Hard-boiled crime stories are difficult to pull off; pulling off great comic crime stories is sometimes a Herculean task. Award-winning writer Charles Ardai, co-founder of Hard Case Crime, has shown time and again that he’s more than up for the task. Spinning yarns of intrigue, espionage, gun-running, and danger, Ardai has built an engaging, edge-of-your-seat crime story universe in the world of Gun Honey, published by Titan Comics. With tales spanning everything from weapon-supplying to illusion to hired assassins, Gun Honey has something for every fan of noir and intrigue.
Ardai’s next installment in his crime universe is Heat Seeker: A Gun Honey Series, centering on stage magician and illusionist Dahlia Racers, whose aid Gun Honey Joanna Tan seeks out. Will Dahlia be able to help, with a sociopath with a penchant for chaos and death on her trail? If you’re a fan of tales ranging from the James Bond series to Ocean’s Eleven to Barbarella and more, the Gun Honey universe should be in your sights.
Mr. Ardai spoke with me recently about the idea behind the world of Gun Honey, his inspirations, what we can expect in Heat Seeker, and the Gun Honey: Blood for Blood collection.
FreakSugar: For folks who might not be familiar with your past installments, what can you tell readers about the Gun Honey universe?
Charles Ardai: Gun Honey is the story of the world’s most resourceful weapons supplier, Joanna Tan: she’ll get you the weapon you need, when you need it, where you need it, no matter how difficult. In the course of her work, she has made some powerful enemies, including some people in the U.S. intelligence community who would like to see her dead – but she has some allies as well, and we’re going to meet a particularly interesting one when Heat Seeker launches.
FS: The cast is just fantastic. Who can readers expect to meet in the Gun Honey books?
CA: Joanna is the best in the world at what she does, which is to get into places she isn’t meant to be and out again in one piece, leaving a bit of weaponry behind. By and large she’s not a killer herself: she doesn’t pull the trigger, she just supplies the trigger for someone else to pull. This helps her sleep at night. She has a variety of cronies around the world who design weapons for her and help in other ways, but until we meet her in Issue 1, she mostly works solo. That changes in the first storyline when she meets a government agent named Brook Barrow, a real boy scout at first, but Joanna gradually wins him over to her side of the law.
FS: On to Heat Seeker, where do we find Joanna at the beginning to the book?
CA: At the end of Gun Honey: Blood for Blood, Joanna and Brook are on the run, marked for death by Brook’s former colleagues. They need to disappear, and Joanna calls in a favor from an old friend – an ex-girlfriend, actually – whose specialty is helping people disappear. That’s Dahlia Racers, the fiery redhead at the burning center of Heat Seeker.
FS: Who is Dahlia and what is her inspiration?
CA: Dahlia is the best in the world at what she does, which is helping you disappear when there’s a price on your head. She’s a master of illusion (in fact, her day job is designing illusions for stage magicians), and she’ll arrange it so that your enemies think you’re dead – in fact, they’d swear they saw you die with their own eyes. How complex Dahlia’s deceptions need to be depend on who’s hunting for you – and if you’re being hunted by intelligence agents, the way Joanna and Brook are, that calls for a really tricky bit of subterfuge. You can’t trust anything you think you know when Dahlia pulls out all the stops.
As for her inspiration, I’ve been in love with magic and illusion since I was a kid, and I’ve always wanted to create a femme fatale who used those skills in the service of a crime/thriller plot. Crime fiction is full of assassins, spies and thieves – my goal is to come up with characters who play a different role or do things in a different way.
FS: All of the books are just dripping for noir and fill a niche in the comic book market. Why do you gravitate to that world?
CA: Crime fiction is cynical, tough, dark, high-stakes, exciting, sexy – all the things you want from a great read. And it’s underrepresented in comics. There are tons of superheroes out there and a certain amount of high fantasy and horror and such, but great crime comics are thin on the ground. The Gun Honey universe is my attempt to even the balance a little bit. Let’s put a little James Bond or Modesty Blaise back on the marquee alongside the latest from the MCU!
FS: There are some very clear influences to the Gun Honey world, yet you make those tales your own. What are some of your inspirations?
CA: Well, I just mentioned two big ones: James Bond and his female counterpart, Modesty Blaise. There are also great crime movies and thrillers like Ocean’s Eleven or True Lies or the Bourne pictures, which are full of adrenaline and thrills, action and intrigue and twists. For Heat Seeker, I was inspired in part by The Sting and how the script keeps you guessing until the very end. Kickass heroines are a big inspiration too, everything from La Femme Nikita and Alias to Linda Hamilton and Sigourney Weaver. Sex appeal is also in the mix as a crucial element, so films like Barbarella and The Last Seduction and Bound have influenced me. My heroines are confident and that includes being unashamed of their bodies. If Daniel Craig can walk shirtless out of the ocean, why shouldn’t they?
FS: What is the world that Joanna finds herself in in Heat Seeker?
CA: In issue 1, Joanna travels to New York City, where Dahlia lives, to get her on the case. From there, it looks like Joanna and Brook fly to Las Vegas with their pursuers hot on their tail – but is it really them? I’m not telling.
FS: Gun Honey: Honey for Blood hits trade next month. What can you tell us about that to catch up new readers?
CA: If you want to know how Joanna and Brook wind up marked for death at the start of Heat Seeker, Gun Honey: Blood for Blood tells that story. You don’t need to have read it first – Heat Seeker is a standalone story – but if you’re curious how Joanna has wound up in this bind, get Blood for Blood and read about the vengeful female assassin that goes to great lengths to frame Joanna for murder – and Brook for treason.
FS: If you had a final pitch to potential readers of tales from Gun Honey, what would it be?
CA: Try something a little different! After 25 Marvel movies, it’s fun to mix in a little James Bond, a little Indiana Jones, a little John Wick — and what’s true of movies is true of comics too. Let Joanna Tan and Dahlia Racers take you for a ride. I promise you it won’t stay within the speed limit.
Heat Seeker: A Gun Honey Series #1 goes on sale Wednesday, June 28th, from Titan Comics. Gun Honey Vol. 2: Blood for Blood is on sale now.
From the official description of Heat Seeker:
Award-winning writer and co-founder of Hard Case Crime Charles Ardai returns to the Gun Honey universe in this action-packed spin-off featuring the sultry and explosive art of Ace Continuado!
IF THE HEAT IS ON, DAHLIA RACERS CAN HELP YOU DISAPPEAR – FOR A PRICE!
Marked for death by a U.S. intelligence agency, Gun Honey Joanna Tan turns to Dahlia Racers to help her pull a vanishing act. But the killer hot on her trail, the beautiful sociopath Sarah Claride, will leave bodies strewn from New York to Las Vegas to Tijuana, Mexico, if it means cornering Dahlia – and breaking her…
And from the official description of Blood for Blood:
Fans of the first graphic novel and classic pulp crime fiction will get a thrill out of this fast-paced, mystery thriller.
Joanna Tan is back, sexier and deadlier than ever… She’ll get you the weapon you need, when you need it, where you need it — no matter how impossible. But this time, somebody else is planting the weapons. Somebody who’s causing a lot of trouble. And with Joanna’s MO, the authorities are making her their number one suspect.
It’s now up to Joanna to prove her innocence, and find the woman responsible for framing her for murder!