Today sees the release of Justice League Dark Blu-Ray, the R-rated animated movie from Warner Bros Home Entertainment starring Matt Ryan as Constantine, Jason O’Mara as Batman, Camilla Luddington as Zatanna, Nicholas Turturro as Deadman, Ray Chase as The Demon Etrigan, Roger Cross as Swamp Thing, Enrico Colantoni as Felix Faust, Jeremy Davies as Ritchie, …
Kevin Tanski is a police officer, martial artist, former pro-wrestler, and now an action star.
Tanski talks how his experience being on the set with Christopher Nolan and The Dark Knight Rises motivated him to go after his dreams. He tells us about his major roles in Call Of Duty Undead and Ride the Wanted Trail as well as filling us in on new projects and future plans.
Cosmic Book News: The last time we spoke, you just finished filming on The Dark Knight Rises. Can you give us a quick recap on your thoughts and experience about being on the set in NYC?
Kevin Tanski: It was life-changing; literally. It was my introduction to the wonderful world of film making, and it was the catalyst that made me want to continue to pursue the business. I had became interested at the idea of acting after watching a lot of behind-the-scene video of movies being filmed. I am watching these actors, who seemed larger than life, having such a great time – laughing, messing up lines etc. – just being normal people. I was like, “Man, maybe I can do that!”
When I walked out on The Dark Knight Rises set it was exactly like I imagined it would be. The scenes I was a part of were mainly filmed in NYC on Wall St.; however, when I walked out there, it was now Gotham City. The first thing I saw when stepping out was one of the camouflage tumblers that the mercenaries drove in the movie. I can remember getting right up next to it and just staring. Whoever was sitting in it must have had a good laugh because when he fired up that thing I must have jumped a mile. That sucker was loud! Meanwhile, you had crew creating fake snow and standing around spinning these buckets which were creating fog. It was incredible, and right then and there, I knew I was hooked!
Cosmic Book News: From there, you landed a major role in the Call of Duty Undead movie. Can you tell us how that came about?
Kevin Tanski: Well, as I stated before after my Dark Knight Rises experience, I knew I was hooked, and I wanted more. As soon as I left that set I was already mentally preparing steps I was going to take to try to learn as much as I could about the business. I wanted to know its ups and downs, and what it would take to get rolling. As I was reading every book I could get my hands on about acting and auditioning, as well as attending acting class, I started looking to popular websites for casting calls. I came across the casting call for Call of Duty Undead. There were audition dates listed that I was not able to make, I actually think one of them had passed already. So I responded to the call anyway and spoke directly to the director, Aleksandar Ivicic (editor’s note: catch an interview with Aleks here). He was willing to let me submit a video audition and provided me two scenes in which to use.
I called up a buddy of mine, Andrew Streit, who also was eventually cast in a featured role later on, in which I get to punch him in the face! That was pretty awesome. Together we managed to try to figure out the best way we thought to do this as we were definitely on a time crunch. At that time, I wasn’t quite familiar with how the process for a video audition is normally expected to be done; so what we did is act out the scenes similar to how I anticipated it would be filmed.
I feel that unique submission helped me stand out a bit from others, as I think I may have been lucky in providing the director something similar to what he may have already been envisioning. After Aleks reviewed the scenes, it wasn’t long after that he called me up and said that he loved it, and he had to check with others involved, but as far as he was concerned the role was mine. And here we are, two years later finally seeing the film come to fruition, and now I am being interviewed by Cosmic Book News!
Cosmic Book News: Can you tell us about your character in Call of Duty Undead?
Kevin Tanski: Ahhh, yes. Keith Watzel [laughs]. Keith Watzel is a combat specialist, and part of an elite team known as the Alpha Squad. Keith specializes in two things, kicking butt and impressing the ladies, or so he thinks. It took me quite a while to realize exactly how I was going to portray this character. Thankfully, Aleks gave me a lot of room to play around with the personality. Sure there were general parameters and character traits that were given to me on how Watzel was to be portrayed, but Aleks really allowed me to fill in the gaps. As the filming of the movie progressed, it was becoming more and more clear who this guy Keith Watzel was.
I mean you can read script over and over in different ways and different tones and different speeds and have an idea on how you think you are going to do the lines, but at least for me, it wasn’t until the camera was rolling and all things were in place that my acting choices were made. I really attempt to stay in the moment and not even think about my next line. It helps me when I really listen to who is opposite of me and respond accordingly. This was such an amazing cast to work with and so much fun. We often found ourselves utilizing quite a bit of improvisation on many of the takes to provide choices later on for the post-editing crew. In fact, Aleks, who also wrote the Call of Duty Undead script, was extremely generous in letting me alter his work with improvisation. If I was to sum up Watzel though, I would say he is Stiffler meets Rambo [laughs].
Cosmic Book News: You are going to be featured in a second movie directed by Aleksandar Ivicic. What can you tell us about that?
Kevin Tanski: At this point, I cannot share a lot about the plot itself, other then it brings in some strong political opinions and some emotional intensity. I was excited when Aleks contacted me about it. I feel it will not only give me a chance to explore my emotional range as an actor, but also gives me another opportunity to work with Aleks. I tell you what, working with Aleksandar Ivicic has been such an awesome experience. I feel like being forced to “grow up” together in this business, as quickly as we had to, has helped create a bond in which we almost knew what the other was thinking. As filming progressed, I found that Aleks was asking my opinion more and more on how I thought a scene was playing out. He was extremely open to any tweaks or suggestions I might have, which is a refreshing attitude to take, as it really seemed to bolster creativity and reinforced passion for wanting to put out the most entertaining film we possibly can. To demonstrate the kind of passion and desire Aleks has for bringing his vision to life, here is a little story:
We were out filming in a huge abandoned factory and Aleks must have been allergic to something he touched or rubbed into his eye. I can remember as the day was progressing that eye was getting more and more red. I kept asking him if he was okay, and he just sternly said, “I am alright. Don’t worry about it.” It was a long day of filming, and we still had another location to go to. By the time we resumed filming at the second location, his eye had swelled shut! I was like, “Aleks how can you continue?” He stated that these shots were very important, and they needed to be filmed in a certain way. Aleks finished out the shoot and immediately went to the emergency room. I can’t recall exactly what had happened, but I believe something got into his eye, and he did not have vision for the following few weeks. The doctor told him that if he would have ignored that any longer, he may have lost vision in that eye completely.
Now that is dedication, and certainly somebody whom I am more than happy to team up with for future projects!
Cosmic Book News: Your IMDb page also lists you as having a role in Ride The Wanted Trail, a Rick Groat film. Tell us about that.
Kevin Tanski: Ride the Wanted Trail is going to be a good old-fashioned shoot ’em up Western. I will be portraying a bounty hunter/killer named Sam Hook, who lets just say enjoys his work maybe a little too much. This film is going to be fantastic, and I am very much looking forward to being a part of it. It is presently in the pre-production phase.
You know, I am really fortunate. Rick Groat is another fantastic director to work with who prides himself very much on putting out a top notch product that people will truly enjoy, no matter how long it will take. So many directors, especially in the Independent film world I have noticed, seem to almost rush out as many projects as possible. When that happens, I feel the quality of the film really suffers.
Cosmic Book News: You have been featured as a police officer in The Dark Knight Rises, a member of a Black Ops team in Call of Duty Undead and a cowboy in Ride The Wanted Trailer. So we take it you like action movies?
Kevin Tanski: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. I certainly love acting in action movies, that’s for sure. Like many other children growing up, I loved to run around and do fake fighting with my friends, family and siblings. I am sure I have a few younger cousins out there who can vouch for that! I had many heroes in cinema growing up. Arnold, Stallone, Chuck Norris to name a few. I idolized these guys and how badass they were. I think it’s pretty fair to say that movies started shaping me from a very early age. Those action flicks made me want to learn how to do martial arts and lift weights and get strong enough to beat the bad guys and save the girl [laughs]! I guess that is why I love doing my own stunts! I spent many years learning about different martial arts and even attended professional wrestling school, touring around a bit on the Independent circuit as Tank Tanski. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized I just loved to entertain people and make them laugh.
Cosmic Book News: What can you tell us about your future plans?
Kevin Tanski: I can tell you with certainty that I remain fascinated by movie making and everything that goes with it, from the filming end to the business side of things. I still strongly believe that there is no better place to work than on a set with amazing people who share the passion of wanting to make a great movie that entertains people. To watch a screenplay blossom from a script to a final product is something that is extremely satisfying to me. The relationships I have developed along the way have already lead to several more opportunities, with projects “in the works.” I truly feel that if you are persistent and stick true to what you love, you will continue to align yourself with others that feel the same way, and man, when that happens… LOOK OUT! Movie magic is born!!
Ivicic, a Croatian refugee, recently made the move from Western New York to Los Angeles to live the American Dream.
The 23-year-old director offers updates on Call Of Duty Undead, the transition to Hollywood, his latest projects and more.
Cosmic Book News: Congratulations on recently wrapping Call Of Duty Undead.
Aleksandar Ivicic: Yes. After two years of pretty intense filming, we’ve finally hit post-production. Call Of Duty Undead is in its late stages now, we’re seeking a composer that will really help set the tone of the film overall and a Visual FX crew.
Cosmic Book News: The project is not linked to the video games?
Aleksandar Ivicic: No [laughs]. The project has no relations to the video game franchise or the Marvel comic book series. It’s an original piece of work based on a treatment I wrote back in November 2011 that was simply titled “The Undead.” After a few re-writes and some long discussions over coffee, Jim Clark and myself decided to move forward with the project.
Cosmic Book News: What can you tell us about Call Of Duty: Undead?
Aleksandar Ivicic: The story follows five special operatives investigating disappearances on what is suppose to be their last mission. A lot of the characters make peace with their inner demons, revisit their past and try their very best to not kill each other under all the pressure. Eventually they come face-to-face with Dr. Nicholas Bergman, who is the mastermind behind all of the chaos. There are forces tugging in all different directions that are trying to get a piece of the pie in the film, and ther are lots of surprises in store for the audience. It’s a whole lot of fun! The characters are lovable; there’s some touching scenes that we hope will truly move people and of course, zombies! Maybe even a few other surprises beyond those zombies.
Cosmic Book News: What was it like shooting the production in Buffalo?
Aleksandar Ivicic: The cast is what makes the film truly spectacular. Buffalo is very limited on the resources available to filmmakers in every field. I’ve only come to realize that fully after my move to Los Angeles, but to put together what we did with what we had broke all of my expectations. I couldn’t be more proud! I still thank Jim Clark to this day for all of his work on the project. He truly helped bring it all together. Probably one of my best decisions during the early stages was having him on board as an Executive Producer and Co-Director.
Cosmic Book News: Tell us about the move out to Los Angeles.
Aleksandar Ivicic: It was a thrilling transition. I made a 5-day adventure out of it. I drove across the country and met some pretty amazing people on the way. On my first week here, I had a sit down with a major studio for a pitch that I’d probably get crucified for discussing, but I managed to walk away from it with some very useful information; that in itself was very motivational way to kick things off.
The scene here in LA is like Heaven and Earth compared to Buffalo. The pool of talents available is outstanding, and the competition is a lot more friendly, I think. Everybody is off doing their own thing, making their own success. Buffalo is so very isolated. It’s hard to climb to the top of the building if the ladder only reaches half-way. Don’t get me wrong, Hollywood is brutal. You’ve really gotta stand out, not just as a talent but as a person, but if you put in the effort, don’t crack under the pressure, do it for the love of the art, you might just get lucky one day. My idea of success is doing what I love and making a living off of it. There isn’t much I miss about Buffalo, but it will always be where I got my start. A piece of my heart will always linger there.
Aleksandar Ivicic & Jim Clark
Cosmic Book News: Do you have any projects currently going on in Los Angeles you can talk about?
Aleksandar Ivicic: Funny you say “can talk about.” One of the biggest differences I’ve come across in LA – that’s different from Buffalo – is how “hush hush” projects can be. What I can say about the latest project I’ve been brought on board for as Executive Producer is that it’s a short film based on a popular and strong female character that is part of the DC or Marvel comic book universe. The project is not a tie-in to any of the major studio TV or cinematic universes, but rather an adaptation of its own. It’s still too early to tell what direction it will go, but it’s catching a lot of fire. We’ve had a total of 227 submissions from our first casting call.
I also have a film I’m in negotiations to direct titled “Point Blank Range.” It’s got a very nice hint of dark humor which I really enjoyed. I know the project is in the process of negotiating a b-list actor for a supporting role. I’m pretty excited to see where that goes! I’ve also got another short in the works titled “The Anonymous” with Kevin Tanski attached as the lead (editor’s note: catch an interview with Kevin here).
Cosmic Book News: What’s “The Anonymous” about?
Aleksandar Ivicic: I had Mr. Tanski in mind for the project during the late stages of shooting for Call of Duty. “The Anonymous” has been brought up many times in conversation. After Call of Duty wrapped, we decided to move forward with The Anonymous, which will be filmed in Los Angeles. It’s very politically harsh. There are two very different characters whose views of the world differ dramatically. The film touches upon a lot of how these two view the justice system the world has set in place as well as their own individual beliefs as to what justice means. It’s a very dark script and will definitely cause some controversy.
With every new shoot, Kevin impressed me more and more. Kevin and I bumped heads many times on set with how we saw things from a creative perspective, and I really enjoyed that. Nobodies perfect, and I don’t know everything; so it’s refreshing to have someone step up and say, “Well why don’t we try this?” Kevin wasn’t afraid to share his opinions with the direction I was taking his character and plot. He added a lot more humor and charm to that character than I had expected, and I remember, very often, the question as to “just who is Keith Watzel?” would come up, and after watching it all come together I was reassured. Kevin Tanski IS Keith Watzel. His sense of character direction was something I needed for a character in “The Anonymous,” and right there I knew he was perfect for the role. I know it’s going to be a blast working with Kevin again.
Cosmic Book News: We also noticed a short film that you recently completed, The Eleventh Hour, can you tell us about that?
Aleksandar Ivicic: The Eleventh Hour is a 24-minute war/drama. The story itself is based on true-events with a little movie magic. So far it’s been very well received. I don’t want to give away too much. It’s currently in film festival submission phase and will have its very first screening on July 7th at 4:30pm at the Screening Room in Amherst. The project stars Jim Clark, Jess Chizuk and Salvatore Sabia with supporting roles by Robert Woodley, Phill Beith and myself. Our producer did all of the casting for the project; he had a very particular vision for the film and after seeing my work with Call of Duty Undead, he left it in my hands to bring that vision to life. I strongly believe the film has a very bright future.
Cosmic Book News: Any other thoughts you’d like to share with everyone about Call of Duty or your other projects?
Aleksandar Ivicic: Just that I hope everyone finds some entertainment or a lesson to be learned from the projects I work on. I always try to do everything I can with what’s handed to me and try to keep an open mind. I love movies, Hollywood and Indie alike. Everyone I’ve worked with so far has believed in me and my work. I’ve been given so many opportunities to bring my ideas to life, and I hope that someday I’ll be able to do that for other people. And to all of my fellow artists, keep on entertaining, keep on building worlds, keep on fighting. The creative arts are a beautiful thing, and there’s really nothing else like it in the world. We’ve been gifted as a species with the minds to do amazing things. Why let it go to waste?
You can find more information on Aleksandar Ivicic and his upcoming projects on IMDb.
Michael Bay’s next blockbuster hit, Transformers: Age Of Extinction, introduces an enigmatic intergalactic Transformer bounty hunter by the name of Lockdown.
Not much is known about the character, so Cosmic Book News went straight to the source and caught up with Mark Ryan, who lends his voice to Lockdown.
Mark Ryan is a veteran actor and voice actor having played parts in Robin Hood, the new Starz series Black Sails, and Ryan previously voiced Transformer characters for Michael Bay including Jetfire and Bumblebee.
Mark Ryan shares his thoughts on Lockdown, the voice acting process, Black Sails and more.
Cosmic Book News: Regarding Lockdown, what did you think when you were asked to voice the role? Was it an immediate “yes” because you worked with Michael Bay before or did you need to know details about the character and script?
Mark Ryan: It usually starts onset as the script elements are revealed during shooting. I try various voices as we run the dialogue during filming knowing some will be discarded or covered by various other V/O actors in post-production. But it gives me chance to throw in a wild card and try something new and previously unheard in the franchise. Michael will sometimes ask for something more aggressive or something with a specific sound or accent if he has a particular character aspect in mind. This process is a lot of fun and we play around with a lot of vocal tones even in post. In that post process I usually do a scratch-track for editing purposes and sometimes a voice from the set will stick in Michael’s head. This time I’m happy to say it was Lockdown![[wysiwyg_imageupload:15995:]]
Cosmic Book News: How would you describe Lockdown?
Mark Ryan: As Michael has stated previously I think Lockdown is a very interesting, mysterious and complex character. He roams the galaxy freely and is focused and dispassionate about his mission. He doesn’t really want to take sides at all and to him it’s all just business. He has absolutely no interest in the future fate of humanity whatsoever. Lockdown’s ship has epic history and there’s a lot of backstory about that ship and it’s origins in the Transformer’s mythos yet to be revealed.
Cosmic Book News: We recently got a listen to Lockdown in the “Villain” spot (see below) for Transformers: Age Of Extinction, how did you approach the character? How is approaching the voice of Lockdown different than your versions of Bumblebee and Jet Fire?
Mark Ryan: I decided to go for a more Hannibal Lecter/Anton Chigurh tone for Lockdown on the set. Very calm, amoral and sociopathic to match the dialogue, yet contrast the massive scene of mayhem and merciless carnage going on all around, and it stuck!
Cosmic Book News: Can you describe the process of recording the voice for Lockdown? Was Michael Bay present for direction? Did you record your scenes prior to filming, during production or post-production? Were any of the other actors present? Were you provided with any footage as a reference?
Mark Ryan: Michael is totally involved with every aspect of the V/O process throughout production and we usually work very closely together. It’s a very creative process and we have a lot of fun. During filming I get direction and cues from Michael as we’re riding the dialogue and camera moves. I’m usually watching Michael’s monitor and Amir’s to see the actor’s close-ups and where the cameras are going. I’m listening to the actors through a sound link and doing the dialogue through a radio-mic. It’s very live and kinetic. We’ve reworked and refined the actual “on-set” process quite a lot over the last seven years and have it down to a fine art now. Michael was very smart to have a live “reactive” element to the acting process on set, and I usually get to work with all of the actors during shooting. I have spoken to other pals working on CGI type projects and it’s one of the most difficult aspects, acting to a dead green screen or light-pole with no actor there to actually bounce dialogue and drama off. This onset flexibility gives him and the actors a chance to deliver lines with various emphases or pacing and keeps it spontaneous!
Cosmic Book News: What are your thoughts on voice acting compared to live acting?
Mark Ryan: I’ve been a Merry Man, and honorary Knight of the Round Table, a pirate quartermaster and several giant alien robots! That’s not counting the theatre roles I’ve played. Obviously there is a huge technical difference in both disciplines and both have their own artistic fulfillment aspect, as does sword choreography. They are all still part of the same dramatic process though, and I get tremendous satisfaction from all three mediums. I don’t think I’d swap with many folks. I did enjoy playing Gates very much as it was like slipping into a well-worn and comfortable pair of old boots. Very easy to step into and comfortable to wear. Again Michael Bay in the form of his production arm, Platinum Dunes, brought the scale, vision and VSFX to make the show epic and ground breaking. So Nasir and Gates come a very close second and third to being associated with Bumblebee, Jetfire, and Lockdown.
Cosmic Book News: You have a pretty long and varied resume before the Transformers franchise. So is there another project you’ve done that you perhaps wish more people would have seen, or that you think you did particularly well in?
Mark Ryan: Robin of Sherwood and Nasir was obviously a huge part of my life for the last 30 years and we just celebrated its anniversary with a huge gathering in Chepstow, South Wales where we filmed many scenes. RoS seems to have picked up a whole new following with a younger generation, as it’s still the definitive show about the Robin Hood legend. It was the launching pad for many careers both on and off the screen and started a whole new way of making TV. It was groundbreaking then and still holds up now in style and depth.
Cosmic Book News: We see you are also starring in the Starz series Black Sails, which is executive produced by Michael Bay. What can you tell us about the series and your character Gates?
Mark Ryan: Gates is a blue-collar guy who is in a position of power with the crew. In those days, it was very democratic onboard ship. The pirates could vote people in and out of office, including the captain. So Gates is juggling all of these different cultural, racial and spiritual elements within the crew, and trying to focus that energy to put it behind Flint. The role offered a whole array of different facets to a character that Gates has to have. You have to be funny; you have to be charming; you have to be able to be a disciplinarian. You have to understand different cultures and the drives of human beings.
When I read the part, I realized straight away that I knew this man and I knew this character. Jon Steinberg and I were just chatting and he was telling me a little bit about the show, and he said, “Now, will you tell me what you know about this character?” And I said, “I know this character because I’ve done this job.” I was a non-commissioned officer in the British Army and their role as middle management is to take orders from the office and get the men to carry them out, sometimes in dangerous and nasty situations. I said, “The officers give the orders, but it’s the sergeants mess that carries them out and makes things happen.” And he went, “I get it, that’s the character.”
I think Jon [Steinberg] also said something that was very insightful and interesting; he said, “Everybody thinks they know this universe, the pirate universe.” But really what you get is either a cartoony sort of history, or a false idea of what it was like because of the pirate films of the ’30s and ’40s — whereas the history is very different, and actually much more interesting and intriguing.
The background to how the pirates became pirates and outlaws, it’s fascinating in itself. The period is at the turning point of upheavals where it’s not long before the American Revolution; it’s not long before the French Revolution. It’s not long before the British Navy basically becomes the commanding force on the surface of the planet. But the pirates were rebelling against all of that traditional and royal control and against households and corruption. They were the privateers originally hired by the royal household to fight on behalf of their country, and were then outlawed by the very people who had hired them. The privateers felt their own country and their rulers had betrayed them.
The production built one full size boat and a half a ship, so you could see into the decks. They were fully rigged with gun decks and storage areas. It was quite an amazing set to work on. It was in a couple of acres of water that were fifteen feet deep. The town itself, Nassau, where a lot of the action takes place looks amazing. Whichever way you look you see pirate camps, brothels, taverns, storehouses, and we had the fort. You were literally in that universe with a beach and the water and the waves. And that’s what you expect from a Michael Bay show; production values that are rich, beautifully shot and on an epic scale.
Cosmic Book News: Care to share or tease anything else that might be coming up that you are involved with?
Mark Ryan: Watch Lockdown’s facial expressions. You might see a few piratical looks and a bit of familiar eyebrow acting thrown in there! I’m also looking at presenting a TV series about various historic, esoteric figures that’s in development and my biography will be released sometime in late July.
“Transformers: Age Of Extinction” is currently in theaters starring Mark Ryan as the voice of Lockdown; Catch Season 1 of “Black Sails” on Starz, with Season 2 coming soon.
Plot threads from Justice League of America, a new heroine from far, far up North, space-spanning action featuring some Strange space-farers, and Moose Factory.
All of these will be a part of the revamped book coming your way this month by writer Jeff Lemire and artist Mike McKone. Justice League United will be a cosmic property but with that slice-of-life touch taking place in VERY rural Northern Canada, their HQ.
To get more on this approaching treasure, Cosmic Book News Managing Editor Byron Brewer took a ride to a small asteroid this side of the planet Rann and exclusively discussed the new book with Lemire himself.
Cosmic Book News: Jeff, tell us how Justice League United came into being and how much of that stems from Justice League of America, storywise.
Jeff Lemire: Well, to be honest, the first story arc is about this team coming together, so I won’t spoil that.
I will say that there is a connection to the JLA. Green Arrow, Stargirl and Martian Manhunter all clearly want to keep the team together at the end of the JLA run, so their connection is the key. But this tea will be very different.
The JLA was a government run group designed to counter the Justice League. These heroes are tired of being the pawns of political agenda. They want to return to being heroes, to inspiring others instead of fighting amongst themselves.
Jeff Lemire: LOTS. This is a cosmic book in every way. Though, unlike many cosmic books, it will still maintain a strong link to what’s going on on Earth and with the rest of the
Rann and Thanagar play a big role in the first arc as does Czarnia. And the scope of the book will continue to expand as the series unfolds all building to a massive cosmic story in the book’s second arc.
Jeff Lemire: Actually, I think the new teenaged hero, Equinox, is the POV character. She is new to the superhero community and experiencing all these larger than life characters and situations for the first time, like the reader.
Jeff Lemire: Well, as I said, Equinox is our new hero. She is a Cree teenager from Moose Factory, Ontario, and her powers and history were based on various Cree legends, stories and beliefs.
Jeff Lemire: Not directly. I want it to have its own identity. Space is a BIG place. Not everything needs to connect.
Jeff Lemire: Can’t tell you that without spoiling everything. But I will say that ALANNA STRANGE plays as big or bigger role in the team as Adam does. And she is VERY different from the pre-New 52 version.
Jeff Lemire: I hope to shine a light on Canada’s most overlooked and misrepresented communities, meaning the aboriginal or First Nation community. The Earthbound aspect of the book primarily takes place in an isolated northern Canadian community called Moose Factory which is home to one of Canada’s First Nations, the Moose Cree First Nation.
Jeff Lemire: I’m trying to keep a balance. The adventure aspect of the book will primarily be space bound, but the team will always have a base and a connection to Earth. So the more “slice of life” aspects will be on Earth.
Jeff Lemire: Incredible sense of character. The emotion and life he infuses into each character is key to making the team dynamic and interaction work. He also brings a great sense of design to the page layouts.
Jeff Lemire: I’m also co-writing the weekly DC comic Future’s End with Brian Azzarello, Keith Giffen and Dan Jurgens. And in addition this November DC will be publishing the original graphic novel Teen Titans: Earth 1 written by myself and drawn by Terry and Rachel Dodson. And I have a number of creator-owned projects that will be announced in the coming months.
Cosmic Book News would like to thank Jeff Lemire for answering our questions during his busy schedule. We would also like to thank DC’s own Steven Solomon who helped make this interview possible.
“Justice League United” #0 hits stores April 23rd!
Last week, Dynamite Entertainment announced it had signed writer Cullen Bunn (Sixth Gun, Magneto) to pen a new story of its perennial period protagonist, the Shadow, as he meets the elusive magician Houdini.
How do pulp and presto-chango team up? To get the answers to that question and more, Cosmic Book News Managing Editor Byron Brewer exclusively turned into a bar and questioned Mr. Cullen about the project.
No trick photography was used during this interview.
Cosmic Book News: The Shadow is having a zero issue! Cullen, how did you become involved?
Cullen Bunn: I’ve been talking to Nick, Joe and Molly at Dynamite for a while now. We’ve wanted to work together on something, but we were all waiting for the right project. When they called me and mentioned the Shadow, I knew this would make a great first Dynamite book! I mean… The Shadow! Talk about a character with meat on the bones!
Cullen Bunn: I can’t say much right now! I’m sworn to secrecy! But there’s definitely more in the works. In fact, there might be a few different things in the works right now.
Cullen Bunn: Well, what we learn is that Lamont Cranston and Houdini were acquaintances long before Lamont became the Shadow. To aid him in his quest for justice, the Shadow gathered a diverse set of skills. In this case, who better to teach him the art of escape?
Cullen Bunn: In this story, Houdini is a little older, nearing those final days and his mysterious death.
Cullen Bunn: Our villains in this book are members of a secret order of magicians, illusionists and escape artists. They want to know Houdini’s greatest secret—a secret he took beyond the grave—and they’re willing to kill to get it!
Cullen Bunn: I’ve always been interested in magical history and the great stage performers. Everyone thinks I’m joking when I say this, but my father was a very talented stage hypnotist for many years. So many elements of that lifestyle are fascinating to me. In this story, I try to delve into the “world” of performing magicians … and how it can seem somewhat otherworldly.
Cullen Bunn: I think every writer approaches the character a little differently while trying to be true to the pulp origins. This Shadow plays a little more mysteriously, I suppose, with an undercurrent of sardonic wit.
Cullen Bunn: Perhaps my earliest exposure to superhero stories was from The Shadow. My dad used to recount tales of the radio show he listened to when he was a boy. So, some of this story is drawn from those memories, as well as many of the pulp stories (The Shadow or otherwise) that I’ve read over the years.
Cullen Bunn: No way! Those folks are awful! But they know my “true name” and if I don’t do as they command, they’ll banish me back to the underworld.
Cullen Bunn: At this point, I don’t know who the artist for the book will be. Whoever it is, I hope he or she enjoys drawing crazy booby traps, esoteric artifacts, wild tigers, and lots and lots of gunplay!
Cullen Bunn: Absolutely! The Zero Issue really only whetted my appetite for more!
Cullen Bunn: I’ll give you points for trying! But I really can’t say too much about what’s in store. The projects on the horizon with Dynamite definitely play to my horror, pulp and action sensibilities, though.
Cosmic Book News would like to thank Cullen Bunn, even keeping his secrets, for taking time out of his busy convention schedule to talk with us. Thanks also to Nick Barrucci and Keith Davidsen who helped make this interview possible.
Although Dynamite Entertainment just today formally announced that writer Gail Simone was extending her critically acclaimed run on its Red Sonja comic, Cosmic Book News M.E. Byron Brewer was already exclusively working behind-the-scenes during the Emerald City Con to get the scoop on this issue.
Discussing her best-selling run, Simone and Brewer talk everything from female characters (and writers!) to working for Dynamite and what makes the She-Devil with a Sword (Sonja, that is) such a great character to write.
Cosmic Book News: Gail, when we first interviewed you about doing Red Sonja for Dynamite, we discussed the seeming phenom of more women writers and more women characters in comics. Is that something that you see continuing in the industry?
Gail Simone: Oh, yeah, definitely…there was a little span of time where the female writers before me had left comics, and I felt very oddball showing up over and over again as the only female writer on superhero panels, and the only female guest at cons. I can’t even express how happy I am to not only see people like Kelly Sue DeConnick and Marjorie Liu and more coming into the industry, but some of my favorites like Devin Grayson, Christy Marx and Nancy Collins are coming back after a long absence. It’s lovely. It was a dream of mine for a long time, now it’s happening.
Gail Simone: I like that she’s earthy and bawdy. She wants a haunch of meat and about twenty ales and three jugs of wine and maybe a good scrap once in a while. I write a lot of characters like Batgirl, who live in their own heads a great deal. Sonja lives in the moment, in the exact spot where she’s standing. She changes history waking up in the morning. She’s just a blast, she’s in my heart now.
Gail Simone: Well, a lot of it is how Dynamite treats both myself and the book, to be honest. Dynamite has been open to some pretty wild ideas and we all took those risks together. It’s a joy seeing so many people discover Sonja for the first time, especially people who don’t usually buy Dynamite, or sword and sorcery comics.
But it’s also simply a matter of having one of the most charismatic and wildly entertaining lead characters in comics. Simply put, I’m not done with her yet, and she’s clearly not done with me.
Gail Simone: We did a pretty serious first arc, the second is more fanciful. In our third arc, it’s several connected stories where I get to do the most fun part of these books … monsters! It’s full of creepy crawlies, and a real theme about forgiveness.
Gail Simone: Not telling … but yes and YES.
Gail Simone: I want to be careful here, because I don’t want to give the wrong impression, but a lot of sword and sorcery comics in the past have tended to be a bit alienating. You know, first page is a map and some dull narration about the fallen empire of Wienerstan. I wanted to try to incorporate that stuff in a more organic way. And I want to present Sonja as a woman with bad manners and many other flaws. I think people know we are all having a blast, and it shows in the book. It’s a labor of love.
And I also have to say, SO much of the credit has to go to the art team. It’s Walter Giovani just nailing it every issue, topping himself time and again. Great colors by Adriano Lucas and perfect lettering by Simon Bowland, it’s just an amazing looking book every time.
And the covers are just a feast, we got the best female artists anywhere, all my favorites, and they have just gone wild with Sonja.
There are a ton of good comics out there, but I think people can feel the love in this book.
Gail Simone: Well, that’s the thing, I HAD all those dreams, and we went out and did them! We got covers by Colleen Doran, Amanda Conner, Becky Cloonan, just on and on and on, and then we did Legends of Red Sonja with a virtual Who’s Who of all my favorite female authors, some who had never done comics before. My dreams have already come true in a big way.
And honestly, I am so happy working with Walter that I can hardly ask for more.
Gail Simone: I would hope they would say, damn, that redhead is badass.
And Sonja’s pretty cool, too!
Cosmic Book News would like to thank the fantastically busy Gail Simone for taking time during the madness of the Emerald City Con to answer our questions. Thanks to Dynamite’s own Nick Barrucci and Keith Davidsen who helped make this interview possible.
A new (or rather old) master of the mystic arts returns to the comic book page in May when Dynamite Entertainment presents Doctor Spektor, written by Mark Waid (Daredevil, Indestructible Hulk) with art by Neil Edwards (X-Factor, Fantastic Four).
Unlike most of the comic book magic community, Doc Spektor dwells in a world full of vampires, werewolves and mad sorcerers, true … but he does so while also taking bows in the public spotlight. For cash!
To get to the heart of this seeming narcissistic necromancer,
Cosmic Book News: Mark, how did this Gold Key returnee happen to fall to you?
Mark Waid: Nick and I had lunch at C2E2 2013 where he revealed to me his secret Gold Key plans, and he knows how much I love to dig into and re-think “forgotten” characters.
Mark Waid: Not as a writer, but I defy you to find a Silver or Bronze Age comics character I’m NOT familiar with. (smiles)
Mark Waid: Adam Spektor, who lives in world in which ghost, ghouls, goblins and monsters are very real, is a celebrity monster-hunter who’s made a super-fortune as the star of his own reality series. He’s half-supernatural buster, half-performer, and he loves his job. At least, until he comes across something in his world that genuinely frightens him–and you can imagine that if vampires and werewolves are old hat to this guy how horrifying that “something” must be. I challenge you to guess what it is.
Mark Waid: Doctor Strange meets Booster Gold.
Mark Waid: It works very, very lucratively. As I say, he’s made a fortune many times over–which is good, because ancient spells and potions do NOT come cheap.
Mark Waid: He asks himself the same question at the beginning of issue #1. By issue’s end, he has the answer.
Mark Waid: A robot fighter, a dinosaur hunter, and a man of the atom.
Mark Waid: Great. What energy this guy has! His work will knock you over.
Mark Waid: I don’t … OH. OH! It’s fun and it’s a privilege–Nick and editor Nate Cosby have put together a really stellar group of creators, so I have to up my game.
Mark Waid: Still doing Hulk and Daredevil at Marvel; relaunching Insufferable and another project at my digital comics website, Thrillbent.com, in April; tinkering with another Dynamite project … I’m crazy busy, but that’s a good problem to have!
Cosmic Book News would like to thank Mark Waid for taking time out of his very busy schedule to answer our questions. We would also like to thank Dynamite’s own Nick Barrucci and Keith Davidsen who helped make this interview possible.
“Doctor Spektor” #1 hits stores May 28th!
She has been murdered, reborn, spurned by her blind lover, a thief, an assassin, a hero, an anti-hero and even kidnapped and replicated by invading alien Skrulls.
In the long life of Elektra, it is safe to say no time has been dull. That is why there is excitement over a coming new treatment of the character by writer Haden Blackman and artist Mike Del Mundo which debuts in April.
To get to the heart of the matter, Cosmic Book News M.E. Byron Brewer caught up with Blackman and exclusively delved into his plans for Marvel’s most misunderstood assassin.
Cosmic Book News: With Zeb Wells popularly announced to be the author of Elektra, how did Haden Blackman become involved?
Haden Blackman: After Jim Williams and I stepped away from Batwoman, Stephen Wacker was kind enough to offer us a safe place to land at Marvel with Elektra. Jim’s schedule with Sandman prevented him from collaborating on the book, but after I was assured that Zeb’s departure was based on his television commitments and nothing else, I began working up a pitch with editor Sana Amanat. The whole process took about a month, but most of that was me just making sure I had something to say about Elektra and that I could get into her head in a way that readers will hopefully find interesting.
Haden Blackman: Growing up reading comics, I didn’t really follow specific writers — I cast a wide net and read everything I could get my hands on. Over time, I kept coming back to the writers who wrote stories or created characters that I just couldn’t forget (and I would often read and reread those issues and arcs over and over again). Frank Miller is part of that list — which also includes Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, John Byrne, J.M. DeMatteis, Chris Claremont and Jim Starlin, among others — largely due to the Elektra storyline in Daredevil, which I found incredibly powerful as a kid. There’s no doubt that Frank Miller will be forever linked to the character, and any interpretation of Elektra needs to take that into account. At the same time, I am looking at that as Elektra’s starting point. So many great Elektra storylines have come since, including Zeb’s Dark Reign arc. If I am so fortunate, I’d like to be able to create a version of Elektra that outwardly resembles Zeb’s taciturn, focused, and resourceful warrior, with the inner workings of Miller’s more conflicted and edgy Elektra from Elektra Assassin.
Haden Blackman: The Elektra ongoing is firmly grounded in the Marvel Universe, but we’re going to be taking her to the far corners of that world, putting Elektra into locations and conflicts that might be a bit unexpected. Along the way, we’ll be introducing new rivals and enemies, allies and eventually perhaps even a new love interest or two. The supporting cast will be a mix of exiting and new characters, but the first few issues definitely put the emphasis on “new.”
We’re not completely ignoring her past — in fact, there are a great many references to the key events that helped shape her — but we’re also not dwelling on it or rehashing hold ground. For example, while The Hand makes an appearance in the first issue, ninja are not the central threat that Elektra will be facing in the foreseeable future — we’ve seen that fight played out too many times already, and we know how it ends. Instead, I want to pit Elektra against enemies that pose a new challenge, one that she might not be able to readily overcome.
Haden Blackman: In the first arc, Elektra has realized that she’s spent most of her life letting other people define and control her, whether that’s her father, the Hand, the Kingpin, or even Daredevil. Now, she’s trying to break free of that cycle, but she doesn’t really know where to begin, so she falls back on the one thin she does know about herself — she’s a damn good assassin. Elektra takes a job to hunt down Cape Crow, a legendary contract killer who has been in hiding for years. But, the contract she accepts is one that requires her to bring him in alive. Meanwhile, other assassins are looking to put his head on a platter.
Haden Blackman: Absolutely. Again, we’re definitely not ignoring her past. Bullseye makes an appearance in the first issue, for example, but in a way that will hopefully be unexpected for readers.
Haden Blackman: Yes! Mike Del Mundo came up with an amazing design for a villain that feels very different from anyone Elektra has fought in the past, and I worked up a pretty dark backstory to go along with those sketches. As with Elektra, we’ll be getting into this villain’s head, hearing his thoughts and learning more about him with each issue. The character is gruesome on some level, but also hopefully a bit charismatic and fun to read. And, he’s a bit different from a standard Elektra villain in that he has actual superpowers — he’s not just a skilled combatant (though he is that too), but he has a whole lot of abilities that put her at a decided disadvantage.
Haden Blackman: I hope so. While outwardly she remains fairly terse — she doesn’t necessarily open up and confide in others easily — we will actually be spending a fair amount of time in her head, getting a glimpse at her thoughts and feelings and memories. I feel that the way that Elektra looks at the world, the things she remembers and obsesses about, will surprise readers.
Haden Blackman: Mike is an incredible talent. I really value his ability to make even bloody combat beautiful on some level. He’s also amazing with panel design, and cramming a ton of information into a single spread without making it feel crowded. In Issue #1, we have a spread drawing parallels between ballet and fighting, and then another that makes subtle comparisons between Elektra and the new villain. Mike also had to design a number of new characters, including Matchmaker, a woman who connects assassins with lucrative contracts that fit their skills. She’s an anachronism in many ways, and he designed her clothing, environment and even equipment to capture this feeling.
Haden Blackman: Probably not. Batwoman and Elektra are two incredibly different characters. Batwoman had a very well-defined, strong moral center, and lines that we knew she absolutely would never cross. Elektra is still defining those things for herself, which to me is very interesting to explore. I also felt like our run on Batwoman was very much about family dynamics — we wanted to tear it down and build it back up. Elektra is focused on other themes, including the search for that moral center.
With all that said, one thing we always tried to champion with Batwoman that I will continue to push with Elektra is the idea that there is no status quo — Elektra needs to change over time, and things can’t just “go back to normal” after the end of each arc. There is no “normal” when it comes to Elektra.
Haden Blackman: I’m really honored to be part of the Madefire family. Madefire produces incredibly immersive motion books that I think are going to redefine graphic storytelling.The first few episodes of my graphic novel The Irons are currently available on the platform. The story is set in the future, on an overpopulated “Ellis Island” world where the impoverished populace is being hunted by a serial killer known as the Hijacker, who hacks the planet’s system of teleporters to abduct and then mutilate his victims. A deeply-in-debt and bitter detective is chasing the murderer in the hopes that she can earn the reward for his capture and finally buy her way off-world. I’m again working with a great artist in Gary Erskine (Warheads), who has created an amazingly detailed world.
Cosmic Book News would like to thank Haden Blackman for taking time out of his schedule to answer our questions about his new book. Thanks also to Marvel’s own Chris D’Lando, who helped make this interview possible.
“Elektra” #1 hits stores in April!
The Man of Bronze is busting loose monthly in his own ongoing from Dynamite, but apparently that is not enough to contain the first superhero. So the King of Pulp will be coming out in an all-new annual in May by Shannon Eric Denton with art and cover by Roberto Castro.
Following the loss of a squad mate, Doc is on the way to South America to connect with an old flame and, although he does not know it, do a major reassessment of his life, his place in the scheme of things. No relaxing here as adventure is around every curve.
To get more details on this annual, Cosmic Book News M.E. Byron Brewer met exclusively with Shannon Eric Denton to discuss Doc’s strange place in the hearts of comic book fans.
Cosmic Book News: Doc Savage barely has its ear wet as a book. How did an annual crop up so soon?
Shannon Eric Denton: Well, after 80-plus years in existence we felt like the time was right! Chris and Bilquis are doing such an awesome job with the regular series. That excitement they generated for the character led the fine folks at Dynamite to make it happen now which I am extremely grateful for!
Shannon Eric Denton: I’ve worked with Dynamite a lot from projects like the Spider to Green Hornet to the Lone Ranger, etc. Dynamite has some awesome characters in their arsenal of books. Many of these characters I spent my childhood learning about so it’s rewarding when you can mix your fandom with your professional career as a writer. Molly Mahan, Joseph Rybandt and Nick Barrucci had been told many times (by myself) how much I loved Doc Savage so when the opportunity arose they were kind enough to ask me to be involved.
Shannon Eric Denton: I didn’t want to get it in the way of anything Chris was doing so it’s set right before the first Doc Savage novel, The Man of Bronze. So it’s in the continuity but pre-dating it. My Doc Savage is a little more unsure of his destiny and preparing to step into the role that we all know and love.
Shannon Eric Denton: There’s a lot of stuff thrown in. From my own real-world experiences living in New Mexico to travels down into Mexico to my love of the pulps, comic books, and movies of this era. It’s really tough to lock down any one element as I tried to fit so much into this story to truly make it worthy of being a Doc Savage adventure.
Shannon Eric Denton: Really it’s about the discovery of who he is. He knows who he’s supposed to be from his isolated upbringing. His childhood was spent training to be the best of the best in all fields but what we’ll see in this story is a guy who isn’t really sure that’s who he wants to be. Many of us have expectations put on us in our lives. It’s sometimes hard to sort out your expectations of yourself versus the expectations of others upon you. Sometimes those turn out to be the same thing but getting to that point of acceptance isn’t always easy. So basically what we’ll discover is that despite being superhuman in so many ways, really he’s just a human like any of us …who happens to be able to do advanced surgery, a zillion push-ups, and achieve scientific breakthroughs in his spare time!
Shannon Eric Denton: Yes! We’ve got several and I’m really looking forward to revisiting a few of them! Doc is really going to have his hands full in this issue!
Shannon Eric Denton: I hope so. I set it up in a way that works with what Chris is doing but could spin off in a number of ways. I know the first annual isn’t out yet but there are still stories to be told!
Shannon Eric Denton: Fun! Doc Savage (and that whole era of the pulps) was meant to be fun. They were an adventure-filled escape so I’m hoping the fans are able to experience that sense of fun and adventure with my story.
Shannon Eric Denton: Roberto is amazing. It’s nice working with someone whose draftsmanship is so good. The pages coming in are truly phenomenal.
Shannon Eric Denton: Yes! So much fun stuff out there soon! I’ve got Ash & the Army of Darkness Annual (also from Dynamite), the X-Files Annual from IDW, and tons of fun stuff I’m editing for Lion Forge like Miami Vice, Knight Rider, Airwolf and Rampage Jackson. You should also be watching the show I storyboarded on called Ultimate Spider-Man on Disney XD! For more info, go to www.shannondenton.com! Thanks!
Cosmic Book News would like to thank Shannon Eric Denton for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. We would also like to thank Dynamite’s own Nick Barrucci and Keith Davidsen for helping make this interview possible.
“Doc Savage” Annual 2014 hits stores in May!
To understand that Larime Taylor is responsible for any one part of comic book production is impressive. To realize he is a virtual one-band band (he writes, pencils, inks, shades and letters black-and-white comics) is nothing short of miraculous.
To him, it is just something that he loves to do.
Taylor was born with Arthrogryposis, a birth defect that stunts development of the limbs in utero, and leaves him with very little use of his arms and legs. He uses a power wheelchair to get around, and he draws with his mouth. He is usually the sole creator on his books (although his wife has begun to take a hand, he said). He works on a WacomCintiq, doing everything digitally.
One of the announcements coming from Top Cow during the last SDCC was a new ongoing from this unique writer/artist called A Voice in the Dark, which launched in November 2013. Issue #5 hits stores Wednesday, and at this point in time the comic book machine that is Taylor ponders his future and that of his book.
Cosmic Book News Managing Editor Byron Brewer caught up with Taylor exclusively to see how the unique comic producer is doing.
Cosmic Book News: What has it been like with the creation of your own comic book?
Larime Taylor: A lot of work! Seriously, though, doing the whole thing myself means a lot of long nights to meet deadlines. I’m doing the writing, art and lettering on a monthly 22-page book and I haven’t missed a deadline yet. A lot of people assume comics is the greatest job in the world — and it can be, it’s great — but it’s also a job. It has its ups and downs like anything. Meeting fans at shows and signings, reading email from readers all over the world, there’s nothing like it. Seeing your hard work in a physical comic you can touch and read is amazing. There are also 18-hour days of mindless toning, page set-up and lettering. Days spent drawing from when you get up to when you go to bed. Still, it’s been great so far, all things considered. I’m thrilled to be doing it.
Larime Taylor: Issue #5 comes out on Wednesday (March 19). There are two more issues in this first arc, April and May, and then the trade comes out in June. That’s all guaranteed. Whether or not there’s more beyond that really depends on sales of #7 and, more importantly, the trade. If things hold exactly as they are and the trade does decent, there’s a good chance I’ll do more. Sales always drop from issue to issue until you find your baseline, and right now I think #6 is literally 90 copies lower than #5, so I think we’ve found it. If it kept dropping 300-500 per issue, I’d have to wrap it up and move on, but it looks like the bleeding has stopped. I can get by on what it’s selling right now — it’s not the huge (for me) paycheck of #1, but it’s enough to survive. If I had to guess, I’d say there will probably be at least another arc after the first trade, but you never know.
Larime Taylor: Oh, I’m not going anywhere. I have several more books in development just as a writer with other artists attached, but none of them are greenlit and in production yet. Top Cow has told me if Voice drops below what I can get by on, we just wrap it up and do something new, so I’ll be making another book if it comes to that. They’ve been really supportive.
Larime Taylor: Keep pre-ordering it. Get the trade when it comes out. Maybe buy a copy for a friend. If the trade does well, it can boost monthly sales on the next arc. Issue #1 is free online at the Top Cow website, so tell your friends.
Larime Taylor: It was amazing. A really great experience. The trick is building the audience to keep the numbers up there.
Larime Taylor: Like I said, I’m working on a few books with other artists, so we’ll see what comes of that. The next book I write and draw myself will be about fallen angels in Las Vegas. It’ll be very different from Zoey’s story, more action-based. My wife, who colors my Voice covers from #3 forward, will be coloring interiors on it, so you can get a sense of what it’ll look like based on those.
Larime Taylor: Hopefully, more work! I’d love to write a licensed property, or something for the Big 2. I’ve been wanting to create a new Oracle-style character at DC now that Babs is out of the chair. We need another disabled hero. If anyone at DC is interested …
Larime Taylor: No, not yet. I mean, I got it published, which was my main goal, but as far as all of the stories I want to tell with it, I have barely scratched the surface. I hope I get to tell more of them.
Cosmic Book News would like to thank Larime Taylor for taking time to answer our questions.
“A Voice in the Dark” #5 from Top Cow hits stands March 19th!
This year saw many highs for the show and the artist, including the publication of Cryptozoic Man by Dynamite Entertainment, a project that first began as a plot prop on
Walt, who is just the kindest man this side of Krypton, continues to co-host the “Tell ‘Em Steve-Dave!” podcast with longtime friends Bryan Johnson and Brian Quinn.
He met exclusively with
Cosmic Book News: With only a handful of episodes left, Walt, what would you say was this season’s highlight thus far?
Walt Flanagan: Hmmm … for me? The launch of Cryptozoic Man at the Baltimore con. Truly a dream come true.
Walt Flanagan: Wow, that’s a tough question … have I changed? I don’t think so. I’d be disappointed in myself if I did change. But really only someone else other than me is more qualified to answer the question, “Have I changed?”
Walt Flanagan: The retired New Jersey Devils … that was surreal, almost like it didn’t happen.
Walt Flanagan: Amazing. I can’t thank Nick and Dynamite enough. I really enjoyed working under the Dynamite banner.
Walt Flanagan: I thought the reaction was pretty good. Even before the episode where we launched the book aired, I pre-sold the 4-issue series on my podcast “Tell ‘Em Steve-Dave!” and we pre-sold 20,000 copies grand total of the four issues. That blew me away. Our listeners really supported the comic and I will never forget that support.
Walt Flanagan: I think it’s my best work. That has a lot to do with my inker, Chris Ivy, and colorist, Wayne Jansen, who both did a wonderful job! I had so much fun designing weird creatures and Bryan really gave me a story where I could just go crazy a little doing my favorite thing: drawing monsters!
Walt Flanagan: The kiss?
Walt Flanagan: Not yet.
Walt Flanagan: Well, I do get noticed more at cons, but that’s understandable. That’s our target audience.
Walt Flanagan: Surpass Cops as the longest-running unscripted/reality series?
CBN: Well, any projects in the present or future that you would like to discuss?
Walt Flanagan: We just announced a “Tell ‘Em Steve-Dave!” Claymation movie earlier this month. Look for it in 2015.
Cosmic Book News would like to thank Walt Flanagan for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our very fanboy M.E.’s questions.
“Comic Book Men” airs Sundays on
Comic book and film maker Kaare Andrews will be doing something very unique in April: not only will he be taking Danny Rand out for a solo run in the new ongoing Iron Fist, the Living Weapon but he will be handling just about every creative chore on the book except printing and stapling.
Such dedication is little seen in comics, reminiscent of the days of King Kirby at DC and Jim Starlin at Marvel.
To get to the bottom of all this, Cosmic Book News M.E. Byron Brewer met exclusively with Andrews somewhere between K’un-Lun and Midgard. Our own Master of Gum Chew filed this interview.
Cosmic Book News: You have been gone from the comic book scene for awhile. What does this return mean for Kaare Andrews? Will we be seeing more work in comics from you?
Kaare Andrews: I know it feels like I’ve been out of the game for a while but I never really left. That would be like asking me to walk around without my skin on. I took a hiatus for about a year to direct another feature film and as I was wrapping that up, had a conversation with Axel about what I might do when I came back. After spending so much writing energy in film, I was excited to return to writing comics and Axel asked me to take a look at Iron Fist and see if I had any response to the character. I had painted some Iron Fist covers in the past but didn’t really understand the core of the character until I started reading those first issues in Marvel Premiere. Once I read those, I knew I had a way “in” and I knew I wanted to commit a significant amount of time to work on this book. I came up with a short paragraph about what I wanted to achieve and Axel and the others became excited. And away I went…
Of course by that I mean, away I went into researching the project. It’s a part of the process that I really enjoy but it also happens to be the part of the process you don’t actually get paid to participate in. So after about a month or so of hardcore research, I had put together a robust document that broke down all my characters, themes and plot for the next year. But it is the document I keep returning to, to stay on target, and stay on theme.
Kaare Andrews: I had to take Danny back to K’un-Lun because that first story, for me, defines Danny’s core. And it’s a story that’s been mostly forgotten. And forgotten by Danny most of all. But as the son of two counselors, I know that if you don’t deal with your past, your past will find a way to deal with you. This story is about the consequences of a character who spends ten years training to kill a man that murdered his parents, and refuses an offer to live among the gods, so that he may return home and take his bloody vengeance. That is a dark past. That is exciting and pure martial arts story telling.
With a return to K’un-Lun is a return to the characters that come from this world. But this isn’t a story where Danny teams up with his old friends to save the world. I have no interest in that kind of a story. For me, martial arts movies are about a singular journey. I keep saying this, but Kung Fu isn’t a team sport. It’s about the enlightenment and journey of one man. Read Siddhartha, it’s all in there. These are the origins of marital arts. One man versus another. One man versus a hundred. One man versus himself.
Kaare Andrews: I will promise you this. Danny Rand will never have been punished the way I am punishing him now. I love to just put my characters against impossible odds and see if they survive. This is Danny’s reckoning. And there will be blood.
Kaare Andrews: This is actually my second long form as a writer-artist. I had previously written and drawn Spider-Man: Reign. I’ve also written and drawn a lot of single issue stories, have written a mini for another artist, was a writer-artist on
Kaare Andrews: Well, the best part of a collaboration is the surprise of it all. The, “Oh, look what Jimmy wrote for me” or “look how Bill drew this story”. And by definition, that surprise comes from working with someone who is not connected to your core of creativity. There have been many great collaborations through the years and I’ve loved working with the most amazing writers around– like Mark Millar, Warren Ellis and Zeb Wells. But I found out a long time ago, and this is just my process and not a broad definition of everyone else’s situation, but FOR ME… the more aspects I take on, the better my work becomes. It’s like I’m still writing when I’m coloring and I’m plotting by pencilling. The separate processes become one singular process. And instead of trying to drive the machine or work a part of the machine, you become the machine itself. And for me, that is when I’m at my best. When there is no safety net. No one else to blame, no one else to prop you up. I’m saying, I’m not so much a master of singular aspect of comics but a disciple of the totality of comics.
And especially now, in the writer-driven era of comics, the writer-artist is a unique process. And it creates a unique result. I would even go so far as to say that if you’re goal is to create a different type of comic, you have to approach it in a different type of methodology. And it’s no coincidence that all of my heroes, all of the game changers from Steranko to Miller to Eisner, where writer-artists.
Kaare Andrews: Let’s be very clear. I have no interest, zero, in mocking the genre. It gives me no pleasure to give a wink to the audience. I’m approaching this book as nothing less than the examination of the soul of a human being who turned down immortality for the promise of death. I’m not saying there won’t be lighter parts to the book, a yin to the yang. But those moments will be character driven and earned. As will the darkness that follows.
Kaare Andrews: I can sum it up most easily like this. In film, I am leading a team of a hundred people towards a goal that I may not have originated and every day is a compromise, collaboration and negotiation. It’s a team sport. In comics, it’s me in a dark room and every single compromise is one I make with myself. It’s pure Kung Fu.
I love film and comics equally and in many ways they balance my artistic make-up. They really are Yin and Yang. And I plan on keeping one foot in each medium for a very long time.
Kaare Andrews: My only hope is that they leave that first arc with an overwhelming desire to read the second.
Kaare Andrews: I’m 100 percent focused on keeping Iron Fist my priority and everything else is being put in the backseat. I’m having the time of my life and this was the right time to commit to this project. Everything else falls away. I’m wrapping up issue 5 as we chat, so look forward to a monthly book on a monthly schedule. I hope you all pick up the book and have as much fun reading it as I did creating it.
Cosmic Book News would like to thank Kaare Andrews for taking time to answer our questions. We would also like to thank Marvel’s Chris D’Lando who helped make this interview possible.
“Iron Fist, the Living Weapon” hits stores in April!
Dynamite Entertainment in June will be taking comic book readers into the world of dark fantasy with Blood Queen #1.
Put together by the team of writer Troy Brownfield (Grimm Fairy Tales) and artist Fritz Casas (Miss Fury, Red Sonja), Blood Queen is set against the fairytale backdrop of knights and magic. Inspired by the true story of the Countess Elizabeth Bathory, Blood Queen imagines the Renaissance era as a colorful nightmare of mayhem, lust and sorcery.
To get to the heart of the matter, Cosmic Book News Managing Editor Byron Brewer and scribe Brownfield met beside the mote of an ancient castle in Scotland. There, our M.E. got this exclusive interview.
Cosmic Book News: So, Troy, is this something you pitched or …?
Troy Brownfield: I guess you could say that it’s a bit of a combination, Byron. I was approached by Blood Queen editor Molly Mahan; a basic premise existed, and she wanted to see what I could bring to it. I put together a proposal that spoke to what Dynamite wanted to accomplish with the book, and they went for it. It’s been a fun ride.
Troy Brownfield: Our setting is what you might call a fantasy kingdom. There’s a feudal system with a number of adjoining regions each ruled by a king. The kings meet in a council over particular dire events, and some of those events are coming. Within this setting, magic is quite real, and it’s ordered in a number of particular disciplines. That fact becomes a plot point very quickly. In a way, it’s like a familiar fairy tale kingdom, but there’s real world rot underneath.
Troy Brownfield: The main character is Elizabeth. She was raised by Elder Winnifred, a witch that’s tasked with teaching basic nature magic and healing to the royal daughters of the various kingdoms. As such, Elizabeth is extremely intelligent and skilled in various magic forms. A crisis in the kingdom sees Elizabeth sent to court to try to save a royal child. Other characters that we follow early are the knight Sir Ferenc, the king’s advisor Jon Hunter, and the king’s niece Helena (who arrives in issue #2).
Troy Brownfield: Honestly, it’s huge fun. In a fantasy setting with magic and monsters available, literally anything can happen. My goal is to be able to use these fabulous and unbelievable trappings, but weave into characters that have realistic and understandable motivations.
Troy Brownfield: I hope you find them all interesting. (laughs) Elder Winnifred might be my favorite; she’s got an intense backstory. Keep your eye on Helena, too.
Troy Brownfield: I’m taking the fifth on that. There’s an element of that which might become obvious early on, but the only thing that you should expect are twists and turns.
Troy Brownfield: My inspiration for a project never comes from one thing, exactly. In my mind, there’s a bit of a blend of the writings of Angela Carter, the Hammer Karnstein films, Disney’s Wicked Queen, the real-life Blood Countess Elizabeth Bathory, and metal (Dio, Ghost B.C., Slayer . . . particularly Slayer). And that’s not to say that I’m pulling some from column A and some from column B. You want to stir up those influences so that they float in a kind of storm front that makes its presence felt in the weather of the plot.
Troy Brownfield: Fritz Casas is awesome, period. I’d seen his work before and admired it, but the first character turns he did for this shocked me. And they shocked me because he made the cast look almost exactly like they looked in my head. There was no dissonance there at all; I literally thought they were perfect the first time that I saw them. He did a killer job on the first issue. He’s basically been asked to visualize a world from the ground up, and he’s doing a terrific job.
Troy Brownfield: A burning desire to read issue #2. Seriously, I really hope that they enjoy the story. There’s more to it than they might anticipate, and it looks great. I hope that the readers latch on to Elizabeth and the rest of the cast and are intrigued enough by events and the last panel to keep moving along with us. And in my opinion, the ending of issue 2 will be a shock.
Troy Brownfield: My webcomics Sparkshooter (drawn by the awesome Enkaru) and Solo Acoustic (art by the excellent Ben Olson) come out every Wednesday and Friday, respectively, at www.sparkshooter.com. And I’m writing Wonderland: Clash of Queens #3-5 for Zenescope beginning in April. I’m also hoping to do some more for Dynamite, as they’ve been outstanding through the process and announcement of Blood Queen. I can’t say enough good things about Molly Mahan, my editor, and I owe continual thanks to Nick Barrucci and the hard work of Keith Davidsen, Dynamite’s Marketing Manager. Nick has assembled a solid group of people over there, and they’ve really gotten behind what we’re doing on this book. I really hope the readers get into it, because I think it has the potential to be very cool and open to a long run.
Cosmic Book News would like to thank Troy Brownfield for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. Also thanks to Dynamite’s own Nick Barrucci and Keith Davidsen who helped make this interview possible.
“Blood Queen” #1 hits stores in June!
After reading and reviewing one of the best — and frighteningly grave — science fiction novels about to publish, I just had to interview sometime-comic book writer Daryl Gregory, author of Afterparty.
Gregory is one of the nicest writers I have dealt with since coming to Cosmic Book News, and that is why we have an exclusive chance to review this book of “smart drugs,” redemption and a chase around the continent.
Cosmic Book News: Daryl, tell us the concept behind Afterparty?
Daryl Gregory: The book’s a near-future SF thriller about designer drugs, and one drug in particular. NME 110 gives users the feeling that they’re in touch with a higher power. Overdose on the drug, and you might wake up with a permanent hallucination of a deity in your head.
NME 110 was suppressed by its creators, a group of five people in a startup, but now ten years later it’s out on the streets under the street name of Numinous. One of the creators, Lyda Rose, goes on the hunt to find out who released it.
CBN: Do you ever see such “smart drugs” coming over from science fiction to science reality? What would be the effect on the addict population, the criminal drug trade and the U.S. population as a whole?
Daryl Gregory: Smart drugs are here, now. What Afterparty suggests is that we’re teetering on the edge of a desktop drug revolution. The combination of CADD—computer assisted drug design, now in use by Big Pharma—plus the availability of chemical precursor packs, means that you could build a desktop drug printer. In the book I call it a chemjet. Once you decentralize the creation of novel drugs, you may end up with an explosion of new mind-altering substances.
Think of the desktop publishing revolution of the 90s. Suddenly, everyone could make their own posters and newsletters—usually awful ones. Now think of everyone creating their own drugs. We might get some interesting results, but also a lot of damage.
CBN: Scary! Tell us about your protagonist, Lyda Rose.
Daryl Gregory: She’s a neuroscientist who helped create Numinous, but she’s also a victim of it. Someone dosed her and her wife with a massive hit of the drug, which left Lyda’s wife dead, and left each of the survivors with their own personal “god” in their heads. Lyda’s is the angelic doctor named Dr. Gloria.
CBN: An imaginary doctor, huh?
Daryl Gregory: Lyda, as a scientist, knows that Dr. Gloria is a hallucination. But the illusion is so deeply wired into Lyda’s head that she can’t stop talking to the doctor, or stop depending on her advice when the going gets rough. The question the book asks is this: If there was a pill that could make you a better person, even if it made you believe in a being that no one else could see, would you take it?
There are several mysteries in the book. Who killed Lyda’s wife and dosed them all? Are they the same people who are making Numinous now? But the more important question for Lyda is, can she kick the habit of Dr. Gloria, and if she can, should she?
CBN: This book seems to go from noir thriller to zombie hunt to a chase across North America. One setting is hard enough, why the globetrotting?
Daryl Gregory: Well, the real zombie hunt was in my last novel, Raising Stony Mayhall, but there’s definitely a lot of chasing, from Toronto to New York to New Mexico—from snow to sand. I love driving cross country, and I’ve always loved road novels and movies. Many stories take the form of a journey—Lord of the Rings, anyone? —but there’s something built into the DNA of American storytelling, going back to westerns and gangster movies and noir classics, that likes showing tarnished heroes on the run, with the cops or bad guys (or badder bad guys) on their trail. Think Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, orBonnie and Clyde, or Thelma and Louise.
CBN: How real is the Numinous potentially?
Daryl Gregory: I think it’s eminently doable. There’s a researcher in Canada named Michael Persinger who designed the famous “God Helmet” that, in some cases, stimulates the brains of people so that they experience the presence of another being. There are other drugs that mimic the bliss of the numinous state. And there are plenty of studies of temporal lobe epilepsy that suggest the parts of the brain that might be responsible for generating these feelings of the divine. I think it’s only a matter of time before we find a drug that stimulates those brain areas.
CBN: How was the process of putting this novel together for you as a writer as opposed to, say, your first novel, Pandemonium?
Daryl Gregory: It turned out that Afterparty was more similar to Pandemonium than it was to my two more recent novels. The Devil’s Alphabet and Raising Stony Mayhall take more time, and Stony covers forty years in the un-life of a polite zombie from Iowa. This new book, like Pandemonium, was all about velocity. I’m a great lover of crime novels, and I wanted the plot to move every chapter.
CBN: BTW, very belated congratulations on the win for the 2009 IAFA William L. Crawford Fantasy Award. What did that honor feel like?
Daryl Gregory: I remember getting the call saying I’d won. It was very odd in two respects: I didn’t know about the award, and nobody had told me I was up for it. But then I looked at the names of the previous recipients, and it was very humbling. By far the best part of the award was getting to be on that list for years to come.
CBN: As a reader, you as the writer hope I walk away after reading Afterparty with …? What?
Daryl Gregory: The first thing I hope you say is damn, that was a fun read. But later, I hope you end up thinking about all the concepts in the book. If the book gets you musing about free will, the role of consciousness, and the subjectivity of religious feeling, then I’ve won.
CBN: Can you tell us what the next Daryl Gregory novel will be? At all?
Daryl Gregory: In August, I’ve got a short novel—a 39,000 word novella—coming out from Tachyon Publications called We Are All Completely Fine. It’s about a group of people who are all survivors of different types of horror stories, who gather together for small group therapy. They gradually realize their stories are more connected than they thought—and that they aren’t finished.
After that, I’ve got a Lovecraftian YA novel coming from Tor, and I’ve started work on the next adult SF novel. All the novel work has left me with less time for comics, but I am working on a creator-owned comic that I hope to announce more about soon.
Cosmic Book News would like to thank Daryl Gregory for talking with us abiout his latest sci-fi novel.
“Afterparty” comes out in April!
Wrapping up attorney Matt Murdock’s stay (and thus Daredevil’s) in the Big Apple in dramatic fashion in Daredevil #36, Mark Waid and Chris Samnee head west, young man, for the Conway corner of the Marvel U., San Francisco. But this isn’t your daddy’s City by the Bay.
To get the latest – from the reason for a relaunch and new #1 to what will the future holds for ol’ Hornhead,
Cosmic Book News: So, Mark, why a relaunch of a title after just 30-some issues? Another “jump on” gimmick?
Mark Waid: HA! No “gimmick,” I promise–just the beginning of a whole new approach to the book and the mythology of Daredevil, so it seemed like a good demarcation. Deciding if and when to reboot numbering is, as a writer, a decision made way above my pay grade, but in this case, I think it’s a decision with integrity.
Mark Waid: Much. Where’s Foggy? Whatever happened to that guy? How does a born-and-bred blind New Yorker make his way around a city like San Francisco with ease? What’s going on with Daredevil’s powers? Who is the new woman in his life? Time has passed since the end of the previous series, and much has changed for Matt–and we’re unspooling information gradually, not immediately.
Mark Waid: We will, in issues two and three. One more obscure, half-forgotten one. And he is NOT happy with Daredevil’s arrival.
Mark Waid: No one yet specifically pulled from Gerry’s run (though eventually), but a Deputy Mayor who acts as Matt Murdock’s liaison to the local authorities–and she’s got some interesting secrets.
Mark Waid: In fact, Javier Rodriguez, who’s our colorist and who’s drawing the fiftieth anniversary issue, asked the very same–and I’m happy to oblige. (Editor’s note: Natasha will be wrestling with nostalgia in her own visit to San Francisco in issue #7 of the new “Black Widow” series!)
Mark Waid: We’re way overdue for the return of the Owl, but Chris Samnee and I are revamping him with the same sort of grit and intensity with which Frank Miller reinvented Kingpin back in the day. And you’ll be shocked at who he brings with him.
Mark Waid: Now that his identity is public knowledge? There are threats around every corner. Seriously.
Mark Waid: A little bit of everything–anyone who works on modern superhero comics certainly stands on the shoulders of giants–but I’m mostly inspired these days by the storytelling intricacies of series like House of Cards or Breaking Bad, to tell the truth–the way they maintain suspense.
Mark Waid: Enthused? I wouldn’t have done it without him! I know a good thing when I’ve got it.
Mark Waid: Down the hall at Marvel, I’m also heading up the all-new Hulk relaunch with artist Mark Bagley. And that’s in addition to my duties as publisher/editor/guru for my own webcomics site, Thrillbent.com — free comics for the reading. Come see!
Cosmic Book News would like to thank Mark Waid for taking time out of his busy (and we mean busy!) schedule to chat with our humbled M.E. Thanks also to Marvel’s own Chris D’Lando who helped make this interview possible.
The all-new “Daredevil” #1 hits stands in March!