With the release this week of Frank Miller’s Holy Terror graphic novel, it’s not only the birth of a new comic series but also the birth of a new comic company. Launched as a division of famed movie company Legendary Pictures, Legendary Comics was announced back in 2010 with the acquisition of its editor-in-chief, Bob Schreck. In the intervening months, the long-time editor put together an initial line-up of titles which featured Holy Terror, a new edition of Paul Pope’s art book PulpHope and a new series by Matt Wagner and Simon Bisley titled The Tower Chronicles. Even with a movie studio’s budget behind them, how can a new comic company enlist such A-list talent and spirit a long-talked-about book by Frank Miller out from DC’s thumb? Ask the man that did it, Bob Schreck.Bob Schreck has attained a cult-like status among comics professionals and devoted readers over the thirty-plus years he’s been in the business. After breaking into the business working at conventions, Schreck began his upward moment working at ill-fated Comico and became an editor-to-watch during his tenure at Dark Horse in the 90s. While there he guided the long-running Dark Horse Presents anthology to a number of awards, and was there to help foster Frank Miller’s transition from DC to creator-owned successes like Sin City and 300. Schreck broke away in 1997 to co-found the famed indie comics house Oni Press, but was lured to New York in 1999 and become the chief-editor of Batman’s titles for what became ten years. Along the way he wooed Frank Miller back to DC for a sequel to The Dark Knight Returns, and also founded the popular All-Star imprint of titles. After leaving DC in 2009 he was quickly snapped up by IDW in the midst of their expansion, and Schreck shepherded the well-received relaunch of the Jurassic Park line of books. But in 2010 when Legendary Pictures announced it had hired Schreck to establish a comics division, it left question marks in people’s minds as to what’s next.
Now with Legendary’s first title out of the gate and more on the way, Newsarama spoke with Schreck about his burgeoning company and how he brought together this caliber of talent.
Newsarama: Bob, how’d you end up at Legendary starting a comics division?
Bob Schreck: That's complicated. Suffice to say that Frank Miller and Legendary Pictures’ founder Thomas Tull already had a long-standing relationship with both the 300 motion picture and the Batman film franchise, so when Thomas began thinking in terms of starting a line of comics, he went to the guy at the top of the field for advice. Next thing I knew, I got a very exciting call from Frank and suddenly Thomas and I were working out a course of action.
Nrama: What does Legendary Pictures want out of a comics division?
Schreck: First and foremost: Great comics and graphic novels. Books that will take the medium to new territories and be exciting, thought-provoking reads. We're hoping to push the boundaries of what can be done with the medium, both from a story sense, as well as from a format perspective. Our goal is to create a focused line of high quality books that stand on their own.
Obviously, with Legendary's amazing track record for highly successful feature films, if one or two of the comics projects we produce translate over to another medium such as film or television, we'll be aggressively pursuing those avenues. But the books must be best suited for the comics medium first. We're not interested in putting out a slew of pamphlets and tossing them out there like so much spaghetti on the wall, so to speak.
Nrama: Your flagship title is Frank Miller’s Holy Terror graphic novel, which came out earlier this week. It’s something he’s talked about for years, and started life as a Batman comic under your watch at DC years ago. How did it evolve to end up in your lap?
Schreck: That's easy. As time went on, Frank began to see that his story required a lead character role that Batman could no longer fulfill. There are things that the character Batman just can't and would not do. So he decided to change his approach and added this new character's voice and modus operandi to better fit the tale that Frank wanted to tell.
Nrama: I believe you first met Frank while working in marketing for Dark Horse promoting Sin City inside Dark Horse Presents…
Schreck: I actually first met Frank while I was running a Creation Convention in NYC in 1982 or thereabouts. I had arranged for the great filmmaker/special effects genius, Ray Harryhausen, to appear as a guest and was standing in the back of the hall when, to my surprise, Frank was standing next to me listening to Ray speak and watching his George Pal’s Puppetoons. It was years later that we began working together at Dark Horse, first as his marketing director, and then as his editor.
Nrama: So you’ve had a long rewarding relationship with him since Dark Horse, bringing him in at Oni, back to DC and even some work at IDW when you were there. How would you describe your relationship with Frank?
Schreck: Our relationship is one of mutual respect and sincere friendship. We have worked hard over these many years to always keep the balance between our business dealings and our personal relationship separate. That said, he is one of my dearest friends on this earth. But he expects… Or rather, he demands that I tell him the absolute honest truth about any story points or any sort of business affairs we encounter on each and every project we work on together. In return, he keeps me on my toes, as well. You can count on that!
Nrama: Editing Frank on a Batman book and editing him on a creator-owned project like this seems worlds apart. Can you tell us how you and he adjusted your approach once he decided it wasn’t a Batman story anymore?
Schreck: Actually, our working relationship from when the book was at DC, to now at Legendary, has remained the same. There were just now other choices and creative decisions to be made that would better suit the needs of the plot. With these changes comes a different way of viewing the characters and, subsequently, how we achieve our goals of keeping them true to their own motivations.
Nrama: Are there any plans for Legendary to keep Holy Terror in-house in terms of possible movie production, given how they’ve worked on 300 with Frank?Schreck: There are no plans at the moment for Holy Terror to be anything but what it is: A rockin' graphic novel.
Nrama: In addition to Holy Terror, another book you’re bringing into the fold is Paul Pope’s art book, PulpHope. This first saw life at boutique publisher AdHouse. How will this differ from that original release?
Schreck: This book is going to be drastically different from the first with well over 60% of the artwork featured being brand new images created after the original book's release and therefore not seen in the other volume. It will sport a new cover and some new text pieces, as well. It will also be including an extra 16-page signature, bringing up the overall total page count.
Nrama: Since your Comico days you’ve been known for your appreciation of quality book design and production values. Working with these creators who all broke in as artists first, what are the conversations (and results) like for the physical product of these comics?
Schreck: As I mentioned earlier, we are aggressively seeking out new and innovative formats and delivery systems to bring the comics medium into the 21st century in a big way. That said, we're not quite at the stage where we can download the material directly into your brain. But we're working on it! Stay tuned…
Nrama: Could this new edition of PulpHope be an opening salvo in new original Pope comics once he finishes Battling Boy for First Second and La Chica Bionica for Dargaud?
Schreck: Paul knows that he is always welcome to bring any future projects to us here at Legendary, but there are no plans at this time.Nrama: The third piece of the puzzle for Legendary Comics is the series The Tower Chronicles by Matt Wagner and illustrated by Simon Bisley. I’ve read Matt came up with this alongside Legendary CEO Thomas Tull. Can you tell us how it developed?
Schreck: Thomas had the initial idea for the character and an overall theme and landscape of the world John Tower would inhabit. When Thomas asked me to recommend a writer that he could flesh out his ideas with and join him as the co-creator of the project, I immediately knew who to call. Matt Wagner and I also go back to years before we worked together at Comico--again, from my days working at Creation Conventions. After we give Matt the general idea that Thomas had, and Matt checked his ever-busy schedule of projects, we flew him down to Burbank and all three of us began working out the details.
Nrama: Matt possesses an excellent track record when it comes to launching new concepts: Mage and Grendel are both perennial hits. What was it like being with him on the ground floor guiding him in putting this together?
Schreck: Well, that's exactly why I contacted him in the first place. Having been there before at the beginning of both Mage and Grendel, it's, as always, a joy. He's very thorough and meticulous in his approach and he and Thomas meshed together perfectly as they were building this.
Nrama: This initial line-up sees you re-uniting with some of the big names you’ve edited in the past at Comico, Dark Horse, Oni, DC and IDW. Any chance to see other familiar faces down the road, like for instance Neil Gaiman who was quoted in the press release that announced your hiring?
Schreck: Only time will tell. ;-)
Nrama: On the flipside of that before we go, are there creators out there you haven’t worked with before you’re pursuing for projects now?
Schreck: I'm always on the lookout to exploit and destroy the careers of the young and unsuspecting freelancer. ;-)Related Stories:
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