when everything failed him. So the monster asked him why was he not afraid. The prince said he had a secret weapon *inside* him that could not be consumed and the monster thought that even if he ate the prince he would not be able to win. Thus, the monster let the prince go. Now, since this is a telling of the Buddha we can read into his secret weapon as his divine understanding of life, spirit, or a simple trick. Whatever the interpretation is up to the reader. What I took from it for the comic is that he didn’t win until he used his mind to win.
That’s where my mind started to run. Obviously, I changed damn near everything, but the concept is the same. It’s not a matter of how powerful the weapon is that your opponent carries… or even how powerful the opponent is. It’s really how you can size them up, find their weakness and build upon that. Just look at Lex Luthor. Just a man. And yet, he give Superman so much grief. Same with The Joker. Just a crazy guy. No special powers, but he can find the right place to put a dagger in your back and twist it.
CAC: Would you give us some background on your Sherlock transfer student prince? Who is he and how did he come to matriculate at the Five Weapons school for assassins-in-training?
JR: Our lead character is Tyler Shainline. In the world of Five Weapons the Shainline family are treated like celebrities. Think of them as The Kardashians or a *blank-fill-in* famous personality. In school everyone gives Tyler a wide berth due to his family’s notoriety, in particular his father who is a well-known assassin. So when Tyler decides not to join any particular weapons club at school nobody forces him to do otherwise. The faculty don’t want to upset Tyler’s famous father, or the influence he brings to the school, and the students fear that Tyler will kick their butts — even without a weapon.
But there’s a reason for that because we learn that Tyler is not all that meets the eye.In the Five Weapons universe the assassins have strict rules about how their community if governed. They have a distinct class structure. Assassins are rich and wealthy and live in nice mansions and estates, but their staff and servants are poor and prohibited to use weapons of any kind. This also applies to the infrastructure around them. Store keepers, garbage men, whatever. Either you’re an upper class elite assassin with a weapon, or you’re an unarmed commoner who *serves* them.
Perhaps you can guess what’s going on with Tyler and why he doesn’t use a weapon.
But how and why Tyler enters such a school I will have to leave on the page for the reader because that’s part of the core and twist of the story. And trust me, it’s more complicated than you might be thinking right now.
CAC: In the promotional images that have come out thus far, we’re given a glimpse of Darryl the Arrow, Jade the Blade, Joon the Loon, Nat the Gat, and Rick the Stick. Are they the presidents of the five clubs and would you tell us a little bit about each club?
JR: Yes. Each class has a student president who best represents the abilities of the weapon. These are the opponents that Tyler Shainline will have to face — without a weapon.
However, that’s not all he has to deal with. Each class also has a teacher. These teachers are the true masters of the weapon. The teacher in the knife class is named, Kurasawa; the Staff teacher is Mr. Log; the Archery teacher is Ms. Featherwind; the Exotic weapons teacher is called L’Harma; and the gun teacher is called, Old John Boy. So Tyler has to deal with the faculty, too. But his primary opposition on the school staff is the principal, who is named simply Principal O.
But Tyler has friends and allies in the school, as well. His friends Dennis (a transfer student from India) and Hannah (from the Himalayas) often help with information they hear around the school hallways. Even better is his ally in the Nurse’s station. Not only does she help Tyler, but sometimes she even covers for him. We find out why she does later in the series.
Tyler will need all the help he can get. Unlike some of my other books this time the lead character is constantly at a disadvantage. And each time the rules of the game will change. Each weapon club has their own set of rules. The challenge in the knife club will be different than that of the gun club. Not only are the weapons different, but also the personality quirks of each class president. Jade the Blade is pure confidence. Rick the Stick is a street thug bully. Darryl the Arrow is very smart and calculating. Joon the Loon is completely unpredictable. Nat the Gat is methodical and religious. Cracking the lock of these diverse personalities and weapon skills will be dangerous and often work only by the skin of Tyler’s teeth. Bomb Queen got away with almost everything. She was a slick villain and she was always very confident and brash. In Five Weapons, Tyler will have to gamble because he may know your weakness is your confidence, but turning that against the opponent is not an exact science.
As a writer, sometimes it has been tough to find the right balance and also create and solve a mystery with each issue.
CAC: I would be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to ask about the property most associated with your work. The latest mini-series for Bomb Queen had taken the character into a completely new setting and it would seem as if it was the character’s final chapter. Is this the end of the Queen?
JR: Nope, Bomb Queen still has life in her. I admit, I painted her into a far and remote corner off into the future, however in comics that’s never a final barrier. Time travel, alternative universes, clones (which she is one), supernatural elements and other story paths are always available. In fact, I have two stories that I want to develop for Bomb Queen. Whether they end up being a one-shot or another story arc is up to the future.
I’m also still keen on a team up one-shot with Kirkman’s Battle Pope. He agreed to the idea a long time ago, but as we all know he is a busy man. Also, he wanted to write it so, again, the ball was in his court. A Bomb Queen vs. Battle Pope would be just brilliant. The Queen has been to the realm of Hell already (vol. 4) and she has also traveled through dimensions (Hack/Slash crossover) so it’s actually quite easy to bring her back full circle to her existing franchise.
I get email from readers all the time and one of the things most people miss is the old New Port City. The Queen’s city of crime just didn’t get enough of a spotlight in the series and a new story could fix that and bring her back for new readers. The only problem is upping the ante. Readers expect more violence and over-the-top gore and wrongness. I don’t want to be *bad* just for the sake of it. I want to have a solid story.
The first issue of the five-issue limited series Five Weapons will arrive on store shelves February 27, 2013 and a preview for Five Weapons can be found in Bomb Queen volume 7: End of Hope available in stores today. Bomb Queen Deluxe Edition volume 1 collecting the first two mini-series and the one-shot Bomb Queen vs Blacklight: Catfight will be available wherever books are sold February 26, 2013.