Last night, British TV personality-turned-comics writer Jonathan Ross and artist Tommy Lee Edwards celebrated the hardcover release of their genre-straddling alien/vampire/gangster epic “Turf” by speaking to fans at Waterstones’ flagship bookstore in London.
In front of a packed room, Ross was in true TV presenter form, dropping hints about a “Turf” follow-up, future comic projects with (and without) Edwards and the possibility of bringing “Turf” — and more — to the big screen.
Asked about plans for a comics sequel, Ross was quick to let loose with details about the plot of his and Edwards’ proposed “Turf” follow-up. Set in 1942, just prior to the USA’s entry into World War II, the story would see both the Nazis and the US government racing to find alien weapons rumored to be hidden on Earth following the events of the first series. As for the zombies hinted at on “Turf’s” final page, the creative team has nothing planned to follow up on them as it was just a throwaway gag.
Those hoping to see “Turf 2” sooner rather than later may be disappointed, however, as plans to re-team for another project means work on the sequel isn’t likely to begin for some time, with Ross going as far as to suggest it might actually be done as a one-shot. Later, Ross alluded to several other projects in the works with artists other than Edwards, including one so advanced that two issues were already drawn, though they’re currently being reworked due to rewrites.
Since Ross is married to screenwriter Jane Goldman, who penned both “Kick Ass” and “X-Men: First Class” for director Matthew Vaughn, questions inevitably turned to the prospect of a screen adaptation of “Turf.” Although the collected release has renewed interest in the property, Ross said he and Edwards were biding their time and that while they want to do it with Vaughn, he probably wouldn’t direct. Ross also said Goldman definitely wouldn’t be writing the adaptation, jokilngy describing the idea as “unhealthy” for them both.
Continuing on the subject of his work with Edwards being adapted to other mediums, Ross told the crowd that “Speed Trap,” a short story set in the world of 1960s motor racing which the pair produced for the San Diego Exclusive “BLVD Story Book 1.0,” has attracted the attention of Hollywood. Ross said the short is in development for TV, saying only that “a screenwriter friend” in America had been tapped to write a version for the small screen.
Much of the evening’s conversation focused on Ross and Edwards’ next collaboration, a comic about retired superheroes called “The Golden Age.” With the idea already in an advanced stage of development (enough for them to tease it on the back cover of “Turf” #5), Ross said they hoped to have the book on shelves in March 2012 and that they were planning to have “two or three issues” completed by then. Despite that, he admitted that further rewrites were needed before production could begin on the first issue, showing off an annotated copy of the 80-page script which he had brought along for Edwards to read.
Pressed for details, Ross said that “The Golden Age” will focus on the exploits of a patriotic, Captain America-style superhero who has been forcibly retired after falling out of fashion with the public. Now in his 90s, the hero finds himself interred in a superhero retirement home/prison camp, permanently sidelined until things go wrong on the outside and he and his aging friends (each embodying their own heroic archetype) are called back for one more mission.
Describing the genesis of the project, Ross, who was recently given a temporary ban from appearing on the BBC leading to a year-long hiatus from TV work, claimed to have been lying on his sofa, facing the prospect of never being back in his day job, when he was struck with the inspiration to translate the situation to a superhero setting. He also described drawing inspiration from Goldman’s father, a recent retiree who lives with the couple and their children.
Although much of the talk centered on adaptations of their material, both Ross and Edwards articulated their love for the comics medium, with Ross emphasizing that all he really cared about, as a writer, was creating a satisfying comic where every issue had a good beginning, middle and end. For his part, Edwards explained that since “Turf” had been his first creator-owned project, he felt more invested in it, which improved his work, but also slowed him down.
When questioned on the subject of disagreements between writer and artist, both men were deferential in praising the other. Ross articulated a specific incident where he asked for some background characters to be redrawn in one panel and Edwards sent back the pages unaltered. Edwards’ replied with a smirk that he had simply been “prioritizing.” Edwards also reminded Ross of an experimental take on a flashback sequence seen in “Turf” which was drawn, in part, by the former’s 9-year-old daughter. Though ultimately unused, the alternate page is included in the hardcover’s bonus material.
Since Ross is famously friends with both Neil Gaiman and Mark Millar, one audience member asked whether he received any comics writing help from them. After joking that he didn’t ask Gaiman for help because he “didn’t want to have goths walking around in ‘Turf,'” Ross said that he didn’t want to take advantage of his association with them and so “did things properly” — that is, on his own. Ross admitted that his fame in the UK doesn’t really translate across the pond (indeed, Edwards only knew of him because of Ross’ 2007 documentary “In Search of Steve Ditko”) and in his opinion, Image was more eager to work with Edwards than him.
Throughout the Q&A session, Ross was conscious of the lessons he’s learnt as both a writer and a comic author, describing the constant rewrites and difficulties in letting go of scripts. Two major ideas cut from “Turf” included a climactic battle scene where an alien robot fought a giant vampire and an alien/vampire inter-family romance. Also, the identity of the character who dies towards the end was changed after an un-named movie producer, Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn all pointed out that someone else would be a more powerful choice — much to Ross’ good-natured chagrin when he realized they were right.