When ShowTime's Jeremiahdebuts on March 3rd, it will have traveled a great distance from the roots ofthe Belgian comic book that spawned it. This week Comics2Film talked withErvin Rustemagic, an executive producer on the show and founder of StripArt Features, the Slovenia based publisher who has been responsible forbringing Hermann Huppen's comic to the rest of the world.
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C2F: For American fans whoaren't familiar with Hermann's work, what can you tell us about him and the Jeremiahcomics?
Ervin Rustemagic:Hermann does all the work on the Jeremiah comics himself -- hewrites it, he pencils the pages, he paints the colors and he letters theoriginal French texts -- while my company SAF (Strip Art Features) is doing allthe production work and prepares Jeremiah for publication in manylanguages. To some publishers we only license the publishing rights and for somepublishers we print the graphic novels at our own printing plant in Slovenia.
Hermann is a true professional.In the past 30 years I do not remember him being one day late with his work. TheJeremiah comics are very much popular in Europe and the series hasa great fan following, especially in countries like France, Belgium, Holland,Italy...
We might say that Jeremiahis a cult comic in Europe. It greatly influenced George Miller when he wascreating his original Mad Max movie, which he wrote and directed.At that time a friend of his from Germany was sending him installments of the Jeremiahcomic that were published in the German "Zack" magazine.
C2F: What has your role beenin bringing Jeremiah to TV?
E. R.: Platinum Studiosacquired the movie/TV rights to Jeremiah from us and they made theTV deal in the United States. Although I was regularly informed about theprogress in making of that deal, I was not very much involved in concluding ofthe TV deal.
C2F: How does the showdiffer from the comics?
E. R.: There is not muchsimilarity in the stories, although we might say that the atmosphere is there.Roman Polanski, who is a great fan of Hermann's work, once said that each bookof Hermann is an excellent movie. I think so, too, and if we were making amovie, each book of Jeremiah could serve as a great plot for a movie. That wouldmake a wonderful franchise. But what we are doing is a TV series and theparameters there are very different.
C2F: How does J. MichaelStraczynski's take compare to Hermann's original?
E. R.: It is hard tocompare one to the other because what he is doing is very much different fromHermann's original. Joe Straczynski is a proven professional in the TV-media andI think he knows what he is doing. The TV show might be a big success (I keep myfingers crossed for that), but the Jeremiah comic's fans in Europeare going to be disappointed.
They all have a vision of how Jeremiahshould look on the screen and it will be very difficult to explain to them whythe show simply didn't transfer Hermann's stories and art on the screen. JoeStraczynski explained to me why certain things from the comic were not possiblein the show and I think I understand his reasons, but fans are a differentstory.
It will be a lost war if we tryto persuade any of them that their beloved comic couldn't have been justtransferred into a TV show in the way they wanted it to be.
C2F: Were there any elementsof the comics that you wish were in the show, but aren't?
E. R.: Yes, many, but Iwill only mention that Kurdy (Jeremiah's pal) in Hermann's comics wears a helmetand a necklace with "Mother" written on it. Kurdy in the TV seriesdoesn't have any of these. Reactions of fans in Europe will be very negative tothis.
C2F: How was your workingrelationship with Straczynski? Luke Perry? The other creative people involvedwith the show?
E. R.: I am one of sevenExecutive Producers who get credits on the show, but the only ones who are onthe set all the time are J. Michael Straczynski and Sam Egan, as well as GeorgeHorie, the producer. The first two are also writing most of the episodes.
I met with everyone on the set.Both Luke Perry and Malcolm-Jamal Warner are great guys. It was an instantfriendship and I like them very much indeed. I almost forgot -- Luke is also oneof Executive Producers. And everybody else on the set seems to be co-operatingvery well with each other. They all look like a big, happy family.
C2F: You founded Strip ArtFeatures in 1972. How did you come to be interested in publishing comics?
E. R.: Bad luck! This iswhat I use to answer to such questions. I am working 14-16 hours a day, sevendays a week, 30 years in a row.
I have two kids - Maja, mydaughter, is 19, studying medicine in Slovenia. My son Edvin is 15, goes toschool and plays handball and guitar. I did not see them grow, because I wasalways in my office, swamped with my work, and never at home. My wife Edina, whois a professor of philosophy, could not work in her profession because she hadto take care of the kids (and of me, too). And now it is too late for me tobaby-sit Maja and Edvin. I must say I am happy they are not interested in theirdad's profession. I want to see them devote some time to their future families.
C2F: 10 years ago you wererunning Strip Art Features from war-torn Sarajevo. You've since relocated toSlovenia. Now you're on the brink of launching a major U.S. TV show. How doesthat feel?
E. R.: I am someone whowalks on the earth, not in the clouds, as we use to say over here. It was veryemotional for me to see Jeremiah 'coming to life', after I havebeen producing the comic for so many years. But nothing more than that. I do notfeel like being some kind of a 'big player' now because of the TV show. Peoplewho should feel overwhelmed with that launching are the ones who are reallyinvolved in the production on a day-to-day basis. They will deserve all theapplause if the show is a success.
C2F: What can you tell usabout your other projects that are being adapted for film or TV? Which look mostpromising?
E. R.: I am partneredwith Mike Richardson of Dark Horse. We have a publishing and entertainmentjoint-venture called "Venture". Our Venture entertainment company hasoffices in Beverly Hills and we have a number of projects in development. Someof them will probably go into production in the near future.
I will only name some of thetitles here: Blood Ties, Bird, Zachary Holmes.You can find these books in your book shops (all published by Venture) and youwill probably witness their screen adaptations in the following years.
Jeremiahdebuts with a two-hour movie on March 3 at 8:00 p.m. on Showtime. Following thatit falls into its regular time-slot on Fridays at 10:45 p.m. as part of thenetwork's Sci-Friday line-up.