For many country singers, November 11, 2009 may hold significance because of a certain star-studded awards show taking place in downtown Nashville, but for superstar Trace Adkins, who was inexplicably missing from this year's list of nominees, this day marks a milestone of a different sort. Beginning this morning, fans of country music just might cross-over into a fandom never before fully-bridged as Trace Adkins' becomes southern comic book hero Luke McBain when the first issue of 12 Gauge Comics' four-part series hits comic bookstore shelves today.
That's right, the man behind some twenty Top 20 hits, including: Every Light in the House, and (This Ain't) No Thinkin' Thing from his 1996 debut CD, Dreamin' Out Loud on to more recent hits like Honky Tonk Badonkadonk, You're Gonna Miss This and Marry For Money becomes the first-ever country music artist to be the inspiration for a comic book hero, as his likeness graces the pages of 12 Gauge Comics' latest title, Luke McBain. At first, Adkins may seem an unlikely choice for 12 Gauge's first country music star-inspired character, but given Trace's 6'6" muscular frame, rugged good looks and no-nonsense attitude--in life and lyrics, when you really think about it, who better to personify a modern day anti-hero than country music's most masculine star. In the vein of Bufford Pusser, the Tennessee sheriff turned/renegade vigilante made famous in the 1973 action film Walking Tall, Luke McBain returns to his hometown in Louisiana after spending 14 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit. Upon his return, he discovers his younger brother Paul now in charge of the family business, a mill that employees most of the town. Luke soon learns that his brother is up to no good and realizes it's up to him to stop his brother from ruining the business and taking the town down with him. This pits brother against brother in an epic battle as Luke fights to save his beloved hometown.
I recently had an opportunity to chat with 12 Gauge Comics' Publisher Keven Gardner about the genesis of the project. When asked about the resemblance between Trace's McBain character and that of Walking Tall's Sheriff Pusser, Keven revealed, "David Tischman, the writer of Luke McBain, and I really wanted to do a vigilante story and that is one of the best ever, so it was an inspiration. Outside of that they are not too similar, but the tone is certainly the same."
Of Trace's involvement with the project, Keven recalled, "David and I had been friends for a while and wanted to work on a project together. We were talking about what we wanted to do and the idea was formed. David had worked with Trace on the film Trailer Park of Terror and he said, 'We need to show this to Trace.' Luckily he liked it as much as we did!" He further explained, "My agent got the ball rolling and got the idea to Trace's manager. He liked the idea and let us pitch it to Trace."
While today is the official release day for Luke McBain, comic book fans who were in attendance at San Diego's annual Comic-Con back in July got a sneak peek. "Comic-Con attendees got to see about 8 pages of finished art as they stopped by our booth to meet David and Kody Chamberlain, the book's artist. Keven also told me those lucky comic book fans received a free Luke McBain poster.
If you aren't familiar with today's comic books, you might be thinking they are for kids. Addressing this way of thinking, Keven said, "Go read Scalped. It is very, very good, but very, very violent. Some people call it the Sopranos on an Indian reservation. Absolutely not for kids or the week-kneed, but man...it just knocks me out issue after issue."
Taking that into consideration, and with so many of today's popular comic books seemingly aimed at late teen and adult readers, I wondered what age range Keven felt appropriate for Luke McBain readers. "The content is about what you'd see on any prime-time TV show (crime or action). No nudity or bad language, but some guys will be getting beat up and there will be some blood on the ground."
Up next for 12 Gauge Comics, they recently announced the Boondock Saints comic series. "It will be based on the cult-film (the sequel is in theaters now). It will be a pretty tough comic series, but it is one of my favorite films, so I'm thrilled. The writer/director of the film will be co-writing the comics, which takes this thing to a whole new level. Getting a guy like Troy Duffy to have his hands all over the series is the ultimate stamp of approval," revealed Keven.
When asked if there might be a chance to revisit Trace's Luke McBain character, expanding on the intial four-issues, Keven offered a simple but hopeful, "Yes, I would hope so."