Westfield: How did Cobb: Off the Leash come about?
Beau Smith: It really started a few years ago at the Baltimore Comic Convention. Then IDW President-Ted Adams and I were having lunch. We both started talking about how not enough people in films, TV and comics were really doing any true tough guy stuff anymore. There were lots of people doing what they thought was tough guy stuff, but most of it just broke down to the same old "grim & gritty, pseudo psycho" stuff that has been overdone since the 80's. That or they just kinda keep doing a rehash of Tararntino movies over and over. No one has done a likeable tough guy in many years.
Ted and I both have enjoyed the fictional works of writers like Robert Parker, Lee Child and Clay Harvey. Ted suggested that I do a comic book on a tough guy that people will like and bad guys will fear. Somebody with a different background other than the usual stuff that folks have been using. Since I've been researching the Secret Service for the last couple of decades, I figured that would be a perfect background for the character. So I made him a former level one secret service agent with a departure from the service that was a bit of a mystery.
The main character, Frank Cobb, is everything that I've always wanted to do with a tough guy. His family hasn't been murdered in front of him. He has no trauma from his childhood. The only thing you could say that might be a little odd about him is that he has a personality that has always been motivated to protect. I've kinda based Cobb on one of my dogs, Blue, an Australian Shepherd. Aussies are hardwired to work and always have a job. It's their instinct. My dog doesn't have to heard cattle or work rescue so he invented his own job. Protecting me 24/7. He follows me from daybreak to when I go to sleep. He won't even let my wife in the bed unless I say so. And he loves her, but he will not let her interfere in "his job." In all the years we've had him he still won't let anyone into my office.
Dogs like this have to have a job. If they don't, they can become destructive or too aggressive. Cobb is like that. After his time in the service, he drifts aimless for a few years. That gets him into trouble. Trouble gets him into jail. Then his friends from the government come to visit. That's when the story and the real trouble begins.
Westfield: Cobb seems to be more Pulp-based than your previous work.
Smith: I don't think Cobb is so much Pulp-based as it is founded with an almost retro view of right and wrong. The moral compass of right and wrong has gotten a bit off course in the last few decades and with Cobb I wanted to try and reset that compass to read true again. That's why I told Ted and Chris Ryall that I had to have Eduardo Barreto as the artist on the series. Eduardo and I have been friends for many years and have always wanted to work together on a series like this. We worked together on the prestige book for DC and Dark Horse called Wonder Woman vs. Xena: The Princess War Diaries. But after I had finished the script and Eduardo had done the first 15 or so pages, the Xena TV show got axed and DC thought there wouldn't be an audience for the story. I disagreed in a HUGE way. After all, it was an elseworlds story, we had already been paid for it, the readers would have, and still would, buy it in a big way& and I have to say, it is one of the best things I've ever written. It was like one of the light-hearted episodes of Xena. I always loved those. 'Sides, its not often if ever that we get to see the lighter side of Wonder Woman.
Anyway, Back to your question. Eduardo and I have spent a huge amount of time and research on this series. One of the reasons I wanted Eduardo was because he is a master craftsman and can tell a story so well. In the past ten years, comics have given us too much sizzle and not enough steak. I want readers to belly up to Cobb and walk away full.
Westfield: What can you tell us about the story of the mini-series and who are the main characters?
Smith: The setting is present day. Most of the story takes place in the Brighton Beach and in New York City. As always in my stories I have my hometown of Huntington, West Virginia make a guest appearance. The first issue sets things up and then, when the second issue begins, you are grabbed by the throat and the action does not stop until the fourth issue is finished. Eduardo and I are out to prove that you still can have wall-to-wall action without pages of talking heads and copulating word balloons that spawn even more word balloons.
I've researched the Secret Service and the Russian Mafia for many years. I've read stacks of books, interviewed reporters and law enforcement folks, talked with experts on the Russian organized crime before and after the fall of the Soviet Union. Last year I came across some really informative papers on the relationship and ties of former Soviet Union military and organized crime. I've inserted so much of that into this series. Along with that I've bulked up on information on the War on Terror. I found a couple of great books that detail the branches of terrorists from the past 40 years. That has been super helpful.
I want to show a side of the Secret Service that not many have covered before. I want paint a new fresh coat on the house of tough guys. It's been too long since we've had one in comics that was good because he trained well and does it because it's the right thing to do. That seems to have been forgotten. Most feel that you have to show the good guy with a psychotic bend to him. I disagree. You can be violent and have a truck load of action without being a nut sack. It's my hope that Cobb will prove that.
As far as other research, as you know I am applying all my years and knowledge of boxing and interest in all sorts of fighting styles into Cobb. Eduardo and I have done our best to avoid any stock comic book fight scenes with haymakers and telegraphed punches. We have done extensive research on MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fighting, military defense, floor fighting, submission fighting, true street fighting and other more exotic forms of hand to hand combat for this series.
There will be no copycat stuff lifted from John Woo, Tarantino and other action films as so many comic book have done in recent years. We want to not only bring a new slant to the action, we also want to give the reader a new way of looking at camera angles and still be based in a true sense of old school story telling. I use the term "Old School" as the highest compliment. Too many have forgotten the craft of comic book story telling. They've gotten lazy. It is not an easy thing to do. That's why I knew that Eduardo was the right artist for this project. He is truly legendary. I wanted Cobb to be hand made and custom built. Eduardo has done that and more.
In Part One of this debut Cobb story, Off the Leash, Cobb's protective skills will be needed to save a very important witness from a sadistic Russian Mafia leader with connections to a terrorist cell.
The characters are as follows:
Cobb - Former Secret Service Agent now on his own. He is "talked" into rejoining his mentor Jack Murphy with his investigations business.
Jack Murphy - Retired from the Secret Service. Cobb's mentor and trainer from the service. He was an instrumental agent in the cold war. Now works in his own private investigations and security. Murphy still deals with the government concerning the Russian Mafia.
Molly - Law student and Jack Murphy's granddaughter that helps him out part time. Very much like her grandfather.
Yuri Ivankov - Head of the Russian Mafia in the Brighton Beach Area. Very powerful and has strong ties with former soviet military contacts through the black market. Thinks of himself as somewhat an expert on human behavior.
Nikita Melnikov - Beautiful former girlfriend of Yuri Ivankov. She has escaped his compound and is in fear of her life since Yuri had her brother killed. Like her dead brother, she knows of Yuri's deal with the terrorists.
Ivan Rossoshik - Yuri's head of security and his main enforcer. Very loyal and even more brutal.
Agron Rostov - Former KGB agent and Cobb's Russian counterpart. He is almost a mirror image in skills to Cobb. He is the Russian version of Cobb. Former Soviet agent now freelance.
Westfield: Do you have more plans for Cobb past the mini-series?
Smith: Of course. In a "Beau Perfect World," Cobb will out sell everything in comics and millions will scream for another series. I will of course oblige them. Seriously, I do hope there is enough interest and sales to warrant another Cobb series. I am depending on my years of marketing and contacts to get people to be interested in Cobb. Without deep pockets, I am trying to set an example to other creators and smaller publishers that you can get good product noticed if you work hard and leave no stone unturned. I also plan to work on a Cobb film treatment and screenplay as well as a novel. I have back up plans, amigo.
Westfield: Are you working on any other projects you'd like to mention?
Smith: Yup! I am currently working on a new Wynonna Earp mini-series called Wynonna Earp: The Yeti Wars with Enrique Villagran on art. A werewolf/western for Moonstone, Molly McKenzie - Agent Of Danger with Magic Eye Studios doing the art. Maximum Jack with Scot Eaton and still trying to find a home for Courting Fate with Lora Biondi.
I recently finished more dialogue polish work for a couple of movies and I have a few pitches as always in the works.
Westfield: Any closing comments?
Smith: Not really because, as you can tell by this interview, my mouth never closes. Come check out my website at www.flyingfistranch.com and drop me a line.