Writer David Barnett Talks His New IDW Series, 'Punks Not Dead'

Today, IDW Publishing's Black Crown imprint launched Punks Not Dead, a new series from writer David Barnett and artist Martin Simmonds, launched, introducing readers to a world of supernatural music superstars...

...Or so it seems. The story centers on Feargal Ferguson, a teenage boy who runs scams with his mother, earning a living by pretending to be a family on the verge of breakdown; the pair appear, using assumed names, on various self-help and pop-psych shows, making a living off of the appearance fees. On the way home from one such day on the job, Feargal finds himself haunted by the ghost of Sid Vicious.

An acknowledgment in the back of the comic, though, suggests that Sid is not in fact Sid Vicious, despite the visible evidence pointing that way. Instead, he is a kind of amalgamation of the soul and spirit of punk.

"We thought it was important to set our stall out regarding Sid, because let's not beat around the bush here, he's called Sid and he looks like Sid Vicious," Barnett told ComicBook.com. "But even behind the posturing and persona of Sid Vicious there was a real person who died a pretty downbeat death, so you have to tread carefully with depictions of that. The thing is, Sid in Punks Not Dead thinks he actually is who he appears to be, or the ghost thereof, but as he and the rest of the characters will find out over the coming months, he's a very different beast entirely."

The lack of punctuation in "Punks," by the way, is intentional: there will be more to come, and so whoever or whatever Sid is, one can assume riffs on the concept will be coming in the form of other pop cultural icons.

"We've got a plan to get Fergie (I'm not saying whether that's with or without Sid) to the States at some point, where there's a wealth of dead musicians to go at, but there's a pretty big story to tell first, and we're going to need at least a couple of arcs to get to that," Barnett admitted. "In fact, we've got five good arcs plotted out, and the twists and turns in this first big story are going to be amazing... now we just need people to buy it to make sure we get there!"

That will be the hardest part yet, Barnett says, given that he has found the process of pitching and developing the comic to be a lot of fun.

In a blog post, Barnett claimed that the project came about after only a few messages back and forth with editor Shelly Bond, and that Simmonds was the first artist whose work was pitched to Barnett for the title. After seeing the Simmonds's work, Barnett declined to see anybody else's.

"I think that for me the most unexpected part, this being my first real comics work, was how much the collaborative nature of comics storytelling affects the narrative," said Barnett, who has also written books and worked in journalism. "As a prose fiction writer I'm used to working in pretty solitary conditions, at least until the first couple of drafts are finished and I then work more closely with the editor. With comics, I rapidly found out that I needed to play to the strengths of artist Martin Simmonds more, and that changed the whole nature of the storytelling. Martin's such an amazing visual storyteller in his own right that things he included in panels prompted me to riff off them and alter the course of the wider narrative, in one instance even bringing in a whole new character based on one panel Martin did in the first issue."

Simmonds and Barnett have figured out their process, according to Barnett, and

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"Martin and I talk at least every week, just to talk through the current script or for me to thrash out with him what's the best way of approaching a certain scene," Barnett said. "Working with him over the course of the first few issues gave me an insight into how he works and what he likes and doesn't like (crowd scenes and horses for the latter. So obviously I'm trying to work in a massive riot scene at some point. But the majority of the look in terms of tone and palette comes from Martin's instinctive feel for the book and the story we're telling."

Punks Not Dead #1 is available in print and digital today, at your local comic shop or on ComiXology.