05/27/16 @ 11:21 pm EST
David F. Walker has brought one of the iconic characters of the seventies back to the spotlight with his first Shaft mini-series for Dynamite. He continues that work with the latest series, Shaft: Imitation of LIfe and we have his writer’s commentary for issue #4 that came out this week. The cover below was done by Matthew Clark and interiors byDietrich Smith.
The first issue of Shaft: Imitation of Life started with a sequence from the original Shaft novel by Ernest Tidyman, and I wanted to make sure that this final issue of the story made some kind of passing reference to where it all started. Hence, the flashback in Panel 3. This actual scene never occurred in the book (or the movie), but I needed a way to explain how Shaft would have so much cash on hand, and it made sense (at least while I was writing it).It’s also important to note that in every issue of Shaft, his first person narration was an integral part of the story. But with this issue, it was very difficult for me. The first draft had no narration, and I struggled with what to have Shaft say, because it just felt like this issue didn’t need him blabbering on an on. But at the same time, the precedent had been set, and not have him narrate would be weird. Some of you may notice that there is less narration in this issue.
The supporting character of Tito didn’t start out as important as he ended up being. In fact, in the original outline, he was only in the first two issues, but as the story grew and evolved, so did the character. I specifically asked Dietrich to draw a Volkswagen Beetle for this scene, because it seems like the least badass car Shaft could be driving. I find it funny, but I don’t know if anyone else will appreciate the humor.
I loved working with Dietrich Smith on this series. He had an incredible way of bringing my scripts to like, but the thing I like best is the way he captured the little details that were very important. On this page, the single most important detail is that Tito is taking the gun from the bag. There is nothing else that the reader absolutely has to know, but they need to know this, and they need to know that Shaft doesn’t know. Dietrich made this one bit of information truly sing.
In the original script, there was only dialog in the giant panel. After seeing Dietrich’s art, I felt that there were missed opportunities on this page, if I left the remaining panels silent. I struggled with what to have the characters say. I knew I wanted Tito talking to himself in Spanish. The problem was that the character is Puerto Rican, and I wanted to make sure that what I had him saying “sounded” right for someone from Puerto Rico, because not all Spanish-speaking languages say things the same way. I think (or hope) that I got it right. If it is wrong, I apologize. As for what Shaft says, I just wanted to play around with the idea that he knows this case was a bad move.
This mini-series has an odd history. Originally, I had written a self-contained Shaft story that was supposed to be some kind of annual, but it never got published. When Dynamite asked for a second story-arc, I decided to use material from that other script, and combine it into a second story. Essentially, Shaft: Imitation of Life is a combination of a one-shot style story, that was repurposed and combined with a second story. What we are seeing here is one of the few scenes from that original one-shot that made it into this series completely unaltered. There’s actually a certain amount of symbolism on this page, mostly in the last panel, as it represents Shaft about to enter a very absurd world.
To the best of my knowledge, this was not how porn movies were made in the 1970s. To be honest, I have tried to keep Shaft somewhat grounded in fact, and with this, my tenth issue of the character, I have ventured into a complete and total land of make believe. That’s part of why this series is called Imitation of Life.
If you’ve been reading this story from the start, you know that Shaft was originally hired to find this kid, Mike Prosser. The case involving Mike, and the introduction of Tito, was all part of secondary story that came about when the one-shot story was expanded. The original one-shot story was nothing more than Shaft working as a film consultant. This particular scene was never in that story, because the character of Mike wasn’t in that story. I needed away to bring both of those cases together, and thanks to the sleazy world or porn…here it is.
The character of Lou “Lollipop” Peraino is fictional. In real life, however, there was a mobster name Anthony “Big Tony” Peraino, who was a huge player in the porn industry. Big Tony was part of the Columbo crime family, and he financed the porn film Deep Throat, which changed the world of pornography. In the world of Shaft, Lollipop Peraino is the nephew of Big Tony, which is how he got into porn.
I try to give my artists reference material for when they have to design key characters. I don’t expect them to make the characters look exactly like the reference, but it helps the artist to get an idea of what a character can look like. For Lollipop Peraino, I sent Dietrich photos of several actors, including John Saxon, Jack Palance, and Henry Silva. To me, Peraino looks like a cross between Palance and Silva.
It’s hard to believe that originally, Tito was a throwaway character that only appeared in the first two issues. At some point, I grew attached to him, recognized that he had a lot of potential, and even came to understand that this story is as much about him as it is Shaft.
This scene is wrong on so many levels, and I wrestled with keeping it. I knew it would offend some people. And then I thought, “Well…f*ck ‘em.” I always wanted to take this story someplace outrageous, sleazy, over-the-top, and exploitative. I wanted to evoke the balls-to-the-wall aesthetic of some of the more outrageous grindhouse films of the 1970s, and this is how I decided to do it. I love this page. I love this scene. Dietrich captured it all beautifully.
Of all the things in this issue that I could be worried about, this is the page that concerns me the most. I worry that people will miss the fact that Shaft is reaching for his gun in the bag, and that is not there. Perhaps I should be concerned that we are implying that Shaft is about to anally assaulted with a sausage, but that doesn’t matter to me. I just want people to realize the gun is missing.
I love how Dietrich brought the action to life on this page. As I pointed out, there is much less narration in this issue, and I knew that at some point Shaft would have to start telling his story again. The point of the narration has always been to give the reader insight into Shaft that works either in conjunction with what is on the page or, in some cases, beyond what is on the page.
And here we are essentially where Issue #2 started. This scene is directly from the original one-shot that never got published.
Here we see the two different cases of this story coming together, but also a bit more than just that. Once again, Shaft: Imitation of Life was originally supposed to be a self-contained one-shot. It was the story of Shaft working as a film consultant, and was meant to be absurd, over-the-top, and, quite possibly, a bit offensive. The second storyline, the one that came about when I was asked to write another series, was the missing persons case involving Mike Prosser. That story was about Shaft failing on the case, with someone else finding the person he was looking for. That story went through many changes—especially considering that Mike was originally a teenage girl, and the character of Tito didn’t exist. But things change and stories evolve, and in some cases, two stories come crashing together in more ways than one.
I don’t do much lettering (because I’m not that good at it, and because I don’t have the time). But I love lettering Shaft, because it allows me to play with the dialog (and even the story) up until the very last moment. This page is pretty much as I wrote, except for the second panel. The dialog was slightly different, and when I saw the emotions on the characters’ face as Dietrich had drawn them, I saw a great opportunity to add just a bit more to the story.
I absolutely love what Dietrich did with this page. In the original one-shot story, I never showed how Shaft and Rockman escaped. But when the story expanded, and Tito was brought in, I had to have some kind of action-packed ending. I also love the use of Volkswagen. Much of this story was in response to the announced Shaft film reboot, which was announced last year, and was reported to be comedic in nature. I don’t think Shaft should be done as a comedy. But if it is going to have comedic elements, it should be him killing a warehouse full of pornographers, then jumping out of a window, and landing on the hood of VW. That is comedic gold, my friends.
This is what we call an “expository dump.” You’ve gotta wrap up a story some way. I just wanted to end on a note that held some kind of promise of more adventures with Tito. Honestly, I’d love to write a story just about him.
Here we have not one, but two homages. The first is to the film Midnight Cowboy. The second is to Taxi Driver. In my own twisted mind, this entire story is a bizarre mash-up of Midnight Cowboy and Taxi Driver, starring John Shaft. No one else may see it, but I know that it is there.
This page may or may not be some kind of thinly veiled commentary on the upcoming Shaft film, or it may be some kind of deeper commentary on how film portrays black masculinity, or it just may be the end of the story.
I love this page. I really do. At the same time, I recognize that I used the character of Honee in a way that was lacking in originality or complexity, which is a sign of my shortcomings as a writer. If there is one thing about this story that I look back on with any regret, it’s the fact that I didn’t try harder to make Honee more than just a sex object. Unfortunately, sometimes you don’t see these things until after they are done, and then all you can do is work to grow as a writer, so that next time, you don’t do it again. That said, I really love this page.
02/28/24 @ 7:25 pm EST
The Handmaid’s Tale actor Yvonne Strahovski is set to star in a new series at Peacock: the horror thriller show Teacup, executive-produced by James Wan. The project is set to be loosely based on the 1988 novel Stinger by Robert McCammon. It sees a group of people in rural Georgia who must unite to take on a mysterious threat that puts their lives in danger. Strahovski, also a producer for the series, is set to play a character named Maggie Chenoweth. Teacup comes from Universal Studio Group’s UCP and Wan’s Atomic Monster banner. Ian McCulloch (Yellowstone) adapted the novel, and E.L. Katz (The Haunting of Bly Manor) is penciled in to direct the first episode. (via ComingSoon.net)
02/28/24 @ 7:16 pm EST
Apple TV+ has greenlit the new science fiction series Neuromancer, a 10-episode drama based on William Gibson’s debut novel of the same name. A co-production between Skydance Television and Anonymous Content, Neuromancer will also be produced by Drake’s DreamCrew Entertainment. Graham Roland (Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, Dark Winds) and JD Dillard (Devotion, The Outsider) will develop the project for TV. Additionally, Roland will serve as showrunner and Dillard is set to direct the pilot episode. The streamer reveals Neuromancer will follow a damaged, top-rung super-hacker named Case who is thrust into a web of digital espionage and high-stakes crime with his partner Molly, a razor-girl assassin with mirrored eyes, aiming to pull a heist on a corporate dynasty with untold secrets. (via Deadline)
02/28/24 @ 12:48 pm EST
The sci-fi thriller “Things Will Be Different” has released a first-look clip ahead of its SXSW Film & TV Festival world premiere. The film stars Adam David Thompson and Riley Dandy and premieres March 11 as part of the festival’s Midnight selection. Marking Michael Felker’s feature directorial debut, “Things Will Be Different” follows siblings Joseph and Sidney, played by Thompson and Dandy, who are on the run from the law. The mysterious farmhouse they are staying in inexplicably transports them through time. While attempting to return to their present, a cryptic force emerges and traps them on a strange plot of land, giving them a deathly ultimatum in order to escape. (via Variety)
First-look clip: https://youtu.be/x25ymmwW4VU
02/28/24 @ 12:33 pm EST
Legendary comics creator Alan Moore has been saying for a while that he plans to leave comics behind, and now it seems we know his final project. Recently, Top Shelf Productions and Knockabout Limited announced the publication date of the long-awaited comics/prose album The Moon and Serpent Bumper Book of Magic. The product of the years-long creative partnership between Moore (From Hell, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) and his "creative and magical mentor" Steve Moore (no relation), Top Shelf characterizes the book as a "celebration of magic and the occult has been meticulously under development for nearly two decades and is brought to life through a combination of prose, illustration, and sequential art from five incredible artists." Here's how the publisher describes the book: "The secrets of the celebrated Moon and Serpent Grand Egyptian Theatre of Marvels (sorcery by appointment since circa 150 AD) promise to be revealed in The Moon and Serpent Bumper Book of Magic. This clear and practical grimoire of the occult pairs the knowledge of the proprietors of the aforementioned Grand Egyptian Theatre with illuminating visual delights from artists Kevin O'Neill, John Coulthart, Steve Parkhouse, Rick Veitch, and Ben Wickey. Unprecedented in its scope and splendor, this tome is full to bursting with illustrated instructional essays, activity pages, biographies of the great sorcerers, and forbidden knowledge sure to tantalize even the most disillusioned of adults into believing in magic once again." The Moon and Serpent Bumper Book of Magic will be on sale in October 2024. (via ComicBook.com)
02/28/24 @ 12:20 pm EST
Kassandra Lee Diaz has nabbed the lead role in Byron Manuel’s thriller and feature directorial debut, Swoon.Diaz plays a woman tied to a bed while her captor manipulates her into believing they are engaged. The mysterious men in her life are played by Rich Morrow and DeRon Cash, while Efrangeliz Medina, Dean Wil, Herbert Morales and Del Harrison round out the ensemble.The producer credits for Swoon are shared by Ryan Rojas, Kassandra Lee Diaz, Rich Morrow, Justin Graves and Manuel under their banner, On Script Pictures. Franco Tavera, Cash Oliver, Lily & Raul Terrazas, and Cameron Duncan executive produce alongside JP Ouellette and his production company Circa 1888. (via THR)
02/27/24 @ 9:45 pm EST
And then there were three. As Deadline reported exclusively earlier this month, the field of writers in the running to adapt JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books into a live-action series for Max has been narrowed down to three finalists. According to sources, Deadline names them as Francesca Gardiner, Tom Moran and Kathleen Jordan. The trio will be able to hone in on their pitches for the next couple of months, with a decision on who gets the job, reportedly in June. As Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav announced last week, the Harry Potter series is slated to debut on Max in 2026. Reps for Max and the studio behind the series, Warner Bros. Television, declined to comment.
02/27/24 @ 9:40 pm EST
Whether it's the Boss of Space pummeling back an alien invasion or the Scarlet Witch weaving a magical protection, the women of Marvel have got your back! This week, WOMEN OF MARVEL returns in a star-studded anthology. Before it hits stands, fans can get a glimpse of what to expect in an all-new WOMEN OF MARVEL #1 trailer.
The trailer spotlights fan-favorite characters like Scarlet Witch, Black Widow, Ms. Marvel, and Squirrel Girl, offers a tease of future events with Madame Web, and an exciting look ahead at what's in store for our women characters this year! For over 10 years, WOMEN OF MARVEL has highlighted iconic women characters and storytellers from throughout Marvel Comics history! Fans won’t want to miss celebrating the spirit and mission of this fantastic program with these phenomenal tales starring some of Marvel’s greatest heroes! Check out the trailer now, and celebrate Women’s History Month Marvel Comics-style when WOMEN OF MARVEL #1 hits stands on February 28!
02/27/24 @ 3:46 pm EST
Legendary Entertainment and Warner Bros.’ Dune: Part Two opens this weekend in what’s a much-needed jolt of testosterone for the box office that’s been winded by the dual strikes’ delay of titles. To date, the annual 2024 domestic box office hasn’t cracked a billion yet with only $866.3M through Sunday, -18% behind the Jan. 1-Feb. 25 frame a year ago. The second part to the multi-Oscar winning Denis Villeneuve 2021 feature take of the Frank Herbert classic novel could very well see a $170M worldwide opening — that’s divided into $85M–$90M abroad and another $80M on the high end in U.S./Canada (Warners is conservatively projecting $65M, but most exhibitors and tracking services see near $80M). Note that $65M-$80M domestic opening will be wonders above the $41M domestic opening of 2021’s Dune which saw its ticket sales siphoned by a theatrical day-and-date release on streaming service HBO Max back in early October that year. Still Dune is one of a handful of day-and-date titles to cross $100M at the domestic box office, and only one of two along with Legendary’s Godzilla vs. Kong to cross $400M-plus worldwide. It was one of the few blockbusters that worked both in homes and theaters, but it certainly left money on the table. Dune: Part Two is slated to open in the U.S. on Friday, March 1. (via Deadline)
02/27/24 @ 3:38 pm EST
In a brand new Papercutz series, Jackson's Wilder Adventures, Jackson Wilder and his best friend, Irwin the Thylacine, explore nature to learn about wild animals who share similar hindrances and experiences to Jackson, which helps him put his own life problems into perspective. This new educational series is inspired by the endless curiosity and love of learning comic book illustrator Sarah Davidson saw in her real-life nephew, Jackson. It is meant to solve what she saw as a problem with the books in his reading range: they all seemed to be either picture or list-based books. She wanted to emulate the “Science Comics” of her youth. Davidson has also worked alongside renowned wildlife ecologist Kelly Zimmerman of the Bugs Need Heroes podcast, and their shared passion for wildlife electrifies this narrative. “I'm beyond excited to finally be able to bring Jackson's Wilder Adventures to life, and share Irwin and Jackson's stories and love of nature with everyone,” Davidson said. “This book has a special place in my heart, since it's so inspired by my nephew, and I think this series has found the perfect home with Papercutz!" Jackson's Wilder Adventures Vol 1 [9781545813003; Hardcover & Trade Paperback; 88pp] is on sale July 2.
02/27/24 @ 3:37 pm EST
The Star Wars universe is set to get a major remix later this year, with the arrival of the Star Wars: The Acolyte Disney+ series. The Acolyte, which is created by Russian Doll's Leslye Headland, will be first live-action series set during the High Republic era, and fans are definitely excited to see that canon further explored. In a recent interview with C Magazine, The Acolyte star Amandla Stenberg teased how that time period leads to a different — but reverential — kind of Star Wars story. "In the context of the Star Wars universe, it's a time of great peace, theoretically," Stenberg explained. "It's also a time of an institution, and it's a time in which conceptions around the Force are very strict. And I think what we're trying to explore within our show is when an institution has a singular conception of how power can be used…we try to provide a lot of different perspectives and answers to that question. The idea is to kind of honor the ethos of Star Wars and ideas around the Force and also challenge them, hopefully harmoniously." Star Wars: The Acolyte will debut exclusively on Disney+ this year. (via ComicBook.com)