Friday, April 15, 2011

Priest Director Scott Stewart, in his own words

Director Scott Stewart, courtesy Sony Pictures
This interview was part of a media roundtable at WonderCon with about eight other print and online reporters. "Q" is a question from one of the others, "UFN" is us. A few minutes of 3D footage, as well as the "sizzle reel" trailer, were shown the night before at the Metreon a block up from the Moscone Center where WonderCon is held.

Scott Stewart: Hello! Did you have a chance to see the footage last night? What did you think? Did you like it?

All: Yes!

Q: I went in thinking "Oh, it's vampires, seen it," but I walked out thinking, "I've never seen that before." It was amazing.

SS: Cool!

Q: Paul Bettany was telling us how easy it was for the two of you to work together. How was it?

SS: He's totally lying. It was horrible. No, it was great. It was really great. We had gotten to be friends on the last movie. We only worked together for a certain amount of time on that picture because it was an ensemble, and this was a chance to kind of put the whole movie on his shoulders. I knew it was something he could do, and everything about the movie is a big leap forward from the last movie we did. It's a more ambitious story, a much more straightforward story, and it was a chance to design a whole land and allow him to really inhabit a character he has to carry. I read the script and thought about who the archetypal heroes are, and I thought about Clint Eastwood and Steve McQueen and John Wayne. Paul's somebody, when you look at him, you can put him in any time period. You can put him in the future, put him in the past, whatever, and he fits. Some faces are really contemporary. They just feel really contemporary. So I wanted somebody who looked like he would fit in this world that would be a little heightened. He also does a really great job of making his face look like a mask, and you just get the sense that there's a rage there. You know, he sits down and he's so charming and funny and nice. In movies, he's got a real ability to convey that anger. That, to me, was reminiscent of some of the characters John Wayne had played, so that's what we went for.

UFN: He mentioned that this had three times the budget of Legion.

SS: Which meant we had three dollars! Yeah, Legion was a really low-budget movie by the standards by which we work, generally. So yes, this was definitely more. By the standard of other movies... we don't have the budget of Pirates 4, probably not even a fraction of that, so what we had to do was be really clever as to how to make the movie feel visceral and exciting and textured and detailed, and make the world comprehensive. We just had to plan it really carefully and focus our planning and efforts on just the things we were going to see in the movie and try to be really efficient.

UFN: I think you can really see that on the screen, and I'm wondering if you feel that, compared to Legion, you're at another level now.

SS: Yeah, [Legion] was a little movie, a throwback to 70s horror. Yeah, I hope so! It feels like a nice step forward, because in every way I have more experience. I felt better equipped to do it. The learning curve of a director is... [makes a sharp upward angle with his hand]... and I guess in any great art it never ends, so every time you do it, you get better at it. I would have been very ill-prepared to try and embark on something as complex as this movie, given the schedule and the budget, without having embarked on it once before. So it's really helpful. It felt like it was a trial run for Priest.

Q: You said you did some of the visual effects yourself?

SS: Some stuff I did. I took much more of a hands-off approach on this one. I used my ability to do the visual effects more as a pre-visualization, doing storyboard animatics and those kinds of things, helping to design the vampires, helping the studio see what the world was going to look like and feel like. Because we really did want to try and push it, and that can be challenging. They have to take a leap of faith with you, so my goal is to try and make it not that much of a leap by showing them as much as I can, and hopefully delivering it, and they were all really excited about it. We designed the movie for 3D, we had talked about shooting for 3D. I wanted to shoot on film, and Don Burgess, my cameraman, a legendary guy who's shot Spider-Man and Cast Away and Forrest Gump and a lot of great movies, he's a great cinematographer... It's a landscape movie, it's part of being a movie that has real scope, and we wanted to shoot wide-screen and shoot on film and use old lenses. So we kind of got the best of both worlds, because when the studio started seeing the movie being put together, they went, "Oh, okay then... let's talk about converting this film to 3D." We did initial tests and they just looked so good! And they gave us the time. They pushed the release date to May for that. It was a nice big vote of confidence because it's expensive to move a release date.

Q: How closely did you work with [Priest graphic novel author] Min-Woo Hyung?

SS: He came out while we were in pre-production and spent a few days with us. The TokyoPop people brought him out. And we were nervous, because I had come into the movie with Cory Goodman's script, and there were 16 books and this sprawling thing mostly set in the old west, and some in the crusades, and there's a little bit of stuff in the future, but he never finished it. It's a cliffhanger, and you have no idea where the story's going, and Cory realized it would be really tough to make into a movie, like how to structure it for the time period. Westerns are hard, so he put it in a kind of apocalyptic future and imagined that that storyline had gone into the future. When Min-Woo came and read the script and looked at all the design stuff we had, and we sat down and talked about what our intentions were, it was really pleasing to us, because he said "I was thinking where the story would go if I thought I would ever write more, and I imagined going here, and here, and here, and that really feels like what you guys did." He was inspired enough by that to actually, much to the pleasure of TokyoPop, go back to Korea and write this big long bridge story between where the books left off and the movie began, which TokyoPop released as a new series of Priest comic books, which is really cool.

Q: Has there been talk at all about making a sequel?

SS: Not quite ready to talk about that. There are some things that we're working on that are ways to take the most successful aspects of that story and put it in a new context in a way that's exciting, and lets us really get into the story and the characters, that I think you'll enjoy.

Courtesy Sony Pictures

Monday, April 11, 2011

Exclusive: Brea and Zane Grant on their upcoming projects

Zane and Brea Grant

You may remember Brea Grant as Daphne the speedster, Hiro Nakamura's frenemy from Heroes. Our Heroes-related section of the interview is on our sister site, House Petrelli, but UFN asked some more general questions about Brea and Zane's upcoming comic book projects, which are both entertaining and very diverse.

UFN: We Will Bury You... I was going to say that launched at Comic-Con '09? Am I right on that?

BG: We started promoting it in '09, but it actually didn't come out until a year ago, and then the trade came out this past fall.

UFN: And who's the publisher on that?

BG: It's IDW.

UFN: Ah, okay. And what's the premise?

ZG: It's the story of a zombie apocalypse that begins in New York in 1927 and follows a sex worker and her girlfriend as they try to survive, the people they meet and so on.

UFN: Okay, interesting angle on it. So we see the underside, and they see these things happen in the corners where most people don't?

ZG: Yeah, it's basically a survival story set in the 20s.

BG: There's a lot of comic books and zombie comic books specifically that look at people with power, with money, who are cops, who have skills... and we wanted to look at people whose survival skills are more street skills. Street smart rather than having money to buy your way out, or get on a boat, or do whatever you would do to survive.

UFN: Are there other projects you guys are moving into? Other titles, other...

ZG: Yeah, we're still working on comics together, we're pitching out a few things right now. We're pitching out a slasher book with Eric J who does some really amazing art. He was the co-creator of Rex Mundi and he's doing a book called Fly right now. So that's a really fun one, and we're working on a comic about a graffiti crew that learns to do magic. It's really an urban fantasy thing. The tentative title is Dead City Kids.

BG: And we have a Suicide Girls comic book coming out in April with IDW as well.

UFN: I think of them as pictures... what are they going to be doing?

BG: Well, we wrote a story for them. It's sort of a Charlie's Angels-esque group of elite fighters fighting against a giant religious corporation in a sort of dystopian future.

UFN: I did not see that coming.

ZG: It's sort of a science fiction spy story kind of thing with espionage. It's fun. I think we did a good job! And we have Cameron Stewart who does some amazing art, and David Hahn who also does some amazing art, and Steve Niles is writing a back-of-issue story. I think it'll be a fun project. It's coming out in a few weeks.

UFN: And is that with IDW?

ZG: That one's with IDW, the other ones we're still pitching out and we're talking to some people about them. I'm doing a web comic with a friend called Detective Warlock, Warlock Detective. It's kind of a horror-comedy about a small town warlock detective. He does things like he fights a graveyard hag at a skating rink, things like that.

UFN: Is that set in the present-day?

ZG: Yeah, it's set in the present-day. It's pretty cool. I think that'll be up next month.

UFN: Do you have a website?

ZG: I do, it's

UFN: Dot org?

ZG: Yes, I'm an organization.

UFN: Or you're very organized. Or both. Do you have any parting thoughts or other work you're doing?

BG: I co-wrote a screenplay that's going to shoot in September that's one of the big projects I'm working on on my own besides other acting ventures. It's independent and still in the early stages, it's called Best Friends Forever and it's an apocalyptic road trip movie.

UFN: The horror genre, pardon the pun, just will not die. Zombies and vampires and the apocalypse... do you think there's still a lot of audience? Do you think it's played out at all?

BG: I don't think horror will ever play out. I think people are drawn to it for whatever reason they have. I never wake up and think, "No, I don't really want to watch a horror movie or read a sci-fi book. I consistently want to be in those genres, whereas I do sometimes feel like I don't want to watch a depressing drama or something like that. I think it's here to stay. I think certain things will probably go out of style. I have this theory that werewolves are the next big thing. So I think zombies will go out of style, other things will go out of style, vampires will go out style, but I think at some point it's still gonna cycle through.

UFN: Horror as a genre, obviously, has been around forever, since Mary Shelley, since before that, scaring people, things that go bump in the night... it's kind of blown up recently, but you don't think it's going to shrink any time in the near future?

ZG: I don't think so. I think as a genre there's a lot of room to find new stories, especially now that so much money is going into remakes, or even just rehashing the same stories from the same authors. And those monsters do have specific meaning to our society. In international horror, over the last ten years people there have been some really interesting new kinds of stories that people are telling, or telling in a different style. Even vampire stories, like Let the Right One In, that movie's amazing. It's so different than anything.

UFN: Well, like Priest is coming out, and the interesting thing about the vampires on that is that they're actually some kind of non-human alien infection kind of thing, and the people are light-sensitive instead of... it's a twist on it that's really interesting.

ZG: Yeah, I think there's a lot of room for tweaking things and playing with what's there, but definitely the genre is getting maybe a little bit stale involving the mainstream-ization of it, but hopefully some money will go into some great projects.

BG: I think the true fans will keep it alive.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Paul Bettany on Priest, in his own words

Courtesy Sony Pictures
This interview was part of a media roundtable, where about eight media folks (including myself) were seated and the talent was brought to each table in shifts of about eight to ten minutes each. Unfortunately, I was unable to catch the names of all the media present at our table, so the other questioners will be noted simply as "Q" (how mysterious!), with "UFN" being my question in particular. (The Legion poster referenced was mine, I brought two to get signed from Comic-Con, which he did gladly! //fangirl)

Q: So is the second time a charm? (Referring to Bettany's second major film with Scott Stewart as director)

Paul Bettany: Is the second time a charm? I think it's 'third time's the charm,' but in this case it was the second. It was a really great working experience, and I think you could ask anybody in the cast or crew, and I mean it, if they had a great time, and they'll all say yes. Even the days I got injured, we had great days.

Q: What sort of injuries did you sustain?

PB: I fell on a de-acceleration wire, and I landed on my foot, which is where you should land, but it failed to de-accelerate, and I landed about 20 feet... it was painful. But it was fine, thanks to the pleasures of Vicodin.

Q: Were you doing your own stunts?

PB: Oh, yeah! As many of them as insurance would allow me to do, I did. I really enjoy that stuff, and, I mean, if you're in an action movie, and you're not doing the action, what are you getting paid for? I wanted to do it, I wanted to have that experience. It's such an amazing experience, and I loved it.

Q: What you said at the footage screening last night, was 'I'm British, so I'm starting from a butch deficit.'

PB: Yeah, it's true, so I started training before the movie, and my trainer came out with me from New York. I've known him for years, we worked together on Legion. He did a really amazing job, I think. He kept me safe, put a bunch of weight on me, made sure I didn't eat badly, and woke me up at 4:00 in the morning to go training every day. We start work at 6:00, so Mike would wake me up to go training at 4:00 in the morning. I can be a rude bastard at 4:00 in the morning if you're waking me up.

Courtesy Sony Pictures
Q: The six-pack on the [Legion] poster she had, does that come naturally?

PB: No, it doesn't come "naturally." It comes from a huge amount of deprivation! Yeesh... my body very quickly retreats very quickly back to the body of a reader who eats too much cheese and drinks beer. I can't get fit unless somebody's... I have a very strong work ethic, but I can't stop eating cheese unless somebody's paying me an enormous sum of money not to eat it.

Q: You're walking kind of a fine line in this movie. You're a supernatural priest who's reciting "Yea, though I walk through the shadow of the valley of death..." before he throws crosses at vampires. How do you, as an actor, keep the line between that and camp. How do you walk that line when you're reciting those scenes?

PB: I think you understand, as the actor, that this is a sort of really enjoyable moment for the audience. You understand that it looks like he's reading from a Bible, and the familiar says "Your words mean nothing here, Priest," and then the audience get revealed that what's inside the Bible ain't f***ing words. But you have to play it straight. You understand the entertainment value of that as a series of shots. I love that kind of stuff. I really do.

Q: Is that what drew you to the part?

PB: Well yeah. A bunch of things drew me to the part. Scott being a huge part of that. Scott with over three times of the budget that he had the time before -- a really broad canvas and enough money to buy really great paints finally for him. It's really paid off for him, and I'm really proud of the result. I was so shocked last night at the footage that we saw. So proud.

UFN: Is this your favorite genre to do?

PB: I love making movies. I love watching movies, I love making movies. From Legion I went on and played Charles Darwin and put on a bunch of weight for that, then I lost a bunch of weight to make this movie, then made a film in 17 days, unbelievably, with Kevin Spacey and Stanley Tucci. A small little independent film about the financial crisis, so I will continue to make as many different sorts of movies as I'm allowed to.

Q: How is it going from action to a more serious type of role?

PB: It's like two different jobs. They really are. They're totally separate.

Q: You have a pretty good sense of humor, so what kind of humorous subtitle would you give "Priest 2?" Sequels always seem to have an odd subtitle.

PB: I haven't the smallest idea...

Q: "Priest 2: The Priestening?"

PB: I remember at Comic-Con last time, Karl Urban signed a poster to me and said, "Thanks so much for being in my movie." He signed a poster to me, which I didn't ask for, and he'd hand written in his name, "Priest, starring Karl Urban."

Priest opens in theaters Friday, May 13.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

WonderCon 2011 Panel: Evolution of Comics in the Transmedia Space

Print comic book sales are the worst they've been since, perhaps, they were created. For example, Spider-Man has gone from topping 200K in sales per month to the current level of about 50K. The median age of a comic book reader is 33, which is the oldest ever. In looking at the faces at an event like WonderCon on both sides of the tables, these statistics thrown out at the "Evolution of Comics in the Transmedia Space" panel appear spot-on accurate.

So what happened to the industry once driven by the pocket change of idealistic little boys?

"It's too exclusive," said panelist FJ Desanto.

"There should be enough there that you want to come back every month," added Marc Andreyko. "Each issue should have a beginning, a middle and an end. We've lost that."

"When 'okay' storytelling costs $2.99, it's just not worth it," said Dennis Calero. The point was further made by another panelist that there's sticker shock when you arrive at the register and the clerk says, "That'll be $75."

Left to Right: Diana Williams, Dennis Calero, FJ Desanto

I know that for myself, as a 44-year-old woman whose grandfather collected comics, I stopped buying them in the 1980s when crossover madness made it impossible to keep up with what was going on. Add in the rapid rise in prices at the time, and a poor college student such as myself couldn't keep lining the comic book companies' pockets. And I did see the ploy for what it was -- forcing fans to buy four comics instead of one. I had to drop them all. Recently, I've tried to get back into some of my favorite titles, but there are so many versions and alternate universes for each one, I have absolutely no clue what's happening and there is no jumping-in point any longer, as if they're all perpetually accelerating mag-lev trains.

In a nutshell, the panelists are absolutely right. So what about the next generation of readers?

"I picked up a book where Superman was married, and that turned me off to comics for twenty years," said panel moderator Jeff Krelitz. "Aquaman was getting a divorce, and I had to wonder, "How much of that is what the writers are going through?'"

Clearly, overly complex storylines, crossovers, cover prices and "socially relevant real-life" scenarios are not working, and are not bringing in new readers. What will? Jeff Newelt has some ideas.

"When things are shared a zillion times a day on Twitter, Facebook and so on, it's an easy click over to Amazon for the print version. Digital will feed print," he said.

"Saving print is the point," said Calero. "In the future they'll say, 'You used to kill trees to make books? How weird.' But it's an association that's generational." Andreyko goes as far as to call it "nostalgia porn." In the Archaia panel the next day, however, an attendee made the point that their higher-quality papers and products don't shy away from print, but instead they embrace the medium. 

Left to Right: Jeff Newelt, Marc Andreyko

It's not a battle between print versus digital. Instead, they can compliment and help each other.

"The connection with the end user and delivery to them is so fragmented," said Adrian Askarieh. "Transmedia helps solve that."

"Anyone under fifteen... digital is all they've known," pointed out Diana Williams. Unfortunately, most companies miss the mark in capturing these new fans. "Disney and Lucas are the kings of telling a story in different media."

"Make the early stuff accessible and cheap," said Andreyko.

"There needs to be education to the general public about digital comics," said Newelt. "It's mostly only core comics fans. It's also too partitioned -- 'comics are this, video games are this, movies are this,' and so on. It's about taking something and having it work organically across the board."

"I've never seen an industry so big market themselves so poorly," added Desanto.

But it's far more than marketing and accessibility. "Storytelling is just as important for getting new readers," said Krelitz. "What about putting Spider-Man and Batman out in all these new media?"

"It's great if the content doesn't suck," replied Desanto.

"When it backfires, you lose them FOREVER," Andreyko said dramatically into the microphone. Or for at least twenty years, in the case of Krelitz.

At the close of the panel, we saw two examples of motion comics, the first being Fall Out Toy Works with professional voice talent done by Anna Faris. The second, aimed at ages eight and younger, was much more comic book-like and was a simplified retelling of the current Tron film, using the same actor audio tracks and additional narration. In both, I found myself questioning where the "comic book" ended and where small-scale animation began.

Being one of the aging generation of comic book fans that grew up on paper books only, I'm not convinced that "the kids" will look at a motion comic and desire the traditional paper editions -- I see them simply asking for more motion comics.

Is Calero right? Will images printed on dead trees be looked on as a curiosity of the primitive past? Or will the human need for the tactile experience always create a demand for the easily created and portable humble comic book on paper? Time will tell, and the question bears ongoing examination, especially at excellent and thought-provoking panels like this one.

L to R: Diana Williams, Adrian Askarieh (back), Dennis Calero (front), Jeff Krelitz, Marc Andreyko, FJ Desanto, Jeff Newelt

Monday, April 4, 2011

Priest will have you praying for more

This genre-busting film, based on the graphic novel by Min-Woo Hyung, is set in an alternative world ravaged by centuries of war between man and vampires. The story revolves around a legendary Warrior Priest (Paul Bettany) from the last Vampire War who now lives in obscurity among the other downtrodden human inhabitants in walled-in dystopian cities ruled by the Church. When his niece (Lily Collins) is abducted by a murderous pack of vampires, Priest breaks his sacred vows to venture out on an obsessive quest to find her before they turn her into one of them. He is joined on his crusade by his niece’s boyfriend (Cam Gigandet), a trigger-fingered young wasteland sheriff, and a former Warrior Priestess (Maggie Q) who possesses otherworldly fighting skills.

Before you roll your eyes about "sparkly vampires" (Which Cam himself did plenty of times, both at the preview screening and at the interview tables), these are not that. The vampires of Priest are incredibly creepy monsters that look like slimy alien panthers without eyes, not charming Transylvanians wearing capes or pale dreamy boyfriends. They're fast and nimble animals who, when they bite a human, create servant "familiars" that are much more like the traditional twisted vampires of Nosferatu. The masters and servants are supposedly relegated to "reservations" after the end of the Vampire War, but obviously all is not well when some manage to escape and kidnap Priest's niece Lucy.

The world is both futuristic and retro, with elements of Bladerunner and classic westerns merged seamlessly into something new. There are martial arts battles with bikers, a chase and fight scene on top of a strange behemoth of a train as it races through the endless desert, vampire hunts through a labyrinthine concrete bunker, and scenes of loyalty and betrayal inside the massive Church.

The 3D conversion was seamless, and it does add an extra element without being distracting, but it wasn't entirely necessary for this film. For those familiar with Legion, Priest has approximately three times the budget of director Scott Stewart's earlier effort, and you can definitely see the money and directorial experience on the screen. This is one intense thrill ride with a different take on vampires that we haven't seen before. Add in heart-stopping martial arts fight sequences and the gritty eye-candy of the world all this takes place in, and you've got a movie that will be talked about all summer and beyond. Opens in theaters on (ironically) Friday the 13th of May.

Archaia flying boldly ahead, sans costumes

"We don't do superheroes, and we never will," said Archaia Editor-in-Chief Stephen Christy, which may sound like a dire statement to some, but not when you take a look at the projects Archaia has coming up this year and into 2012. This rapidly growing company is truly one to keep your eye on. At the panel Saturday morning, they outlined several major projects in the works, including the ancient Greek action film Immortals, starring Henry Cavill, coming out 11/11/11. UFN prefers to cover the present-day, however "alternate universe" that present may be, and other media outlets are all over Immortals, so we decided to focus on some of Archaia's other offerings.

Their partnership with the Henson company has gained them access to Jim Henson's vaults, including stories and screenplays that were created but never produced. One of these is the beloved television series, The Storyteller. Several episodes that never saw the light of day were discovered, and new ones are being crafted into a volume of graphic novels by different writers and artists in the same style.

A project I'm excited about is A Tale of Sand. It's a complete original screenplay that was created in the 1960s when Jim Henson was still an up-and-coming indy filmmaker, and Archaia is making it into a word-for-word graphic novel adaptation from the script. As the story goes, a man wakes up and finds that he's in the middle of a desert, but doesn't know how he got there, what happened to civilization, or how to get out to safety. It's his journey across the sand to try and find his life again. "I describe it to people as 127 Hours meets Alice in Wonderland if directed by Jim Henson," said Christy when asked what the story is about.

I'd seen the name Lucid being tossed around before, but didn't really know what it was, so I was excited to learn that this is one book I'll be buying for myself when it comes out this fall. It's on the "Archaia Black" label and is also a project of Before the Door, one of the partners of that company being Zachary Quinto. Lucid has manga-style artwork by Anna Wieszczyk and is written by Michael McMillian, who I had the pleasure of meeting at a signing on Saturday. What if Harry Potter grew up and went to work for the government as part of a secret cold war of magicians? That's the premise of Lucid, and it's one I greatly look forward to.

One more project particularly caught my eye, and that's Bleedout. I've been aware of peak oil for years, so to have a comic book devoted to different scenarios of how we'll be living when the oil runs out is very exciting. Since the earth is not gifted with a creamy nougat center of oil, or self-replenishing, we will be running out some day. This book, coming out in the fall, features a number of new writers and artists telling their post-oil stories. I have some scenarios of my own, so I can't wait to see what other people think about how this very real future will play out.

The Archaia folks are gracious, smart and true rising stars in the industry, with unique media partnerships and sharp attention to detail. The high quality of all their products is a clear sign of their commitment to a print publishing future. Specially-bound books, thick papers and high-quality printing are all designed for a tactile experience that you can't get on a Kindle or at the variety store spinner rack (yes, they still exist). Again, keep an eye on Archaia, they're headed for the stars.

Supernatural anime coming soon

Supernatural, noted for its creative storytelling of the occult during its first six seasons on The CW Network, has also achieved great popularity across the planet – particularly in Japan. Inspired by its overseas following, Warner Home Video Japan and animation studio Madhouse combined forces to envision the show as an anime series – first released in Japan and now translated for American audiences.

Supernatural: The Anime Series revisits the Winchester brothers’ journey down the backroads of America as they search for clues to their father’s disappearance, hunt down the supernatural in all its unearthly forms, and enter into the unexpected mystery of their destinies. The Supernatural anime episodes mirror the story arc of the series’ first two seasons, providing supplemental stories ranging from prequels and spin-offs to untold tales that fit within the show's mythology.

Enhancing the connection to the live-action series, Supernatural star Jared Padalecki reprises his role as Sam Winchester for all 22 episodes. Padalecki’s co-star Jensen Ackles also provides the voice of Dean Winchester in select anime episodes.

Padalecki and Ackles are also ever-present in the Blu-ray™ and DVD enhanced content. The co-stars provide a video introduction to each of the 22 anime episodes, and are also featured in a series of interviews that include conversations with live-action series creator Eric Kripke, and anime series directors Shigeyuki Miya and Atsuko Ishizuka.

Special features on the Blu-ray™ and DVD also include a two-part featurette, “The Making of Supernatural: The Anime Series,” an intriguing behind-the-scenes revelation of how the live-action series was re-imagined into its new art form.

Madhouse, working with full approval of Kripke, produced the series in full high-definition animation utilizing both American and Japanese creative teams. The Madhouse production team is headed by executive supervisor Masao Maruyama and directors Miya and Ishizuka. Takahiro Yoshimatsu and Kenichi Takefuji are in charge of character and art design.

As the 2010 People's Choice Award winner for Favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy Show, Supernatural continues to increase in popularity in the US and abroad. In addition to its three nominations for both Emmy® Awards and Teen Choice Awards, the show has spawned 10 books, a bi-monthly magazine, a comic book series, and now an anime series.

“The worldwide popularity of Supernatural is undeniable, eclipsing cultural and language barriers to easily fit into the unique artistic approach and alternative style of storytelling offered in anime,” said Rosemary Markson, Vice President, TV and Special Interest Marketing. “This groundbreaking vision of the popular series will give fans an altogether new experience, mixing familiar themes and characters with intriguing new stories from within the series’ haunting mythology. Fans of the anime genre will enjoy this high quality, one-of-a-kind production as well.”

Select episodes will be screened to fans at anime and entertainment conventions leading up to the July release date. In addition, the release will be supported with an online and print media campaign, targeting both Supernatural fans and fans of the anime genre.

The all-new, 22-episode animated series will be distributed July 26, 2011 by Warner Home Video on Blu-ray™ for $54.97 (SRP) and DVD for $49.98 (SRP), as well as On Demand and for Download.

New adaptation of Servant of the Bones coming in August

IDW Publishing is proud to announce a new partnership with best-selling author Anne Rice (Interview with a Vampire, Queen of the Damned), kicking off with a new six-issue adaptation of Servant of the Bones. Rice, the creator of fantastic worlds filled with vampires and witches, takes fans back to the time of Isaiah and Jeremiah, and the destruction of Solomon's Temple, to tell the story of Azriel, the Servant of the Bones.

“This is an exciting adaptation! IDW has certainly chosen the finest artists and writers for this project,” said Rice. “The script is marvelous. Renae De Liz’s penciling has captured my characters exquisitely.  Ray Dillon’s colors are alive and gorgeous. This Servant of the Bones adaptation is perfect!”

IDW's adaptation of Servant of the Bones will be written by Mariah McCourt, with art by Renae DeLiz and Ray Dillon. This opulent tale will take readers from ancient Babylon to modern day New York City, from the madness of fanaticism to the peace of faith. Once again Anne Rice fans will be able to enjoy her talent in delivering melancholic and psychologically charged moods through this newly adapted version of one of her most recognized works.

In Servant of the Bones, Azriel is an immortal spirit who is bound to the gold-encased bones of his mortal body. Throughout the story, he struggles to understand whether he is a ghost, genie, demon or angel. He shares his story with the reader as he travels from an ancient Babylon of royal plots and religious upheavals to Europe during the Black Death and on to the modern world in New York City. Amidst the towers of Manhattan, he finds himself in confrontation with his own human memories and the dark forces that have sought to condemn him to a life of evil and destruction.

“Servant of the Bones is a deeply layered, lush, and lyrical story. It's visually rich, compelling, and asks the really big questions about life, love and death,” said IDW editor Mariah Huehner. “We're very excited to be working with Anne Rice, one of the most prolific writers of this generation, and we just hope we can do the story the justice it deserves. Getting to work with Renae DeLiz and Ray Dillon, the remarkable team behind The Last Unicorn, assures me that we can.”

SERVANT OF THE BONES #1 ($3.99, 32 pages, full color) will be available August 2011.

Article roundup and an apology

The Archaia article is done, but the extremely sad internet connection I seem to have at the moment is not letting me upload the video clips of the panel, so I'll post the article tomorrow morning without the video interludes, and add them when they're finally up. I'm sorry for the delay!

Now, on to the articles still to come over the next few days as time allows:

PRIEST: I have a ton of material on this new film, including individual interviews with the director, graphic novel creator, and three of the actors (including Paul Bettany), plus I'll review the footage I saw that is guaranteed to kick your brain's ass.

BREA & ZANE GRANT: This sibling team gave us an exclusive interview about their comic We Will Bury You and other upcoming projects. Brea also gave us some fun insights about her time on Heroes.

EVOLUTION OF COMICS IN THE TRANSMEDIA SPACE: An interesting panel discussing how comics can move deeper into the digital age, how to capture new readers, and the issues with traditional print comics.

TRIGGER MEN: A bromantic comedy about killing the elderly. No, really! This indie comic has a lot of potential.

THE NEXT GENERATION: Kids making comics! I paid a visit to the Prescott Elementary School table and discovered some gems.

LUCID: My review of the fascinating new comic from Archaia, which involves a secret political war between the world's mages.

JEPH LOEB: Just a short anecdotal article about haunting the new head of Marvel Television for an hour during his booth signing.

...AND PROBABLY MORE! I've got a stack of comics and loads of material to dig into for these, so please be patient as we roll these articles and more out over the coming week or two. After that... more interviews are lined up, including artist Dennis Calero! Stay tuned to UFN, and spread the word!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Watch for Falling Skies this summer

The first media panel of WonderCon this year, and the first panel I attended, was for the new TNT show Falling Skies. As I outlined in the Friday roundup post, this is a new show produced by Dreamworks and written by Mark Verheiden (of Heroes, also co-executive producer) and Melinda Hsu (of Lost), and co-executive produced and directed by Greg Beeman (also of Heroes).

Unlike most "alien invasion" concepts, this one starts six months after the world-changing event, which occurs in the present day around the world. "The shock has gone away," said Verheiden. "Now they can focus on how to survive. It has a different tone than 'oh my god, they're attacking.'"

The aliens have set off an electromagnetic pulse, which has destroyed or made useless anything involving electricity. They're also kidnapping teens for slave labor, keeping them in line with zombie-like actions via some kind of creature that attaches to the back of the neck and extends down the spine. The spooky thing is that nobody knows why they're being taken and used in this way. In one scene we saw, they were simply piling up scrap metal, piece-by-piece, like robots. Why do the aliens want this scrap metal in a pile? Why are they even on earth at all? The interesting thing about Falling Skies is that because the humans involved don't know the answers, neither does the audience, helping you feel like you're right there in the trenches with the resistance.

The overall creepiness of the show is definitely pegging the red from the footage we saw. One fellow reporter was so creeped out by the six-legged "skitter" creatures that she doesn't think she'll be able to watch it. She described it as "Dark Angel meets Terminator." Add something like Aliens or The Thing into the mix, and it's pretty close. Falling Skies is extremely dark and gritty, as the entire story focuses around hiding from the aliens, fighting the aliens, rescuing people from the aliens, and trying to find supplies while the six-legged "skitters" or huge robotic "mechs" lurk around every corner ready to kill any humans without a second thought. Except the teens, that is. Those are needed for... something.

I was concerned about the constant barrage of darkness, violence, and even hopelessness, especially as the trailer starts off with drawings children have made of witnessing their friends and family being killed by the invaders. The children seem to be losing hope that they will even see their parents from one day to the next, as all able-bodied adults are part of the resistance. I talked to Hsu about this, and she said there would definitely be quieter moments and never a complete loss of hope. One of the clips we saw showed a daytime shot of a small group of humans setting up a campsite in the overgrown back yard of an empty house. Two of the characters go up to a girl's bedroom overlooking the yard, which gives a bittersweet sense of loss. The room is normal, rather than ravaged, and the characters muse briefly on who the girl might have been as they sit down on her bed and talk. We ache for this girl and wonder if she's been taken captive, or killed, or is still on the run somewhere, and we hope that she makes it back to her award ribbons and toy horse collection.

"Keep your eye on the skitters," Verheiden said with a little sly smile. "You think they're one thing at first, and then maybe they're something else."

Like the skitters, this modern-day battle for freedom and independence is complex and not entirely what it seems. Even among the surviving humans there's conflict. The soldiers may have been destroyed in the first wave of the invasion, but now a citizen's militia has taken a firm hold, with two factions taking hold -- the military, whose sole purpose is to fight off the aliens, and the civilians who just want to give their kids a better life like the one they had before the aliens came.

The guns are real, the props are real and the issues are real. What if this happened to you? What would you do? Is it worth your life to try and grab that can of food in the street? What would your role in this fight be?

Falling Skies was originally titled Concord, after the battle of Lexington in America's own war of independence. The common person is thrust into a role of combat, and we empathize with their struggle and examine what choices we would make throughout. This is definitely one show people will be talking about this summer and beyond. Premieres June 19 on TNT.

Friday, April 1, 2011

WonderCon day one roundup

So much to say, so little time! It's late, and I have a ton of material to cover, so let's get right to it.

After getting my badge and visiting some booths and tables, the first event was an interview with the energetic Brea Grant, known for her roles as Jean on Friday Night Lights, and speedster Daphne on Heroes, and her brother Zane Grant. The pair have several projects in the works, including We Will Bury You from IDW, and a couple of other interesting urban fantasy tales involving the use of magic. Good stuff, and the complete transcript of the interview with photos will be up ASAP.

Then it was on to the Falling Skies panel. This is a new show produced by Dreamworks and written by Mark Verheiden (of Heroes, also co-executive producer) and Melinda Hsu (of Lost), and co-executive produced and directed by Greg Beeman (also of Heroes) who was scheduled to appear but didn't make it. I was very impressed by it, and can see some of the vibe of season one Heroes amongst the extremely dark and gritty (and, in some ways, horrific) tale that we saw the footage for. In talking to Hsu at the Dark Horse booth after the panel, she assured me that the show does have hope and brighter moments. Falling Skies focuses on the humanity of the situation less than the CG eye candy of the aliens themselves, much as Heroes focused on the people, not the powers. Again, more on that panel and what I saw there as I'm able to post it. Definitely a show to put on your watch list.

Opposite the Green Lantern panel, and poorly attended as a result, was The Evolution of Comics in the Transmedia Space. It's a shame, because it was an excellent panel featuring producers, artists, writers and other top talents in the comics industry discussing how old-fashioned print comics are spiraling down fast, and how to save the genre by exploring how comics can work in the digital age. We were treated to footage of the Fall Out Boy (Double Barrel) and Tron (Disney) motion comics, as well as a spirited, thought-provoking discussion. More on that coming soon!

Capping off the night was an exclusive screening of footage and the "sizzle reel" from Priest, the upcoming film starring Paul Bettany as one of a supernatural "priest" caste of vampire hunters. But these vampires are like none we've ever seen before, and will creep you the eff out when you finally see them on screen. I'm still getting shivers over the sounds they make. They are very alien, and very much do not sparkle in any way, shape or form whatsoever. This is Legion's super badass big brother who will knock you around the block, and you'll want to take pictures of the cool bruises.

Speaking of Priest and Paul Bettany, I'm going to be interviewing director Scott Stewart, Paul Bettany, Cam Gigandet, Lily Collins and Min-Woo Hyung tomorrow, and I couldn't be more excited. The footage I saw went far beyond my expectations, and I think this will do well at the box office when it opens in a few weeks.

I've already hooked up with a lot of people and made some new friends, so beyond the articles outlined above, there are articles and interviews galore coming soon, including information about a new Jim Henson project from Archaia Comics, and some independent comics you've never heard of (but should, and will after I spotlight them in the near future). And this is only day one! Stay tuned, tons more coming tomorrow!