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Tony Cliff didn’t have to escape jail, run from enraged armies or travel in flying ships to complete his debut graphic novel Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant, but it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if he had. The energy he invests in his story of a globetrotting, devil-may-care adventurer and the reluctant but noble soldier who inadvertently ends up tagging along suggests Cliff has a bit of the thrill-seeker in him, or at least in his pen.
Wanting to learn more about this former Flight cartoonist and his new book, I lobbed a bunch of questions to Cliff, who was nice enough to lob the answers back my way.
Robot 6: How did Delilah Dirk come to be? What was the original idea behind the character, and how did it change from the initial webcomic to Turkish Lieutenant?
Tony Cliff: It started off as a 30-page comic that I thought I’d put together just as a fun thing to do. I’d been reading a lot of Napoleonic War-era novels and wanted to make something in the same time period, with the sort of spirit I’d enjoyed in Indiana Jones and James Bond movies. Something fun, with a bunch of action and a variety of colorful settings.
I combined that first comic with a short story from the Flight anthologies, added a hundred pages to combine the two, and that became The Turkish Lieutenant as it appeared online. The print edition is more or less the same as the webcomic, though some of the text’s been finessed and there are roughly a dozen new pages of what has been described as “Delilah and Selim being cute in the woods,” a description whose accuracy I cannot dispute.
Following the release of Tony Cliff’s 19th-century adventure Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant, First Second has announced a second book, tentatively titled Delilah Dirk and the Blades of England.
As ROBOT 6 contributor Tom Bondurant recounted in Monday’s “Cheat Sheet,” the thief whose wit is as sharp as her sword debuted in 2007 in the self-published 28-page Delilah Dirk and the Treasure of Constantinople, which earned an Eisner nomination and a devoted fan base, leading Cliff to continue the character’s adventures online. That material was then collected in graphic novel form by First Second.