Superpowers aren’t always ready to play nice, Dream Thief reminds us, as John Lincoln struggles with the “vengeful spirits” that work their mischief on the world through him and leave him wondering what justice really means. The series by Jai Nitz and Greg Smallwood is debuting its first trade collection this week, and gearing up for a second series while Nitz plots out a plethora of issues and hopes to spin his tale through as many as 60 issues. Dark Horse have kindly provided the first issue of Dream Thief here for us at Bleeding Cool, and given us some insights into Nitz’ strange world through this interview by Dennis Hopeless (Legion of Monsters, X-Men: Season One) and stay tuned below for your exclusive look at the cover for series 2, issue #1.
First up, here’s your copy of Dream Thief #1:
Dennis Hopeless: We’ve known each other for a while and I can remember you talking about Dream Thief years ago. What, if anything changed between the initial pitch and the finished book?
Jai Nitz: The original Dream Thief pitch was me trying to write a superhero-lite book. It was basically a masked hero book with some thin sophistication and adult themes. Greg’s art was still really good, but it wasn’t as confident as he is today in all phases. In short, it wasn’t ready for primetime. It had its charms, but it needed something more. The main thing that changed was the scope of the book. It became less about the fantastic elements and more about John Lincoln.
DH: John Lincoln is kind of a prick right from the start and you don’t shy away from showing it. What made you decide to write such an unlikeable protagonist?
JN: I think the real turn in the quality of the book was when Greg and I made the conscious decision to make John a bit of a douche bag. That change made his journey from loathsome to heroic much more satisfying. And he’s barely heroic in the book now; he’s got a lot of room to grow. We worried about readers not liking John or being so turned off by him that they’d drop the book. But it turns out it made him much more endearing because he stood out. He wasn’t always right and infallible and moral, and good. Readers, reviewers, and creators found him refreshingly honest.
DH: Greg Smallwood’s artwork is just incredible and if I’m not mistaken, he hadn’t done much comics work before Dream Thief. Where did you find this guy?
JN: He hadn’t done anything in comics at all. Dream Thief is his first credit. Greg and I met through our local comic shop, Astrokitty Comics. Greg worked at an ad agency, but he was a mostly self-taught artist. He tried to break into comics, didn’t make it, and rebounded by dedicating himself to mastering everything on the page: pencils, inks, colors, letters, design, etc. Greg was promoting a Zuda project and I saw his stuff. I cold emailed him and Dream Thief was the first project we discussed. We pitched Dream Thief originally and nobody bit, so that was that. Then we both went through some career ups and downs before we came back to the pitch which we knew was a winner. Scott Allie at Dark Horse saw it and the rest was history. I’m lucky to have him on my side. He’s a great friend and the best collaborator. Kevin Nowlan called Greg “the most conspicuous debut talent in recent memory” because he can do it all.
DH: You live in Lawrence, KS and teach at KU. I’ve heard countless stories about your life in and around Kansas City and you’re certainly not shy about wearing Royals jerseys. Why did you decide to set the book in Atlanta?
JN: I didn’t want to set the book in a location that was easy, lazy, or right outside my window. I wanted to research a setting and find some little hidden bits of history and chance that would make the story better. I grew up in Lithia Springs, GA before I moved to Kansas City. So I wanted to go back to my roots and show a racially-diverse piece of the country that doesn’t always show up in comics. Atlanta would be the base, but the first Dream Thief arc took us all over the South. The Royals are the best ticket in baseball but I still have a soft spot for the Braves.
DH: You’ve told me you have something like 60 issues of Dream Thief rattling around in your head. Are we going to see more from you and Greg anytime soon?
JN: I do want to go 60 issues. I have lots of stories in mind for John Lincoln and his curse. I also wouldn’t mind working with Greg for the rest of my career. The Dream Thief Volume 1 TPB just came out and we’re putting the finishing touches on announcing what comes next. I’m excited, Greg’s excited, and Dark Horse is excited. I think retailers, reviewers, and fans will get excited when they see what we have in store. I’m ready to get a head start on the next-next chapter of Dream Thief and keep this momentum going.
And as promised, here’s your first look at the cover for Dream Thief Series 2, issue #1: