At 2009’s Comic-Con International in San Diego, Sam Worthington and his good friend from drama school Michael Schwarz went looking for comics. “It was mainly Michael in his basement playing ‘Guitar Hero’ and reading comic books. I thought[I’d] get him out of the damn basement and send him to Comic-Con, you know. He needs to try and learn that the world is massive,” joked Worthington.
“We’ve always loved comic books and graphic novels,” added John Schwarz, Michael’s brother and that third partner in Full Clip Productions. “Mike was kind of almost like the professor of it, we were both juniors. He was the master, you know what I mean? So we said ‘Why don’t you go to Comic-Con and see what you can do’.”
“Mike actually astounded me, blew me away, when he came back and he made all of these connections,” the actor continued. “I was expecting [him] to come back drunk and say, ‘Thanks for the opportunity.'” [Laughs]
Instead, Michael began a relationship with Radical Studios. First, they looked at Rick Remender’s “Last Days of American Crime” with an eye toward a feature film. “‘Last Days of American Crime’ got me straight away,” recalled Michael. “The thing about Radical is that they’ve been around for only two years, and during that time they were only a year old, but they’ve kind of got this swagger about themselves that they’ve been around for so much longer, even though they’re still in their infancy. It’s exciting to be around it, sort of exciting that it’s infectious. John, Sam and I latched onto ‘Last Days’ and we hopped onboard. Barry Levine became our producing partner and I pitched him more about comics and ‘Damaged,’ which is an original idea we had years ago. He dug it and from there he said, ‘Well why don’t you go and make a bunch more?’ So we ended up getting this imprint.”
For Radical’s Barry Levine, it was important to ensure that the partnership would lead to good stories. “I got to know all of them together and how they approached stories,” Levine said. “These guys have a 360 degree mind, and they think like that as a production company. One of the biggest things for me was to make sure that I just wasn’t doing a deal with a film company that just wanted to do a comic book and immediately adapt it as a feature film. If something happens down the road and [Sam Worthington] becomes part of it, that’s great. But the characters are not [necessarily] geared towards Sam.”
“I think the integrity of the actual comic would be totally compromised if we were just thinking about it as changing it to another medium and selling it along the track,” added Michael. “You’ve got to actually think to yourself, ‘Let’s try to create a piece of art.’ The strongest piece you can do without compromising down the track saying, ‘Let’s think about Nic Cage playing this dude,’ or whatever.”
Worthington would also like to see a good story before turning around and developing features from the imprint. “I think that’s arrogantly egotistical,” he declared. “We’re comic book fans, so let’s create a comic book. If down the line Radical decides to pursue this further ,then that’s a great opportunity for us, but that’s not primarily why I wanted to get involved.”
The imprint’s first project, “Damaged,” proves that the ideas will not necessarily translate into vehicles for the actor. “With ‘Damaged’ they’re sixty year old men, so unless I’m wearing a fucking latex mask, then I’m a bit shit out of luck, aren’t I?” joked Worthington.
The miniseries, written by David Lapham, sees two older crimefighters trying to teach the new generation while arguing over which methods are most effective. “Two cops, one becomes a vigilante. It’s basically about redemption, passing fathers and sons and all of these kind of brotherly things that these guys have come and dealt with in their lives, set in a violent kind of noir-like world,” Worthington explained. With the concept in hand, Radical looked for a creator to develop it into a fully realized comic – Lapham was the first to be approached. “I was a bit star-struck to talk to him for the first time, and I was really nervous to see what he would do with our story,” Michael remembered. “A man with his caliber, would he just take it and make it his own completely? What he did with it was great. It’s still our story, our characters, but it’s still got his stamp on it without taking away from the story we created. He’s given it his voice, which is my favorite thing.”
“We gave David our treatment, and he gave us like a five to six page treatment. Then about a week later, he gave us a thirty page treatment,” recalled John.
“And a week later, he gave us issue one,” added Michael. The fully realized project will be a six-issue miniseries beginning in February of next year.
Worthington also gave a quick rundown on Radical/Full Clip’s other announced project, “Patriots.” The actor said, “If you had to sacrifice one continent and [save] six, would you do it? That’s the question we’re posing with that one.” The project will see release as a self-contained graphic novel. At Levine’s suggestion, the group is trying various formats. “At the moment it’s all learning from Barry,” said the actor.
After that, they plan to switch gears. “We’ve got a bunch of nephews back home between us,” Michael explained. “The next [comic], we’re going to make it a little more geared towards a 9-12 year old market.”
The group plans to reach beyond the crime and action genres. “If you look at Radical, Radical is very spread, not necessarily dealing with any specific genre,” said Worthington of the range. “If [Barry] likes an idea, he runs with it. He gets other creative guys like Joe Straczynski to come in here – Antone Fuqua – and they were developing comics with him. To us, we need to go, and it’s like, now you’ve got as many comics as you want to create. He is enthusiastic with any kind of genre we give him an idea for.”
Coming to comics from the film world, Worthington outlined a first marker of success for the group. “The first goal is for people to go out and actually dig our stories,” he stated. “Right now, we’re just touching our toe in the water to see if one kid down at Golden Apple can say, ‘Hey, that’s cool, man.'”
For Michael, making “Damaged” a reality is a win in itself. “It’s an idea we had as a comic five or six years ago. Just the realization of finally getting to be able to see [it happen] – that’s satisfaction, right there.”