"Event Horizon" Screenwriter Kickstarts Comics W/ BAD GUYS
Screenwriter Kickstarts Comic Work
When Earth has been invaded by alien forces and the world’s super-heroes were the first to be killed, who are the last line of defense for humanity? Super villains.
In the upcoming graphic novel Bad Guys, some of Earth’s biggest bad guys find themselves the only thing standing between aliens and the end of Earth as we know it. Written by screenwriter Phil Eisner (Event Horizon, Mutant Chronicles) and illustrated by Agustin Padilla (G.I. Joe: Origins, Oracle), Bad Guys is being released as an original graphic novel by upstart comics company Kickstart. Kickstart, who got its start in the film business and was behind the success of Wanted film, started a comics company with a unique vision to release twenty-four OGNS per year to both traditional comic stores as well as major retail chains such as Wal-Mart.
With Bad Guys set to be released on October 18th as a hardcover to comic stores and in November to retail chains, we talked with Phil Eisner, who wrote and created the story about this unique project and his induction into the comics world.
Newsarama: What can you tell us about the story of Bad Guys, Philip?
Phil Eisner: The quick version: Aliens from another dimension invade earth, kill all our superheroes, and start stealing all our water. The only ones left who can stop them, are the super-villains.
The long version... the long version will be available in Oct. and retail for around 15 bucks.
Nrama: [laughs] Can you tell us how the aliens wipe out the entire superhero population? Villains have been trying that for years, unsuccessfully, in other books.
Actually, there's more to it than that.
Come to think of it, there's not. But it is a really, really big gun.
Nrama: Superior firepower. Okay, so the heroes are dead and buried – leaving the super-villains to stand up for their homeworld. Who are the standouts in the super-villains who are left behind?
Eisner: That's like asking which of your children is your favorite.
Which works for me, because I'm all about pitting children against one another, until only one remains, das Überkind.
I chose Femme Fatale as my narratrix because she's got a very human reason to be a villain. Fate does whatever she wants, when she wants... unless she loves someone. Fate's jealous of Femme, and destroys anyone she loves, utterly and completely. It's made her bitter and lonely, and makes her easy to empathize with.
This contrasts sharply with Zen, the leader, who's the love child of Hannibal Lector and Kwai Chang Caine, and not humanized at all. Which makes him tremendous fun to write. The world is burning, and he's utterly indifferent.
Melvin's another favorite. He's a walking wall of muscle and as gentle as a lamb. He's also killed more than 50 people. But that wasn't him... at least, he doesn't think it was. He's confused on the issue.
Nrama: What are these aliens like that Earth is up against?
Nrama: How did the ideas behind Bad Guys come about, and develop into the comic that's coming out soon?
Eisner: I was thinking of writing an action movie. Action movies are all about the villains.
And since they're the most interesting part -- your hero has to be "generic" enough for the audience to identify with, but the villain has no such constraints -- then how much more fun it would be to write an action film with no heroes? Just broken, messed up, violent misanthropes who happen to be our only hope.
The superhero element came next. Comics, for the most part, present morality in terms of black and white. Specific stories are very nuanced, obviously, but the good guys are ultimately good and the bad guys are ultimately bad. And you need that kind of hyper-real setting to pull this off.
Plus, in a real world story, I couldn't make them REALLY evil. I couldn't have homicidal maniacs on the crew. The comic book reality gives enough distance that we can enjoy them playing Wii while the world burns.
I also wanted to have fun with superhero stereotypes. There's the speedy guy, the stretchy guy, the strong guy, the guy with the gear. But they're twisted.
Nrama: For this, you're working with artist Agustin Padilla, who has some extensive comic credits from Captain America to Star Trek comics. You've seen your movie scripts directed by some big names, but what's it like to see your words translated to pictures by an artist like Agustin?
Pretty damn awesome. There have been some panels that have absolutely stolen my breath away. There's one -- our "brick" is called The Executioner, and his weapon is a headsman's axe -- and because we were really going for a PG13 vibe, there was a concern how to show the Executioner doing his thing. Augustin did it in a silhouette that leaves everything to the imagination -- and is all the more disturbing for it.
Nrama: Bad Guys is being coordinated by the new comic publisher Kickstart as well as Kevin Spacey's film shingle, Trigger Street Productions. How'd you get involved with these two companies to do Bad Guys?
And he slapped me, and called me a whining little bitch, and threatened to write the comic himself if I didn't. Then he called in Dana Brunetti. You don't mess with a man who has Kaiser Soze on speed-dial.
So I said I'd write it, and he and Dana pitched it to Kickstart. I loved what Kickstart had done with Wanted -- so the hardest thing for me, really, was feigning disinterest long enough to get paid to do something I'd have done for free.
I'm kidding. I don't do anything for free. I'm making Jason Netter pay me by the word for every email interview I do, which is why these answers are so very, very long.
Nrama: Then lets keep it going; You've worked mainly in movies – movies I've seen most of – but this is your first comic. Can you tell us about your comics interest, and what prompted you to want to do a comic?
Eisner: I've collected from 1985 to about 1998. Had to quit, cold turkey. I was up to about $250 week, and that was before the slipcased $100 editions of Sandman came out. I culled the chaff from my collection, but still have about 8 boxes, sealed in plastic. I have the original print runs of Dark Knight and Watchmen; the original appearance of The Elementals in Justice Machine. Damn near all of Sandman, including no. 1. A lot of the Marvel Epic imprint that Archie Goodwin edited -- I loved Alien Legion, and the craziness of Moonshadow and The Bozz Chronicles.
Now I just pick up the bound hardback volumes, 3-4 times a year. They're expensive as hell, but it's very expensive for me to even pass by a comic book store, much less go inside.
So I've always wanted to do a comic. I just never had an idea where it made sense to do the comic first. Most of the time, I'm writing for hire on the movies, or I'm writing ideas on spec, and I've never heard of a spec market for comic scripts.
Nrama: Before I let you go, I have to ask --- are you related to cartoonist Will Eisner?
I loved it. I remember this one story, not about the Spirit at all, that followed an ordinary man through his day. All he wants to do is sit quietly in his chair and read the paper. Not gonna happen. His kids run around, shouting. His wife berates him for being such a weak loser. His boss abuses him at work.
On his train ride home, he stumbles upon the Spirit fighting some robbers in the caboose. And he sees the engineer unconscious in the middle of the fight.
Which means that no one is in the engine to stop the train.
So this balding, small man -- of course he wears thick glasses -- goes to the front of the train -- has to climb on the outside of the coal car -- almost falls off -- and pulls the brake at the last second, as the train barrels into the station.
The train crashes, but no one is killed. And in the aftermath, Dolan asks The Spirit how he managed to slow the train from the caboose, and The Spirit confesses, he didn't. He has no idea who pulled the brake.
They find no one in the engine.
And we end with this sad, little man at home, sitting down in his chair. Only this time, when his wife starts to nag and his children start to tear ass, he shouts "BE QUIET" at the top of his lungs.
In the final panel, he's reading quietly, puffing on a pipe, with his children and wife leaning out from around a corner, staring at him with respect, their mouths zipped tight.
Still one of my favorite stories.