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:

********************

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:

********************

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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    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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      Indie Cover Spotlight: Cory Doctorow’s Futuristic Tales of The Here and Now #5

      While originally slated to adapt just one of Cory’s short stories for this IDW mini-series, I ended up getting a third issue due to IDW Editor in Chief Chris Ryall’s busy schedule (he had planned on adapting this story himself). So issue #5 became mine, adapting “I,Robot” (Cory’s version, not Asimov’s)

      CoryDoctorow5

      As per the previous issue, this one featured another top talent doing the cover: Ashley Wood. Interior art was by Erich Owen, and it shipped in February, 2008.

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        Indie Cover Spotlight: Cory Doctorow’s Futuristic Tales of The Here and Now #3

        After turning in the script for issue #1 (Anda’s Game), IDW liked my work enough to offered me another one of Cory’s short stories: Craphound.

        CoryDoctorow3

        This time, one of my all-time favorite creators was on cover duty: Paul Pope.

        Paul Friggin’ Pope, covering my second ever paying gig. The book shipped in December, 2007, which made it a great Christmas present for me.

        And the interior art was by British artist Paul McCaffrey, which was a joy to behold:

        Craphound-p2-lo-res-749454

        Next: I,Robot.

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          Indie Cover Spotlight: Cory Doctorow’s Futuristic Tales of The Here and Now #1

          In honor of my own birthday, I’m going to be completely self-serving by spotlighting my own comics all week on ICS, specifically my first professional paying gig: the IDW adaptation of Cory Doctorow’s short stories in comic book form.

          After the publication of my Lifelike graphic novel, Chris Ryall at IDW called me up and asked if I would be interested in adapting Doctorow’s short story “Anda’s Game” for their new limited series. Needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity! Imagine my delight when I found out that the cover to the first issue was by none other than the great Sam Kieth:

          CoryDoctorow1

          The book came out in 2007, and featured interior art by Esteve Polls. I had a chance to communicate with Cory via email and ask him a few questions about what he considered the emotional beats of the story, since there’s always some amount of cutting that needs to happen when adapting prose into comics. He was very gracious with his time, and even more accommodating by telling me that he wanted me to put my mark on the adaptation, and not follow any instructions from him. When the book came out, he was equally pleasant in his positive review of it.

          Next: Craphound.

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            Review: Fishtown

            I like a good crime story now and then, especially in graphic novel format. Brubaker and Rucka have done some great ones, and I dug a lot of the entries in Vertigo’s line of crime books. This book – which started out as a Xeric award winning webcomic – is about 4 teenagers who murder another teen, for no real reason. I picked it up for cheap at Half Price Books, based solely on the interesting looking artwork and nice packaging. Well, the gamble didn’t pay off.

            I really, really disliked this book.

            kevincoldenfishtowncover

            The main problem I had with the story is that the characters are all unlikable. No, strike that, they’re plain detestable. And there’s not much else to it than that. A bunch of vile assholes committing a horrific crime. The end.

            There’s no depth to the events surrounding the crime. No exploration of the “why” of the crime. No insightful look at the lives of the perpetrators, other than a few pages of lip service paid to the broken domestic situation of a couple of them. And I do mean a couple pages out of over a 100. It’s not enough to make you have even a sliver of empathy or sympathy for the characters. Oh, and the sole female in the group is the most messed-up, manipulative, evil one of them all, even though you’re never shown what in her upbringing led to that. So basically you’re presented with a series of gruesome images of a hateful crime, as narrated by a bunch of unrepentant, despicable teens. The end.

            Joy.

            fishtown03

            The artwork is definitely the stronger craft shown here. It’s fairly solid, though at times it’s hard to distinguish between some of the characters. I did like the aesthetic of the art presentation, done in monochromatic yellow. But that’s about it.

            There is skill in Colden’s storytelling, but the story itself is vile, nihilistic, and in my opinion, pointless.

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              Interview with artist Salgood Sam

              The Robot 6 blog at Comic Book Resources has a nice, in-depth interview with one of my former collaborators, artist Salgood Sam. He talks a lot about his early days in the industry, as well as his process and philosophical approach to making comics. And he had some nice words to say about working with yours truly:

              I’ve seen you do work-for-hire work recently like the recent Ghostbusters comic for IDW, so you’re not completely against work-for-hire. Has the system changed for you, or was that project more on your terms?

              Yes. It was a bad time economically so was happy to have paying work of any kind too. But it was Ghostbusters! I loved the original films. I was looking for work, the Great Recession hit me pretty hard. Called them and they suggested I might fit with Dara Naraghi on it and luckily I liked the script a lot. Light stuff, a Valentine’s special. But solid, and Zeddemore gets the girl! Drew the Ecto-1 and designed a new type of proton pack! That was a kick.

              Here’s the cover of our comic:

              And here’s a sample page:

              Funny anecdote: I wanted to write a Winston-centric story, and also give him a love interest. I figured this would be a chance to create a new minority character, even if it’s in a supporting role. Additionally, I wanted her to be very much a “regular” person, not an idealized comic book woman with 40DD boobs and a supermodel physique. After the book came out, I had a fan email me and take me to task for “taking the easy way out” by giving Winston an African American girlfriend. This person said something along the lines of “why not an interracial relationship, after all, it’s the 21st century.”

              I guess you can’t win for trying.

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                Indie Cover Spotlight: Lifelike

                This week, in honor of the over-hyped Comic-Con being over, I’m going to turn the spotlight on myself and do a bit of shameless self-promotion. Hey, it’s my blog…why not?

                To start off, here’s a look at the cover to my graphic novel, Lifelike:

                Lifelike started out as a webcomic, and is a collection of slice of life vignettes. In 2008, IDW published it as a deluxe hardcover with slipcase. It’s a book I’m immensely proud of. I got to collaborate with 11 different artists for the 14 stories in the collection, and I hope there’s enough diversity in the book to appeal to most readers. The cover is a collage of the works of Tom Williams, Irapuan Luiz, mp mann, and Adrian Barbu.

                By the way, if you’re interested, you can pick up this 108 page, full-color graphic novel in digital format for a mere $2.99. Read it on your iPad, Kindle, Nook, Android tablet, or computer.

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                  IDW pitch: Ghostbusters

                  Unlike my DC pitch for Blue Devil that never went anywhere, this one had a fairly quick development process from pitch to final comic. Back in the summer of 2008, IDW’s Editor in Chief, Criss Ryall, asked me to pitch them a Ghostbusters mini series. I put together something that was probably a bit too esoteric, and sure enough, Sony (the license holders) didn’t much care for it, so they passed. So it goes.

                  Fast forward about a year later and I noticed IDW had solicited a one-shot Ghostbusters Christmas Special. That got me thinking, and I fired off this short email to Chris in September, 2009:

                  “Hi Chris,

                  I noticed that there’s a Ghostbusters Christmas special one-shot being offered. It made me wonder if you guys have plans for any more such issues? If so, I’ve got an idea for a Valentine’s Day one-shot I’d like to pitch to you.

                  Best,
                  Dara “

                  The good news? Chris liked the idea and planned on doing a few more holiday-themed one-shots to eventually collect into a TPB. The bad news? I had no story idea! I was pretty much bluffing, just testing the waters. But no worries, nothing like a real deadline to get the creative juices flowing. I came up with an idea in a few days, and sent in the following pitch:

                  *Spoiler Warning* – If you haven’t read the comic yet, you may not want to read the summary below.

                  Ghostbusters

                  Proposal for a Valentine’s Day one-shot by Dara Naraghi

                  At a Glance

                  At Winston’s request, the Ghostbusters attempt to capture an obsessed, love-struck ghost haunting the home of Tiyah, an attractive woman he befriended on a recent case. However, when the ghost proves to be more trouble than the team expected, it’s Winston’s courage and common sense that save the day, leading to a romantic date with Tiyah.

                  Plot Summary

                  At a fancy hotel ballroom being decorated for an upcoming Valentine’s Day gala, the Ghostbusters fight a prohibition-era ghost attempting to enact its own “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre”. While taking a break after the ghost’s capture, Winston befriends Tiyah, one of the banquet hall’s employees. She describes her own troubles with a ghost, but confesses she doesn’t have the funds to hire the team.

                  Peter agrees to accompany Winston to Tiyah’s apartment for a pro bono investigation, though Venkman’s motives have more to do with hitting on the attractive woman than performing ghostbusting services. They are both surprised by the sheer malevolence of the ghost, but afterwards Peter comments that although hostile to them, the ghost seemed protective of Tiyah.

                  Back at the firehouse, Ray begins investigating the history of the apartment, while Egon creates modified proton packs designed to create less property damage (though it also leaves them less effective). Working together, the team surmises that the ghost belongs to a prominent man who was dumped quite publically by his girlfriend in that apartment generations ago. It has since become romantically obsessed with the female residents, lashing out jealously towards any male visitors.

                  The team’s attempt to capture the ghost at Tiyah’s apartment proves to be too challenging, however, owing to the weakened proton packs and the ghost’s sheer obsessed will power. And while Peter, Ray, and Egon’s scientific strategies prove fruitless, it’s Winston’s everyman common sense that saves the day. He confronts the ghost unarmed, and has a no-nonsense man-to-man talk to it about accepting and “getting over” his romantic loss. At Winston’s proclamation that there are plenty of other fish in the sea “on the other side”, the ghost accepts his fate and dissolves away.

                  The epilogue of the story focuses on some character moments:

                  • Peter finally manages a date for Valentine’s Day…by duping an attractive young reporter into interviewing him over dinner.
                  • Ray and Egon have a “date with science” as they analyze the curiosities of this most recent case.
                  • Winston is invited to a home-cooked meal at Tiyah’s apartment as a gesture of her gratitude, and shares a romantic kiss with her in the closing panel.

                  Chris really liked the script, and even commented “You write a good Peter,” which sounds vaguely dirty. The folks at Sony were also cool with it, and only sent one note back on it:

                  “The part where Winston is able to talk the ghost into giving up seems a little too convenient–his common sense notwithstanding! Will it be something like the malevolent ghost is really a big bully who just wants a friend, type of thing–and only Winston picks up on that? Or will it be more like Winston just decides to walk into the lion’s den and tames the lion?”

                  I wrote a short email, clarifying my intentions about the scene, and we got the green light from Sony. Chris asked me to propose several possible subtitles for the one-shot, and this is the short list I came up with:

                  • St. Valentine’s Day Massive Scare
                  • Green With Envy
                  • Thugs and Kisses
                  • Tainted Love
                  • Ghost of a Romance
                  • Love is Dead

                  Chris liked “Tainted Love,” and the project was in full swing. Final script was due in a month from that point, and IDW picked Canadian indie artist Salgood Sam to draw the book, with a variant cover down by Nick Runge. Another famous Canuck indie artist, Bernie Mirault, provided the colors

                  Regular cover art by Salgood Sam

                  Variant cover art by Nick Runge

                  The book was published February, 2010. Here’s the official solicitation copy, as well as a preview:

                  Ghostbusters Holiday Special: Tainted Love
                  FC • one-shot • 32 pages • $3.99
                  Dara Naraghi (w) • Salgood Sam (a) • Salgood Sam, Nick Runge (c)
                  Love is in the air—literally!—as Winston befriends an attractive woman with a ghostly problem in her apartment. But trapping the love-struck apparition proves to be more complicated than the Ghostbusters originally thought. Can Winston step up and save the day? Just how far will Peter go to find a date? And do Ray and Egon ever stop to think about girls, or is it always about trans-dimensional ectoplasmic anomolies with those two?

                  The comic itself is sold out, but you can find it collected with several other one-shots (including one written by Peter David) in the Ghostbusters: Haunted Holidays TPB.

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                    Indie Cover of the Day: Zombies! Hunters #1

                    OK, I went a whole week without any self-serving posts in this feature, but what the heck, it’s my blog after all. So today’s featured cover(s) are for a limited series I wrote for IDW Publishing back in 2008, when my professional career was just starting out:

                    Both the regular cover (left) and variant cover (right) were by the interior artist Don Figueroa.

                    Here’s the official solicitation for the 5 issue limited series:

                    “On a remote Caribbean island, four wealthy thrill-seekers come to stalk the most dangerous game on the planet: the living dead. But with an ex-CIA commander as the showrunner and a Haitian voodoo priest providing the prey, things on this outlaw safari are bound to go wrong. Very wrong! Don Figueroa (Transformers) steps away from robots and gets his hands dirty by handling full art chores on this new series penned by Dara Naraghi (Lifelike, Igor Movie Prequel).”

                    Unfortunately, due to a confluence of events, the series was cancelled after issue #1. Too bad. I was actually having a lot of fun writing it, despite the fact that I’m not a big horror/zombie fan. Oh well, so it goes.

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                      Witch & Wizard: Battle for Shadowland

                      Released in October 2010, the hardcover collection of my Witch & Wizard: Battle for Shadowland debuted at #4 on the New York Times Best Sellers List (Hardcover Graphic).

                      It was also #9 on Amazon.com’s best selling graphic novels. Now, I know that the popularity is based on the James Patterson name recognition, but hey, I’ll take it. It’s good practice for when one of my own creations eventually makes it to the top of the sales charts.

                      Collecting the 4-issue limited series from IDW Publishing, Battle for Shadowland is an original story based on the characters and settings from James Patterson’s young adult novel, Witch & Wizard. The story takes place between books 1 and 2 of the prose series.

                      “In a blink of an eye, their world has changed, with the oppressive New Order declaring all magic as evil incarnate! In this action-packed graphic novel spinning out of best-selling author James Pattersons’s #1 novel, sibling teenagers Whit & Wisty Allgood use their newly discovered magical powers to infiltrate into enemy territory of the New Order to gain control of the inter-dimensional Shadowland.”

                      The artwork is provided by talented Spanish artist, Victor Santos. I’ve had a blast working with Victor; his work is dynamic, fun, and full of energy. Here’s a look at his illustration for the cover of the trade paperback edition:

                      …and a page from the book, showing most of our main and supporting characters, starting with his pencils:

                      Followed by his inks:

                      And finally colored by Jamie Grant (All-Star Superman):

                      And given that IDW Publishing has fully embraced the digital distribution of comics, the book is also available through the Apple App Store for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, and on the PSP through Sony’s Digital Comics storefront.

                      And finally, here’s a peek at an alternate cover for issue #2, courtesy of Brazilian artist Fabio Moon. First, his concept sketch:

                      And next the finished cover:

                      You can purchase a copy through any book store, comic shop, or on Amazon.com

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