Friday, November 13, 2009

The interview with KEVEN GARDNER

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 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."


He wears a hat, carries a stick and is based on a country music star, but don't let that fool you. Luke McBain is one tough guy, as writer David Tischman explains. U.S President Theodore Rossevelt once remarked in a speech that to use peace, but to be backed up when necessary by military might was to, "Speak softly and carry a big stick." That may also apply to the adventures of a new series from 12 Gauge Comics (The Ride, Body Bags) simply named after its manly main character Luke McBain.

McBain is based on well-known country music sensation Trace Adkins, who was also the runner-up in last year's Celebrity Apprentice with Donald Trump. The 4-issue series based on the singer's likeness focuses on the titular character who has recently been released after a 14-year false imprisonment and returns to his hometown. Soon after, righteous anger at what's become of his town is followed by a desire to set things right and make some noise. Writer David Tischman (Bite Club, Red Herring) is joined by interior artist Kody Chamberlain and cover artist Brian Stelfreeze on the unique Southern set series. Adkins is apparently very impressed at what he's seen and plans to sell the comics at his upcoming concerts.

The man behind the man with the hat, scribe David Tischman sits down with BF to tell us more about this unique collaboration.

BROKEN FRONTIER: Besides what I assume is a unique audience for comics, what else does Trace Adkins bring to the project?

DAVID TISCHMAN: The country audience is far more mainstream than people in comics think. There's a ton of country fans out there. Maybe not as much in L.A. and New York, but the genre has huge popularity in the rest of the country. And we -- Keven Gardner, the publisher of 12 Gauge Comics -- and I think the Country audience is a greatly undervalued market. Hard-edged crime set against the modern South is what 12 Gauge does, and that's how the conversation about Luke McBain started.

Trace Adkins is a talented performer with a huge fan base -- and he's just such an incredible personality. Keven and I knew we had a good idea for the country market. Bringing Trace in, getting his input, adding his persona to the character -- it took the project to a completely different level.

BF: How did you come on board and what was your first response when you heard a country music star was involved?

DT: Keven and I wanted to do a modern action thriller set in a small town. A 21st century version of Walking Tall and Billy Jack. Those movies are about men of integrity and the American spirit. We were ahead of the curve, because we started Luke McBain just as Taken and Gran Torino took off at the box office.

BF: I can’t help but think of a certain character from The Simpsons when I hear the name McBain. Will there be any humor amidst the fist fights?

DT: I'm more of a South Park guy than a Simpsons guy, so I promise the name came up separately. But there are a few good moments of humor. Usually at very dramatic moments. That's when you can point out the little crazy things in life and enjoy them with a smile -- without making fun of people.

BF: With Kody Chamberlain on interiors and Brian Stelfreeze on covers, am I safe in assuming the series will be pretty action packed and dynamic?

DT: These guys -- both Kody and Brian -- what a pleasure it's been to write for these guys! There's a ton of action in each issue -- and all different kinds of action -- from car chases and bar fights, to busted-up robberies and shoot-outs. What's been great is the way we've been able to throw concepts around. Sometimes I go into long, detailed descriptions of stuff. It's what I need to see the story in my head. Because I'm not an artist. But these guys -- Kody on the interiors and Brian on covers -- they see what I'm trying to do and they make it BETTER on the page. They make me look good. You gotta love that.

BF: Did you wear a cowboy hat and carry a big stick to prepare for this series?

DT: (laughs) Sweats and a full coffee mug is pretty much what I need. I'll leave the cowboy hats to Trace Adkins. But I did listen to a lot of Country while I was writing. I've got all of Trace's stuff -- he's got such a great tone to his voice -- and he speaks, and you know exactly who he is. But I also listened to Hank Williams, Jr. and Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash and guys like that.

BF: Luke McBain seems like a simple premise, but what can readers expect?

DT: If you keep the story simple, the characters and the relationships get more complex. Luke McBain's about America. About what people want this country to stand for. And how easy it is for a few people with money and power to subvert that. And the one man who's got the balls to take a stand against that bad guy to fight for what's right. It's also got some cool action and some sexy girls, but I don't think you'll mind that.

BF: Have you been happy with the response to Red Herring?

DT: I am so happy with Red Herring. Issue #4 is out this week, and the reviews have been great. It's not a superhero book, and it's a crazy mix of conspiracy thriller and comedy, but people are having fun and enjoying the ride. Look, I'm a writer. I sit in a room all day, alone, and make stuff up. I did it on Red Herring and I did it on Luke McBain. Two very different books, but each one is smart and fun and hits its mark. Luke McBain may be based on a country superstar, but it's a comic book, through and through.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


LUKE McBAIN #1 is on sale today, but there are some parts of the country that won't get it until November 18. Sorry for any trouble this may cause, but it is out of our control.

If you are calling your local comic shop to reserve/order a copy and they don't have it, give them this Diamond order code: SEP090986

That is all they need to place the order for the first issue with their distributor. To find a store in your area, go to, or call 1-888-COMIC-BOOK.

CBR preview of LUKE McBAIN #1

Check out the exclusive 5-page preview at Comic Book Resources!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


Trace Adkins steps into boots of comic book hero

By John Geddes, USA TODAY
The legend of Trace Adkins continues to grow.
Already a hugely successful country music recording artist, Adkins recently grabbed the spotlight while earning the respect of Donald Trump as the runner-up on NBC's 2008 Celebrity Apprentice. Now, Adkins — he of the intimidating voice, towering stature and country superstar status — finds his life and likeness the basis for a new comic book series.

Luke McBain— published by 12-Gauge Comics — is a four-issue comic book series based, at least partially, on the popular singer. The physical features and personality traits of McBain are intended to mirror those of Adkins. They should: He helped in the writing process.

So, how did Adkins find himself in the pages of a comic book?

"The writer and publisher approached me with the idea for this series. I wasn't sure just what they were looking for, whether they wanted my blessing to move ahead with it or just how they thought I might be involved. I was taken aback by the whole thing, to be perfectly honest."

After getting over his original doubts about the project, the singer found himself warming to the idea. "As they walked through the story, I could tell they really wanted my input. They wanted to hear my opinions on the character and the story development. It just grew from there."

Luke McBain publisher Keven Gardner and writer David Tischman wanted to create a story in the vein of the Walking Tall and Billy Jack movies, a tale with a strong, Southern, male protagonist. Gardner relates how Adkins came to be involved: "Once we had agreed on a general direction, David called and asked what I thought about pitching a story to Trace Adkins. It was a great idea on his part, because once Trace came on board it made the story completely click into place."

The series follows the story of Luke McBain, a man who has just been released from prison after serving a 14-year sentence for a crime he didn't commit. He returns to his Louisiana hometown only to find that crime and corruption are threatening to destroy the way of life he once remembered. As Tischman puts it, "It's a classic tale of a single American hero taking on the establishment to do the right thing."

Tischman liked the idea of expanding on the perceived image of Trace Adkins. "We talked a lot about the Luke McBain character with Trace. Although you see Trace's likeness on every page, we all agreed that Luke McBain and Trace Adkins are different people — as if Luke McBain is a part Trace would play in a movie. At the same time, that dynamic and explosive Trace Adkins persona has to come through for the story to feel authentic."

That authenticity had to come through in the image of McBain, as well. Adkins also had some involvement in the art process. Series artist Kody Chamberlain recalls being invited backstage at an Adkins show to share some of the early sketches of McBain.

"Trace showed a lot of interest. We talked a bit about the various stages of pencils, inks and colors, and he pulled a few of his guys in to show off the pages. He asked the type of questions an artist would normally ask. I came out of the meeting thinking he really did like where we were headed."

So, will this mark the start of a trend among country stars and comic books? Gardner doubts it. "No, I really think we might have trapped lightning in a bottle with Luke McBain. We love the character and we love Trace and would love nothing more than to do more of these stories."

For his part, Adkins wouldn't mind seeing at least one of his fellow country singers translated into comic book form. "I'd like to see a Faith Hill comic book. I can already see that one drawn," he laughs. Adkins then jokingly adds, "Her husband (Tim McGraw) could play her little sidekick."

Luke McBain will be available beginning Nov. 11. To find a comic shop near you, go to or call 1-888-COMIC-BOOK.