When William Katt, star of the classic '80s TV show Greatest American Hero, was working on the movie Gamers in 2006, he and director Christopher Folino were frustrated that many of their ideas for stories were either too expensive or difficult to pull off in movies.
But they weren't too difficult to put in a comic book.
The two created Catastrophic Comics, which is releasing its first six-issue comic book mini-series, Sparks, with a new #1 issue coming out next week.
"At the time we were working on Gamers, the things that were most interesting to us to do next were things that, budget-wise, were never going to be realistic," Folino said. "And we were both pretty big comic book kids when we were growing up, so we just started talking about what we really wanted to do. We just wanted to tell great stories with great artwork, and we wanted to see if we could successfully launch a brand."
"I told Chris I wanted to tell amazing stories that don't suck," laughed Katt, who recently finished filming a role on the television show Heroes and is appearing on this weekend's TV Land Awards show. The actor added that he's hoping to create stories that bring a level of quality to comic books that is similar to what Pixar offers in animation.
"That's a big goal there," said Folino, who added that they're also taking the production aspects of the company seriously by having several issues of Sparks ready before releasing the first one. "I'm writing Issue #6 now and Issue #5 is being drawn. We realized if we wanted to make an impact and get people's trust, we knew we had to work five books ahead and not just do a couple books and see how it goes and then decide if we wanted to stick around. It had to be a full commitment."
Sparks, which was co-created and co-plotted by Katt but scripted by Folino, is a superhero take on the film D.O.A., a murder mystery from the '50s where the main character is trying to find his own killer.
"It's a dark, kind of film noir superhero story," Folino said. "It's a story about a masked vigilante named Sparks who comes into a newspaper at the beginning of the story and says, 'I want to report a murder.' And he has to find his killer. Then it all fills in from there, and you get his origin story and find out everything that has happened to him in his life. And what's happened to him isn't good."
Katt, said the comic, which features art by J.M. Ringuet, is very dark and has a lot of twists, something he likes to see in movies. "I like to have to think while I'm watching a movie. I want a twisted plot. I like the old, like, Dial M for Murder-type movies. The storytelling was so moving," the actor said. "And that's the kind of stories we want to tell."
Although Katt and Folino are aware a lot of fans of the Greatest American Hero show will want to check out their comics, they don't want to just capitalize on the name without having substance. "When we started thinking about Catastrophic, we knew people had expectations from Bill because of his work on Greatest American Hero and Carrie. But he's really not a nice guy, nor is he a very happy guy. Bill's very dark. He sits in a dark room and drinks all day. I'm kidding. I'm lying now. But I do want people to know that this isn't happy, cheery stuff. Sparks has got a different spin to it. And we've created things that we're really proud of."
Folino said Catastrophic will also have an announcement at San Diego Comic-Con about their next project. "Something is going to happen at Comic-Con that's going to be a driving force," he said. "We're teaming up with Arcana Studio for something after Sparks."
The next offering from Catastrophic Comics will be Mythology Wars, which is written by Katt and will be launched in early 2009. "Mythology Wars evolved from a script that I brought Chris several years ago," Katt said. "It was a film that I thought would make a good animated feature, but I ended up bringing it to Chris. We rewrote it a little and it turned out to be pretty cool. It's a mythological war set in a modern day world. And it has very interesting, dark, kind of convoluted characters."
Katt and Folino said they've been spending a lot of time on comic books and are constantly surprised by how compelling the art form is. "It's such a creative medium," Folino said. "It's just amazing to be dealing with one artist instead of a big film crew. It's more personal. It's been a phenomenal experience so far. We both have day jobs, and this is something we've been spending our extra time doing. And we're trying to be smart about it as we've been putting it all together over the last year and a half."
As for the future of Catastrophic Comics, the two recognize that there are already a lot of great comics out there. "With comics by Alan Moore and Mark Millar and so many other great writers out there, we recognize it's a market where we have to have a great product to even get noticed," Katt said. "It's amazing the level of storytelling."
But Folino joked that they're not letting that stop them from aiming high. "Gamers was rated #75 on the 'imdb movie meter,' and we figured we should just stop making movies and go into comic books because we're only 74 away from Iron Man," he joked. "And we know we can just kick their ass in comic books. So goodbye DC and goodbye Marvel. We're taking them down. And you can quote Bill on that."
"Thanks a lot, Chris," Katt said with a laugh.
For more details on Catastrophic Comics, visit the company's website at http://www.catastrophiccomics.com/Check back tomorrow for a 10 page preview of Sparks #1