It’s been a rocky year for the creators involved in Marvel’s Epic imprint. Designed as a way to break new talent, the project has appeared in fits and starts — with only a few titles surviving the loss of Epic idea man Bill Jemas. Those that did survive but had not yet seen print will now be combined into one big magazine — Epic #1, retailing at $5.99 and due out in February, 2004.
From the very beginning of the project, one title had caught our interest here, as it came from the mind of a fellow web journalist and a man who helped break Fanboy Planet to a wider audience through his own site, Comics2Film.
Rob Worley was one of the first to welcome us onto the web, and every year at Comic Con we’ve managed to cross paths. This past summer, on the heels of his having his Young Ancient One pitch accepted by Marvel, Rob joined me as the two journalists invited to a banquet hosted by Mark Hamill in honor of Stan Lee and the upcoming Comic Book: The Movie. Over fine steak and straining to look like we weren’t staring at our dinner companion Donna D’errico, Rob agreed to an interview as the publication date got closer for Young Ancient One.
We’re two months off from that date, and the appearance of a second issue of Epic really does depend on fan reaction, so we’re here to help Rob out and get you guys whipped into a frenzy. Rob provided us with some cool preview art by Andy Kuhn, and also urges you to check out his official website for the project, where you can get Young Ancient One temporary tattoos. We won’t be held responsible for any mystical abilities that accidentally come with them.
Derek McCaw: So what inspired you to pitch “Young Ancient One?”
Rob Worley: I wanted to do a book that was Marvel, but somehow different from all the other contemporary, urban, sci-fi superhero books they were doing. So I started on a script, called “American Marvel” which was basically a humor book about a reality show in the Marvel Universe but I was also thinking about other concepts that could go.
I was going through MarvelDirectory.com paging through the hundreds of characters listed there and at some point I ran across the Ancient One and the wheels just started turning. Here was this cool character that is or was one of the most powerful people on the planet and he had this vast history that was largely unexplored. The guy was 500 years old when we first met him! So what was he like 500 years ago? Suddenly I’ve got this vision of Harry Potter by way of Jet Li. Kung fu and sorcery and a 500-year journey through the Marvel Universe. The possibilities are endless.
So, pretty quickly I stopped working on “American Marvel” and focused on “Young Ancient One,” which refused to be set aside at that point.
DM: Hey, tell us why we should buy it?
RW: ‘Cause I need the money, man.
Oh…you want to know what’s in it for you.
If you’re like me, and you’re enjoying the Asian martial arts movies that have been making their way over to our U.S. theaters then you’ll probably like this book. I was really inspired by movies like “Iron Monkey,” “Jet Li’s The Legend,” “The Storm Riders”…heck, you can even throw “Kill Bill” in there, even though it came out after I started writing.
These movies have this blend of action, humor and drama and that’s what Andy Kuhn, who’s drawing the book…that’s what Andy and I were going for. So it’s a fun book with a nice ensemble of lovable characters, a creepy villain, and lots of action, kung fu and sorcery.
At the heart of it is a love story between our hero and his wife. That emerged during the development process as the most critical elements of the book. There’s this great interaction between the two and it’s a classic case of the two forming a greater whole. So the hero is elevated by the involvement of his wife in all aspects of his life.
DM: Who are the artists on this project, and how was it working with them? Did their styles change the way you had thought you would write the story?
RW: Andy Kuhn, who was doing great work on “Firebreather” and “Mantooth” before that, he’s drawing it. Bill Crabtree is coloring it. Dave Sharpe is lettering it.
Andy’s artwork didn’t change how I wrote the story because I was almost done writing before he even drew the promo pieces for the book. I chose Andy because, looking at Firebreather, obviously he could render the creatures and the action and that stuff great, but there are these beautiful pages where the teenage dragon character is just talking to his mother…and the faces are so expressive and so well drawn. That’s what I wanted for YAO.
When I saw the costume design for the hero of YAO, I was elated. I was positive Andy was the right guy for this.
And while he didn’t sffect how I wrote the scripts for YAO, he definitely taught me a lot about the art form and changed the way I’ll write he next thing. For example: I have a tendency to crowd the page with lots of panels FILLED with dialogue. Generous artist that Andy is, he’s actually drawn more pages than he was contracted to draw, just to help the story breath and flow better. So YAO #1 is 24 pages instead of 22.
Andy and Bill have worked together on Firebreather and other things and Andy suggested he would be good for this book. I’m so glad he suggested Bill. Every time I see one of Andy’s pages I geek out. Then, when Bill sends me the colored pages, I geek out times 10. I think people are going to be surprised by how cool this book looks.
DM: Despite the perceived on again, off again, on again publication of Epic, how was your experience on the whole thing?
RW: Well, given the events of the previous month or so, I think it’s pretty obvious that Epic was anything but a smooth ride. But you have to understand that Marvel was doing something wildly experimental with the process and it’s not really hard to imagine there are going to be bumps in the road.
But it was my introduction to the biz so it’s incredibly exciting for me too. And just to go through the process of creating something, then recreating it. Then watching Andy recreate it and Bill recreate that…it’s so very, very cool.
DM: How much editorial input (oh, heck, or interference) was there?
RW: That’s a little bit hard to answer since this is my first comics writing experience and I don’t have anything to compare it to. I would say that the editorial input was not insignificant, but there wasn’t much about it that troubled me either. I’m new to the game so much of the guidance I got was appreciated. There was one major tweak to the concept that occurred early on, which I was resistant too at first. It was a little hard to swallow, but I worked with it and, in hindsight, it was clearly a good call on the editorial team’s part.
I’d also say that, based on some of the stuff I read elsewhere on the Internet, I got off fairly easy. I didn’t do a hundred rewrites on “Young Ancient One”. There was really just one major rewrite where I expanded my cramped pitch-script to three issues, but after that it was mostly just minor polishes.
DM: What kind of assurances have you gotten from Marvel about seeing the story you started actually finish? If there is no Epic #2, do you have an alternative, such as webposting, available to you for people who want to know what happens next?
RW: We’ve had no assurances. I certainly hope there’s an Epic #2 because he first issue ends on a cliffhanger. I hope there’s an Epic #3 because the second issue ends on a cliffhanger too!
It’ll be a damn shame if fans don’t get to see the entire story. Andy and I are so psyched about it, and the concept clearly has such long-term potential we just hope fans get a fair chance to judge it. If Epic #2 doesn’t happen, I’d love to publish the scripts online so readers can at least see how things work out. But that’s really Marvel’s call.
DM: A few months ago, you severely scaled back your involvement with the site you started, Comics2Film, to concentrate on other writing venues. So what else have you got in the hopper that you can talk about?
RW: I just finished up a screenplay that I’ve been developing for over a year. My time with C2F has connected me with so many people in comics and film and some of them have become good friends. One of those friends, who also happens to be an extremely successful screenwriter, has been collaborating with me on this new script. I don’t want to give the details just yet, but I’m very excited about the way that one is shaping up.
I have another screenwriting project on deck. Again, I can’t say too much, but it is a comic-to-film adaptation that I’ll be writing on spec. The creator of that comic asked me to work on it after he read the YAO scripts. I’m actively pitching new projects to Marvel and crossing my fingers that one of those fires. I’m working on a pitch for DC and starting to think about pitches for other publishers.
DM: Will you be developing anything, or trying to develop anything, for the new Unlimited books?
RW: I’ve made some pitches on the Spider-Man book but not the X-Men book. We’ll see what happens. Those 11-pagers are tough though.
DM: Say Young Ancient One gets you the attention you deserve. Who would you like to pitch to next, and what would it be?
RW: Well, you know Marvel and DC have so many cool toys, but I’ve always been a big fan of Dark Horse too.
My dream pitch for Marvel is actually “Devil Dinosaur.” I think I have a really cool take on that one that would make Marvel tons of money across all media. Every artist I talk to about it says, “oooh….if you get Devil Dinosaur I HAVE to draw it.”
Sadly, Big D isn’t a mutant (close your eyes and repeat “Fallen Angels never happened” three times) or a teenager and he doesn’t live in a major U.S. city so I haven’t really got Marvel enrolled in the concept. Of course, I intend to put YAO and Devil D in front of the Marvel movie people at some point.
DM: How would you describe your own martial arts fighting style?
RW: It’s sort of a blend of Snak Fu and Beer Chi. Many of the classic martial arts are based on the animal forms, but I favor the dairy forms.
DM: On our site, we heard from Daniel DeFabio about having dinner with Stan Lee, but hey, you were there, too – so what was it like for you to meet The Man this past summer?
RW: Stan Lee was there? All I remember is Donna D’errico was sitting right across from me. In fact, I’m pretty sure we were the only two people in the room.
Seriously, Daniel was so cool to get me in the room and then to introduce me to the living legend. What a great experience that was. Stan may be one of the most charming people on the planet. He makes you feel like you’re in the club.
I can’t wait to see “Comic Book: The Movie” (plug plug)
DM: Who wins in a fight – Young Ancient One, Boon from Way of the Rat, or Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter?
RW: Boon could hold his own as long as he wears his magic ring but he’d have to bow to the fact that YAO busts out the kung fu without mystical assistance. And once Boon gets into a tickle fight with his pet monkey, YAO will seize the opportunity to put the hurt on him.
Richard Dragon vs. YAO? Come on! That’s like pitting Keanu Reeves against Donnie Yen. It won’t be pretty.
But man, I’d like to see that. Anyway, once again it’s Young Ancient One appearing in Epic #1, retailing at $5.99 and hitting fine comics shops in February!