With Comic-Con International: San Diego coming up next week, Javier Grillo-Marxuach, the creator of the cult ABC Family series The Middleman, is launching a special preview of his all-new comic series from APE Entertainment at the show. Attendees will have the chance to get the first issue of Grillo-Marxuach’s new book, Ramiel, before it’s even solicited to comic shops – and Grillo-Marxuach told us all about this new title, plus his new TV gig on one of this fall’s highest-profile shows. Read on to find out more...
Newsarama: Javi, tell us the story of Ramiel.
Javier Grillo-Marxuach: There's two stories to Ramiel...one of them is the epic, action-packed story of the eternal conflict between good and evil, and a renegade angel who descends to Earth to kick ass, take names, and bring redemption to the wicked - which is what readers will see at SDCC, and will be able to pick up monthly as a four issue miniseries soon thereafter......and then there's the behind-the-scenes story, which is significantly bloodier. It all started in 1997, when I got a call from a development executive at a well-known television network. They had just signed this awesome actor, and wanted to see if I had any ideas on what kind of show to put him in. Immediately, my mind flashed to "what if Michael Landon in Highway to Heaven was a really imposing guy with dreadlocks, a sword and no compunction about savagely beating the bad guys into contrition."
Nrama: Well, that certainly would have made the episode with Dick Van Dyke as a hobo a lot more interesting.
Grillo-Marxuach: That network chose to not buy the project, so I turned around and sold it to The WB...but at the time, I was perceived as being too young and inexperienced to run my own show, so they brokered a marriage between me and a more senior writer/producer, who then rewrote the script without my knowledge: turning my avenging angel character into an undead Vietnam war veteran who rose from the grave to help an alcoholic priest and a single mother. Seriously. Only in Hollywood.
Anyway, a few years later, after I got back the rights to the character, and sold the project to the Sci-Fi channel (before it was SyFy) and rewrote it into a two hour TV movie, but the network felt the project was too dark...so the script came back to me and I spent the last few years on and off rewriting it into what it is today.Nrama: What will be available for readers at SDCC?
Grillo-Marxuach: The entire first issue will be fore sale at the APE comics booth as a special preview, we will be solicited in Previews the following month, so this is a big opportunity for readers to get in on the ground floor and get to know the character before the series hits the streets. I am not a big believer in "zero issues" and other marketing gimmicks - this is the real deal.
Nrama: So, the material you provided for us describes this story as "a tale of heroes of the hereafter, sinners from the shadows - and the mortals whose souls stand in the balance of light and darkness." I'm going to go out on a limb and assume this might go in a different direction than The Middleman.
Grillo-Marxuach: Yeah, this one's a little more serious and operatic - closer to Thor than . Or - actually - more like my work for Marvel with Super-Skrull: big, brutal, written on a cosmic scope and featuring a character who operates by a very personal code.My hope is that readers who enjoyed The Middleman come to this book because it ultimately embodies the same principles about heroism and doing the right thing. When I created The Middleman I felt very strongly that i wanted to tell a story that wasn’t about what I call "the tragedy of heroism."
I've always felt that modern comics are too much about the dark sacrifices that characters have to make in order to be good - heroes seem so tortured and unhappy because being good always seems to cause suffering to the ones they love.
Being an optimist at heart, Ramiel exists in the same continuum as The Middleman in that it's a redemptive tale in which doing the right thing and fighting the good fight actually leads to - you know - good.
Nrama: How did this story come about?
Grillo-Marxuach: In addition to some of the territory I covered above, a big part of it was that - as a member of a minority - I wanted to create a superhero who was not defined by his ethnicity. I thought it'd be cool to have a black hero whose name wasn't "Black this" or "Black that" or "Black the other thing." I'm pretty sure we are not blazing new ground in terms of that, but every little bit counts.
Nrama: What made you want to do this as a comic, and how did you get hooked up with APE?
Grillo-Marxuach: The project has had such a tortured development history, but somehow, people keep buying it - so I have always had faith that it would find expression somewhere. It's a story I have wanted to tell for a long time, and - frankly - it is my one big attempt at creating a true, bona-fide superhero.Anyway, during my time working on The Middleman, I met Jason Burns, who has worked at Viper as a writer, editor, and creator and has since gone on to work at a number of other imprints, including APE - and it was because of his encouragement that I came to APE: who, by the way, have give me and the artistic team an amazing amount of creative latitude.
This book looks different than most capes-and-tights books, and has an artistic sensibility closer to what they were doing with The Sandman a few years ago...
APE has let us push some boundaries with our artistic choices, and I think anyone who picks up the book will be seeing something a little bit different, and a little bit special.
Nrama: Tell us about your art team. How'd you come to work with them, and what do they bring to the book?
Steven Gendron - our artist - worked with Jason on a book for Outlaw called Jenna Blue. A lot of his art is influenced by street art, graffiti, and skateboarding - so his figure work and design sensibility comes from a slightly different vector than most mainstream comics work - his images have an otherworldly fluidity that is truly striking.
Then there's our colorist, Peter Wonsowski, who came to the project through our editor at APE, Matt Anderson. While not new to comics, Peter has a remarkable and long resume in album cover design and illustration – he's a pretty remarkable artist on his own right. I had always wanted for Ramiel to have a different sense of color than most books, and Peter came up with a watercolor style that I think will blow people away.Similarly, our letterer, Deron Bennett has come up with a lettering scheme that reflects all of the different realms in which the story takes place. I think I'm pretty blessed with a resourceful creative team that consistently makes choices that not only make the book distinctive, but also make me look good...truly, my strategy with this book is to stay out of their way!
One thing you will notice about Ramiel is that it's not a traditionally inked book - Steve's work is so complete and integrated that we made the decision early to send Peter to work on the pages - the result is a book that has a tremendous amount of texture. You are truly seeing the work of two artists riffing off each other like jazzmen. It's pretty exciting.
Nrama: Fallen angels: Why do we love them?
Grillo-Marxuach: A few years ago, Ann Rice said that "angles are the new vampires." Who am I to say otherwise?
But truly, I think we love angels for the same reason we love Superman. By and large they are immigrants...in the case of Ramiel, someone who chose to be in a world we take for granted and who sees in people, places and things a wonder that we now overlook.
I wanted Ramiel to be both a badass and an innocent: he really is a fish out of water through most of the book, even though he is a man on a mission - my hope is that people pick up the book for the action and stay with it to watch how a character learns what it means to be human...while kicking ass in a way no human could imagine.
Nrama: What do you like best about doing comics, and what are some of the things you can get away with in a comic that you can't in movies or TV?
Grillo-Marxuach: I'm lucky to do both - in comics, you get to work very closely with a very small creative team to create work that by and large is far more personal. In TV you have to deal with hundreds of people and make a lot of compromises...but you get millions of production dollars and a massive audience.
Both have their liabilities and benefits - what I love about comics that i can't do in TV is primarily scope: I can write a scene in which a thousand dark angels in steampunk gear descend upon the kingdom of God and am only hindered by the imagination and ability of one artist...in movies and TV you don't get to do that, unless your name is "Michael Bay."
Nrama: What else are you currently working on that you can talk about here? The info you sent us indicates you'll be hanging on Charlie’s Angels which I assume are of a different variety of angels than we'll see in Ramiel.
Grillo-Marxuach: Absolutely - I'm a Consulting Producer on the new Charlie's Angels, which premieres Thursdays this fall on ABC, is executive produced by Drew Barrymore and Miles Millar and Alfred Gough of Smallville fame and starring Minka Kelly of Friday Night Lights, Rachael Taylor from Transformers and Annie Ilonzeh.
It's a reboot of the concept, which now takes place in Miami, and I think it's gonna be a hot, fun series - I'm absolutely thrilled to be a part of it.
And yes...these are very different Angels than Ramiel...more “Sex and the City with guns” than "badass supernatural avenger!”Nrama: Anything else you'd like to talk about that we haven't discussed yet?
Grillo-Marxuach: I just want people to come by the APE booth at SDCC, say hello and pick up the book - I'm gonna be there and I love meeting readers and making converts!
APE Entertainment will be at San Diego Comic-Con next week at booth 1804! If you’re at the show, come by to meet Javier Grillo-Marxuach and Ramiel!!Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!