AICN COMICS Q&@: superhero chats with Robert Tinnell and Neil Vokes on MONSTERVERSE’s FLESH & BLOOD Miniseries!!!
@’s by Robert Tinnell & Neil Vokes
from MONSTERVERSE’s FLESH & BLOOD !!!
This interview is a transcription of an actual audio interview that I’ll be posting on my own podcast at www.parttimefanboy.com. But for now, you can enjoy it here, in all its glory!
SUPERHERO: Why don’t you tell me a little bit about your backgrounds? Because I know that some people might not exactly know who you are. If you want to start with Robert, what about your comic book background, your film background if you could start with that?
ROBERT TINNELL (RT): Sure, I ‘ve had a very eclectic film career and it continues to be eclectic. From being a kid and producing SURF NAZIS MUST DIE to directing a lot of features through the 90’s with… mainly for kids type films, things like KIDS OF THE ROUND TABLE and FRANKENSTEIN AND ME and getting to work with some cool people like Ryan Gosling, Elisha Cuthbert, Burt Reynolds. I relocated back to the East coast, just wanted to raise my kids back here and I like it back here, but still work in Hollywood mostly writing although I do a lot of… I’m actually… I’m just finishing up a feature length documentary called, we’ll just say, THAT STUFF WILL ROT YOUR BRAIN which is about how… in fact, you guys ran some coverage on it, about how the… when they released the classic horror movies to TV in the 50’s and 60’s how it kind of transformed popular culture. So it’s a very, very varied career. Comic wise, Neil Vokes and I were friends and it was funny, I thought I would’ve found it easier, logically easier, to raise money to make a movie than I would’ve thought that anybody would let me do comics. I was just a comic fanatic, I loved comics. And Todd Livingston and I had come up with the idea for what eventually became our second book, not our first one, was called the WICKED WEST. And Neil, you just finished up I think SUPERMAN ADVENTURES. Right?
NEIL VOKES (NV): Yeah, I think I’d just ended the series.
RT: And it was before you did part one of Justice (PARLIAMENT OF JUSTICE) and we were at a convention, actually, a film convention just friends hanging out drinking at the bar and Neil said, “What are you guys working on?” And we told him and he goes, “I wanna draw that.” We were just sort of blown away that anybody… and it just kinda went from there and just… I just love comics. I love the medium and I’m just really grateful that I get to work in it with so many good people.
SUPERHERO: Oh, that’s great. So allow me to geek out for a second because Neil, I actually was a big fan of that Superman Adventures book. I really, really liked it, I’m a big Superman fan in general and I thought that those were some of the better Superman stories told. Even though it was kind of considered a kiddie book I guess by most people, I really thought that the stories and the art in that book were some of the better Superman stories in maybe, what, the past… I don’t know how long has it been? I would say 10 years?
NV: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That was… I heard that a lot when I was doing SUPERMAN ADVENTURES along with the various other people that worked on it, like Terry Austin on the inks and such, everybody that came up and talked to us said, “These stories and the animated book are just so much better than so much of the present day Superman.”
RT: Kristian, do you remember the one… I remember the one he did about Krypto. I have a page from, the original page. That story was just wonderful.
NV: Ty Tempelton wrote that.
RT: Oh my gosh, that was such a great story.
NV: That was also, in fact, I recently just three days ago before I came to the show I had a fan write me and say, “Do you have any pages left from that one with Krypto?” Long gone, but some of the stories were just fantastic. I really enjoyed the ones with that Mark Evanier wrote, because he included Mister Miracle.
NV: I loved working on those because Kirby.
SUPERHERO: Yeah, of course. Kirby’s absolutely fantastic. I mean, I don’t have to say that to anybody out there. What about a little bit more of your history Neil? Can you go a little bit more into depth besides the Superman stuff?
NV: Well, I started comic wise back in around ’84. So I’ve been doing this now about 28 years.
NV: And I started with a small company called Comico Comics in Pennsylvania.
SUPERHERO: Oh yeah.
NV: Yeah, they had just started. That was Matt Wagner and those fellas. They had just come out of college and they started their own company and I had sent out my samples to many, many different people with a friend of mine who was an inker … Rich Rankin. And he and I weren’t getting any response because, again, our stuff really wasn’t that great illustration wise. The other problem was if you send any samples to DC or Marvel and you don’t do their character, they won’t look at it. They basically feel that if you don’t draw our characters, you just can’t draw. So I was very, very disappointed about that. But the smaller companies responded nicely. Joe Staton was art director at, I think it was, Capital… no, Pacific Comics. And he sent back a lovely response. He gave me notes, made little sketches and things for me. And it helped me a lot. And we met people like Marshall Rogers at conventions and they gave us all sorts of pointers. This small company, Comico, liked this one short story we did. They took it and put it in their little primer, Comico Primer Comic, this vehicle for new talent, which virtually the whole company was new talent. And one thing led to another, we became friends with the guys, they assigned us a book they were going to do, I did about three months worth, about 90 total pages. They ended up not doing the book but it gave me three months of work that I got paid for and I needed that on the job training anyway. And then they got the ROBOTECH license and we got a choice of one of the three books they were doing. Then after about two years, my buddy Rich and I decided to self publish a book called EAGLE, which was kind of a martial arts magical kind of thing. He’s like Doctor Strange with a sword. And we did that as a black and white book because The Turtles had come out and everybody was doing black and white books at that point and they were selling like hotcakes. Our first issue of EAGLE sold over 40,000 copies.
NV: Yeah, exactly. We did that for a few issues. Of course, it went steadily down from there, but on the average we were selling about 10-15,000 copies. And then the black and white thing, as all these things in the industry go, everybody just overdid it so it just fizzled except for guys like The Turtles. And we had to cancel a book, but I moved on and did all sorts of other work for hire things in those years. I worked at DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, we did stuff at Image later, and lots and lots of different things. TARZAN, CONGIRILLA, JURIASSIC PARK, I worked on all sorts of kinds of books and it was fun, it was a great experience, I learned a lot. And the most recent, at that time which would’ve been some years ago… now, about 10 years ago, was the SUPERMAN ADVENTURES book. And I had gone in to get the BATMAN ADVENTURES book, I really wanted to draw Batman real bad. And my agent tried to get it for me but they said, “You know, we’re starting the Superman animated one too. Would you be interested?” And I said, “I’m not as interested, but sure, what the hell?” And it turned out I had a great time drawing it. I think literally the first comic I remember reading was a Superman comic, I was probably about 4 maybe 5 and I probably read it in a barbershop. Tony’s Barbershop. So it was like destiny, eventually I even got around to drawing Superman and then that book got cancelled.
NV: So I was kind of floundering a little bit and Mike Oeming came to me and said… because he was a young guy that I had kind of mentored at the beginning of his career. And he had this idea called PARLIAMENT OF JUSTICE and it was this kind of… starts out like an animated thing and gets really dark and really violent. And I didn’t want to do it, I turned him down. I said, “No, this isn’t me.” I’d just come off of SUPERMAN ADVENTURES, so it was a whole different kind of book. But he changed my mind, I sat down, I did it, and I suddenly got notice by people. It’s one thing to draw ,say, Superman, it’s really a geeky, wonderful thing, but you’re one of 500 guys that drew Superman.
NV: And this guy came along and he said, “Here’s this project, let’s do this.” And now it’s like this is Neil Vokes’s project. Guys like Mark Wheatley, whose work I respect, came up and said, “You found your voice. After 20 years, you found your voice.”
SUPERHERO: Wow, so is that in trade? PARLIAMENT OF JUSTICE?
NV: Yes. It was a one shot.
RT: It was a standalone…Image Comics.
NV: It’s awesome. It’s just beginning, middle, and an end, and that’s it.
SUPERHERO: Oh, that sounds great.
NV: That was around the time also that Bob and I started talking about these things. I was introduced to Bob as, I told somebody this this weekend, at this convention we met at which, I believe, was the ’93 Famous Monsters Con.
NV: No? It wasn’t that one? It was ninety…
RT: I think it was ninety.
NV: It was in that area. And he was introduced to me as a filmmaker who loved comics and I was introduced to him as a comic book maker who loved films. And we just kind of meshed and we were like fast friends within one day of that weekend I think.
SUPERHERO: Oh, that’s great.
NV: And we started… he showed me the script for BLACK FOREST, we talked about WICKED WEST, this other idea they had, and I said, “BLACK FOREST would make a hell of a comic book. Would you like to do it?” And Bob said, “I never did any comic books before. What do we do?” So we just worked out all the little details, I sat down and drew that thing, and I loved every second of it, and did it kind of the same style as I did Parliament in the black and white inkwash style. And one thing led to another and we’ve been doing projects ever since.
RT: It sounds like there was totally a plan. You always hear from people they go, “Do you do comics to get movies made?” Man, if I do comics to get movies made, somebody needs to hit me upside the head. It’s a lot easier just to go get movies made in my experience.
SUPERHERO: Really? Because that’s the question I had for you, Robert, because you had just mentioned saying that it was really hard for you to get people to let you do comics. I mean, why is that? What’s the difference?
RT: I didn’t ask. I mean, I was too stupid to ask. You know? And the oddest thing about it is, and Neil will back me up and I swear, you know, let me preface this by saying I loved Pink Floyd when I was a kid. And it always seemed so brilliant and smart to me and I thought that they had this really elaborate plan and then I read a book about them and discovered there was no plan at all, they were kind of just banging around in the universe and things worked out. If you look back at the comic thing, you’ll think that there was this plan where there was none. But funny enough, I had, for a few years, I had become really enamored of things like… I wasn’t reading comics so much anymore. I was still reading books like HELL BLAZER, things that I really liked, or PREACHER or something. But I was… and ASTRO CITY, I was a nut for ASTRO CITY and I was a big fan of Kurt’s (Kurt Busiek). But I was… I had started… I had discovered Comic Book Artist Magazine, and I started becoming sort of obsessed with how comics were made and the history of them. So when we… Neil actually kinda had to yank my chain pretty early on because he’s like, “Look, I appreciate what you’re trying to do. You don’t have to do that with me.” Because I was like, “Look, do we need to plan this for this? Or do we have to plan that for that?” Almost really full script kind of like you’re writing for British artists or something where you have to get so meticulous.
SUPERHERO: Like Alan Moore.
RT: Yeah, because… but I wasn’t doing it because I… I wasn’t trying to be a control freak, I had just so absorbed all of this information about how things were done that I did have a sense. And I think ultimately it served me well, just not initially. It wasn’t… I did a book that’s not horror at all, it was actually fortunate enough to be nominated for an Eisner called FEAST OF THE SEVEN FISHES. It was a daily online comic strip and it’s a romantic comedy about Italians cooking fish on Christmas Eve. That strip really was a tremendous learning experience for me because you had to do everything in three and four panels and it started with a great young artist named Ed Piskor and then about halfway through Ed had to leave and Alex Saviuk came on. And Alex just took me to school, he started really… and I do think when I came back and did things with you there was a difference.
NV: Oh yeah.
RT: Because you have to be so tightly controlled when you’re… because you have and… I had a bigger story in mind, but I was having to parse it out three andfour panels a day and it was…
NV: That’s really hard to do.
RT: It really is, and I’ll tell ya, I would recommend it to anyone especially if they were trying to get into comics. Just sit down and do them as exercises, it’s… it really made me a better comic and made me a better screenwriter.
NV: Alex had experience with that doing the Spider-Man strip for years.
RT: Oh yeah.
SUPERHERO: So you’re saying that breaking down the writing and the whole process was harder for you than it was making a film? I mean, I live in LA. I know different people who are involved in different aspects of film and, you know, Hollywood is murder. You’re saying the comic thing was harder for you to nail down in a way?
RT: I’ll put it this way, I’ve never not been able to make a decent living from film.
RT: I’m not saying that, you know, listen, you wake up one day and you’re that guy. You always hear about people who they make a living writing scripts that never get made and I used to say, “Oh yeah, right.” That really happens.
SUPERHERO: Oh wow.
RT: It really happens.
SUPERHERO: That’s great. That’s good that you’re able to do that, that’s fantastic. So what do we… let me ask you just how you got into horror… how did you develop a passion for horror? Where did that start off?
NV: I think we both developed it the exact same way, growing up.
RT: Yeah, it’s what I’m making that documentary about. It’s… it was this imagery, particularly in the early 60’s through the late 70’s, you can look at all these different events that, you know, the horror hosts were a big part of our life. DARK SHADOWS, I think that… I did a roundtable interview with Video Watch Dog for Tim Lucas with a bunch of people talking about the old DARK SHADOWS TV show. And it is extraordinary in hindsight after coming out of that panel, out of that collaborative article at the end, and realizing I think it’s underestimated how much that show affected young people. You know? It was a great time to sort of come of age. When I was a kid, not quite a teenager yet, all the big Marvel black and white horror books hit and TOMB OF DRACULA had hit and WEREWOLF BY NIGHT, which was freaking awesome.
NV: GHOST RIDER, all that stuff.
RT: Oh my gosh, it was… there was just so much wonderful stuff. A lot of times people will go, “Well, don’t you wanna mention EC? Or don’t you wanna mention CREEPY and EERIE?” And I wanna go, “Listen, that’s like me pretending the Jean-Luc Godard affected me.” That’s like Tarantino when people are talking about Orson Wells this and Tarantino is like, “THE DIRTY DOZEN and THE SOUND OF MUSIC, man! GONE WITH THE WIND!” Those are the things that affected us as kids. PLANET OF THE APES was a huge influence, I think, on a generation of kids. There was all this imagery and stuff. It was a great time to be a kid.
NV: Yeah. I’m a little older than Bob, so actually, say for example, DARK SHADOWS was ‘66, wasn’t it?
RT: Yeah, I was too young for that.
NV: I was twelve years old then. So that ten year old to twelve year old time I, looking back on it through the years, I’ve realized how much has influenced me and affected me in that little time period. The first Hammer film, which I love Hammer films, the first Hammer films I ever saw were HORROR OF DRACULA and CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, they were at the drive-in in 1964.
SUPERHERO: Oh wow.
NV: And it was a double feature because they had just been rereleased in America as a double feature. And my family took us in the station wagon, my brother and I in our jammies, and I’m ten years old and we go to this… it was four films. It was HORROR OF DRACULA, CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, GILIATH VS THE VAMPIRES, and GODZILLA VS THE THING. So I guarantee you, all three of those major film genres affected the hell out of me for life.
NV: And the thing about Hammer was, was I had seen, on TV of course, I had seen the Universal stuff and I loved them. But those Hammer films just, I mean, literally hammered me in the head.
RT: It’s funny, see, I got exposed to Hammer actually pretty much before Universal. That stuff came out, I remember my brother and I stumbled upon HORROR OF DRACULA one stormy day, it’s like a total… honest to God, it’s like such a stereotype, and I just flipped out! Seven years old and you’re like… I just remember my brother crying, so scared.
SUPERHERO: That’s really interesting because, I mean, do you remember specifically maybe what your first horror film or experience would’ve been? And it sounds like they started really young. Because I know kids today are not… well, I guess it depends, are not necessarily exposed to that stuff as easily or as readily as maybe you and I were growing up.
NV: I think they’re actually more exposed to it because of video and computers and such. When we were kids, especially I think in my case, many cases, is that television, you had maybe three channels if you were lucky. And the movies you wanted to see came on occasionally sometimes late at night. There were always commercials; they were cut up. You had to go out of your way to catch a movie back then or go to the theatre to see them. And you didn’t get re-releases all that often, and there was of course no video. But nowadays kids can grab virtually any movie there is off of the internet, much less at a video store. And I think it’s easier now to be affected by those things, but I think because I think as… which might get a little pretentious, but as humans we’re hunters-gatherers, you know? And back then, you had to hunt and gather to get the movies or get the books…
RT: No, there were multiple Holy Grails. I remember the one Holy Grail for me was MONSTER TIMES had this thing about this film that it was called COUNT DRACULA by Jesus Franko, with Christopher Lee. It was like this is the film. And they did this thing like Neil Adams did the promotional artwork, stunning. I think heavily penciled.
NV: It was all pencil.
RT: It was all pencil. And they did this poster, it was Christopher Lee behind bars and it said, “Free Count Dracula!” And I just wanted to see this movie and I wanted to see it so bad. And for five years or six years I couldn’t see it, and it finally came on, they on Chiller Theater in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania they ran it. And it didn’t come on until two o’clock in the morning and it was dreadful. I get motion sickness, like with BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and stuff, it’s all these awful zooms. You know?
NV: Oh yeah, horrid music.
RT: And it’s not… but man, it was like you just had to see that movie.
NV: And nowadays with video, I mean, even that, I mean, I’ve got this beautiful print of it now on DVD of that movie. The main reason to want it, of course, is because I’m a Christopher Lee geek and he’s playing Dracula. But there was all that stuff that wasn’t available. Now it’s almost too easy in some ways to get a hold of something.
RT: Yeah, yeah. You miss the chase.
NV: Yeah, I think you actually… the harder it is… it’s like anything, anticipation. The harder it is to get something you really want, the more you want it.
SUPERHERO: That’s true.
NV: And the easier it is to get, it kinda takes a little of the passion out of it I think.
RT: But the funny thing is, is there is an echo to that and I’m gonna… it’s like the bad segue, but I have to say it because it popped in my head. That’s part of the reason that we’re doing FLESH AND BLOOD is there were things that we wanted that didn’t happen. And so we’re trying to make them happen.
NV: With FLESH AND BLOOD, of course, Hammer being one of the primary influences, Hammer never did a crossover movie. They never had Frankenstein meet Count Dracula or something like that.
NV: And whether or not they ever thought… who knows if they ever thought of it, but they just never went ahead and did it. And we just, literally, we just said, “Duh, what the heck?” We did it with…
RT: Yeah, with Todd Livingston we did it with… when Todd and I wrote THE BLACK FOREST, that was… we did the thing we wanted to see happen. Although the funny thing is, is that you start to get a little frustrated. I mean, for sure you feel the influences of Hammer films. We’d be lying if we said we didn’t, in particularly Terrence Fisher who was a huge influence on both of us, the director. But there are influences on this strip, honestly, as much as anything, DRACULA LIVES, that sensibility even more from DRACULA LIVES than from TOMB OF DRACULA. TOMB OF DRACULA is hugely important to both of us, but other things like, I mean, Neil is working on drawing volume three right now and, you know, PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK.
SUPERHERO: Oh yeah.
RT: It’s there. And it’s not there… again, and Tim Lucas has kind of helped me see this, although Tim didn’t even think I realized it at first, DARK SHADOWS was a giant monster rally and it was a tremendous influence on a lot of us. Not so much Neil than it was me, but for sure and let’s be, you know, let’s just be honest. First of all, we put down soaps but soaps are a pretty rigorous medium. They work pretty well, soap operas, and the best of comics function as soap operas. That’s… that was the genius of Spider-Man, that teen angst…that who’s she gonna go out with, will she go out with me, all that sort of stuff. The other stuff is cool and it’s around the edges, but… I always think about it, remember the moment it sort of became clear to me was I was… I think I was in… I might’ve been in junior high, and there was a DEFENDERS comic book where I think it was like Egghead blew up his niece and she lost her arm and she broke up with Kyle Richmond, with Night Hawk, and they weren’t gonna date anymore because she didn’t feel like a complete person because she’d lost her arm. Man, I felt horrible.
RT: This is really cooler than when they fight!
SUPERHERO: Yes. Yeah, well, that’s the whole aspect that draws you in. And actually that’s what I really like about Flesh and Blood is that it’s not just sort of monsters, it’s… there’s a story behind it, there’s that whole heroes trying to track down the monsters and all the angst that kind of surrounds that a bit.
NV: The whole thing about character and such where it’s like the FRIDAY THE 13th movies, which are basically just killing teenager movies. You’d probably like them a lot more if you cared about the teenagers they were killing, and you don’t. Recently Joss Whedon’s CABIN IN THE WOODS is a beautiful example of that where you actually care for each individual. When the first girl gets killed in the movie, I won’t give anything else away, but…
SUPERHERO: Oh, I saw it.
NV: It’s painful. It literally is painful because you’ve gotten to like her in the story. And FLESH AND BLOOD, it’s the same thing. It would be one thing, we could do four issues of monsters fighting monsters easily. But, first of all, we’d be bored and secondly I think really the audience would be bored. You want… you need those moments of the characters… getting into the characters, into the story line, and then you have these flashes of violence or flashes of action, and then you get back into… you have to have that up and down kind of feeling to it, otherwise you don’t care.
RT: And you know what else, Kristian, that’s going on? And, again, you always… when you talk about this stuff, you can overanalyze or you start to over intellectualize or whatever. I mean, we wanna have fun and it is fun, it’s fun for us and it seems to be fun for our audience. But also, I think that we are tapping back into the kind of roots of gothic literature and what’s interesting… the Universal horror movies, they tapped into like German expressionism in a lot of ways. Much more that than the true gothic prototype. Whereas Hammer, you know, and those companies, and not just Hammer at that time, but they kinda went back, they were more literary and in a sense less visual if you know what I mean, because they didn’t use the visual symbolism and whatnot. But what’s great about that gothic literature, there’s all this stuff that Mary Shelley was afraid of, that Braham Stoker was afraid of. If you look at just DRACULA, which I love the novel DRACULA, and you look at all the different anxieties that are present there from very simply biological ones like fluids and sort of parallels for STDs. And you think about Braham Stoker being in the city and suddenly it’s opening up and when you’re going to the docks in London you’re hearing all these different languages and voices and music and sounds and foods and smells. And it must’ve been very threatening especially to an island nation. And then you’ve got women starting to, oh my God, they wanna have jobs? Next thing you know, they’re gonna demand an orgasm! And, you know, so all of those elements, it’s funny. If you look at FLESH AND BLOOD on the surface, it’s like, “Oh man, they’ve got a lot of really hot girls without very many clothes on.” But the truth is, for both of us, it’s looking at these women who are struggling to be empowered and how much it threatens the men. A lot of the things that happen in these books happen not for supernatural reasons, but because the men can’t deal with the women exercising power or control.
NV: One thing that I’ve noticed, especially now on the third issue, is though Baron Frankenstein is in essence the star of the series, there’s a huge feminine element to the entire series that Bob has put in there with the characters. Aside from the obvious, like he’s saying, it opens with naked lesbian vampires on top of each other. It develops into a whole other thing. This third issue is primarily about a young girl who’s kind of, I won’t give anything away other than that, but she’s a young girl who has lost her memory, Frankenstein has experimented on her for some reason, and she meets all these other young girls who are in the finishing school, which is where the kind of PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK thing comes in, and there is some interesting, fascinating, emotional stuff that develops during the course of the story that naturally leads to some horrible, tragic things in the book. But it’s very much a… it’s almost a breather in the series and it’s, you know, we’ve had two issues of vampires and Dracula and werewolves fighting each other, and now we have this kind of poignant character tale about this young woman and how she’s all screwed up because of what Frankenstein has done. And it’s very much… there’s a lot of feminine stuff going on in this series.
SUPERHERO: Yeah, that’s one of the things that I wanted to ask you guys about. Because in this book, you don’t… at least the first two issues, it doesn’t seem like you guys are holding back at all. You are doing things that, I mean, although Hammer tended to be a bit salacious in some of their productions and, I mean, you guys go all out in certain aspects of this book. And so what did… when was the decision made to say like, “We’re just gonna go even further than the films probably even could. We’re just gonna go all the way with it.”
NV: I don’t think we actually have gone farther than the films. I think… the way I always refer to it is it’s kind of a soft R from like the early 70s, the way Hammer was going. They did vampire lovers and lust for a vampire and we haven’t really done anything beyond what they actually did in those movies. I mean, it might seem that way because, again, you’re looking at drawings in a book.
RT: I think what it is, Kristian, I think it’s because contextually now it’s every element of what made gothic horror great is sort of coming together. I tell you, a strong influence on me, and I go back again I just saw someone else did another version of it, is WITHERING HEIGHTS, the great love story. It’s not a great love story, that’s a sick story.
SUPERHERO: Yeah, it’s depressing.
RT: It’s awesome, it’s depressing, it’s all kinds of weird sexual shit going on. I’m sorry, can I say that in the interview?
SUPERHERO: Yeah, you can say it.
RT: Underneath, right? You know what I mean? There’s implied incest and that is really informing, I think, what we’re doing a lot too. Not just Wuthering Heights, I mean… but I think… I will say this, sometimes early on Neil would, I gotta say this, he would flip me a page and I’d go, “Wow, that’s not exactly what I thought was gonna happen. I didn’t know you were gonna go for it.” And he’s like, “You know what? If we’re gonna do this, we’re gonna do this.” And the more we thought about it, because we had a terrible title, I won’t even say what it originally was because we couldn’t think of…
SUPERHERO: Come on…
RT: And then my friend Ted had done the Hammer documentary FLESH AND BLOOD and I’d helped him with that and I was like… I kept thinking about it, and that’s really what this book is about. It’s about the flesh and it’s about the blood.
NV: Very much.
RT: And it’s kind of about all the sort of mingling of the two in every aspect. I mean, one of the things that I’m really proud of in the second book is when Frankenstein… because, you know, Frankenstein all he has is his curiosity really, and the occasional bout of lust. I mean, beyond that he really doesn’t have anything else. And, you know, and he, as you know, he ends up becoming sexually active with the vampire.
RT: And it’s so interesting.
NV: But, again, it’s not about he’s just horny. It’s because he is curious how do vampires do it? You know?
SUPERHERO: Well, that’s something we’re all curious about, really.
RT: Because here’s the deal, if you really start thinking about it and really wanna have fun doing this stuff, then you start to think about what motivates them. And I will go back to one of the things I will credit, when you write screenplays you’re developing things with different companies in Hollywood. People are always talking about raising the stakes and character in the movies…when you’re writing screenplays, they can’t just be evil. They have to want something, that’s what Hollywood says, you gotta want something. And I used to really resent that. I’m really glad that people pushed me to do that because then it becomes, “what do they want?” And, as you know, Erzsebet in FLESH AND BLOOD Vol. 2, she kinda talks about it. Basically she doesn’t say it in so many words, but it’s like, “What do you think I’m a cockroach?” These aren’t zombies, these aren’t flesh eating zombies or something like this or reanimated corpses. I mean, they’re dead people who are reanimated but they’re cognizant of their reanimation. And it goes back, first, I had written a thing that eventually we’re gonna fold… I’d written something called ONLY AT NIGHT which will actually eventually be folded into the FLESH AND BLOOD storyline far down the road. But there was a moment in it that I realized that what sort of Terry Fisher was exploring which was the kind of duality, this white, black, good, evil, Christ, Antichrist, all these sort of opposites. And one of the things I thought, I was like, “Well, if suicide is a mortal sin, if a vampire commits suicide, is that in fact a holy act?” Right? You know what I mean? You start thinking about that. If they consciously would choose death, true death, over the… and it starts getting into all this really neat theological philosophical whatever stuff. It’s just flat out fun to think about.
SUPERHERO: Yeah, I mean, that’s the interesting… but the thing that’s kinda never been made clear to me except for maybe on something like Buffy the Vampire Slayer by Joss Whedon…what actually does happen to someone when they become a vampire? I mean, you’re talking about a cognizant creature, but how different are you than what you were before you got turned? Right?
RT: There’s an inherent sort of problem with it because of free will. If you buy into the Judeo Christian thing of, you know, you’ve removed free will. It actually is counterintuitive to what, you know, it’s like punishing someone because they have an STD or AIDS or something. You know what I mean? As if there was some reason… some sort of inherent moral failing if you were attacked and something bad happened to you and you got sick from it. I mean, it’s… like I said, it’s illogical.
NV: He (Joss Whedon) made the point at the beginning that a vampire loses its soul, it doesn’t have its soul anymore, and that’s what makes them evil creatures in a way. And then he introduced that character of Angel as a character who is a vampire whose soul had been returned to him so he would suffer eternally for all the horrible things he’s done. And then the only… and the worse tragedy would be that if he ever had total happiness, which is what he accomplishes with Buffy, that he would turn back to his evil self again. So he… it was a lose/lose situation for him. He was suffering from all the memories of killing or he became his evil self again. And what is he… he’s gonna go through eternity that way.
SUPERHERO: Yeah, which I thought was kind of a brilliant take on that sort of little universe. So, I guess, just one last thing. How did you guys end up hooking up with Monsterverse? How did you guys get involved working all together? I mean, I know you guys said how you guys met, but how did you meet up with the guys behind Monsterverse?
NV: Well, we’re friends. Bob is actually better friends with Kerry Gamil, who is a well known comic book artist himself. And it’s essentially his company, he’s behind a lot of this. He’s one of the few people that actually works at the company, and Sam Park who does a lot of the PR and such. And I think Bob had probably been in touch with Kerry.
RT: No, it was you. I told Neil, I said, “Don’t bother because they’re busy with Lugosi and I don’t think they’re gonna wanna deal with this.”
NV: They had started… they wanted to do an anthology book called Bella Lugosi’s Tales from the Grave.
SUPERHERO: Yeah, which is fantastic.
NV: They had gotten the rights from Legosi Jr. to do that, to use Lugosi as kind of an Uncle Creepy kind of character in the book. And I had seen that and I’d only known Kerry through online, I’ve never actually met the guy. And I had written him an email, I just said, “Kerry, I’d love to do a story in that sometime. Maybe Bob and I could do a story there for one of the issues.” And he said, “Sure, we’d love it.” And just one thing led to another, Bob and I didn’t get to do a story together, I did do a story in the second issue, but we started talking about other stuff and at the time we had already been working in some fashion on FLESH AND BLOOD. Probably at the time it still wasn’t even called FLESH AND BLOOD. And I had done a lot of pages on it at that point. At that point it was one book, we were gonna do just one graphic novel at the time. And I started showing some of the pages on Facebook and Kerry started seeing these pages and said, “Oh, I love these pages. These are great. What is this?” One thing led to another, I explained it to him, and he said, “You know, guys, this is the kind of book we wanna do.” And that’s kind of how it started.
SUPERHERO: Oh wow.
RT: I think… you can’t, I mean, Kerry and Sam are fantastic but you can’t… and I can’t minimize what they’ve done. For example, early on Kerry just, he designed the logo, but he was like, “We want Dan Brereton do the covers.” And Neil and I, we didn’t really… we had another idea to be blunt, another way that we thought the covers were gonna be. But when I saw what, which we were involved with the design of the cover, I mean, there was a team effort, don’t get me wrong. Because Dan’s like, “Just tell me what you want.” When I saw that first cover I went, “Oh my God. You know what? From now on when Kerry says just do something, I’m pretty much just gonna do it.”
RT: And the other thing I would say too is that we’re… I think that comics given the costs need to deliver more than their competition. And we really strive for a few things. We wanna pack that book cover to cover with entertainment and we also wanna do things the way that comics and monster magazines and fanzines and things in the 60’s and 70’s did. You felt like you were in a clubhouse. And we’re really trying to create that sense of community, that’s why we have our friends come in like Michael Price is writing something for the third volume, it’s gonna be great. Tom Savini’s doing something for the third volume.
SUPERHERO: Oh wow.
RT: Tim Lucas. But also, we’re lucky on our backups. I mean, Bob Hall, I’m writing something for Bob Hall. I’m ecstatic doing that Operation Satan thing, which will eventually feed into the main FLESH AND BLOOD storyline.
SUPERHERO: How? Obviously you can’t tell me.
NV: It’s kind of what… basically we were just creating our own FLESH AND BLOOD universe.
SUPERHERO: Oh, that’s great because I like Operation Satan a lot!
NV: And Bob is a… he’s a neglected artist. I mean, he’s one of those fellows that’s been in the industry for ages and his work is amazing. And he’s older than I… he’s a good ten years, maybe ten years older than me. And he’s in his sixties and he just draws beautifully, but he’s just not… it’s an age thing with comic industry.
RT: Well, but he also went off and wanted to do other things.
NV: Well, he does theatre and he directs.
RT: I mean, this guy’s a renaissance man but he’s taken me to graduate school, that’s what I keep saying.
NV: And we also we had our old British buddy, Ade Salmon, was doing a Frankenstein thing for us. And we’ve got wonderful artists doing pinups and we’ve got a lot of friends of ours doing text pieces, which are… they kind of fill in the gaps of a lot of this stuff. It’s like we call them DVD extras sometimes.
RT: But, you know, it is that we just want there to be conversation and I do think, like when Bruce Hallenbeck did in the first book he did that little backstory and then Curt Purcell did one in the last one. And I’m hearing from younger readers, we’re getting some girls reading now for example, and some girls in their early twenties told me that they really appreciated that they would read the story and then they read the extras and they’d go, “I gotta go back and read the story again because now that I have some context or I have a deeper understanding, a deeper appreciation for it.” I love that. You remember when Tony Isabella would write articles for DRACULA LIVES or something back in the day? Those things, they just made you feel more, I don’t know, aware and it just… any time you can increase appreciation and understanding, I think that it becomes a richer reading experience.
NV: Eventually Tony gave us a great review on the book too.
NV: So we got a nice geek moment out of that.
SUPERHERO: That’s great. Well, I gotta say, I mean, I do love this book and I think it’s quality all the way through. I mean, it’s just fantastic. I picked up the first two at Comic-Con and I can’t say enough about it. So I think you guys are doing a great job. When does the third one come out?
RT: I just yelled across the convention today, we worked at the West Virginia Pop Culture Con today and I said, “Yeah, when is number three coming out?”
NV: I said, “As soon as the artist is done with it.”
RT: I’m writing… and you know what we did? We were idiots. I gotta say this. We… Neil and I both fully consider Matt Webb to be a… he is…
SUPERHERO: Oh yeah.
RT: He is a storyteller on this book and to suggest otherwise or to ignore his contributions would just be criminal.
NV: And he’s got two big things going against him at the beginning because first of all, he’s doing it for nothing. He’s not getting paid, he’s doing it for the passion of doing it. And secondly, as are the rest of us for that matter, but he’s also… he didn’t really know the source material that well that we were kind of referencing. So I had to give him a lot of movies and stills and things to get him going, and he just fell right into it. As he put it, he said after that first half of the first issue, he just fell right into it. And everybody that reviews the book comments on his colors.
SUPERHERO: Yeah, no. I mean, and they’re unsung heroes, especially these days with everything being sort of digital and stuff like that. The colorists are really the unsung heroes of the comic book industry in my opinion.
RT: What I like is that he and Neil both have been sort of shifting some things as they go on and… hey, Kristian, you don’t have to put this in the interview but I’ve got to ask you because I was… what we both decided is we’re gonna play with things. We’re gonna do what we wanna do, have fun, and push the form a little bit. And I keep getting these private messages from people going, “Did you really just jump that book 50 years into the future?”
SUPERHERO: Yeah, yeah.
RT: And by the way, it will happen again.
NV: And the thing is, it’s really, if you’re paying attention, you… it’s easy. It’s a smooth transition. Even though it’s 50 years, it’s a smooth transition.
SUPERHERO: Yeah I, definitely, when I was reading that, I had to go back and forth and I was like, “Wait, what just happened here? Hold on.” And then, you know, because it wasn’t really… I have the book here and I can flip to it, but I don’t remember if there was anything that… yeah… I just had to go back and forth and say, “Wait a minute. What just happened here? Did they just jump ahead?” So… but, yeah. Either way…
RT: And, honestly, we wanted that reaction because it made people stop and go, holy cow! It was that Jump the Shark m oment…that you can’t do that! And so that was why we wanted to do it. And for me particularly writing screenplays where you just kind of have so many rules, the opportunity here to actually be a comic book and break some rules and have some fun, it’s just wonderful.
NV: And that’s the primary thing, we’re having a lot of fun doing it.
SUPERHERO: Well, you can tell that you guys are having fun. I think that, I mean, every page is just full of passion and especially your art. I think it’s absolutely fantastic and, like I said, I loved it from the moment I picked it up. So there’s no firm release date on three? Are these just… there’s no set deadline or schedule? Or three just comes out when it comes out?
NV: That was a fault of ours when we started. We really should’ve, looking back on it, we should’ve started the book, I mean, started putting the book out after having at least finished 2 issues, which we did not do. We kind of jumped into publishing the book right in the middle of doing the first issue.
NV: Then we had to rearrange our idea, like I said, it was a one book book. And then we had this banging of heads at Pittsburgh one year and we said, “We can’t do it. It’s not gonna work.” Matt was busy on something else, we’re never gonna get it done by the schedule we wanted. So we said, “Well, maybe we need to expand it.” “No, no. We can’t do that.” And then he thought about it more and he said, “Let’s expand it to a four book series.” And then not only could we make it work that way, but he could add that much more to the story line.
RT: And then it got crazy.
NV: And then it got crazy because once the book started coming out it was like, “Oh God, now we gotta catch up. Now I gotta catch up.”
SUPERHERO: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
NV: I’m still trying to catch up.
RT: The other thing that we realized is that people are not content. They don’t want this all squeezed in, the readership isn’t enormous yet but they’re passionate, they’re vociferous, and they want what they want and they don’t want this rushed. And when we realized that it’s like you get that pat on the head and you’re like, “Well, fine. Then we won’t rush it. And we’ll do things that we wanna do.” And we have a lot of plans, I mean, I hope and pray that ten years from now we’re doing this book. And you can say… and believe me, where we’re planning on going, will probably really surprise you. And I don’t wanna really get into it, but the only change we’re talking about making is possibly after book four and maybe we don’t even wait until then…we’re talking about maybe so we could come out more often dropping it to be in like a forty eight or fifty six page book that could come out every two or three months so we could keep conversation going. And we’re having some talks about that and we can do that.
NV: Assuming we actually get to continue the book for the foreseeable future, the ideal thing is that even though we’ve jumped around a lot in time, we’ve got all that story that we could still return to down the line. We could go into that fifty year period and examine that more closely if we ever got around to that point. So it’s just so much, I mean, once Bob gets going on an idea, he’s done this before with BLACK FOREST and with WICKED WEST, once he gets an idea going, suddenly he’s finding this avenue to go to and that path to take and this door to go through. And it’s just… it starts leading to hundreds of stories that you could do potentially.
SUPERHERO: Yeah, that’s great. I mean, it seems like… did you have any challenges releasing it in this format? $14.99 for very good quality book, but did anyone push back on that and say, “No, it should be 22 pages.” You know?
RT: I mean, there’s certainly some retailer apathy in certain regions of the country, not on the coast. I mean, on the coast we got a lot of support. But I get it. If I’m a small retailer in a little town, but where I live in West Virginia, my friend and retailer, a tiny little comic shop in a small town, he’s pushed dozens of copies because he gets out and he sells it. But these guys have to… I get it. We’re not gonna complain about them. We keep saying we’re gonna sell it one person at a time and it hasn’t been so much push back as it is people are saying, “Please come out more often. Please come out more often.”
NV: Yeah, and ideally we would love to do that.
RT: We’re gonna get to that point, but we have to do what we have to do.
NV: But Neil’s an old guy and it takes him a long time.
SUPERHERO: Well, that’s great. And I appreciate your time and thanks for doing this. And I know you guys have had a full weekend of a con, so you must be exhausted.
NV: This is fun though. We enjoy this.
SUPERHERO: Well, that’s it! Be sure to check out FLESH AND BLOOD as well as BELA LUGOSI’S TALES FROM THE GRAVE from MONSTERVERSE! I’ll be back in a while with an interview with the masterminds behind the MONSTERVERSE Kerry Gammil and Sam Park! In the meantime I hope you’re all having a fantastic Halloween season!
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. Some of his work can be seen at www.kristianhorn.com and check out his blog at www.parttimefanboy.com. You can check also out his webcomics at www.babybadass.com and thediplomatics.com, which is currently in development.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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Oct. 23, 2012, 12:07 p.m. CST
by Grinning White Skull
"FLESH AND BLOOD is wonderful! The graphic novel equivalent of the horror movies that changed our lives." -JOE DANTE (director of GREMLINS and THE HOWLING) Director (MICHAEL JACKSON'S THRILLER, AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON) JOHN LANDIS says FLESH AND BLOOD is "TERRIFIC!" GUILLERMO DEL TORO on the book's back cover calls FLESH AND BLOOD..."PHENOMENAL!"
Oct. 23, 2012, 12:09 p.m. CST
by Grinning White Skull
FLESH AND BLOOD IS..."A top-notch package from cover to cover loaded with unexpected surprises along the way, which unfortunately seems almost a lost art in the genre. Great gothic fun in the tradition of the best of the Hammer films." -- JOHN CASSADAY (PLANETARY, ASTONISHING X-MEN, CAPTAIN AMERICA)
Oct. 23, 2012, 12:22 p.m. CST
We had a great time during the interview-Superhero asked some great questions- Bob & I don't need much coaxing to ramble on about our work,but it's always better if we're asked interesting questions- thanks,Hero and AICN...;o)
Oct. 23, 2012, 3:39 p.m. CST
Flesh and Blood is AWESOME. Dying for #3 to come out. Renewed my interest in horror(especially Hammer).Go to amazon and buy these books you won't be disappointed. Spoke to Neil on a couple occassions and is a class act and very knowledgable on horror. Great artist too. My wife commissioned a fathers Day Captain America with my 3 boys as "Buckys" from him. TOP NOTCH!
Oct. 24, 2012, 8:23 a.m. CST
Bela Lugosi's Tales From the Grave is a fantastic anthology, very much in the "Creepy" tradition. I look forward to checkin out more Monsterverse books.
Oct. 24, 2012, 2:02 p.m. CST
by Sparky Santos
And it is all kinds of fun and awesome. I would so read a "Popeye versus the Sea Witch" story ... Support this. Share this as a good series to share with young readers this Halloween. - Sparky
Oct. 24, 2012, 6:16 p.m. CST
by Kevin Robinson
FLESH AND BLOOD is probably the closest thing we'll ever get to a Hammer Films "monster rally". That Robert and Neil play to the strengths of the format and also bring us an excellent comic book is cause for celebration. F&B is one of the best horror comics on the stands, period.
Oct. 24, 2012, 6:49 p.m. CST
Flesh and Blood is a good read and have Great!!!! Illustration by "Neil Vokes" thanks to "Robert Tinnell' he keeps you hooked into the story great job by "Sam Park" being the Marketer & cover design for this Classic! Beautifully done panels a Graphic Novel that is ready to be Animated. -Bboys quote
Oct. 27, 2012, 1:28 p.m. CST
by Shaene Siders
What a great article! Reads like a fun conversation and feels authentic. I've seen both the anthology from Monsterverse and Flesh and Blood, and both are amazing. Thanks for posting this interview!
Oct. 29, 2012, 5:47 p.m. CST
YES, a fantastic interview with the F&B collaborators - Thanks, AICN! Tinnell and Vokes have expanded on the world of Hammer Horror so imaginatively and with such apparent careful thought (not to mention an obvious reverence for the wonder and excitement of those original films), making it one of the most satisfying, engaging reads out there right now. And for those as of yet uninitiated...boy, you're in for a real treat!
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