Actor Zachary Quinto's publishing deal with Archaia starts in August with Lucid, a new four-issue comic by True Blood actor Michael McMillian that explores what would happen if international spies used secret magical powers.
"What I wanted to do with Lucid," McMillian said, "was make a comic book that I would want to read, that I would enjoy, that really captures the heart of stories I want to read and what I love — everything from H.G. Wells to Indiana Jones to James Bond — and at the same time, see if I could create a bold, new, contemporary world to set it in."
McMillian is best known to audiences for his roles as Henry in the TV comedy What I Like About You and as the Rev. Steve Newlin on the HBO television series True Blood. But the actor behind the roles is an avid comic book reader who actually considered a comics career while pursuing acting.
After pitching the idea for Lucid to Quinto's production company, Before the Door Pictures, McMillian is now getting the chance to write his first comic, as Lucid begins in August.
"One of the things that is important to us as a company is to give people we've known for a long time and whose work has inspired us opportunities on a larger platform," Quinto explained, citing his long-time friendship with McMillian. "Michael is such an enthusiast of comic books and he has such a vivid imagination and such a capacity for storytelling. "
Quinto, who played Spock in Star Trek and Sylar on the TV show Heroes, talked with reporters on Thursday from New York, where he's rehearsing for the play, Angels in America. The actor joined McMillian in a conference call to promote Lucid as part of Archaia's partnership with Before the Door.
Featuring art by 19-year-old newcomer Anna Wieszczyk of Poland, Lucid takes place in an alternate universe where major world powers have black ops agents working for them that are trained in the mystic arts, sorcery and magic.
The story centers on the American president's secret magical agent, Matthew Dee, a descendent of John Dee, who is a real historical figure that served as magician for Queen Elizabeth I.
"I think the political element of it, for me, is really exciting. The historical element is also really exciting. The ancestry and the lineage back to John Dee," Quinto said.
"When Before the Door approached me about doing some comic books," McMillian explained, "I came up with this idea of a character who would have access to high levels of consciousness and magic, who was working for the government." McMillian said the comic has now evolved to become a "high adventure, pulp comic, pop fantasy story."
Lucid also reflects real world politics, since Agent Dee serves a president named Jefferson Monday who was recently elected after a campaign promising "hope and change," McMillian said.
"I think Lucid, on a personal level, is sort of my reaction to the state of the world right now, and a wish fantasy of longing for heroes that can kind of save us from where we are now," the actor explained.
McMillian said there were a lot of personal influences that led to the creation of Lucid, from 20th Century folklore and conspiracy theory.
"I think a lot of what's been happening for me in this process is I'm sort of taking 31 years of fantasy and sci-fi fiction that has been placed in front of my eyes in comics and film and TV and books, and this is sort of what's been churning around in my brain. It's coming out as Lucid.
"But I will say that this is sort of an optimistic take in terms of the government keeping magic from us as a secret, they're doing it to keep us safe, not to covet power," he added.
He also wanted to emphasize that while Lucid does deal with magical abilities, it's not the typical magic fantasy world that's been explored before. "It's not a world where centaurs and trolls and elves exist," McMillian said. "We're dealing with human people with magical abilities. There are paranormal creatures of sorts, but they're presented in a somewhat different light, and a somewhat less literal way, than fantasies that have come before."
Lucid is just the first of several anticipated comic book properties from Before the Door Pictures, which are being published under the new Archaia Black Label imprint. The next comic Quinto will help promote, the already announced Mr. Murder is Dead by writer/director Victor Quinaz, which will be released by Archaia in the fall.
Quinto formed Before the Door two years ago with business partners Neal Dodson and Corey Moosa to pursue storytelling through films, comics and the internet, and is already producing their first film. Quinto said the next movie will probably be one that Quinaz wrote — "a quirky, intelligent comedy that takes place in a casino in the aftermath of a hurricane, with some really vivid characters and wacky situations."
"We're really trying to diversify ourselves as a company and tell stories in different ways, and figure out what the internet is and how to use it," Quinto explained. "We want to really be in different territories all the time, and stirring different kinds of stories up."
Aside from Lucid, McMillian is continuing his acting career while still dabbling in comics. "I am working on another indy book with a friend of mine from Kansas City, the great cartoonist named W. David Keith," he said. "That book is going to be called The Indian and the Bandit. And we're really early in the process, and we're still looking for publishers."
For fans of his work on True Blood, McMillian has more good news. "I can, probably, hint that there might be some Steve Newlin action in season 3 of True Blood this year," he said.
McMillian will also appear at San Diego Comic Con during an Archaia panel to publicize Lucid on July 23rd at 4:30 p.m. "I may try to pop in," Quinto said with a laugh.
What do you think of these two actors joint venture?