Hello everyone. You have probably already seen this interview which X9 The Android did with Chris Schweizer, the man who wrote the Pirates of the Caribbean comic book series published by Joe Books Ltd. Well, here's that same interview, but in its original form, with all the illustrations. Enjoy.
Thank you very much for letting us, the PotC fan community interview you. As you may know, we, the fans, seek some contact with PotCVIPs so we can ask them for their experience working with this fantastic franchise created by the House of the Mouse, and discover more about the making of this world. Even though your work in the PotC comic books may have not been of the same size as a novel, your contributions to the PotC world are really important because you expanded Captain Jack’s adventures between The Curse of the Black Pearl and Dead Man’s Chest, undoubtedly two of the best movies in the series. I’m the user X9 The Android and I elaborated this questionnaire with the help of PotC Wiki users such as our admin Uskok, Scoobydoopeliculas and TheGoatPresident. We really appreciate you taking time to answer these 10 questions.
1. Tell us about yourself, Chris. Where and when you were born and how you decided that you wanted to write comic books? Any inspirations or influences? When did you start to work for the comic book industry? – From X9 The Android
I grew up in Louisiana and Kentucky, in the US. I was keen on a lot of different types of storytelling, and realized when I was about 25 that comics were the only medium that allowed me to do all of them. So I started working on getting better at comics-making in earnest, and got into graduate school for it. I started publishing my last year of grad school and was hired as a professor at the Savannah College of Art and Design, where I taught for five years. For the last six years I’ve been doing just comics, though. My biggest comics influence, narrative-wise, is Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo, which has been a source of endlessly fresh stories for nearly thirty years.
2. How much experience did you had with the Pirates of the Caribbean world before writing the series? Did you visited the Disneyland attraction and watched all films? Did you have enjoyed any other PotC products like novels or video games? – From Uskok
I’ve never been to California’s Disneyland, but I’ve been to Walt Disney World in Florida more times than I could count. My dad grew up in Orlando, back when much of it was still swampland. I was probably ten years old before any of the roads around my grandparents’ house were paved, in the late 80s or early 90s. My grandfather was an architect in central Florida, and he did work for Disney; his biggest project in that arena was designing the building in which Epcot’s Mexican Pavillion walk-through and ride were housed. Through that, and just knowing folks involved with the park, I think we must have been able to get in free or on a discount when I was young because we went fairly frequently and my parents did not have a lot of extra money in those days. By the time I got to high school most of my friends in the area had parents who were Imagineers and so I would get in free with them.
POTC was and continues to be my favorite ride in the Magic Kingdom. It was a big part of cementing a love for the genre from the time I was probably two, maybe three. I would sometimes build little models when I was a kid out of carboard and toilet paper rolls, trying to recreate the layout of the ride.
I’d seen all the films when taking on the comic, though I didn’t care for the fourth for a variety of reasons. The first three, though, I’ve seen who knows how many times, and absolutely love them. I’d gotten all the toys (they’re now my daughter’s), read the Young Jack Sparrow books, and the A.C. Crispin novel – we met on a pirates fiction panel we were both on, and I was excited to find that she had been incredibly close with my late Aunt Alice, who had been a sometimes collaborator, and who had also written a pirate yarn, many years back (Scarface, under her pen name Andre Norton).
I also served as a deckhand aboard the Lady Washington, a historic tall ship that y’all may recognize from Curse of the Black Pearl: it was used as the Interceptor in the film. I crewed on a leg that took us up the Pacific coast, through the mouth of the Columbia (called “the Graveyard of the Pacific” for its very difficult passage which has sunk more than two thousand ships) and upriver to Astoria.
3. Why you were approached by Disney to write Joe Books Ltd.’s Pirates of the Caribbean comic book series in the first place? Did they offer you the job or did you pitch the idea to them? Did anyone at Joe Books or Disney helped you to develop the series? – From Uskok & X9 The Android
There were a lot of factors that made me a candidate. First, I tend to do a lot of all-ages work, stuff that’s written at an adult level but which is safe for kid consumption, and that fits the Pirates franchise pretty effectively. Folks working in comics know that I’m a big history and folklore enthusiast, and POTC marries those two. I’ve also got a lot of experience doing pirate-centric projects; my first graphic novel was a pirate swashbuckler, and I’ve done some short stories with pirate elements. I’m a big Disney buff. So all of that was a factor, I’m sure. But the thing that probably made the biggest difference was that the editor was familiar with my work and had wanted to work with me in the past, and it had just never worked out for us to work together, so I was on his shortlist.
I worked in pretty close concert with Joe Flood, the artist, who is a good friend of mine, and whose work I love. When Jesse Post, the editor who got the book started, asked if there was anyone I thought would be a good fit for the project, Joe was the first name to spring to mind. I’d send him sketches and ideas and he’d send his back, and he had a lot more interaction with Disney, getting the drawings to where they fit what Disney was looking for.
4. Who decided to set the comic between the events of the first two films and why? Did you ensured to make your comics maintain continuity with such films along other products like novels and video games? – From Uskok
It was difficult getting the series off the ground, because we had very little direction from Disney as to what they wanted, including the timeline. What I ended up having to do in order to nail it down was pitch ideas in full and learn that way what was and wasn’t okay, which is a terribly inefficient way to work.
Originally, the series was going to be a sequel to the existing films, and I wanted very much to not use Jack Sparrow as the protagonist. I think the first POTC film is the strongest for this reason – Jack is a wonderful, exciting character, but the clearer his motives are (and you need clear motives for your protagonist if you want to keep your audience invested), his character diminishes. I think he works best as a scene-stealing supporting character, with the narrative arc following someone else’s goals and journey, with Jack along to both facilitate and to gum up the works. Which creates a question: if you’re doing a Pirates of the Caribbean series and Jack Sparrow ISN’T your main character, then who is?
One of the ideas that I was exploring was either making Anamaria our central protagonist, or making Anamaria’s 12-or-13-year old son our protagonist, employing Jack’s help to find her when she disappears searching for a mystical treasure. Elizabeth’s and Will’s son would have been involved, too, about the same age. I thought it might be fun if Anamaria’s son grew up to be Long John Silver, and young Turner would grow up to be Billy Bones. There’s so much good cross-over in pirate lore with the POTC franchise and I thought this might be a fun way to incorporate Treasure Island, which as far as I know hasn’t tied in yet. It wouldn’t have been important to the plot and may not have ever been mentioned explicitly but it would’ve been in my mind while writing the characters and would’ve influenced their behavior and appearance. And I think featuring some young characters as the driving force would reintroduce some of that naivety against which Jack’s worldliness contrasts so well.
Disney decided that they wanted it to be set between CotBP and DMC before I ever had a chance to pitch the youngsters, and so I asked about Anamaria instead. As it was, though, Disney and Joe Books both wanted Jack to be the main character, which is what we ended up with. And I understand that 100% from a brand identity and marketing standpoint.
I did what I could to make the comic fit within the continuity, and was familiar with most everything except the content of the video games, which I hadn’t played. Being a full time comics artist and having a family doesn’t leave any time for gaming, so although I looked at plenty of screen caps and production art, I hadn’t played. But Disney was really thorough; had I introduced anything that conflicted with other stuff, they’d have caught it.
5. This is a detail present in the series that has made us really think about it. At the beginning of every issue, a silhouette of the Silent Mary, the ghost ship captained by Armando Salazar in Dead Men Tell No Tales, can be seen. Did any of the unreleased issues that you previously mentioned to have been cancelled contained any reference to Jack’s past with Salazar or the locations/events shown in the film or this is an uncanonical easter egg? – From Uskok
No, Disney kept the content of DMTNT very secret, and the only way we found out what would be in it was when a previously approved part of an issue got nixed because they’d decided to add something very similar to the movie. That isn’t to say the comic content was incorporated into the movie, it’s pure coincidence. There are only so many sea legends one can use that feel right in POTC, and there was a lot of overlap as they did rewrites.
6. As you previously mentioned, the series was originally planned to comprise eight issues but these were shortened to five. You previously mentioned me that Ammand the Corsair was to be heavily featured in the series’ end as well Norrington’s men. Aside from them, which other characters, ships and locations were featured in the unreleased issues and how much did your comics expanded their stories? – From Uskok
Anamaria, Norrington, and Ammand were the only characters in the initial 8-issue arc that I was planning to really expand upon, Anamaria especially. Disney let us make her the youngest and least (by their standards) accomplished of five sisters, and we got to play a little with that dynamic. I was looking forward to revisiting it, and giving her sisters defined traits. They were all legitimate skippers, each with their own boat, each competing for the title of fastest.
For the first arc, those were the only characters I felt we had time to explore. Folks were already pretty invested in the side characters that appear in the films, and so I didn’t want to use any of them in throwaway roles in the done-in-one issues.
7. Why the comic book series was cancelled? Is there any hope to see the remaining issues released at some later date? Perhaps condensed into a novel? – From Uskok & X9 The Android
The publisher was pretty new to comics, and tried to do more than they were logistically able to handle. They launched a lot of titles at the same time but their energies were spent entirely on getting them out and very little on marketing. I think they assumed the Disney brand would sell itself, and it likely would in the bookstore market, but they wanted to sell issues to the direct market first, comic shops. But without marketing, most shops didn’t even know they were coming out, and a lot of readers were in the same boat.
So they had a lot of expenditure on talent for the first few issues (and the license) as well as printing and other logistical costs, and then the expected windfall from a bunch of issue #1 sales never materialized, because very few shops knew to carry it. From there, it was only a few months before it started to fall apart, or at least that’s what I was made to understand. I had delivered six or seven scripts, I think, but they hadn’t paid me for the last four, and I told them that I couldn’t deliver any more until I was paid – comics is our household’s sole income, and we were falling behind on bills because the publisher was months behind, and I’d have to start taking on other work. Joe (Flood, the artist) was in the same boat, and other folks on other titles were, too. So I think a few of the titles, Pirates included, were cancelled because the publisher couldn’t or wouldn’t pay the folks making them to keep doing so. We might’ve worked something out but communication wasn’t particularly good, and with the heavy rewrites for Disney approval it took at least twice as long to do each script as it would take any comparable project.
8. As you mentioned before, Norrington’s men such as Lieutenants Theodore Groves and Gillette were featured in your comic books. As it was mentioned in Dead Man’s Chest, Norrington’s ship was destroyed by a hurricane off the coast of Tripoli, so we initially assumed that they died too, but with Groves’ reappearance in At World’s End and Gillette’s reappearance in On Stranger Tides, we have assumed since then that both of them survived or resigned from Norrington’s crew before the hurricane. Which was the fate you had in store for them, though we already know that they survived it after all? As well the one for Murtogg and Mullroy? – From TheGoatPresident and X9 The Android
Murtogg and Mullroy were never going to be expanded on, but I was planning to use them in their traditional roles – as comic commentary and exposition. I had them in an early version of the first issue, before the plot was condensed and truncated a bit. But I like them best as a chorus rather than as characters about whom we know anything.
I wasn’t planning on delving into Groves much, at least not unless the series went into a second arc/season, but Gillette was going to be a major player in the hurricane story, and would’ve been captured with Norrington and some of the others by the Corsairs in its aftermath and forced to row aboard a galley ship. Had we done that second season, Norrington would’ve led a revolt that would free the navy men, and get them back to the Caribbean.
One of the things I thought would be really fun to do with this series would be to use the POTC framework to do genre stories. So the second issue was a wandering gunslinger/samurai playing two gangs off each other story, the fourth issue was a Heart of Darkness riff, the fifth would’ve been a spy story, the seventh a heist caper, and the eighth a Kaiju story, with the four winds that Norrington calls up (using the weather gauge they're hunting for in the first few issues) in Tripoli serving as these giant, unstoppable beasts of destruction. I mean, they all would have been very Pirates, but seeing how you could structure each of these issues according to the framework of these other genres was both a fun challenge and (by my reckon) a great way to do POTC stories that we hadn’t seen yet.
9. In a similar vein to the previous question, which plans you had for Anamaria’s fate? Zoe never returned nor reprised the roles in the following movies after the first one and her character’s fate remains eluding us as of today… - From Scoobydoopeliculas
As I said, I’d have loved to feature Anamaria as the main character, and use the series as a way to build another wing of the franchise, but when that didn’t fit into the plans, I was just going to use her as a supporting character along with the crew, and had no plans beyond her role in Jack’s exploits, save that, had we known cancelation was imminent or that we were wrapping up the series, I would have given her a ship of her own.
10. For this question we’re getting away from the central matter, but I’m so curious about your future plans. Did you have any new projects in Jack Sparrow’s beloved horizon or another? Is there another great popular franchise you would like to write comics for? Maybe Star Wars or Indiana Jones… - From X9 The Android
I’d always be keen to work on POTC again, and I’d also jump at the chance to work on another pirate property that I love, Hanna-Barbara’s PIRATES OF DARK WATER. There are plenty of franchises for which I have a great deal of affection and enthusiasm, including the ones you mentioned, and should I be offered the chance to work on them, and should my schedule allow, you can bet I’ll do my best to make it happen.
Chris, we’re very grateful that you allowed us to interview you. You’re such a good writer and I’m sure that your next job will be equally good. We expect good things from you. Thanks again for doing the interview and Merry Christmas!
My pleasure! Here are a handful of other sketches that either never made it into the books, or which haven't been shared (so far as I recall).