Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Vinton Heuck, my co-writer, and I recently did a interview for CBR (Comic Book Resources) discussing the DEADMAN project I co-wrote, drew & inked for DC's WEDNESDAY COMICS.
The interview was conducted by Jeffrey Renaud, a staff writer for CBR.
JR: Did you pitch this strip as the death of Deadman or did Mark Chiarello suggest a Boston Brand story?
Dave Bullock: Deadman has gotten so little attention in recent years, I really wanted him to be front and center of his own strip.. The plan from the get go was to show off the strengths of the character. His acrobatic skills, punchy dialog, his spirit world connection, and the fact that he is sort of a every man thrown into a crazy situation. We didn't want this story to be about what ever janitor or crime lord Boston happened to be possessing.
Vinton Heuck: I believe this is something Dave wanted to do for awhile. He knew I had pitched a Deadman story awhile back and asked me to write it with him.
What was your knowledge of the character before taking on this project? Dave you worked on a Justice League Unlimited episode featuring Deadman, correct?
DB: My first exposure to Deadman was the Andy Helfer, Garcia Lopez four part story arc from the mid eighties. I was fifteen and loved how dynamic it was. I'd later go back and dig up the Drake, Infantino and Adams material. Hopefully our story points Deadman fans in that direction as well.
As for JLU, yes, I was incredibly stoked to get my hands on Deadman as a story artist on that episode. It had been a long time coming too. I initially got into animation because I loved what BT was doing with Batman TAS while I was in college. When I graduated, Superman had just started, and I had to be a part of it. Since then I've enjoyed working with many of the DC characters in animated form. Now that I've directed a few projects, I absolutly think Deadman could carry a PG-13 animated movie. He's made for it.
VH: I was pretty familiar with it when I met Dave. Doing research is half the fun. I never outgrew comics, so I love any chance to get my grubby little paws on them.
While he’s never been considered a, A-lister or even a B-lister, Deadman has remained a popular character since he was introduced in 1967. What is it about Boston Brand that makes him so cool? Is it his look? His origin? What?
VH: All of the above! He is totally unique, and visually very iconic. Plus there is something very appealing about his blue collar attitude, and the way he deals with conflict like a ham-fisted boxer, even though he is this freaky looking dude who is essentially a ghost who possesses people.
DB: For me, initially as a kid, it was the art. No bones about it. Neil Adam and Jose Luis Garcia Lopez were like comic gods to me. As I've gotten older, and more interested in story and character, it's obvious that Deadman is a tortured soul, and that's something we can relate to. Add in the superhero aspect and the supernatural setting and it's modern mythology.
How did you find his voice? “Blowin’ chunks,” “cirque du soleil sissies,” these are some pretty choice phrases.
DB: Well, first off "sissies" was initially "fruits". It was changed to be less offensive to the fruit belt. As for Boston's voice he's never been known to be terribly eloquent, so we tried our best to keep him in the "street smart" vein. I think of him as a boxer from detroit. He says what he thinks and is blunt about it. Being from Jersey, I love him for that.
VH: Based on me and Dave's initial meetings I did an initial pass on the story, and then we fine tuned the thing page by page as he drew them. I did the best I could on my end, but it wasn't hard for Dave to weigh in with added color. He's from the east coast, which means he's more direct and subject to flowery expletives than us latte sipping west-coast types. Kind of like Boston!
Is Kalak an original creation? I looked around and I couldn’t find any previous appearances.
DB: Kalak is a new character. I think Deadman's rogue gallery could use some beefing up. Especially in the demon department.
VH: I believe I looked up a bunch of actual demon names, and just tweaked them a little.
And if he is original, how did you land on his look?
DB: Knowing that Boston Brand was lean and "springy" I thought it made sense to go the opposite way, big and bulky with Kalak. I wanted him to seem unstoppable from a physical stand point, forcing Boston to have to use his noodle to figure out how to stop this monster.
Is it easier or more difficult working with a lead character that isn’t a household name like Superman or Batman?
DB: I think it's easier to make a good impression with a character that isn't over exposed. You don't have to mimic the dialogue or character behaviors of fifty other creators. Here we had a small but solid foundation to build on.
VH: In my mind it was easier. We had a lot more freedom to do what we wanted with the character. Our choice to make him sound like he walked right out his original 1967 comic by way of Raymond Chandler for instance.
Have you enjoyed working within this format – a one page, 12-week, serialized story?
VH: Thrilled. I was blown away by how well Dave made use of those giant pages with his page layouts. Each one was a beautiful work of art suitable for framing. Every page had such weight to it in terms of story as well. It forced us to stay lean and mean.
DB: Chi is THE MAN (!) for reinventing this format. A few years ago Hollywood was throwing around the term "high concept" a lot. Our high concept of Deadman was to pull together crime noir, superhero, romance, trippy existentialism, Hammer Horror, and acrobatic dynamics. To have the opportunity to plug all of that into twelve giant pages of art was some of the most rewarding work I've done. I've always dug on serials like Spy Smasher and The Lone Ranger, so having the chance to work in weekly cliff hangers was fun too for nostalgic reasons.
Are you a fan of the old Sunday strips? If so, what are some favorites? Did you look back at any archives for inspiration?
DB: I'm a fan of strips like Johnny Hazard, Steve Canyon, Romeros' UK released AXA, Flash Gordon, the inky news strips. As far as inspiration there are a couple of Little Nemo in Slumberland strips that Chi sent over that I would use as reminders to break conventional format.
VH: Some of my earliest comic reads were from collected editions I checked out from the library of 'Prince Valiant' and 'Flash Gordon', so yeah. What was great about them is that you could really see the amount of care and effort that went into each page. It was beyond awesome to get a chance to be part of something like that.
How much credit are you taking for the recently announced Deadman movie that was announced? I mean, it wasn’t announced until after your strip started?
DB: All of it! No, but seriously, when I first started designing the demons for the story I thought, boy they should look like they flew out of a Del Toro film. I've been a fan of his films since "Cronos" and "The Devil's BackBone".
Around the time the first issue of WEDNESDAY COMICS released, I did a Deadman search to check out the reviews, and came across a news item from 2006 announcing that Del Torro was developing the film. I figured, well, that was a few years ago, no mention of if since, so it's probably dead. Then this past week it was in Variety as on again. If we had anything to do with WB's renewed interest in Boston Brand, I'm stoked because as a fan of the character, I want to see it made.
VH: I wish. I had heard the Guillermo Del Toro was interested in making it before we started. I just hope he reads our comic!
Who would play a good Boston Brand? And you can’t say Ryan Reynolds.
VH: That's because he would'nt be the right choice. I'd say a Steve Mc Queen back in the day. I can't really imagine who they would use nowadays.
DB: Heath Ledger.
What else are you working on these days?
DB: Well Deadman has been wrapped for a few weeks, and I'm back to storyboarding on a couple of projects, namely The Avengers for Film Roman. I've worked on some sucky Marvel toons in the past, and I can assure fans that this is going to be way better than any other Marvel series out there. I'm also pitching a couple of comic book stories, so hopefully I'll be published again soon.
VH: I'm finishing up directing a 13 episode run on Marvel's animated "Avengers" series which will hopefully come out in the next year or so.
BTW, if your interested in seeing some of the Inked Deadman pages check em out here: