For over a decade now, F.J. DeSanto has lived in the world of comics and film. He's worked side-by-side with producer Michael Uslan to bring films like 'The Dark Knight', 'Constantine', 'Turok: Son of Stone' and 'The Spirit' to the big screen. Having been a co-producer on two films last year, he's now putting his energy into writing comics as well.
Last week saw the release of The Spirit #27 from DC and this week finds DeSanto writing Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Manga for TOKYPOP. In between The Spirit also arrives on DVD. He's a busy guy but he made time to chat with Mania.com about these three releases.
Rob Worley for MANIA: So, last week saw the release of the second part of a three-part story in 'The Spirit'. Tell us about it...
F.J DeSanto: The Spirit three-parter is titled "Choices" and it’s focused around three of The Spirit’s femme fatales, Silken Floss, Lorelei, and Plaster of Paris. It’s about the decisions these three women make in their lives and how they effect The Spirit, Central City, and beyond. Naturally, The Octopus somehow ties into all of this. By the time the third issue is out, you’ll get an understanding of what motivates these women as well as why they all love or want to kill The Spirit.
MANIA: You're co-writing with your partner on 'The Spirit' film, Michael Uslan. What was the working process like?
FJ: It’s not very different than when we have developed projects together in the past. We’ve worked together for so long that there’s a lot of instinct there so it’s a smooth process. He mentored me into the comic writing world just as he did in movies. We talk out the idea and then one of us writes something down, bounces it back and forth till we’re happy with it. It varies. Sometimes he kicks it off, other times I do, but I think we have a dynamic that gets strong results.
MANIA: The story wraps up in issue #28, May 27th. Are you working on any more 'Spirit' stories after that?
FJ: Nothing Spirit related for the time being, but I have a great idea for a Spirit stand alone graphic novel that, when the time is right, I hope DC let’s us tackle.
MANIA: 'The Spirit' movie comes out on DVD today, April 14th. I can't imagine the reaction the movie got was what you were hoping for. What went wrong?
FJ: I knew it would be a love it or hate it kind of movie, but I never expected the vicious attacks towards it. I don’t think anything went wrong per se. I think you have a character that no one has a modern context of or an emotional connection to. You also have a character so singularly identified with its creator’s vision that any deviation from it seems like sacrilege. BATMAN, for example, has decades of stories and versions to choose from. I’m convinced that if Frank did a graphic novel version of the same exact SPIRIT story a years before the movie, it would have been an entirely different ballgame. It’s not like WATCHMEN, where people know it and have a connection to it. Also, I think that audiences were expecting blood, sex and violence from Frank, and he delivered something different. It’s a damned if you do damned if you don’t situation.
Kyle Baker has the best review of the movie I ever read. He got it completely.
MANIA: I personally found the movie to be very enjoyable. Do you think it'll have a richer life on the home video than it had in theaters?
FJ: Yeah, I do. I think history will be kinder to it. It’s literally a graphic novel up on the screen and once people get their heads around what an amazing job Frank and people like Bill Pope and Stu Maschwitz did on that movie, they’ll start to appreciate it.
MANIA: And now you're doing Star Trek:The Next Generation Manga for TOKYOPOP. The book collects several stories. Tells us about yours...
FJ: My story is centered around Will Riker trying to thwart an internal Starfleet coup to have a post assimilated Captain Picard relieved of command. It uncovers a few mysteries that have been lingering in the TNG universe for years. It also answers the question as to why Riker waited so long before becoming Captain of his own ship.
MANIA: Is this your first time flying solo as a comic writer?
FJ: Yep, this was actually written before The Spirit run and thus the first comic or manga I’ve ever written.
MANIA: Are you a fan of 'Star Trek'?
FJ: I’m a huge fan of the Original Series. There’s a lot of TNG I like, but I wouldn’t call myself a huge fan in comparison to my love of Kirk, Spock, etc.
MANIA: How did your knowledge of 'Star Trek' aid you in writing the book?
FJ: I was a novice when it came to TNG continuity, especially in comparison to my knowledge of The Original Series. I had to do a ton of research. The internet sites were very helpful and I got the initial idea by reading the Memory Alpha entry on Riker. I also watched the series quite a bit and focused on "The Best of Both Worlds" parts 1 and 2 as well as the episode "Family", which was very helpful. I probably overdid my research for fear of violating anything in TNG continuity, but CBS was very helpful with pointing stuff out like that.
MANIA: Are you doing more of these?
FJ: Not at the moment, but would do another in a heartbeat
MANIA: How do you think the new 'Star Trek' movie is going to play with fans?
FJ: I think it looks like a huge hit. Everything about it screams awesome to me. The simple fact that they are challenging themselves by having Nimoy in it and not just wiping the slate clean i.e. 'Batman Begins', impresses the hell out of me. They’re saying “Hey, everything you watched for 40 years HAPPENED, but this is our clever way of rebooting it”. It allows new fans to jump on without alienating the current ones. I’ll be there opening night.
MANIA: What's next? Are you writing more comics? Doing more movies?
FJ: Next is hopefully 'The Shadow' movie, which we’re waiting on a script for. The story is great and I’m really excited about that.
Beyond that, we have 'Doc Savage' slowly cooking and I’m also developing a few web-based franchises. As for comics, lots of ideas are floating around at the moment, some pitches are in, so there should be more comics in the future. I absolutely love writing comics.
Check out 'The Spirit' on DVD and Blu-Ray today and 'Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Manga' in comic shops tomorrow. Be sure to look for 'The Spirit' #26 and #27 in comic shops already!