Talking comics, movies and more with Thomas Jane and Tim Bradstreet

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It’s not everyday two heavyweights from the world of film, comic books and beyond walk into a room for a roundtable interview MCM Buzz was present for.

Thomas Jane – known for iconic roles such as The Punisher, and David Drayton in Frank Darabont’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist – and Tim Bradstreet – known for his spectacular comics art, including working on covers for comics like The Punisher and Transmetropolitan were both present to talk about their collaborative relationship under their Raw Studios company as well as the world of comics and film. 

Q: You guys looking forward to meeting all the fans today?

Tim: Absolutely

Thomas: It’s like really crowded down there! It takes like 15 minutes to get from the hall to here. 

Tim: It’s like Comic-Con downstairs… wait, it is Comic-Con! It’s like San Diego Comic-Con!

Q: (laughs) Not quite like San Diego. 

Tim: Well it–

Thomas: It kinda is.

Tim: It’s a microcosm, when you can’t move–

Q: It’s like you can’t move, you feel like you’re little ants walking around…

Tim: Absolutely.

Thomas: The costumes here, we noticed… way more people here than I think any other show outside of that show in Georgia… Dragoncon?

Tim: Yeah, Dragoncon.

Q: How did you two come about working together?

Thomas: That’s a great question.

Tim: Punisher!

Thomas: Yeah, Timmy… well it was actually Tim’s covers that Marvel sent me when I turned down the role a couple times. I said it’s the superhero thing. It just, you know, it’s fun for some people but I wasn’t a fan. It was the Bradstreet covers that had such a gritty, realistic feel to them. If we could do something like that it would be terrific. Then from my end I said if they wanted to do a special poster just for Comic-Con by Tim with me as The Punisher, which they agreed to and they set up a photo-shoot where they brought you up from San Diego, right?

Tim: Mhmm.

Thomas: You were living down there, right?

Tim: Yeah.

Thomas: And we got a photo-shoot up in Santa Monica and that’s where you and I first met. We hit it off instantly and became really good friends.

The Punisher Movie PosterTim: It’s funny too, because when I first found out there was gonna be a Punisher movie I wanted to be a part of it. And I knew that Gale (Anne Hurd) was producing it… long time fan of Gale’s work… and I was like “How do I get involved with this?” So I got a hold of who I thought would get me in touch with Gale Anne Hurd – Frank Darabont – And Darabont said, “I could do you one better and introduce you to her husband, Jonathan Hensleigh – who’s directing the movie, by the way – who are dear friends of mine.”

So he called Jonathan Hensleigh and John called me and we talked about me doing all kinds of stuff for the film… conceptually just being a big part of it… and I gave him the idea for the whole teaser trailer. When it came time to do the movie, Jonathan said, “I can’t hire you,” and I said, “Why?” and he said that Marvel owns the covers, what do we need you for? (laughs) And I said, “Oh… how disappointing…” So I called (Avi) Arad, the producer, and said, “You know, designing The Punisher was the last thing I was gonna do.” There were a lot of other things. I said, “What you should think about at least is that I would love to do a poster for the film, like the covers, but with Thomas Jane instead of my Punisher model.” And so that was going on, while Tom was advocating for me. Ari said something like, “Well, yeah, we’ll keep that in mind. Thanks Tim.” And I didn’t know Ari at the time, necessarily, and so I think a month or two went by and then he emailed me out of the blue and said “I got a terrific idea. We’d love for you to do posters.” (laughs)

Thomas: For Comic-Con. And meanwhile they were also doing posters for the movie which were just terrible. We went through them, everybody just rejected them. The realistic posters with me and John Travolta…

Tim: Photoshopped heads.

Thomas: But then Tim had done some work too, and Tim’s work ended up becoming the poster work for the film itself.

Tim: Yeah, we ended up doing five teaser posters and doing some big release at Comic-Con and then they hired me to do the theatricals.

Thomas: Then I was doing press in San Diego with Tim and I pitched him an idea for a comic and that turned out to be Bad Planet. Tim hooked me up with Steve Niles who taught me how to write for comics, and we formed a company. Me, and Tim, and Steve, called Raw Studios. And we’re still at it today. We just put out a book called Dark Country, which we brought some copies here. That was a adaptation of a movie that we did, and Thomas Ott, who I’ve always been a big fan of… I got in touch with him… and I actually was in Paris at the time so we went out to dinner and I pitched him this idea and Thomas agreed to do the graphic novel.

We’re also working on a werewolf book with a native son, Sean O’Connor, from London. And we’ve just kept at it, doing our boutique comic book stuff, and having a lot of fun. Very low output, but high quality…

Tim: Yeah it’s more of a boutique… we’re not in it to put out like a line of comic books. We’re in it to develop and nurture our own kind of projects. You’re know, it’s interesting that Tom was not interested in doing a superhero when they offered him The Punisher, because he’s a life-long comic collector. (To Thomas) More while your proclivity was more for the undergrounds and the old EC comic books and things of that nature, so I see on that level that superheroes weren’t something that was jumping out at you. 

Thomas: Yeah, I just personally couldn’t get into it.

Tim: Couldn’t see yourself walking around in a spandex costume, could ya? (laughs)

Thomas: Which is too bad, I could have been a lot richer (laughs)

Q: When you’re writing, are you influenced by the style of how Tim draws, or is how you draw influenced by the way the writing is approached? How does it work, do you write a piece at a time and then draw? How is the method of going into this, creating a whole comic? 

Tim: We have a sympatico. Tom and I do, and I dunno if it’s because we’re near the same age and are from the same part of the country, or if we grew up with the same stuff, but, he turns me onto stuff that I was never into… I dunno if that goes both ways. But I always say that Tom is my muse in a sort of way with covers, because he is a chameleon as an actor. He’s posed as Nick Fury for me, he’s been El Borak, Robert E. Howard’s El Borak… he’s been Cal McDonald… because I shoot a lot of photos here and there and I end up using that stuff in my own work. So he’s kind of my De Niro if I was Scorsese, you know? (laughs)

But I think he trusts my sensibilities too. You know, with Raw Studios, I do all the ad design, all the art direction and stuff like that. He does as well.

Thomas: He lays out all the books, and he does all the art direction in the books…

Tim: Well he does a lot of it too. He’s very hands on. He’s an artist too, you know? He’s a creator, and part of being a creator is that he works on all these levels in the development of something. 

Thomas: I’m an artist that can’t draw. (laughs

Tim: He designed our Bad Planet logo.

Q: Tell us more about Dark Country for the people who haven’t heard of it before and what is it about the comic book world that’s so appealing?

Bad PlanetThomas: I dunno, I mean, graphic novels are just so imaginative. I love the fact that they are an indigenously American art form. That they are relatively new. The paper canvas is as imaginative as you wanna get. Any kind of story you can tell you can do through comics. That Bad Planet story that we did, if you did that as a movie it would be a 400 million dollar film. 

And you know, they’re novels with pictures. They can be poetry, they can be sublime, they can tell small, intimate stories, or they can encompass multiple universes. It’s a really amazing canvas, and you see with shows like this, you see the breadth and the depth of just how varied that imaginative world is and there’s an audience for whatever you can create in that world.

It’s very specific, you know? There’s so many different styles of art. From Frank Miller, to Wally Wood, to Bradstreet there’s just so much you can do with that world, visually. It’s always just held a fascination with me in terms of story and the marriage of art and story that is also… it creates its own mystique. The kind of artist you choose to tell the story that paints the palette of the kind of world you’re gonna enter, you can tell so much without words.

And then of course you can have fantastic writing. There’s comic books out there as well written as any novel, with all the sublime and all the poetry. It’s really captivating, and it’s always captivated my imagination. And I always try to stay open to all different styles and get into all different kinds of… like Tim said, I’m a big fan of all the underground comics that started in the 60s, but I also like really cartoony stuff. Tim and I lean more towards the sort of more realistic, illustrative style of book, but then we work with someone like Thomas Ott who does scratchboard – he takes a black sheet of paper and he scratches the white into the paper and that’s amazing and unique.

Tim: The thing too with comics is, as a creator, there isn’t the whole thing with a film project. You have to raise money, there’s a budget, there’s all these limitations, there’s all these spokes in the wheel and along the way your vision is often times watered down and homogenised and focus-grouped and “suited”, as I like to call it. With comics the only limitation is your time and your imagination. And it’s like what Tom said: You can do a small, intimate story, and often when I do a sequential, I stage it as a play, and I photograph it, and I work from these photos to create this stylised artwork. And that can be a bit of a production, but comics can be a small, intimate thing up to something that could be a 400 million dollar film, it can be a Pacific Rim and that’s the magic of it. You don’t need anyone but yourself, really. And then figure out a way to publish it. And today, I mean, you just Kickstart that thing, right? (laughs) As long as you can get enough people interested in it you can get it out there. Or you can go to someone like Image, and if they think that your book is worth it, they’ll publish that book for you. I think that’s pretty amazing.

Thomas: You’re also working with a lot of different artists even if you’re making a book and then that way it’s a great practice for movies. You’re still working with a colourist and a letterer and the inker and the printer and those all have corollaries with film. If you’re organising that, if you’re working with all these different people to bring a specific vision to life… I think it’s great practice for making movies.

Tim: That’s no great stretch there. You’re doing the same thing in a different venue.

Thomas: For me it’s great training as a director. Tim and I are working on a couple of movies too… I wrote a western last year, we’re gonna hopefully shoot it in the spring, but that experience and getting into films is just a direct result on working on these comics and learning the ropes that way. It’s the producer side of creativity, which you have to have.

Tim: It gives you confidence too because it starts out as something you might not be so sure about, but once you’ve been through the ropes of putting together a book like that you kinda see that, “Hmm… I think I can work with these other facets and I can make that happen,” and Raw, too, are not just a comic company. We ‘re developing like Tom said, film, Tom produced an album last year, for Rusty (Blades).

Thomas: Yeah we made an EP for Rusty Blades.

Tim: And so it’s whatever kind of creative format that we’re into we try to make it happen and put it out there. That’s exciting. There’s no limitation. It’s not just one type of thing. 

Q: You mentioned you’re working on various movies at the moment. Can you give us a bit of a tease about what they are? What kind of genre, what kind of subject?

Thomas: We got the western.

Tim: The farthest along.

Thomas: That’s the farthest along. We’ve got a great cast.

Tim: Nick Nolte.

Thomas: We’ve got Nick and we’ve got some other terrific actors come on board for that. Our other project is our sort of hard-boiled, kind of in the vein of the old Donald Westlake novels, one of those hard-boiled kind of stories.

Phil Joanou, who directed (The Punisher:) Dirty Laundry, and I, are working on a project. A miniseries, so we’re putting that together.

The Lycan PosterOur book, The Lycan, which is like The Magnificent Seven set in the 1700s hunting werewolves…

Tim : A period werewolf piece.

Thomas: A period werewolf piece that Mike Carey, who is also from England, wrote for us… that’s our first project that we deliberately started out to make a comic book and then turn that into a film. We’re really proud of that. We have Sean O’Connor doing the art… we’re working with a lot of Brits. (laughs)

Tim: A lot of talent over here. 

Q: I just wanted to ask about the western with Nick Nolte. What kind of period are we talking?

Thomas: The western takes place in the 1870s and it’s a bit of a hero’s journey, a bit of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. It’s very much a classic western.

Tim: Gothic.

Thomas: Yeah, there’s definitely almost a sort of Gothic element. It’s a hero’s journey sort of a tale…

Tim: There’s a lot of little elements in it that… it’s a mythical kind of experience, a road picture, if you will. A saddle picture. With some great characters.

Thomas: There’s Indians, a buried treasure…

Q: Do you have a title? 

Thomas: It’s called A Magnificent Death From A Shattered Hand.

Tim: It’s a mouthful.

Thomas: It was actually a submission. A young writer submitted a script to us and we get a lot of submissions every week and we try to read as much as we can, but that title sorta stood out, and the story was really, really cool. So we optioned the screenplay from a guy called Jose Prendes who wrote the original draft and I worked on it for about a year and whipped it into shape and it turned out great.

It’s very much a throwback western in the vein of Howard Hawks and John Ford. Everybody wants to do a spaghetti western thing, and there’s elements of that, for sure, but I think for a western to be successful you have to go back to the roots of what makes westerns so interesting in the first place. I think a lot of the modern westerns try to modernise the western tale and have not been successful. But if you stick to the basics, like Unforgiven, I guess that’s really the only recent western I can think of that really did well. 

Tim: True Grit.

Thomas: The two films that I think that you could compare this western to would be There Will be Blood and No Country For Old Men.

Q: Can’t wait to see it.

Bad Planet, a comic co-written by Thomas Jane and inked by Tim Bradstreet is out now. Dark Country, the graphic novel based on the Thomas Jane film of the same name is available on Comixology. Go to www.rawstudios.com for more information on past, present, and future projects from Jane and Bradstreet.

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