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James Aquilone Gets Gnarly with 'Shakespeare Unleashed'

We chat with the creator about his latest horror anthology and why it's a perfect fit for the Bard's madness.

Welcome to our Creator Corner, our new reoccurring interview series, where we chat with the coolest and most thought-provoking creators in the comics industry. In this entry, we're conversing with James Aquilone about Shakespeare Unleashed. Listen to the unedited audio HERE.


Honestly, was there ever a better gorehound than William Shakespeare? His plays are overflowing with wretched human behavior, resulting in severed heads and limbs tumbling all over the place. Throw a rock, and you'll find a ghost haunting some poor fool on the Bard's stage.

Shakespeare Unleashed is editor James Aquilone leaning into Bill Shakespeare's dark side. Authors like Joe R. Lansdale, Cullen Bunn, Jonathan Maberry, and more flocked at the opportunity to wrap their skeletal mitts around Shakespeare's grim universe and have their way with it. The result is an anthology busting with blood and slippery sinew.

We chat with Aquilone about why this project, digging into William Shakespeare's grisliest desires, felt like a natural sequel to his previous collection, Classic Monsters Unleashed. We also check in with Aquilone's previous Kickstarter project, Kolchak: The Night Stalker. You may remember, James Alquilone recently chatted with Comic Book Couples Counseling about that project too. Go back and read that conversation if you haven't already.

"They talk about Stephen King's work being like a shared universe," says Aquilone, "because he used a lot of the same characters and settings. I don't know if Shakespeare meant to do that, but I do think there is definitely a shared universe there. The plays are either historical or things like The Tempest, at least inspired by real-life stories. All of his plays are based on something else."

"They didn't have those categories back then," continues Aquilone. "They didn't have sub-genres of horror or fantasy. It was just a tragedy or comedy, basically, or or historical play. Back in those days, a ghost wasn't considered paranormal. It was considered normal. You know, people believe in ghosts. I mean, people still believe in ghosts today, but back then, I think most people believed in ghosts. They didn't consider that to be so unusual. Even witches or magic was more a part of their life."

In addition to the book, Aquilone is also supplying readers with a Shakespeare Unleashed comic book featuring three stories:

  • "Bloody Thou Art" (based on Richard III) by David Avallone and Helena Masellis

  • "Romeo and Juliet: Afterlife" by James Aquilone and J.K. Woodward

  • "Exit, Pursued by Bear" (based on Shakespeare's most infamous stage direction) by James Aquilone and Zac Atkinson

  • Plus, a story by Jeff Strand based on "The Taming of the Shrew," with art by Marco Finnegan.

All lettered by Tom Napolitano.

You have mere hours to back the project on Kickstarter, but if you do miss out, don't worry, there will still be other opportunities for you to acquire Shakespeare Unleashed.

You can also continue this conversation with James Aquilone by visiting his Twitter and his Website.

Also, check out our other Comic-Con episodes we've done this week:

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Podcast logo by Aaron Prescott @acoolhandfluke, podcast banner art by @Karen_XmenFan.


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