AICN COMICS SHOOT THE MESSENGER: Q & @ with Catastrophic Comics' Christopher Folino & THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO William Katt!!!
What’s SHOOT THE MESSENGER?
Well, AICN COMICS: SHOOT THE MESSENGER is your weekly one stop shop for comic book news that’s dropped in the previous week. Thanks to Newsarama, CBR, Wizard, etc. for reporting it as it breaks. Click on the links for the original stories. This column cuts the crap to run down all the vital information for those of you who don’t follow it as it comes in, and serves it all up with that special ingredient of @$$y goodness. It’s also the place for interviews, previews, and special reports.
superhero talks with Christopher Folino & William Katt!
Hey folks, it’s superhero again. OK, out there in comic land: below is my Part One of a Two-Part interview with the heads of Catastrophic Comics, William Katt and Christopher Folino.
Christopher Folino (CF): So one of things that happened was…
You may know Mr. Katt from, among many other things, the ‘80’s hit TV super-hero comedy THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO. Mr. Folino is no slouch, however, as he’s the writer and director and producer of the indie film GAMERS.
Together these two have combined to form a comic company known as Catastrophic Comics. Catastrophic Comics has been responsible for the terrifically dark super-hero comic known as SPARKS and will be teaming with Arcana Studios to revitalize THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO in the pages of a six issue mini-series comic soon.
It’s a long but fascinating interview so let’s get to it. We pretty much started out by talking about THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO…
superhero: With GREATEST AMERICAN HERO?CF: With GREATEST AMERICAN HERO. Was that when we sat down to talk about, when Bill was forming Catastrophic Comics, the main title we were going to push was MYTHOLOGY WARS and SPARKS was going to be the second title but we kind of flip flopped those. Then we talked about, well, what about GREATEST AMERICAN HERO? What do you think about GREATEST AMERICAN HERO? So we talked about it for about a month and a half and we said OK, I’ll tell you what, let’s make the phone call and find out about it. We missed getting GREATEST AMERICAN HERO by three weeks! Arcana Studios already had the rights to it. So what ended up happening, our director of marketing is Derek McCaw, and he was at Wondercon and he ran into Sean O’Reilly from Arcana and they had already submitted a script and some artwork to Cannell (Stephen J. Cannell, creator of the show and 80’s TV mega-producer) and it got rejected and they said to Derek, “Hey, it’d be interesting to get Bill Katt involved in the comic book.” So we had a meeting with Arcana, went 50/50, it went really well, we really liked them a lot, and we teamed up with them. Bill got on board and wrote about 80% of the script for GREATEST AMERICAN HERO. It went through without any changes whatsoever. Sean helped touch up some stuff, too.
William Katt (WK): I think what happened is that they realized that it could have been problematic and with a lot of challenges without us. But with me involved, you know, I had Stephen Cannell’s ear. I went right to Steve, was able to sit down with him, I got a meeting.
superhero: So you were able to just get a meeting?WK: Yeah, I’ve been friends with Steven for a long time. I called Bob Culp and got him on board, Connie Selleca on board, to come down and help with the announcement down at Comic-Con. We were able to tape Steve doing an announcement. You know, giving an introduction of the comic book to the audience who are our fanbase. So I think Sean realized that this was the way to go.
CF: It’s a good partnership, too, because Sean’s got a specialty in PR and marketing which is really his forte and he can bring the big guns. Which he has. Which is amazing. Because of this he’s got a reunion show. I’m sorry--t’s not a reunion show. It’s just a get together with everybody from the show set for the 7th of September. It’s going to be for a couple of hours and it’s going to be over at S.A.G. (The Screen Actor’s Guild) and they’re going to show clips and just talk about the show.
superhero: This is for broadcast?CF: We’re negotiating that right now with TVLand. We’re going back and forth with TVLand about it.
WK: Yeah, and we’re thinking we’ll release a DVD with the graphic novel as well. With stuff that they haven’t seen before. You know, we’re going to have Rod Holcum, the original director who was so instrumental in lending the whole tone to the show. We’re hoping to get Reuben Cannon there who’s back east but who originally cast the show. I know Connie’s going to be there, I’ll be there, Bob will be there, we’ll see if we can get some other cast members there. Dennis Madalone, our stunt coordinator, will be there. He’s got some fun stuff.
CF: He was a hit over at Comic-Con.
WK: Big hit.
CF: They’re tight, they’re really, really good friends. They both talk about wearing the suit. Because he had to wear the suit, too. It’s really funny how they were both first presented the suit. It’s a real fun story.
superhero: So you remain friends with everyone from the original show?WK: I have.
superhero: That’s how you were able to get them on board?WK: Right.
superhero: There were no hesitations from anyone?WK: Well, I came with a big stick, you know? (Laughter) I came bearing money, so…(more laughter). No, no, I didn’t offer them money or anything. Yeah, just, these are really nice people, you know? Bob Culp has been a distant but a good friend for many, many years and Connie is just…I don’t think there’s any greater person out there in the world. She’s just so genuinely…
CF: Or hotter…
WK:..good. Yeah, she’s gorgeous, too.
superhero: Well, yeah, there’s that.WK: Yeah! Yeah, there is that. (Laughter)
CF: John Tesh is…
WK: Yeah, John Tesh is a lucky guy.
superhero: So let me ask, I have a list of questions that some of the other guys submitted and since you started off with THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO…basically, you got the rights through Arcana Studios? Someone else had the rights and then you teamed up?CF: That’s correct.
WK: Arcana had the rights, they realized they were having problems with the Cannell organization so they called Catastrophic ‘cause they knew that we had a company and they said let’s have a meeting and see if we can work something out. And it worked very well. That’s the way it happened.
superhero: So would you say that when you got involved that’s when the machine started running because it had gotten rejected?CF: I think that realistically the original story wasn’t as solid as what we presented. They took it from an approach where Ralph is teaching his son how to fly. That sort of thing. It’s just that, honestly, that sort of thing would be re-inventing a whole new thing to THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO. What you have to do with a franchise that’s that beloved is you’ve gotta bring it into modern times, and it’s gotta be solid, and you gotta do some tweaks. Really, we start off with the pilot episode. Really beef up the villains. And we did a great job with modernizing things, some of the characters…
WK: The language is slightly different. The jokes are just as fun. We take Gabriel’s Army, which are the bad guys, and we make them kind of the modern day Lex Luthors. So we’re going to see them again.
superhero: That’s great. So essentially it’s kind of a reboot? Starting from the beginning?CF: It is. It’s going to be very faithful to the pilot, the first two, but then what’s going to happen is all the stories are going to kind of break free of that.
WK: At Cannell’s request. Steve’s request is that we re-tell the pilot. Tell the origin, tell how Ralph acquired the suit, how Bill Maxwell and him met, and explain the relation ship with Connie, the counselor. Or “the skirt” as Bob Culp likes to call her. Then he said you’re free to go tell some other stories. Of which we have several. In fact, Bob Culp has got an old undone script from one of the shows because he wrote two or three of them. And he came to us while we were going about it and said, “You know I have an old script that was never done that might be appropriate.” So we’re taking a look at that. I have a couple of ideas I want to do. There are some wonderful writers out there who were great fans of the show who have also come forward and said, “Gee, we’d like to pitch a premise.” So, we have some great opportunities out there.
superhero: So you’re thinking about going past the six-issue mini series?CF: Yeah, a lot of what’s going to happen is…well, we got rid of his son. Because even in the series they didn’t…
WK: Yeah, we got rid of his son.
CF: It didn’t make any sense. Things had to be updated. They just had to. But the fun thing about it is they are THE ODD COUPLE.
WK: It was THE ODD COUPLE! Stephen always would tell us the story, the fact that he was writing THE ODD COUPLE. It wasn’t about a super-hero. It was about this ordinary guy who gets this suit that creates problems in his life, y’know? Bob Culp used to talk about the show as an Arthur and Merlin scenario. Where Arthur gets the sword and Merlin is his Yoda. It’s the one who pushes him to do all these great things.
superhero: One of the things I noticed, when I watched the pilot…Gabriel’s Army…was that controversial at all? When it first came out? Because today…a religious army saying the phrase, “Jesus loves you”?WK: I don’t think so. We’ve handled it a little bit differently. We’ve made them a heck of a lot more intelligent and more sinister. They’re sharp.
CF: We took out the Vice-President. Also, too, his partner (Bill Maxwell’s partner is killed in the opening minutes of the pilot.) That was really interesting talking to Bob Culp, because he asked us about the pilot the other day, well, originally they wanted his partner black because they wanted Bill Cosby to be in it but Bill Cosby just didn’t work out in the end. But when you watch the pilot it makes absolutely no sense because he’s infiltrating Gabriel’s Army (a white power group)…
WK: Because everybody else is white…
CF: And everybody’s just like, Ho-Kay. One of the things is that when you watch it (the series) there’s really no recurring bad guy. Y’know, there’s really not. That was always the one thing when you watched the show…OK, well we’ve got to beef some people up here. Because the thing is we do need to establish some things here. Especially if we want to do this for a long time with the series. We need to make sure that Ralph has some menaces and really kind of make it so the stakes need to be a little bit higher. They just have to. You know, too, what I think will be fun too is that when you bring it into the modern world…it was always interesting watching the show…he would get on a bus and people would look at him and how weird he was. A lot of people would get off the bus. Now you pretty much live in a day and age where people would probably be a little more accepting of him in his jammies.
WK: The fun thing about it is it’s fun to discover it along the way, too.
superhero: Regarding villains, because it’s set in the modern day, will Ralph be dealing with terrorism, repercussions of 9-11, super-villains? How fantastic and how grounded do you want it to be?WK: I don’t know if we…it’s always fun to stay grounded. Ralph is the everyman. There’s always going to be problems. He definitely wants to be a regular guy and he has this F.B.I. gentleman that creates a problem for him. And, of course, Bill Maxwell is still a Phillip Marlowe wannabe. He’s still living in the post-cold war world.
CF: It’s really fun because, by nature, we’re a little bit darker.
WK: Real dark! MYTHOLOGY WARS is very dark.
CF: We had the whole terrorist talk about it. But we need to sort of balance it out because it might be too much. We’re not saying no but the thing is we need to establish the kind of same world that the show lived in and make sure that we have to be a little bit more mature.
WK: Mature but a PG. PG-13. Stephen has made it very clear: he wants to keep it PG/PG-13 at the most.
superhero: It’s interesting, because having watched the pilot and a couple of episodes, when they first get the suit Bill starts fantasizing about going into Russia, we’re going to take out their missile systems, we’re going into the Kremlin…is there any of that sort of thing? If you got a super-suit wouldn’t you want to go fight terrorism?CF: The wonderful thing about the characters was that Ralph, if he was left of his own accord, he’d be helping out the whales. And Greenpeace. Bill Maxwell wants to bring it a little bit harder. You have to update Maxwell too. You have to ask yourself is he F.B.I.? Is he Homeland Security? Those are all interesting things because what does he have access to? But one of the wonderful things that the series did to keep things in check, in all honesty, is, it was one of the most genius things they did…every F.B.I. agent every 3-6 months has to take a lie detector test. It’s a fascinating thing because they ask you if anything has changed in your life. And Bill is just…
CF: Yeah, yeah! It’s an interesting line of how you have to keep certain things away. It’s fun because it really accounts for a lot of the human elements. Like one of the great things that they do too is the story about how when Ralph is getting promoted to Vice-Principal, and Pam is going to open up her own law practice and Maxwell is getting demoted!
WK: My favorite episode is called “The Plague”. You know, where they’re trying to save this military installation and they’re afraid that a virus has been unleashed and it’s the black plague and so they fantasize that they’re having the symptoms. And it’s funny!
superhero: When I was looking at the ashcan I noticed that in a scene with Bill in the diner he’s looking at the TV with the President on it and it’s a liberal president. Why did you guys decide not to go with George W. Bush? You would think that would be Bill’s fantasyland.WK: It’s wishful thinking! It’s wishful thinking!
CF: It plays better.
superhero: You didn’t want to explore that at all?CF: I think honestly any hard-core Republican, honest to god, would be hard pressed to look you in the eye and say that George W. Bush has done a great job.
superhero: Oh, I’ve met a couple.CF: It plays better into the process that goes on with Bill.
WK: Ralph is a man of the people and I think the comic book should be a book for the people. We’re not trying to impose our political beliefs on anyone. That’s just the way we called it.
superhero: How does it feel to be writing the character? Did you have any say in the original series?WK: Oh, Bob and I re-wrote…there wasn’t a scene that Bob and I didn’t have our hands in. We didn’t change the intent or direction of the scene. The phrases would be approached differently.
CF: The wonderful thing about the show is…there were twenty-two episodes in the second season…they would basically get the scripts and they would sit there and they would talk to each other before a scene would start and there was just kind of a dialog which would make it much, much better and funnier.
WK: With the same impact. With the same entry point and the same exit point and covering the same territory but changing it to be either a little bit funnier, heightened a bit. I remember at times Bob and I sitting around saying, “We wouldn’t be funny. There wouldn’t be a joke at this point.”
CF: They tried to play it straight as much as they could, too.
superhero: So would you say it’s kind of natural to you writing the characters? Was there a lot of improv on the set?WK: You know, what happens when you live in a character you go there, you start thinking like that character. You crawl into his skin and live in his body and his mind and soul so to speak. I’ve stepped out of that for a long time. But the more we do it the easier it is to slip back into that skin. But it’s going to be slightly different because I have a different perspective on life. We’re probably going to imbibe it with a little bit more irony because naturally there’s more…the older you get you realize how much irony there is in life.
superhero: So was there ever a point in your career where you felt, sort of like William Shatner did about STAR TREK? Where this (THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO) affected my career too much? Were you typecast by it?WK: No, no. I maybe felt that for a few years but I’ve never stopped working. Now it’s just a great joy to revisit those characters and spend time with my friends.
CF: But at the time, during the show, you were worried that if you used the jammies too much it could hurt you as a real actor.
WK: I was worried a little bit. You’ve got to realize it was a different era. You didn’t have the Ed Nortons, and the Robert Downey Jrs, and the Nicholas Cages doing these fantasy epics.
CF: You had George Reeve…and that guy’s career went to hell.
WK: It was a different time, you know? You’ve got to realize as an actor I had done a lot of A-list films. I had been doing a lot of Broadway. I came from a play with Diane Wiest off-Broadway with the cast of the Guthrie Theatre. We were off-Broadway. I was doing BONJOUR, LA, BONJOUR, a Michel Tremblay play. With Diane Wiest. Fabulous actress. And I went right to do THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO. I was worried about the fact, wearing that costume at the time. Because no one was doing it! There wasn’t Nicholas Cage, you know, doing GHOST RIDER. So it was a different time. But that changed. That changed and now it’s acceptable.
superhero: On the flipside how does it feel to be an icon? Because all the people who were kids at my age know who you are. I mean they know THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO. When we were talking earlier you said you were nervous about the hall (at Comic-Con) being empty when you and Connie Selleca showed up.WK: I was very nervous. Connie turned to me and she said, “What if nobody comes to see our panel discussion at Comic-Con?” I said, “I’m worried too, Connie.” We walked in and it was standing room only. It was unbelievable.
superhero: Do you get a sense of how powerful it is to fans over the years?WK: It’s been a great surprise.
superhero: Well, that’s great because there were a lot of fans, like me, as soon as the DVD came out, as soon as the maquette came out, I was there.CF: I’m with you, man. It was one of my favorite shows as a kid. When I got him on GAMERS (Folino’s independently financed feature film) I was star struck, y’know? It was awesome. It’s funny because we talked about Comic-Con and I was, like, no it’s gonna be cool. Don’t worry about it. That show, not just that it was in the top ten when it came out but the song too. So many people know about it. The wonderful thing is that it was so hard to find a re-run of that show and the DVDs only came out a couple of years ago but it still stayed in your mind. It still had a special place. Whereas you watch “The A-Team”, well, that just doesn’t hold up.
WK: It’ll be interesting to see…who is it? Singleton is directing the re-make.
superhero: So no plans for getting THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO to the big screen?WK: I know Steve is making a film. He’s definitely going to make a feature film. But we won’t be starring in it or anything. He’ll make it with a new cast. I read a very good script. Chris read the script. It’s a very good script.
superhero: Did the script provide any guidance for your series?CF: No, we had the outline laid out beforehand and had the script already written. The direction they are going…
WK: It’s different. It’s skewing younger. That’s something that Steve wanted to do. I think he has long term plans with it. It’s different and similar at the same time. It’s like what they did with STAR TREK. It’s a different franchise but no less viable.
superhero: Well, how did you two meet? You met on the set of GAMERS?WK: Yeah.
CF: We did an indie film. Shot on 35mm. Did it in six days. Basically we cast John Heard, Beverly D’Angelo, Kelly LeBrock and what happened was…we didn’t have enough money to even rehearse with any of these guys. We met on the first day of shooting. It was just funny. We were late and he was so cool about waiting. He was so laid back. You’re such a better writer when you have real actors and you’re such a better comic book writer when you have a real artist. It’s amazing when you see what real actors can do. Up until that point we didn’t have the opportunity to work with real S.A.G. talent. It was absolutely fascinating. So we tricked him to go down to GenCon with us and while he was signing the movie for free he looked at me and goes, “You so owe me.” That began two and a half years of meeting twice a week working out ideas for a comic book. That’s really how it happened. It’s been awesome. He’s tough. He’s really tough.
WK: Who me?
CF: Oh, yeah. It was like going to boot camp. It was great, though. It was really cool. Because you’re sitting there with somebody who’s written four screenplays that have gotten made. Someone who’s been on several hit shows. It’s been nice. Nice to have a mentor who’s your friend and who you respect too. It’s been a really good blessing.
WK: He gives me far too much credit.
superhero: And thus ends Part One of this interview. Be sure to tune in next Monday for Part Two as Mr. Katt and Mr. Folino talk more about new Catastrophic Comics to look out for like the noir super hero tale, SPARKS, the epic MYTHOLOGY WARS, and the comic book adaptation of THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO. We’ll see ya then!Discovered as a babe in an abandoned comic book storage box and bitten by a radioactive comic fan when he was a teenager, superhero is actually not-so mild mannered sometime designer & cartoonist, Kristian Horn of Los Angeles, California. He's been an @$$hole for three years. Some of his work can be seen at www.kristianhorn.com.
Hey folks, Ambush Bug here. Just wanted to pop in and remind you about our SEND ME YOUR NIGHTMARES contest to commemorate the release of THE NIGHTMARE FACTORY Volume 2 from FOX Atomic. We want to give away a copy of the book to five lucky Talkbackers. THE NIGHTMARE FACTORY VOLUME 2 features stories by Stuart Moore and Joe Harris with art from Nick Stakal, Toby Cypress, Vasilis Lolos, and Bill Sienkiewicz and it’ll be available at cooler comic shops on September 2nd. To win, all you have to do is send me your most pee-inducing, toe-curling, spine-tingling nightmare. Last time we did this, we got some genuinely frightening entries. Hopefully, you guys can top yourselves with this one. Deadline for this contest is this Friday and the winners will be announced in a future AICN Comics SHOOT THE MESSENGER Column. Be sure to check out THE NIGHTMARE FACTORY VOLUME 2 when it hits the shelves Wednesday. Good luck and remember those nightmares.
Not realy a question as much as a “Hey check this cool shit out!”
Check out this fan made film: GREMLINS meets BATMAN meets INDIANA JONES meets EXORCIST meets GOONIES meets THE BEAST FROM 1000 FATHOMS!
Check out this fan made film: GREMLINS meets BATMAN meets INDIANA JONES meets EXORCIST meets GOONIES meets THE BEAST FROM 1000 FATHOMS!
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Sept. 2, 2008, 7:59 a.m. CST
Really, atrocious. <BR><BR>As it is, never heard of any of these comics. <BR><BR>Only really got into a couple recently through a friend's recommendation. <BR><BR>Here's the list of the ones I've had a look at so far. Y - The Last Man is great; Preacher looks to be as good; Sandman looks great, if a little gothic (though I love most things Gaiman has done); and Black Hole is wonderful. <BR><BR>Still have Swamp Thing, Fables, Civil War, Identity Crisis and Hellblazer to work my way through but that relies heavily on how much I enjoy the others.
Sept. 2, 2008, 8:04 a.m. CST
As a very awkward interview. I mean, more power to these guys and all, but with the half sentences and completing the other guy's thoughts and all. Maybe it's just the mood I'm in but that got under my skin.
Sept. 2, 2008, 8:26 a.m. CST
One of the best things about the original show, is that it played fair as an argument about mutual criticism and value on both sides of the American political/cultural scene. Ralph and Bill/Connie could both try overly goofy things that reflected the idealism of their politics, gone too far. But both were often presented as being correct, too. (Sometimes on the same topic despite their differences!) It was a brilliant mix, and I'm hard-pressed to think of another show that's done as well on that score.
Sept. 2, 2008, 9:32 a.m. CST
by Kevin Kittridge
That picture of Ralph in the tweed jacket with the suit underneath is amazing...but I may be biased.
Sept. 2, 2008, 11:30 a.m. CST
by Bill Clay
Season 3 went off track a bit, being the final season, but overall it was a great series. As a bonus, the Season 3 DVD has "The Greatest American Heroine" included - an attempt to revive the show a couple of years later with a female superhero! <p> It had a Sarah Palin looking chick wearing "the suit" with Bill as her mentor. For the most part it was an awful revival, except for the fact that it brought back the original cast and gave them the finale that they never got to do during the original series' run. A must see for GAH fans.
Sept. 2, 2008, 11:55 a.m. CST
by Darth Busey
Even though its a blatant rip-off of Green Lantern. The premise still works, and would be a viable tv show, film, comic book, whatever. Good luck to Bill Katt on this.
Sept. 2, 2008, 11:59 a.m. CST
by NYC Strong
That show was a rip off of the Condor Man movie. They were riding the coat tails of it's mid level success. Regardless, I watched both and liked both, as a kid.
Sept. 2, 2008, 12:24 p.m. CST
by The Gipper
They're missing out on one other Stephen J. Cannell created superhero -- Captain Bellybuster. Captain Bellybuster was on both Greatest American Hero AND The A-Team. He was the mascot for Burger Heaven. Captain Bellybuster DESERVES his own comic series, too!!!
Sept. 3, 2008, 11:41 p.m. CST
by Bill Clay
I guess us GAH fans are in short supply around here. :(
Sept. 9, 2008, 10:01 a.m. CST
I came to this site to read about the movie: http://tinyurl.com/6ekb86 . It seems like an original cast thing too. I dunno if I 'believe it or not', but I'd like to see it.