Last week, Archaia Entertainment released The Devil’s Handshake, a fast-paced 48 page one-shot teaming Spooks creator Ryan Schifrin with comic industry veteran Larry Hama as they tell the story of Alaric Moebius and Basil Fox, a treasure hunting dynamic duo who may have unearthed a dangerous treasure that may bring about the end of the world! Joining Schifrin and Hama are artists Adam Archer and Lizzy John. Following in the footsteps of films like George Lucas’ Indiana Jones franchise, The Devil’s Handshake hopes to capture the exciting nature of the Action-Adventure genre by infusing it with a 21st Century sensibility.
Newsarama spoke with writer Ryan Schifrin about his efforts on The Devil’s Handshake and discussed various aspects of the Action-Adventure genre and its importance to comics.
Newsarama: Ryan, what can you divulge about The Devil's Handhake? Fill potential readers in on what your latest project is about.
Ryan Schifrin: In a nutshell: Imagine if Jack Sparrow and Han Solo teamed up to work for Cthulu – in a modern-day setting. By that I mean, two lovable scoundrels who travel around the world on adventures going up against all kinds of supernatural creatures, solving ancient puzzles and meeting lots of hot women along the way. They work for a mysterious entity known as The Collector. Basil is a Queen’s Guard by day, and ass-kicking jewel thief by night. Moebius is an Oxford-educated rogue. They’ve been branded by the Collector with these tattoos that burn whenever he wants to summon them. If they should ever fail him, this black taint would spread out from their tattoos and cover their bodies, turning them into rotting zombie slaves. The Collector is building something out of all the artifacts they bring him – but as to what that is exactly – well, you’ll just have to wait and see!
Nrama: What makes Alaric Moebius and Basil Fox a dynamic duo? Or are they more of an odd couple?
Schifrin: A little of both. Moebius is the charming, verbose ladies man, with a quick wit and love of adventure. Basil is the ass-kicking, hot-tempered one. So Moebius’ mouth gets them into trouble, and Basil’s fists get them out of it.
Nrama: When you were developing your project, was it always intended to be a "buddy-style" adventure? Is this type of fast-paced Action/ Adventure story easier to tell when you're dealing with two protagonists instead of one?
Schifrin: Yes, I had the characters in my mind before I even knew what the story was. The whole point of this is to have a couple of lovable blokes who can’t resist getting themselves into all sorts of messy situations and enjoy every minute of it. It’s definitely easier and more fun to have two protagonists because they can banter with each other and that brings out a lot of the humor.
Nrama: You've worked with the legendary Larry Hama on The Devil's Handshake; what was that experience like? How much did Hama bring to the table as a veteran comic writer that you might not have been aware of?
Schifrin: I worked with Larry on SPOOKS as well – and the experience has been the thrill of a lifetime. My favorite comic growing up was G.I. JOE. So not only did I get to meet one of my idols, I got to collaborate with him and learn the craft at the feet of a master! Please pinch me! Obviously, there is a lot that I needed to learn, specifically about writing in this medium as opposed to screenplays – and Larry has been a great teacher. The way he plans out a story and condenses things and has the panels and pages flow together is genius. He’s great at keeping things moving. There’s never a dull moment.
Nrama: In your mind, what are some of the pratfalls of modern Action/Adventure-style comics? How have you tried to create something that's as accessible as possible to the mainstream comic audience?
Schifrin: Honestly, the way I see it is that character is the most important thing in any story. If you don’t care about the characters then it doesn’t matter how much crazy shit is going on, because emotionally you are detached. All human interaction comes down to telling each other stories – how your day was, what happened to so-and-so. As long as we care about the people these events are happening to, then the events themselves are interesting. In terms of accessibility, absolutely – the goal was to create a mainstream, fun adventure that hopefully leaves people wanting to see these characters in future stories. I created these characters originally for a movie I intend to direct, which is sort of a prequel to DEVIL’S.
Nrama: What sorts of influences will readers be able to feel when they read The Devil's Handshake?
Schifrin: It’s an eclectic group: Indiana Jones, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Guy Ritchie British crime capers, H.P. Lovecraft, and James Bond are the main influences I can think of.
Nrama: Are you only interested in Action/ Adventure comic projects? Are you working on other projects with Archaia currently?
Schifrin: I love anything that is genre, which encompasses horror, fantasy, sci-fi and action-adventure. I’m talking to Archaia about a couple of different things, along with writing the further adventures of Basil and Moebius.
Nrama: How involved were you with Adam Archer and Lizzy John when they were producing the sequentials for the project? Has your scripting style become stream-lined while you were working on Spooks or The Devil's Handshake?
Schifrin: I communicate with them the way I would a storyboard artist and cinematographer on a movie – showing them visuals and references for lighting, mood and tone. Then I get out of their way and let them do their thing. In terms of the script, we used Larry’s style he brought from his days at Marvel: A description of each panel and an indication of minimal dialogue for the artists. After the artwork is done, then we go in and do the actual dialogue. I didn’t really deviate from the way we worked on SPOOKS since it seemed to go so smoothly.
Nrama: Looking at the finished product, what sort of sense of accomplishment do you feel? Do you ever look at projects and wish you could've done things differently? Or does there come a time where, as a creator, you have to let your baby free and hope that it makes it on it's own two feet?
Schifrin: I think it’s the curse of any artist or writer to immediately feel that they could have done better. That’s what keeps people striving to improve their craft. At a certain point, you do have to let it go – usually because of a release date! Having said that, I am totally 100% satisfied with THE DEVIL’S HANDSHAKE. It turned out EXACTLY how I hoped it would when we started. Better even – Lizzy’s colors are breathtaking.
Nrama: What sorts of advice do you have for young writers who want to become involved in the comic industry?
Schifrin: My favorite author and friend, R.A. Salvatore, has this advice for writers: “If you can quit, then quit. If you can’t, then you’re a writer.” Sounds harsh, doesn’t it? But I take that to mean that if you have these stories in your head that just won’t leave you alone until you write them down, then you have no choice but to do it. Instead of obsessing about unlocking that next perk in CALL OF DUTY, if you have these ideas that you are obsessing about that keep nagging at you, then you better get to work! If you aren’t sure if you want to be a writer or not, or even if you are sure, my advice is to read, read and read some more. Read books on how to write – learn three-act structure, learn characters. And don’t make excuses. Everyone is busy, but you make time for the things that matter. Schifrin: It takes three things to be successful: Talent, hard work and good luck. You can control the first two but not the last one. The trick is to hang in there until things finally go your way.
Nrama: Before we finish up, what is the simplest way you can sell The Devil's Handshake to skeptical consumers who might be riding the fence when it comes to trying a genre book like a this?
Schifrin: It’s double sized and it’s only five bucks. If you have a heartbeat, a sense of humor and enjoy movies like RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, then this should be right up your alley. Look at it this way: If George Lucas had gotten the rights to remake FLASH GORDON, there would be no STAR WARS. Give original IP’s a chance, you never know when you’ll discover the next iconic, life-changing tidal wave before it hits the zeitgeist. Plus, it’ll get you laid. And for the love of God, support indie comics!The Devil's Handshake is in stores now, see a preview by clicking here.