Steve Skroce is known to comics fans for a long list of comics projects ranging from “Ectokid” for Marvel’s Razorline Imprint to “Youngblood” to writing and drawing “Wolverine: Blood Debt.” Outside of comics he is considered a top storyboard artist who’s worked on “The Matrix,” “Speed Racer,” “Ninja Assassin” and many other projects.
In November 2004, Burlyman Entertainment released the first issue of “Doc Frankenstein,” co-created by Skroce and Geof Darrow and Lana and Andy Wachowski. The book was acclaimed as Skroce’s best work to date — even earning an Eisner Award nomination for Best New Series in 2005 — but its sporadic shipping schedule led to the series going on hiatus after the sixth issue was released in late 2007. Last month, Burlyman Entertainment finally released a trade paperback collecting the first four issues with plans for a second volume — collecting the previously unpublished issues #7 and #8 — in early 2015. CBR News spoke with Skroce about the collection, his work away from comics and collaborating with the Wachowskis for more than twenty years.
CBR News: For people who don’t know or may have forgotten, who is Doc Frankenstein and what is this world like?
Steve Skroce: “Doc Frankenstein” was a concept Geof Darrow had had and while we were working on the “Matrix” sequels he told me about it and we decided to collaborate. The Wachowskis heard about our schemes and they came on as writers and publishers. Burlyman Entertainment was born! Doc Frankenstein is Mary Shelley’s monster, he survived the end of that novel and moved west to discover himself and his potential. Turns out that the brain Victor granted him was a brilliant one and he uses his brain and brawn to carve out a place for himself in American and then global history. He defended Lincoln and fought slavery in the 1860s. Doc was there defending John Scopes for teaching evolution in the 1920s and fought the Nazis in WWII. He protected the LBGT communities at the Stonewall riots and stomped on southern racists in the 1960s. He also developed the male birth control pill in the 1970s. He’s a kind of super civil rights activist who uses his power to defend the marginalized and dispossessed. Outcasts, people whose struggles he identifies with.
He also has enemies — “The Men of God” are a very well equipped group of zealot soldiersÂ who view Doc’s existence as a great blasphemy to the creator. They think Doc’s great humanitarian works are really some kind of Anti-Christ chicanery and that he must be destroyed at all costs. You know, the usual old tropes.
You’ve worked with the Wachowskis on a number of movie projects at this point, but you first collaborated on “Ectokid” in the early ’90s. How has your collaboration changed over time?
I’ve worked with the Wachowskis on and off for over twenty years and I think at this point that I have less anxiety with work in general. They were pretty much the first people in comics I worked with and the first in film as well. The work is still challenging but I think what’s easier is knowing how to be helpful. There’s so many moving pieces to a movie, so many departments and different needs. I think I’ve gotten better at knowing when to contribute and when to really focus on the demands of what ever sequence I’m boarding. You don’t want to be raising questions and creating obstacles you need to be a helping hand.
“Doc Frankenstein” is a fascinating read and I’m curious about how much was planned from the beginning. How much do you as the artist want to know about the details of a project?
Initially I was writing it based on Geof’s ideas but when the Wachowskis came on board it evolved into this whole new thing where there were still all the elements from before but now in had a political point of view, a really irreverent sense of humor and a tone that went all over the place but in a really good way. I found out about it as I went along, I was always having discussions with the Wachowskis about it and because we took so long to finish it the story evolves in a cool and unexpected direction.
“Doc Frankenstein” is the best work of your career and I don’t know anyone who would disagree, but the book came out irregularly. Was this due to film work? Or the time it took to produce work of this quality? was it because of the time involved in the book?
Unfortunately I was seduced by the glamor of showbiz! I worked on a lot of movies over the last few years and that has been very exciting but it’s a regret that we didn’t deliver the books on as regular a basis as we should have and apologies to those fans who supported us but never saw the final issues come out. But I think the comic itself did benefit from the extra time and I hope the people who buy it feel that way too.
This new collection has the first four issues in it, but two more have already been published. I also heard you’ve drawn some additional issues since then. Is the plan to release a second collection?
The first trade out [now] collects the first four issues and has five jam-packed bonus pages full of never-before-seen sketches and concept drawings. The second trade, which I think will be out in January, collects issues #5 and #6 as well as the never-before-seen issues #7 and #8. Those last two add up to over sixty never-before-seen pages that finish the story arc. We’ll likely have a bonus art section as well.
What’s next for you? What do you want to do going forward?
I’m getting back into comics! I’ve got a couple projects lined up with one of my all-time favorite writers and some more “Doc Frankenstein” as well. Nothing to announce yet, but soon!
“Doc Frankenstein Vol. 1: The Messiah of Science Resurrected” TPB is on sale now.