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Getting Raw with Thomas Jane
By Kurt Amacker
August 08, 2007
Thomas Jane as Frank Castle in THE PUNISHER (2004).
© Artisan/Lions Gate
Greetings, Maniacs, and welcome to another exciting adventure into the unknown with Comicscape! San Diego Comic-Con has left me with rant material for the rest of the calendar year and beyond. Marvel’s decision to publish Amazing Spider-Man thrice-monthly merits an entire column unto itself. But, before I spend the next four months alternately praising and blasting the comics industry for the next year’s worth of material, I thought I’d touch base with Thomas Jane for an interview. Today marks the relaunch of Raw Entertainment’s much-anticipated Bad Planet miniseries, written by Tom and horror-master Steve Niles. A reprint of the first issue and the new second issue both hit the stands today. Tom not only runs Raw Entertainment and writes comics, but he has plans to direct a thriller movie called Dark Country. And, yes, he played Frank Castle in the 2004 Marvel movie, The Punisher. I talked with Tom about all of his upcoming projects, Raw’s move to digital comics with D2C, and his decision to withdraw from The Punisher 2. Read and enjoy.
Kurt: How was San Diego Comic-Con?
TJ: We had a blast. It was our first year on the booth. I was on the other side of the firing line and it was fucking awesome. It was a lot of hard work setting up and breaking down and getting everything together, but was it fun. We did a lot of interviews and I think we got the word out about Bad Planet and our company, Raw Studios. Everybody was so busy with The Mist panel, and Steve Niles’s 30 Days of Night stuff, and Tim Bradstreet running back and forth between his table and the Raw Studios booth. Todd Farmer was also a real trooper. He helped set up every day. We moved about 400 books – Bad Planet #1 and #2 – because we got a few advanced copies, so we signed them and sold them. Now, they should be hitting stands on the 8th of this month. That’s in a couple of days, so that’s exciting.
KA: Good timing.
TJ: It was good timing that we got the word out in San Diego and now the books are hitting the stands. We’re going to get all six books out by the end of the year. Dave Stevens is working on the cover for issue 6 and all the other covers are done. Tim is inking away on issue 4, so we’re on track to have all six issues out by Christmas. I’ve been looking at a deal with somebody to do the trade paperbacks. Everything’s going great for Raw Studios, man, and it’s been a really great ride. I’m looking ahead to my next book since Bad Planet’s getting wrapped up and Alien Pig Farm 3000 has all four issues out. We’re going to put the trade paperback out for that, too. So, we’ve got to get rolling on our next book, now. I think I’m going to do a werewolf book.
KA: Would that be something related to Dark Country, your werewolf movie?
TJ: No, Dark Country isn't a werewolf movie. It's a Hitchcockian thriller. But, that's the other thing I'm getting together. I'm directing Dark Country in the fall. In fact, I was just at the guy’s office who’s going to be doing a CGI car crash for me. It turns out that even though I have a $3 million budget, it’s going to be cheaper for me to do my car crash with a computer than with live action. It’s kind of sad for the live action boys, but it’s good for me because I get to have a killer, kick-ass, fucking car crash. And, people love the script so they want to be involved with it at cost. I’m hiring a DP from England who’s flying over – the guy that I worked with on Mutant Chronicles named Geoff Boyle – who’s just an awesome DP. He’s a groundbreaking forerunner in the digital world. He’s not scared of a digital camera. And, he loves the idea of shooting in 3-D, which we’ll be doing – stereoscopic 3-D.
So, Dark Country’s the movie I’m starring in and directing, and then we’re going to do the graphic novel version of it. I’d like to talk to Thomas Ott, but I don’t know how to get a hold of him. He’s this Swiss guy who does these books like Tales of Error and Greetings from Hellville. He does this scratchboard technique that’s just fucking phenomenal. I’m looking for a scratchboard artist to do the graphic novel. I want to do it all in black in white with maybe a hint of color, but I’m really inspired by Ott’s style. The cat that did my storyboards for Dark Country – he’s an awesome artist named Dave Allcock out of England; he did storyboards on Mutant Chronicles – I’m talking to him about doing Dark Country in a scratchboard style! That would be totally cool, to bring it full circle like that. Then, I'm going to do the werewolf comic. That's my next book. I don't know -- I got a hankering for werewolves and I'm looking for artists
KA: It’s interesting because a couple of years ago, Raw was ready to move with Bad Planet and everything and then it just kind of stopped. Then the floodgates opened and now, it’s like five things are coming at once. It’s really cool. So far, from what we’ve seen, I think it’s going to be worth the wait.
TJ: We’ve been working really hard, but instead of putting out books piecemeal, I decided to wait and get a lot of the work done and in the can before I start soliciting. That way, I can come out with stuff with reasonable consistency. We’ll see the six issues of Bad Planet come out by Christmas, which is a relief for me. I finally found a really great printer. The first two issues are being printed in South Korea. I also found this great paper – in fact, Image is saying they want to print some of their books on this stuff because they like it so much. I was really tenacious. It’s all about taking the thing seriously and trying to do the best job that we can. Trying to do something a cut above the rest – that’s the whole point of doing an independent book. If I could do it as well as Marvel or DC, I’d do it for them. But, I’m doing something that’s a cut above. That takes time and a little extra effort, but at the end of the day, that’s what makes it fun for me. So, next stop is my 48-page graphic novel for Dark Country, and then I’ll be really busy promoting The Mist with Frank Darabont, which I’m crazy about. I think it’s the best movie I’ve ever done. I’m really excited for the fans to be able to see this. This’ll be the next thing they see out of me after The Punisher. I guess it is, huh? It’s the fucking next thing I’ve done after The Punisher.
KA: Mutant Chronicles is in the can, though, isn’t it?
TJ: Yeah, that and Killshot are in the can. But, The Mist is going to come out first. In fact, Killshot was supposed to come out first, but it looks like they’re going to hold off until after The Mist. Bob Weinstein told Harvey Weinstein that he thought The Mist was going to be fucking awesome, and really good for Thomas Jane [laughing].” So, they moved Killshot until after The Mist, which I thought was a really nice compliment to me and, more especially, to the movie.
I’m also very excited about Mutant Chronicles. The director, Simon Hunter, is a new David Fincher. He’s a real talent. We have a very special movie – really fun. It doesn’t pretend to be more than it is, which is a really kick-ass, steam-punk, hardcore science-fiction action movie. I haven’t seen one of those in a while. It’s not pretentious. This movie has a lot in common with Buck Rogers and the old sci-fi serials. It has a lot in common with movies likeJourney to the Center of the Earth and Indiana Jones.
KA: What’s the division of labor between you and Steve Niles at Raw these days?
TJ: Steve has always been my partner that I brought on board to Raw Studios to kick some fucking ass, and he’s done that – so has Bradstreet. Tim and Steve and I are brothers in arms. Our goal is to kick some serious ass on all fronts – in movies, comics, and even games. Tim’s got a fantastic project called Red Sky Diaries. He’s got this character called Gallows, and you can go online and look up some of his work. Tim’s been working on him for like 20 years. Tim’s working on putting that story together and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to help. Now, that’s Tim’s story. Hopefully, we’ll do it with Raw Studios. I’ll be involved with that story as much as I can. But, I’ll be there to support him and help him get that script and vision off the ground in whatever medium he decides to do it in, whether that’s film or a comic or a game. But, at the end of the day, that’s Bradstreet’s baby. We put Raw together so that everybody could help each other with their babies. Mine’s Bad Planet and everyone’s kicking that in the pants, but we can kind of see the end of the tunnel on that. So now, we’re looking at our other projects and seeing how we can be of service.
Steve and I also sold this miniseries to the Sci-Fi Channel. We don’t have a title for it yet, but we’re writing this six-hour thing that’s about a voyage to another planet. It’s like one of these great old movies where you went to another planet and it’s got big alien dinosaurs on it and ancient Cro-Magnon-like alien cannibalistic tribes running around! It’s just awesome, and the Sci-Fi channel just ate it right up. So, we’re deep into developing that for them. I think we’re going to get a television writer than can help us put the script together on that sucker. I think that’s going to keep Steve and I busy for a while. Hopefully, when we get that rolling in the right direction, then we can sink our teeth into The Lurkers movie. That’s what the Raw the boys are up to.
KA: Do you want to talk a little bit about Punisher 2?
TJ: I’ve said what I have to say about Punisher 2. What can we say about it that hasn’t been said? I wish them well. I miss Frank. I wish he hadn’t left my world, but I didn’t have the heart to bring Castle to life in a way that wasn’t going to be as good as or better than the first one.
KA: I know you probably can’t talk about the script or anything, but can you talk about the differences between your vision and the studio’s was?
TJ: I really wish those guys well, but I can’t do that to the fans. Everything I wanted to say about Punisher 2, I said in that letter that I wrote to Quint at Ain’t It Cool News. That pretty much says it all.
KA: Well, amen to that.
TJ: There just isn’t much more to say about that.
KA: Well, it’s over and done. Hopefully, it goes well otherwise. I think the fans were sorry to see you leave, but I think your explanation made them more worried about the film than mad about anything you did. I think everyone felt that if you didn’t like it, then they wanted to know what was going to happen to this project.
TJ: Hopefully, a lot of them will go see The Mist. Hopefully, I’ll find a project that will give my fans a taste of what my Castlecould’ve been. That’s what I want to find. I’m looking for a project that allows me to do what I wanted with the Punisher character. I keep my head up and my eyes open and hope that opportunity comes along. Then, we’ll get to have some fun. But, it’s never going to be the same without that skull on my chest.
KA: I think you’ve got a lot of other stuff going on that I think people are starting to identify you with Bad Planet, Raw, The Mist, and a lot of other things. But, it is what it is.
Do you want to talk about this deal you’ve got with D2C Games that allows readers to get your material on their Playstation Portables?
TJ: We made a deal with D2C Games to put our comics into a digital format. Whatever it is we create, D2C will create a version that you can download on to your PSP for $3.99. You can hear commentary by me or by Steve or by Tim. You can hit a button and just see Tim’s ink’s or James Daley’s pencil’s. It’s really cool shit that you wouldn’t be able to do with a paper comic. I’m trying to get more people to read comics. I know my biggest competition is the computer. It’s the games and the fucking movies that kids are playing on their computers. Instead of pulling them away from the computer, I’m going to them. I’m trying to create a comic book reading experience. I’m not trying to create an animated movie or a game out of my comics. But, I’m still trying to give them the experience of reading with the autonomy that involves – being able to flip back and forth between pages, for instance. But, I’m also giving them something extra, where they can listen to me talk about the comic as they’re reading it. They get a few DVD extras. In that respect, I think it’s really cool. I’m hoping it will create a crossover audience, where some guys that have never read comics and just play games will discover books. And, hopefully, some guys that already read books will get these on their PSP so they can learn more about Raw. Their will also be a button that will allow you to order the actual book online.
KA: I think that’s a problem with some digital comics. When you listen to some publishers talk, it sounds like they want to just turn their comics into cartoons with sound effects and animation. At some point, that stops being a comic and just becomes a web toon.
TJ: That’s right. We are going to have some music and sound effects, but those are options. You can switch those things off. But, you control the pace at which you read the comic. It’s not flipping the page for you. You can go back to the previous panel if you want. I’m a firm believer in the comic book, so I’m trying to offer a new way of reading them.
KA: That’s refreshing, though, because sometimes it feels like the industry is just a breeding ground for intellectual properties to make licensed media – not comics, but video games, toys, television, and movies based on them.
TJ: I think it’s very important for the comic industry to use video games and cartoons, but to use that stuff to help us create a new audience and to generate respect for the stuff. That’s what’s important.
The Spinner Rack
By Ben Johnson and Kurt Amacker
DARK HORSE COMICS
Bettie Page Statue $124.99
Ben: Now you can be a classy pervert.
Kurt: You’re not even supposed to list anything that’s not a comic, and yet, you include this. I fear for your children.
Blade Of The Immortal #128 (Mr) $2.99
BPRD Killing Ground #1 (Of 5) $2.99
Kurt: The last BPRD miniseries ended well. Sometimes, these are hit-and-miss, but the last couple have been solid hits. I’m in.
Chunchu Genocide Fiend Vol 1 TP $10.95
Ben: Chunchu’s never catch a break.
Lankhmar Book 2 Swords Against Death Novel $12.95
Star Wars Episode I Phantom Menace Photo Comic TP $9.95
Ben: It never ends.
Star Wars Legacy #15 $2.99
Star Wars Rebellion #9 $2.99
Ben: Ever, ever.
Kurt: Just wait until Lucas caves in and makes the sequel trilogy. Then you can look forward to another 30 years of spin-offs. Look, I love Star Wars, but this beast needs to die.
Style School Vol 1 TP $14.95
100 Bullets Vol 11 Once Upon A Crime TP (MR) $12.99
Alan Moore The Complete Wildcats TP $29.99
Kurt: Well, since Grant Morrison’s run has just barely started, you can catch up on what is probably the best run of the whole series.
Batman #667 $2.99
Ben: Not satanic anymore.
Kurt: It’s just the Neighbor of the Beast.
Batman Confidential #8 $2.99
Batman Strikes #36 $2.25
Ben: Vs. the Union Buster.
Kurt: All right, you’re recycling Al Brown’s greatest hits. Stop it.
Black Adam The Dark Age #1 (Of 6) $2.99
Kurt: Because Black Adam was just a barrel of laughs before this.
Black Adam The Dark Age Var Ed #1 (Of 6) $2.99
Cartoon Network Action Pack #16 $2.25
Countdown 38 $2.99
Ben: Not interested.
Kurt: I don’t have a choice.
Deadman #12 (MR) $2.99
Devil Does Exist Vol 11 $9.99
Kaiser Soeze: His biggest trick was convincing us that he didn’t.
Kurt: You mean, he’s real? Sweet! I’m going to go listen to some Slayer!
DMZ #22 (MR) $2.99
Ben: My second favorite DC comic. Good times.
Fables #64 (MR) $2.99
Ben: And my favorite. If you haven’t yet read this do yourself a favor and stop being stupid.
Kurt: Let me show you all of the comics I’ve yet to read sitting in my closet. I really want to read this series, but it’s on the list. Maybe I’ll get the trades so that I can finally come in the treehouse with Ben.
Gen 13 #11 $2.99
Green Arrow Year One #3 (Of 6) $2.99
Green Lantern #22 $2.99
Ben: Sinestro is a total badass.
Green Lantern 2nd Ptg #21 $2.99
Green Lantern Corps 2nd Ptg #14 $2.99
Jack Of Fables #13 (MR) $2.99
Ben: If you like Fables, you’ll hate this. I’m done with this one.
JLA Classified #41 $2.99
Outsiders Five Of A Kind Week 2 Katana Shazam $2.99
Showcase Presents Adam Strange Vol 1 TP $16.99
Stormwatch PHD #10 $2.99
Ben: C’mon Kurt, I know you want to say it.
Kurt: Okay, fine. I was going to get my PhD in Stormwatch, but I want to switch to WildC.A.T.S. But, they’re not offering any of the requirements this semester.
Superman Chronicles Vol 3 TP $14.99
Tenjho Tenge Vol 15 $9.99
Un-Men #1 (MR) $2.99
Ben: Previously known as Under the Knife.
Bad Planet #2 (Of 6) (Res) (MR) $2.99
Kurt: Everybody go buy these for Tom!
Bad Planet New Ptg #1 (Of 6) (MR) $2.99
Casanova #8 (MR) $1.99
Consumed #2 (Of 4) $2.99
Ben: The brown stains your teeth after a while.
Kurt: I hate you with every fiber of my being for making that joke. This column is a sanctuary for intellectual and scholarly discourse!
Dynamo 5 #6 $3.50
Ghosting #1 (Of 4) $2.99
Ben: I’m curious about this one.
Glister #1 $5.99
Invincible Vol 3 Ultimate Coll HC $34.99
Amazing Spider-Girl #11 $2.99
Annihilation Conquest Wraith #2 (Of 4) $2.99
Ben: Marvel has done an incredible job of crafting a story where you don’t have to read every tie-in. Do yourself a favor and skip this one.
Avengers Classic #3 $2.99
Ben: I know I might get egged, but Stan Lee is not much of a writer.
Kurt: I’ve been saying this for a while, and a bunch of other people said it before me. He had great ideas, not great writing.
Avengers Earths Mightiest Heroes 2 HC $24.99
Blade #12 $2.99
Ben: Good bye Blade, we hardly knew ye.
Kurt: This is the fourth time we hardly knew him.
Civil War Chronicles #2 $4.99
Ben: If you want to read Civil War, but somehow missed it the first time, this is a cool way to check it out.
Criminal #8 (MR) $2.99
Ben: Like Sin City without the crazy.
Daredevil #99 $2.99
Dark Tower Gunslinger Born 2nd Ptg Romita Jr Var #3 (Of 7) $3.99
Dark Tower Gunslinger Born 3rd Ptg Lee Var #2 (Of 7) $3.99
Dark Tower Gunslinger Born 3rd Ptg Lee Wraparound Var #1 (Of 7) $3.99
Dark Tower Gunslingers Guidebook $3.99
Essential Dazzler Vol 1 TP $16.99
Ben: This should be the shortest book you read all year.
Kurt: My sister totally loved Dazzler when she was a kid.
Exiles #97 $2.99
Fantastic Five #3 (Of 5) $2.99
Ghost Rider #14 $2.99
Kurt: I realize I’m the only one left reading this after the movie sucked, but still.
Ghost Rider Vol 2 Life & Death Of Johnny Blaze TP $13.99
Hedge Knight 2 Sworn Sword #3 (Of 6) $2.99
Incredible Hulk #109 WWH $2.99
Ben: I can still hear last issue sucking, let’s hope for a turn around.
Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four Vol 6 Digest TP $6.99
Marvel Illustrated Man In The Iron Mask #2 (Of 6) $2.99
New Avengers #33 $2.99
Ben: A run down from last month’s issue:
Luke Cage: You’re a Skrull!
Wolverine: No, you are!
Brian Michael Bendis: The end!
Kurt: What happened? I dropped this book a year ago.
New Avengers Transformers #2 (Of 4) $2.99
New Excalibur #22 $2.99
Nova #5 $2.99
Omega Flight #5 (Of 5) CWI $2.99
Powers #25 (MR) $3.95
Punisher War Journal #10 CWI $2.99
Kurt: This is the conclusion of the Hate Monger arc. I love this book.
Spider-Man Featuring The Silver Surfer Magazine $5.99
Ultimate X-Men #85 $2.99
Wolverine Origins #16 Mcguinness Poster $6.99
Kurt: So, is this a comic with a poster in it or just a poster? Either way, I cry lame.
Women Of Marvel Vol 2 TP $24.99
World War Hulk Front Line #3 (Of 6) $2.99
Ben: Good stuff.
X-Factor #22 $2.99
X-Men Bachalo 2nd Ptg Bachalo Var #200 $3.99
X-Men Supernovas HC $34.99
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