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Saskatoon-based comic artist Kurtis Wiebe’s Peter Panzerfaust picked up by BBC

By in Culture
Tyler Jenkins illustration of WWII-era Peter Pan from the Peter Panzerfaust comic.
It’s not uncommon for comic creators to dream about seeing their work on the screen, whether large or small. For local writer Kurtis Wiebe this dream is about to become a reality. On Oct. 11, BBC Worldwide Productions and Quality Transmedia announced that they would be producing a motion comic based on his historical fiction series, Peter Panzerfaust.

The series, written by Wiebe, a Saskatoon-based writer for Image Comics, and illustrated by Tyler Jenkins, is a unique take on the Peter Pan character created by J.M. Barrie.

“We’d [Wiebe and Jenkins] been doing some work for hire together but were looking to get our own project going,” Wiebe said. “He’d recently watched Apocalypse Now and thought a Vietnam-era story using the Lost Boys as central figures would be fun to illustrate. I thought a bit on it and decided a WWII setting worked a lot better for the narrative.”

In Wiebe’s comic, Pan has been recast as a charismatic freedom fighter who helps a group of orphaned boys escape Nazi-occupied France. Along the way they must evade and defeat the forces of the SS, led by Captain Hook stand-in SS Captain Haken.

The first five issues were collected in a volume titled The Great Escape this summer. The collection details the boys’ quest to flee the city of Calais in an attempt to reach Paris.

The series immediately appealed to BBC Worldwide, with their vice-president of digital, Dan Tischler, stating in a press release Oct. 11 that he was taken in by the historical themes and elements of Peter Pan’s mythos. He acts as executive producer for the project alongside the BBC’s senior VP, Julie Gardner, and Quality Transmedia’s Jeff Krelitz.

BBC’s initial plan for Peter Panzerfaust is to release the story as a fully voiced motion comic and to distribute it digitally.

A motion comic is a unique form of animation that takes static comic panels and brings them to life, using animation, dialogue and voiced narration. Despite limited animation and a relatively low production value, this technique has been gaining popularity over the past few years thanks to motion comics’ ease of access and high quality compared to many mobile comic book apps. The technique has adapted titles like Astonishing X-Men, The Walking Dead, Axe Cop and world-renowned graphic novel Watchmen.

The production team hopes to use the motion comic as a jumping-off point and bring Panzerfaust to the small screen as a live-action television series.

“It’s a strange thing to have something you’ve poured countless hours into become something much bigger than you’d ever planned,” Wiebe wrote. “If the show ever happens, I imagine sitting down to watch an episode will be the most surreal thing I could ever experience. Only time will tell if it’ll happen.”

No casting information for either project has been released yet.

Wiebe’s other series include The Intrepids, Grim Leaper and Green Wake, which won him Canada’s Joe Shuster Award for Outstanding Comic Book Writer in September 2012. He also hosts “The Process” podcast, in which he discusses writing with other authors.

The seventh issue of Peter Panzerfaust was released Nov. 14 and the eighth will hit shelves Dec. 12.

On Nov. 17, Wiebe will lead a workshop at the First Nations University Saskatoon Campus on writing comics and breaking into the comic industry. The event will be hosted by the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild. For more information visit skwriter.com.


Illustration: Tyler Jenkins

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