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Comicscape - September 15, 2004

Angels Among Us: An Interview with Anthony C. Ferrante and Regent St. Claire

By Tony Whitt     September 15, 2004


Cover to issue 7 of candyappleblack.
© R.T. St. Claire/GIPC

OPINION:



Thank you to all those who wrote in regarding last week's column about the darkening of comics! There were easily as many people who felt that this darkening is a new trend as those who felt it's simply the continuation of a trend that started way back when Frank Miller wrote THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and effectively ended Batman's career as a "friendly" superhero. I'd still argue, though, that even though comics started becoming more adult at that point in time, the current trend in comics since September 11th is much, much darker than anything we were seeing before. Sure, there was always brutality, violence, and anti-heroics going on in the pre-9/11 comics universe, but it's much more widespread now. And to answer the reader who somehow ignored my disclaimer at the end of that article, no, I do not think we need tighter controls on content or a return to Comics Code Authority standards but I do wonder what the effect will be when we finally get desensitized (if we get desensitized) to what we're now seeing, and how the comics companies will cope with that effect. Anyway, thanks to everyone for writing in. Now, onto the good stuff...



Recently I had a chance to talk with CINESCAPE editor (ie, my boss) Anthony C. Ferrante, whose work outside the realms of this magazine has been even more fascinating than his work within them. Not only has he just completed work directing his first feature film BOO!, he's also the co-author with Regent St. Claire of the comic book/screenplay candyappleblack. Yes, I said "comic book/screenplay". Confusing, innit? So, you're probably asking the same question I did which is it?



"It's both," says St. Claire. "candy has not only come full circle, but a double circle. It started as a comic book story, evolved into a movie script, and now has been adapted back into a comic book story."



"What's great," says Ferrante, "is that all the people now can see what we were going for when we wrote the script in this graphic form, and since comic book properties are so hot in Hollywood right now, it gives it more legitimacy than it ever had before. So that's why mixed terms."



St. Claire adds, "It's a dessert topping and a floor wax."



Ferrante points out that it's this dual nature that sets candyappleblack apart

A page from issue 1 of candyappleblack.

from most of the titles currently out there: "Most comic books start life as comic books. This started as a fully formed theatrical screenplay. I am still amazed what Regent and his team have done to bring the script to life, and I think that's why it has such depth and resonance. We've also had ten years to really rework and cement the concept, the story and history of all the characters, whereas many new comics discover this history and dynamics after the fact."



For those who haven't yet picked up a copy, candyappleblack is about "an angel [named Cayce] is cast down for believing suicide shouldn't be damnable offense," says St. Claire. "For his impudence, he is sentenced to walk the earth for 1000 years, only being seen and heard by those about to take their own lives."



"About ten years ago," says Ferrante, "Regent came to me with this story idea he had that he wanted to turn into a comic book, and since we knew squat about the comic book industry and we were nobodies at the time, he asked if I would write [it as a movie] script with him. From there we created a very cool script with this idea and have been trying to get it set for many years. We always found producers who really loved the idea but when it got to the money people, the concept and ideas were a little too 'controversial.'



"Ultimately," says St. Claire, "I met producer Lina Shanklin, and she got it and understood it and embraced it and thought it was cool. So, we optioned the project to her and her partner Gilbert Mercier. It's very unique in this business to find producers who are that protective of the integrity of a script, and they've been championing it for some time."



The fact that the screenplay is now appearing in comic form, however, doesn't mean that the movie is in limbo and in fact, it may help boost candyappleblack onto the big screen, according to Ferrante: "When we wrote this, I always envisioned getting to direct, but I realized, again, that I was nobody at the time. So we spent many years trying to get directors attached, only for them to get bigger projects or want to make it into an angel/kickboxer movie. Since I've written and directed my first movie BOO!, I now have some clout, and I want this to be my follow-up feature. Financing is not completed, and there is a lot of interest, especially with the success of the comic. We'll see what happens. And first and foremost I will not be turning it into an angel/kickboxer movie. As with Regent and his creation of the comic, when you have the writers involved creatively beyond the written word, anything is possible, and the intent won't get as perverted along the way."



So, what was

Cover to the first issue of candyappleblack.

the transition process from screenplay to comic book? St. Claire's description of the process makes it sound deceptively simple: "It all started during lunch with Bob and Marc (owners of Hi-De-Ho Comics) in Santa Monica who told us everything [we had to do,] the whole process from start to finish. Fast-forward five years later to having drinks with Marc Panic (from TOKYO POP), who educated us on the minutiae of comic book publishing. Then it was ads on the Internet, hiring artists from every corner of the globe and bingo, we've got comic books."



No matter how simple or easy the process actually was, St. Claire has nothing but praise for the rest of the creative team: "Marc Sasso, who does the amazing covers, is like the twin brother I never had. We share a remarkable bulk of pop culture references, which is why the covers are such a carbon copy of what I had in my head. Starting with issue #4 (on sale in October), John Toledo joins the comic as penciller, and again, this is a guy who reads my words and understands them better than I do. He brings a deep darkness and edginess to the interiors of the book that we only skimmed the surface in the first three books. Inker Eric Theriault brings the artwork to a much high level; he is the next step in the evolution of the artwork and taught me a profound appreciation for an inker. He takes good work and makes great work."



The ending of candyappleblack may dismay some, according to Ferrante: "When we wrote the screenplay, the one note we got from producers was the ending was such a downer. But some of our favorite movies are downers. In fact we thought of HELLRAISER when we were first writing this, in that the story never ends because the box is out there...[Although] things come to a conclusion, it also leaves something to the imagination since the repercussions of the events in the story are so much greater than what we could visually accomplish."



Eventually,

A page from issue 1 of candyappleblack.

movie or no movie, the plan is "is [to] assemble all seven books as a trade paperback, with a little additional material," says St. Claire. "[At least script-wise, we'll] include a few deleted scenes and possibly do the second half of the story which is called DOMINION."



When you read candyappleblack, in a very real sense you will have seen the movie that will eventually hit the theaters (though that should be no reason not to see it, of course) because, as St. Claire puts it, "The seven issue series is the screenplay adapted into a graphic form. You might say it's basically the storyboard of the movie. No, the angel doesn't stop any of them from killing themselves. We don't punk out. Everybody dies. But that doesn't mean what it traditionally means."



candyappleblack is published by the Good Intentions Paving Company. More information on the book and on ordering can be found here.

If you enjoyed this interview or have comments about it, let me know via the web site contact address here or e-mail me directly. Next week, I'd like to hear from you about which comics you wish had not been canceled and which books you think should be canceled it doesn't matter how long ago the cancellation occurred, but please make sure to send no more than two for each category! Send them before 5pm (CST) on Saturday, September 18th, and remember to please use CAPS when giving the title of the series in question. I do the HTML coding on this column every week, and having the titles in caps already makes my life much easier. Finally, as always, don't forget our discussion boards! In the meantime, here's this week's listings:



THIS WEEK:



For teen readers this week, Marvel finally trots out the MARVEL AGE: RUNAWAYS - VOL 2: TEENAGE WASTELAND digest trade paperback for $7.99 and for those of us adult readers who follow this series, it's about time, too! There's also MARVEL AGE: SPIDER-MAN TEAM-UP #1, which, oddly enough, redoes the story from AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1. Oh, well, at $1.75 it's well worth it. And finally, the same talented Sean McKeever who writes RUNAWAYS also gives us MARY JANE #4 ($2.25).



For younger DC fans, it's a new series based on a new animated series about a "new" (meaning "younger") Batman in THE BATMAN STRIKES! #1 ($2.25). But if all that batty excitement is too much for your rug rats, then there's also POWERPUFF GIRLS #54 ($2.25). Surely from amongst all this, there's something you can buy them to keep them quiet for an hour or two...



America's Best Comics continues with Moore madness in TERRA OBSCURA VOL 2 #2 (Of 6, $2.95), as a mysterious alien vessel approaches Earth. Oh, no, not the Martians again...



In BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHTS #57 ($2.50),

Jim Aparo's cover to BATMAN IN THE EIGHTIES.

it's "War Games," Act 2, Part 4...don't worry, folks, the madness will soon be over. In the meantime, read the BATMAN IN THE EIGHTIES trade paperback for $19.95, and rediscover what Batman stories were like back in the day when they weren't a) multi-part epics, b) crossovers, or c) both. Yeah, hard to imagine, but true.



The story arc beginning in CABLE/DEADPOOL #7 ($2.99) is titled "The Passion of the Cable". No, I'm not kidding. And somehow I don't think this is going to be some lighthearted parody like that SOUTH PARK episode, do you?



The Bendis sets the Widow up for her own title as her story arc ends in DAREDEVIL #64 ($2.99), whilst the DAREDEVIL VOL 4: UNDERBOSS trade paperback for $14.99 collects some previous story arc or other. Do you really need to know which? It's the Bendis!



Dark Horse this week presents the continuation of the Love Brothers' hybrid mix of THE SIXTH SENSE and SHAFT in FIERCE #3 (Of 4, $2.99), while a bunch of horrific goodness continues in FREAKS OF THE HEARTLAND #5 (Of 6, $2.99).



The teacher who was fired for kissing Emma returns in EMMA FROST #15($2.99). I wonder what sort of punishment Scott Summers deserves, since he's done so much more with the skanky thing? Guess we'll find out when Jean comes back...



Honestly, would anyone really turn down the FF's help when the Avengers are otherwise...um, incapacitated? Find out in FANTASTIC FOUR #518 ($2.99).



The boys have survived all their misadventures with the battle suit, but they can't survive cancellation - FRACTION #6 ($2.50) is the final issue of the series. Bummer, dude.



In HAWKMAN #32 ($2.50),

Kevin Nowlan's cover to HAWKMAN #32.

Carter and the Atom travel to Antarctica to encounter a enemy entombed there. We're not going into Lovecraft territory again, are we?



We're told that it's not only the heroes' loved ones that might get the chop in IDENTITY CRISIS #4 (Of 7, $3.95) but also those of the villains. And we should be upset about this why...?



And speaking of things we shouldn't get upset or care about, INVADERS #2 ($2.99) is also out this week. So, what do you guys think should this series continue, or is it more deserving of the chop than, say, FRACTION?



Warren Ellis on IRON MAN? Can it be true? Well, yes, but not yet. In the meantime, Mark Ricketts is doing his level best on issue #88 ($2.99), out this week.



While you're reeling from the latest Kevin J. Anderson craziness in JSA: STRANGE ADVENTURES #2 (Of 6, $3.50), you can also catch up on how Geoff Johns turned a continuity nightmare back into a fondly-followed hero in the JSA VOL 3: THE RETURN OF HAWKMAN trade paperback for $19.95.



It may

Cover to MADROX #1.

very well be that only people named Peter can write X-FACTOR books well and this may indeed be the case with MADROX #1 (Of 5, $2.99), written by Peter David and featuring some of the more popular characters from his run on that book. Worth checking out!



A reader recently wrote in to tell me that he'd attended an advance screening of the MAN-THING movie and that it was awful. Oh, dear. Well, the miniseries, which concludes this week with #3 (Of 3, $2.99), is far from being awful. Guess the book is better than the movie, after all...



Never heard of Dan Abnett's SINISTER DEXTER? Well, if you've never read 2000 A.D., now's your chance to see what you've been missing out on! The GUNSHARK VACATION trade paperback ($14.95) collects material from the series that shows us what the millennium should have looked like.



Ever wonder just how the animosity between Spidey and Ock began? No? Well, read SPIDER-MAN/DOCTOR OCTOPUS: YEAR ONE #4 (Of 5, $2.99), anyway.



JMS and Sara (Samm) Barnes give us their take on the Sorcerer Supreme in STRANGE #1 ($3.50). There's magic in the air, all right...



The Ultimates and the X-Men converge on Tunguska, Russia to discover the nature of the ULTIMATE NIGHTMARE in issue #2 (Of 5, $2.25) of the miniseries and it turns out not to be DC's Bob Wayne after all.



Wow, look at the haul from Vertigo this week! There's the 100 BULLETS VOL 2: SPLIT-SECOND CHANCE trade paperback for $14.95;
BOOKS OF MAGICK: LIFE DURING WARTIME #3 ($2.50); the DOOM PATROL VOL. 1: CRAWLING FROM THE WRECKAGE

John Watkiss provides the cover for HUMAN TARGET #14.

trade paperback for $19.95, featuring Grant Morrison's first run on the earlier series collecting #s 19-25; the HELLBLAZER: SETTING SUN trade paperback for $12.95, collecting Warren Ellis' last run on that book in #s 140-143; HUMAN TARGET #14 ($2.95); a new printing of the SANDMAN VOL 1: PRELUDES & NOCTURNES trade paperback for $19.95; and a new printing of the Y: THE LAST MAN VOL 1: UNMANNED trade paperback for $12.95. Time to take out a second mortgage on the house, methinks...!



And finally, we get a quadruple shot of Logan with WOLVERINE #19 ($2.25); WOLVERINE: THE END #5 (Of 6, $2.99); NEW X-MEN #5 ($2.99); and X-MEN #161 ($2.25). All this before he joins the Avengers, too. Guess Marvel has never heard of "overexposure," have they?



Questions? Comments? Let us know what you think by e-mailing us here!

Comicscape is our weekly Comics column.


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