Jason Copland goes ‘Full Tilt’ with bloody new revenge tale

What do you get when you combine an artist with a track record of brooding heroes/antiheroes, a dash of sci-fi, a heaping helping of gangster flicks, and years of hard work? Why that’d be Full Tilt, the new OGN from writer-artist Jason Copland.

The story takes place in New Manhattan in the 23rd century, with the “once gleaming” metropolis now “in [the] throes of social and moral decay” (sort of like Mega-City One meets Chiba City) We follow Massimo Miller, formerly a “loyal consigliere of the Chessa family,” as he embarks on a bloody path of revenge after a bloody massacre of New Manhattan’s syndicate bosses. Endlessly visceral, but just as interested in ideas of loyalty and family, Full Tilt is a blood-soaked love letter to cyberpunk, The Godfather, and decency in an increasingly indecent world.

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Full Tilt is currently crowdfunding via Zoop, complete with loads of incentives and goodies for contributors. In the lead up to today’s campaign launch, Copland was kind enough to answer a few questions recently via email. That includes his extensive work on the book, how Massimo compares to other heroes, and how he developed the singular look and feel of this world.

AIPT: What’s the elevator pitch for Full Tilt?

Jason Copland: Full Tilt is a gritty future noir tale about a 23rd century crime family consigliere who must face the consequences of a choice he made between love and loyalty.

AIPT: It’s said you took five years to put this together. What was that process like? How much did things change over time? Why so much commitment?

JC: It’s true, I have been working on this book for over five years. But writing and drawing a 300-plus-page epic graphic novel takes time.

The process was very piecemeal, to be honest. This was my first stab at writing and I had no clear path forward. I decided to just jump in and draw a few images that had been kicking around in my head that needed to get out. With those in hand, I started constructing a rough outline of scenes that gave me a sense of where I wanted to go with the story. I began drawing the scenes that I felt were the most fully formed which led to me coming up with more scenes. I’d jot down those ideas and move on.

Courtesy of Jason Copland.

After about two years of working this way, I panicked and decided to stop drawing. I focused on gathering all my notes and little pieces of script I had written up to that point and pushed them all into a working script that cemented the story. Seems like a no brainer now but I had no notion of what my writing process was so I just went for it.

Completing the script took a year but now I had a clear roadmap to follow. I began drawing the remaining scenes and making all the necessary fixes to the existing art. I took extra time to make sure I really hit the emotional tone on the final scenes.

AIPT: You’ve drawn some intense heroes in the past, including Judge Dredd and Daredevil. How does our “hero,” Massimo Miller, compare to these bigger-than-life figures?

JC: Massimo is similar to these characters in that he lives by a personal set of moral and ethical codes that could be interpreted as extreme, by some. His views and actions are informed by the violent life he has had to endure. And while he is neither “good” or “bad”, Massimo does hold himself to principles that, at times, run against the nature of a 23rd century crime family advisor. That said, he can open a serious can of whoop-ass when the need arises.

Courtesy of Jason Copland.

AIPT: Similar to this last question, Massimo was/is a mob consigliere but he’s also on a mission of seemingly justifiable vengeance. How do you see him from a moral perspective? Is he someone to be looked up to at all?

JC: My view of Massimo from a moral perspective is that he is a bit of a mixed bag. There is no doubt that Massimo is part of a system that does questionable things. However, he does attempt to use his standing within the organization to effect changes to certain practices in that system. And, although he has his personal detractors, there are many that inhabit the Full Tilt world that look up to him.

AIPT: This book seems to combine sci-fi with old-school gangster cinema. What about these “worlds” seems perfect for a rollicking marriage/blending?

JC: I think playing within these genres makes for an interesting mix of order and chaos. The rigid structure and ideals of a crime world played against the wild west nature of a future world.

AIPT: What books, films, etc. inspired the look and feel of this book?

JC: The things that inspired me to make this book are many but Frank Miller’s Ronin is the biggest reason I do what I do. From the moment I discovered that book, I have been working towards creating my own epic tale of love and honor in a dystopian future. Aside from Miller, I also take inspiration from the work of artists like Bill Sienkiewicz, Toby Cypress, Jorge Zaffino and Ashley Wood. The list could go on and on, really. The movies that informed Full Tilt are flicks like The Warriors, Escape From New York, Blade Runner, and The Godfather.

Courtesy of Jason Copland.

AIPT: There’s heaps of stories of bloody revenge-seeking across comics/TV/film/etc. Why is that a compelling archetype/format? What does this book add to that “formula?”

JC: I think most individuals dream of extracting some sort of “revenge” against people that transgress against them. Maybe dream is too strong a word but in a world where many of us feel the powerful live their lives unchecked, these types of stories speak to our emotional need to see justice served.

While Full Tilt does have a central revenge element that drives the story, it also speaks to some eternal themes like courage and honor, power and family. Full Tilt is my gritty take on just how far one will go for love and loyalty.

AIPT: What are some of the challenges of working primarily in black and white? What about the opportunities or advantages?

JC: The only real challenge of drawing in black and white is conveying spatial depth, making sure that the foreground/middleground/background live in their own separate planes. But there are tricks to help give the illusion of depth so all is not lost.

Courtesy of Jason Copland.

The other challenge in making black and white comics is the financial reality/perception that black and white comics don’t sell. Personally, I prefer my comics to be black and white. They feel more immediate and honest, in terms of experiencing the drawing process of the artist. But I’m a process junkie so I’m coming from a different sensibility when reading comics.

I love working in black and white. In fact, Full Tilt was conceived as a black and white book. Color was never even a consideration.

AIPT: Do you have a favorite moment (or two) to tease the bigger story?

JC: One of my favorite moments in Full Tilt is when our main man, Massimo Miller, is forced to fight in a gladiatorial deathmatch in front of a massive arena of bloodthirsty fans. The brutality and inhumanity of the world is displayed front and center. I loved drawing it.

AIPT: Why should anyone contribute to this book/campaign?

JC: Full Tilt is about as DIY/punk rock as comic book making gets. It’s an epic, 308-page oversized hardcover black and white book written and drawn with passion and created without a publisher’s involvement. It’s a book of singular vision. Backing a project like this demonstrates that you support artists that take a chance on themselves and their work.


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