Quinton Peeples is perhaps best known for helping adapt Marvel’s Runaways for Hulu and Iron Fist for Netflix (among other projects). Now, though, the writer/producer has launched his first foray into comics with a graphic novel titled The Big Country. Out now via Humanoids, the book is a fantastic Noir tale about a small-town Texas sheriff searching for a killer.
We recently caught up with Peeples to discuss the book, tackling everything from its inspirations and his transition from penning TV to the written word to the overall design and “soundtrack.”
AIPT: First and foremost, I have to say that I love Marvel’s Runaways and congrats on all the success it’s had and can’t wait to watch the third and last season coming up. And although most people won’t admit it, I loved the Iron Fist TV show as well.
Quinton Peeples: First off, thanks for all the Runaways and Iron Fist love. We had a great time on both shows and I hope people enjoy watching as much as we enjoyed making.
AIPT: I got a chance to read your new graphic novel, which was a fantastic read. For readers out there, can you share a little bit about the premise?
QP: As for The Big Country, the best way to describe it is as a Western Noir, meaning dark and complicated characters struggling to beat the odds set against in a traditional western landscape. It’s essentially a crime story that widens out to be a meditation on everyday violence and its destructive impact.
AIPT: Was this book something you’d been working on for a long time or had you written it and were looking for the perfect moment to put it out?
QP: The story for The Big Country was something I had been working on for a long time, but it wasn’t until I sat down with the lovely folks at Humanoids that I began to think of it in terms of a graphic novel.
AIPT: What was the most annoying thing about putting this book together? What was the most enjoyable?
QP: I guess the most annoying thing about making the book is the lack of patience on my part. It takes a long time to produce a work of this size and I am not the most patient person. I would see early art from Dennis and immediately want everyone in the world to see it as well. Doesn’t work that way. And the most enjoyable part is clearly this moment, when the book is complete and I can hold it in my hand. Having the actual object is an extraordinary thing because comics have been so transformative for me all across my life. Maybe this book can do the same for someone else.
AIPT: Was any part of this tragic story based on any true events or personal memories?
QP: While the crime story of the book isn’t factual, everyone in the book is based on people I grew up with. I took all the people from my childhood and family and mixed them into an imaginary story.
AIPT: Where did the initial idea for the book come from? Was it influenced in any way by TV shows like True Detective or Justified?
QP: I actually was inspired to write it simply because so much of my current screenwriting work is based on other material –- Stephen King, Marvel, etc. I really wanted to speak with the “voice” that is most prevalent in my head and talk about characters and themes that come from personal experience. The initial idea came from a young man I grew up with whose father and grandfather had both been in law enforcement, and he was headed to the police academy as well. The idea of one family being “the law” in small-town Texas intrigued me.
AIPT: Dennis Calero no stranger to Noir style comics, how did you guys link up, and what was it about his illustrations that stood out from other artists?
QP: I was familiar with Dennis from Spider-Man Noir and had also read The Suit from Dark Horse, so when Humanoids recommended him, it was a quick “yes” from me. The atmosphere that he brings to the page is unique to him and that’s what this story needed –a serious handling of both light and darkness. He nailed that, as we knew he would.
AIPT: What was the collaborative process like working with Calero? Are there any funny moments during the production of the book you can share with us?
QP: To be honest, there wasn’t a lot of communication between the two of us during the production of the book. I would, of course, give him encouragement and ideas through the script, but I didn’t want to “hover” which is my natural tendency. I wanted him to be excited and make the work his own. Occasionally he would ask about what a specific location or setting might look like, because there aren’t a lot of period references around for San Angelo, Texas and I would try and help with that, but otherwise – he was his own man and it worked out great!
AIPT: Our main protagonist Sheriff Grissom has a strong resemblance in my opinion to the actor Timothy Olyphant — is that just coincidence or was he an inspiration for Grissom’s character design?
QP: That’s all Dennis. He asked for a list of actors or other public figures that I imagined when I wrote Grissom, but I don’t think that way, so I didn’t have any. I was literally no help to him. Also, not unusual in my life in general.
AIPT: Were there any alternate characters or moments in the book without spoiling it that didn’t make it into the final script?
QP: There are a lot more stories concerning the Castillo brothers that will make their way into future books (I hope!) that just couldn’t fit here.
AIPT: Besides superhero comics were you interested in any detective type of Noir comics as a child? Can you name or recommend a few of your favorites?
QP: Not really as a kid, because if they existed, they didn’t make it to the spinner rack at the Westwood Pharmacy in Abilene, Texas. But certainly, as an adult, I have devoured things like Torpedo, Blacksad, Alack Sinner, and all the Brubaker/Phillips universe of comics.
AIPT: Every writer has his or her own process. Would you say you’re a sit-down and I can chuck out 20 pages type of writer or do you break down your writing into a more organized routine?
QP: My process is dependent on structure so I work every day. I have a plan and I stick to it. That way, if the day’s work is terrible (which is common) I don’t have to worry about it because I am returning tomorrow to fix it. I outline, plan and prepare a great deal before I sit down to actually write the final script.
AIPT: If you listen to music when you’re writing, what are some of your favorite artists to listen to?
QP: While working I need complete silence. I’m a library guy in that way. A lot of shushing. But when I work on a project I will assemble a playlist of music that is relevant to the work and listen to that in the car and at home. There’s a playlist on Spotify for The Big Country. Check it out. It’s as weird as the book.
AIPT: What are you most proud of that fans can expect from the book?
QP: The thing I’m most proud of in the book is how it expands beyond simply being a crime story. This is a meditation on violence, and male violence in particular, but, hopefully, it never feels like it. The theme rises slowly from the bottom, and it may not ever be front and center in the storytelling, but I feel like it will haunt the reader after they have finished the book. At least I hope so.
AIPT: Are there any other future projects you have coming up in comics or TV you can give us a little teaser of info on?
QP: I wish I had more comics work to tease you with, but right now this is it. Maybe someone will approach me to do more! I certainly hope so. And as for television work, I always have tons of things in the pipeline, and there’s a specific project, very close in tone to The Big Country that should be announced in the next several weeks.
AIPT: Can you give us a sort of cheesy promo in maybe a sentence or two telling readers why they should head to their local comic shops and pick up The Big Country?
QP: If you’re interested in edge-of-your-seat storytelling full of blood, guns, and grit, then The Big Country is for you.