IDW pitch: IT! The Terror From Beyond Space

Back in early 2010, IDW and MGM Studios had worked out the deal to re-imagine some of the cult classic MGM movies in comics form. They called them Midnight Movies. I’d had a good working relationship with IDW for a few years by then, so I was asked by Editor-in-Chief Chris Ryall to send in a proposal for one or more of the properties.

The science fiction setting of IT! The Terror From Beyond Space (1958) appealed to me, so I worked up the pitch, as seen below. I even included some “visual aids” in my document, to better explain my vision for the book’s look and feel.

it-1958-movie

Chris’s response was short and sweet:

“Yeah, we’re totally doing this. This rocks.”

So, here’s the pitch that got me the gig:

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IT! The Terror From Beyond Space

A reimagining by Dara Naraghi

The Challenge

When The Thing From Another World was reimagined by John Carpenter as The Thing, it was done through a darker setting, more realistic special effects, and amped-up levels of horror and gore. But I feel that if we were to take a similar approach with It!, we’d end up with Ridley Scott’s Alien. That may be unfair, but the reality is that Alien is so ingrained in our pop culture psyche that a modern update of its precursor (and inspiration) would ironically be viewed as a rip-off. Also, a similar updating was done when Millennium Comics published an It! Comic in 1992, so there’s no sense in treading those grounds again.

The Solution

My recommendation is to forego the deconstruction/post-modern approach. Instead, I propose we embrace the B-movie sensibilities of the source material, but with a twist: the retro outer shell will be juxtaposed against modern storytelling underpinnings.

  • The look-and-feel will be that of an “idealized” retro 1950s science fiction movie, but the plot will be multi-layered, with the addition of twists, ulterior motives, and modern science.
  • A more gender/ethnically diverse cast will provide the refinement to appeal to modern audiences.

Design Aesthetics

Again, to distance ourselves from unfair comparisons to Alien, we will forego the dark tone, grungy set pieces, and horror vibe. Instead, the focus will be on action, adventure, and above all, suspense. This is the world of sleek, stainless steel rocket ships and spirited explorers, not corporate oligarchies and blue-collar space miners.

  • Spaceship/Technology – sleek and sexy retro multi-finned rocket ships and ray guns abound.
  • Costumes – again, retro-sexy. Women’s 2-piece uniforms will feature mini-skirts and go-go boots. Guys will sport jack boots and holsters, ready for action. Classic “fishbowl” helmets will be used.
  • Creature – since we have an unlimited special effects budge, we will design a truly unique, non-humanoid monster (without resorting to either rubber-suit camp or H.R. Giger psychosis).
  • Covers – done in the style of 50s science fiction movie posters, but with amped-up sex appeal.
  • Text – each issue will open with a narrative caption incorporating the hyperbole of period movie trailer announcements. But the character dialogue will be modern and conversational.

Plot Summary

First, we will simplify and diversify by reducing the cast from 10 characters to 7 (discarding Maj. John Purdue and the Finelli brothers). Col. Edward Carruthers and Lt. James Calder will be African American, while Dr. Mary Royce will be of Japanese descent (Eric Royce is her husband).

The plot will follow that of the movie fairly closely, but with the addition of several layers of complexity. Instead of sneaking onto the rocket ship through an open hatch, the creature (in a much smaller, dormant form) is smuggled in by Lt. James Calder. He is carrying out orders from a secret branch of the Pentagon to retrieve any evidence of extraterrestrial life from Mars. (A similar “sleeper” agent with the same mission was on Carruthers’ Challenge 141 ship.) In turn, Ann Anderson is a special agent for the US Space Command, Division of Interplanetary Exploration, and tasked with observing Calder. Her role will be expanded greatly, taking over as our main protagonist after Van Heusen is injured early on.

Using a key element from the original movie – that the creature extracted every ounce of liquid from the bodies of those it killed – we’ll establish that this is the source of its power. Adapted to the dry atmosphere of Mars, it begins to grow unnaturally once exposed to the humidity in the ship’s air. It continues this exponential growth after killing Keinholz, Eric Royce, and eventually Van Heusen and Calder. Attempts to kill it with weapons and radiation fail, until Ann and Dr. Mary Royce deduce the source of its unnatural resilience. They then devise a plan to use this trait against the creature, by trapping and exposing it to large amounts of water and humidity. Similar to how humans can die by drinking too much water (“hyperhydration”, AKA water intoxication), the creature essentially overdoses on water, ironically “drowning in outer space”. Ann, the doctor, and Carruthers will be the only survivors.

We will explore more fully the romantic triangle hinted at in the movie, involving Ann, Van Heusen, and Carruthers. Another subplot will be an affair between Dr. Mary Royce and Keinholz. Key sequences retained from the movie will be the daring spacewalk, and a trapped Calder holding off the monster with a blowtorch in a cargo bay.

Visual Aids

Below are some comic book covers, both vintage and modern reinterpretations, which visually summarize the look and feel I’m aiming for:

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So there you have it. Writing the series was fun, and I always love the collaboration aspect of creating comics. Sadly, the MGM projects weren’t very successful, and halfway through writing the script for the 3rd issue (of a 4-issue mini-series) I was informed that the book was being “condensed” down to a 3-issue series. So yeah, I had to fit two issues worth of plot and story into just one. Sometimes those are the breaks. On the plus side, I got to work with legendary comic book editor Bob Schreck on this project, which was a blast.

Here’s some artwork from the finished project…

The covers for the series, which were provided by Steve Mannion, totally captured the look I was going for. Mannion has a great retro “good girl” style:

MGM_IT01_coverMGM_IT2_cover MGM_IT3_cover

Interior art was by Mark Dos Santos. (Aside: at one point, Paul Gulacy was going to draw it, but that didn’t come to fruition.) Here are some of Mark’s character and set designs:

COLORGUIDE-ANN COLORGUIDE-CARUTHERS IT-CREATURE 2.0

IT-CREATURE COMMON ROOM

And some interior pages:

IT_2_1

IT_FINAL_ISSUE 2_PAGE001

IT_ISSUE1_FINAL_007

IT_ISSUE1_FINAL_006

mgm32

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    Splash Wednesday: Elias and Nebres

    This week I’m featuring a couple of black and white pages, starting with a weird one, artist Lee Elias, from The Goblin #1, published by Warren Magazines, June 1982:

    goblin-001_0004

    And from January 2011 on my other blog:

    This week’s double-splash page comes courtesy of Philippine artist Rudy Nebres:

    splash_Nebres

    This is from Alien Encounters #1, a black & white anthology published by FantaCo in January of 1981. I believe that was the one and only issue they ever did. The book was picked up soon after by Eclipse Comics, which turned it into a color anthology.

    You can check out more of Rudy’s art here.

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      Indie Cover Spotlight: Rough Raiders Annual #1

      Here’s a company that I had a bit of history with in my early days of trying to break into the business…

      RoughRaidersAnn-1990

      Let’s just say I did a lot of unpaid work for them and leave it at that.

      The cover for this book was done by Steven Hughes, who gained fame as the artist of Evil Ernie and Lady Death, before his untimely death at an early age. Published by Blue Comet Press in 1990.

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        Anecdotes from Mid-Ohio-Con 2009

        I was digging through some old emails and came across this nugget, which I had shared with Chris Ryall at IDW Publishing after my experience at the 2009 Mid-Ohio-Con.

        1_covera_webpreview

        My big project at the time was the official Terminator Salvation movie prequel, which I had for sale at my table. Both of these anecdotes are related to it.

        On Sunday a couple of younger guys were looking through the books on my table, and one of them picked up the Terminator graphic novel. Here’s the conversation that ensued, essentially verbatim:

        Guy: Dude, you wrote this?
        Me: Yeah, I was given the movie script and asked to–
        Guy: Wicked! Did you meet Arnold?
        Me: Uh, no, I just wrote the comics and–
        Guy: So did you go on the set?
        Me: No, I did everything from–
        Guy: Dude, is your name in the credits of the movie?
        Me: No, see, I just wrote the–
        Guy: (nods his head, puts the book down, and wanders off)

        Another couple came by with their teenage boy. He told me that he loved the Terminator graphic novel, and that it was only the 2nd or 3rd graphic novel he’d ever read. I thanked him for the compliment, and this is the conversation that ensued between him and his mom:

        Mom: Oh yeah, I remember buying this book for you.
        Son: You didn’t buy it for me.
        Mom: Yes I did.
        Son: No you didn’t. I read it at Borders over the course of 3 days.
        Mom: Oh. Well, I meant to buy it for you.

        At which point they all wandered off.

        Oh, the glamorous life of a comic book writer….

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          First look at Spitball anthology

          The Columbus College of Art & Design (CCAD) is offering an advanced comics workshop course for a small group of talented students, and at the end of their class they will be producing a full-color comics anthology titled Spitball.

          Print

          The instructors sought out professional comics writers to supply 5-page stories for the students. I was fortunate to be asked to participate in this cool new project, alongside such comics luminaries as Chris Sebela (DEAD LETTERS, ALIEN VS PREDATOR, CAPTAIN MARVEL), Kate Leth (EDWARD SCISSORHANDS and ADVENTURE TIME), Karl Bollers (WATSON AND HOLMES), Lora Innes (THE DREAMER), Matt Fraction (SEX CRIMINALS, HAWKEYE, IRON MAN, X-MEN), Jen Van Meter (HOPELESS SAVAGES, BLACK CAT), Ivan Brandon (WOLVERINE, VIKING, MEN OF WAR), and Noelle Stevenson (LUMBERJANES, THOR).

          The artist illustrating my story is Lee Meyers, and you can check out her tumblr here. But I’d like to share a few pieces of her art right here:

          Character designs

          Character designs

          Drone designs

          Drone designs

          Setting designs and color studies

          Set designs and color studies

          Thumbnails/roughs for page 1

          Thumbnails/roughs for page 1

          I’ll post more info on the book as the semester progresses and Lee finalizes the pages. In the meantime, you can follow Spitball on tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter.

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            Indie Cover Spotlight: Hero Alliance Quarterly #2

            Today’s cover is an early one from Brian Stelfreeze:

            HeroAllianceQrt2-Dec1991

            This issue was published in December 1991 by Innovation.

            There’s an interesting story that goes along with the cover: I always thought there was something familiar about the texture of the background, especially the “ridges” on her collar. Years after this book came out, I was at a comic con and speaking to one of the artists who had worked on the book (I can’t remember who, unfortunately) and he said that he remembered this cover because Brian drew it on the inside of a pizza box after a show, just passing the time. Apparently that was good enough for Innovation, who used it as a cover.

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              Splash Wednesday: Reis, Perez, and Paquette

              We’ll start with a relatively new page, from Aquaman #10, by Ivan Reis:

              Aquaman-10-Splash-Page1-e1342062300282

              Next, dig this double-splash page from George Perez, from 1979’s Fantastic Four Annual #14 (via Diversions of the Groovy Kind):

              Fantastic Four Annual 14-0708

              And here’s a page from December 2010 on my previous blog:

              I didn’t look far for this week’s splash page…

              splash_Paquette

              This is from Batman, Inc. #2, published by DC Comics this December. Art by Yanick Paquette, inks by Michel Lacombe, and colors by Nathan Fairbairn.

              I’m not sure if I’m sold on this book quite yet (man, Morrison is really hit or miss for me) but Paquette’s art is pretty to look at.

              PS. I wasn’t sold on the book, I dropped it after the 3rd issue.

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                Splash Wednesday: Maroto, Sutton, and John Romita, Jr.

                Welcome back, splash-o-philes! Let’s get things started with a rather morbid page from one of my faves, Esteban Maroto. This is from Dracula: Vlad the Impaler #2.

                draculavladtheimpaler002_page019_estebanmaroto

                Continuing with the vampire theme, here’s Tom Sutton, from Vampire Tales #7 (Marvel Comics, August 1974

                VampireTales07_14

                And from December 2010 on my old blog, here’s a classic page:

                Sorry, I know it’s a day late. I didn’t have a lot of time to look for a page, so I just grabbed this one:

                I like the multiple exposures of Cyclops’ head, indicate a sense of sweeping motion in an otherwise static image. It’s one of those uniquely comic book techniques that we don’t see as often anymore, what with artists trying to imitate still from a movie and eschewing anything “comic book-y”.

                As you can see from the credits page, this is by John Romita, Jr. and Dan Green. From The Uncanny X-Men #199, published by Marvel Comics, November 1985.

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