Halfway Through: Ed Brubaker Talks Angel of Death
Starring Zoe Bell, Angel of Death tells the story of Eve, an assassin who goes through a life-changing (to put it lightly) accident and as a result, finds herself haunted by an innocent who she killed in a hit gone bad. Very bad.
The strong-R rated series is told in seven to nine minute episodes available for free online and through phones with web access or a connection to Crackle.com.
So how’s the series going so far? We went to Ed to find out.
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Newsarama: So Ed - Angel of Death launched last week, and we're halfway through the 10-part series. What's the word? What have you been hearing on how it's being received?
Ed Brubaker: So far the response has been pretty overwhelmingly positive, from the reviews and the press we've been getting, to the fan response online and in person. It was really something to step off the plane in L.A. Monday with Zoe and my wife Melanie, and to see us on the front page of the Calendar section, with this huge article about me and her and Angel of Death. Then that night we went to a screening of all the episodes on the Sony lot, and it got a huge response from everyone, even all the Sony higher-ups were really impressed with what we did.
NRAMA: Let's talk about your response - how are you liking it so far?
EB: I think it came out beautifully, especially for the budget we had - a million dollars, basically. There are a few moments I wish we'd been able to film, but overall, I'm very pleased with the results.
NRAMA: Remind us again, how much were you involved with the production?
EB: I was involved in the pre-production more than anything. I went down for meetings and worked the outline and did the whole notes process on all that, and then I did three drafts of the screenplay. During filming I went down a few times for a week here and there, to be involved, but I was basically just a visitor. Paul Etheredge, the director, let me call "action" on a shot, though, and the last day I was there, I did some rewriting on set. But Paul and John Norris, the producer, and their whole crew, and Ron Yuan, the stunt director, really did everything.
Angel of Death promo image by Sean Phillips. Got an idea of the injury now?NRAMA: Looking at the final version, did you have to do more or less than you would have done with a comic script? This kind of struck me in episode 2 where we saw a sewing machine on the table beside her bed, along with a bunch of other assorted stuff. In a comic script, you would have told Sean to fill the table with x,y and z, but in live action, there's more detail...did you cover that level of detail, or was that done by production?
EB: It was about the same as a comic script, I think, but with more breathing room for dialog. You try not to overdo description, but to just imply a setting, so the Production Designer and Art Director can do their thing and have fun making the sets feel right for the mood of the film. I do the same for comic scripts, though. I rarely overload the panel description, because if I say "crazy mad-scientist's lab" that's all any good artist needs. You only tell them what they need to know to get their brain in the right place.
NRAMA: That said was it easy to give up a certain level of control? For example, you (and Sean) have total control in Criminal and Incognito, and here, it's more committee-like in terms of what the director says, what the DP says, action changes, not to mention slight changes to dialogue from even the actors themselves...
EB: It's never easy to give up control, no. I do comics the way I do because I'm a bit of a control freak. On a film, though, you learn to roll with it. Paul and I were on the same page as to what this film should be, and so were Mike Stradford and Robbie Huckell and all the other people at Sony, so it went well. But there were a few times when I'd hear a line change and have to stop myself from saying something, because you have to let it go. That said, about 90 percent or more of Angel is exactly what I wrote, even small dialog moments and jokes, and most of the rest of it is good stuff. The only lines I don't like are stuff I wrote, actually.
NRAMA: How different is it for you to hear and see actors reading your lines compared to all of the action and dialogue happening in your head for writing comics? Did it take some getting used to when you started watching the episodes?
EB: Not really. I read most of the script out loud before I sent it in, because writing for actors is different than for print.
NRAMA: How so?
EB: In comics, we try to write dialog that feels both real, and is compact so you don't overload the page with balloons. So stuff that looks right on the page often doesn't sound great spoken out loud. Chandler talked about this with Double Indemnity. James M. Cain's dialog in the novel looks perfect, but when the actors spoke it, it sounded terrible and cliché and wrong, so he had to rewrite all of it.
I didn't want to have anything like that happen, and I'm really happy it came out sounding like dialog, not writing.
EB: Well, we're all signed on for potential sequels, so I guess we'll just have to wait and see what Sony wants to do from this point on. I'd love to write another chapter in Eve's life, and I really want to work with Zoe and John and Paul again soon.
NRAMA: The DVD version of this is coming out in June - will it be seamlessly joined together, or will there still be chapter breaks?
EB: The DVD will be a feature film cut, and will probably be a lot different than the episode cuts. Some stuff didn't work in the episodes that will in a longer seamless cut, and some stuff that we needed for the episodes, so they all stand on their own a bit, won't be needed for the feature cut. I think it'll be a bit longer, but some stuff from the episodes won't be in it, and other stuff will, is what I'm hearing. I'm really excited to see what they do, and I was speaking to the director about some of it the other day.
NRAMA: Bigger-picture wise, I'm sitting here, in my living room, watching this in HD on my laptop. This was something that was announced last July, and I'm watching it now, fully realized, in a very Jetsons-like manner. Speaking for yourself, with this door open, both in writing and the technology making this kind of project possible, will it be harder for you to stay in comics? I mean, what if they come to you tomorrow and say, "Angel of Death did good enough that Sony wants another...what's this Incognito thing you've got?" Would you be in?
EB: It won't be hard to stay in comics, because comics is my life, really. I want to work more in film, and I'd love to do more screen writing, but I can do anything I want with Sean right now, and that kind of freedom is not widely available in Hollywood. Angel went incredibly smoothly, but all my other Hollywood stuff has never gone like that, and while we have a ton of interest in my stuff out there right now, between the Criminal books and Incognito, you can't count on anything until the check is in your hand.
I do have several deals in the works in various stages out there, but I've learned that you have to have a lot of irons in the fire in Hollywood.
NRAMA: Fair enough. Last thing - we can't let you go without a teaser, man - what's this week hold for us?
EB: Lucy Lawless! Lucy is in Monday's episode, and I think Wednesday or Thursday's, too. And she's just great in this. She brought a lot to her character and really chews up the scenery. I can't wait for people to see her. I wrote this part just for her, in hopes we could get her, and she really had fun with it.