CCI, Day 1: Man of Action - Duncan Rouleau talks "Nightmarist" & More

Walking by booth 5333, one can't but help realize something: The Man of Action studio is getting bigger and more prolific every year and there's no stopping them.

A staple at the Comic-Con International in San Diego for a few years now, Man Of Action is the creative braintrust of writers Joe Kelly, Joe Casey, Steve Seagle and artist Duncan Rouleau. While this veritable fantastic four isn't adding members, ever, they are expanding their resumes to include some every high profile jobs. Partnering with Active Images, each of the members will be working with Richard Starkings to produce their own original graphic novel (OGN) for release next year. Today CBR News caught up with Rouleau and spoke to him about his new project "Nightmarist."

"I've just finished up a run on 'Wildcats' and there are a couple of shows I've just been developing in animation," explains Rouleau. "I've got a show coming up on Nickolodeon called 'El Maximo,' which I created and designed. I've been working with Man of Action as a group over at Cartoon Network on a show called 'Ben 10,' which we hope will be on the 2005 calendar for production. 'Nightmarist' is going to be a 96 page graphic novel, published by Richard Starkings, and it is a lot like the old 'Prisoner' show in that you're not quite sure where reality begins and ends. It's about a guy who goes into the universal subconscious through somebody else's brain and has to find a way back to his own mind [laughs]. How do you love that one?"

When asked about the inspiration for that unusual concept, Rouleau laughs, "I spent most of my life with my head underneath the water."

The promo art shows an eclectic group of characters- including a woman with screws for eyes- and Rouleau hints at who some of them may be. "There's a lot of archetypes and ideas that seem to travel from culture to culture and those will be the main characters, because in the universal subconscious, that's something we all share. So it's a character trying to navigate himself through that world while also trying to identify himself with what they are, making them landmarks back to his own mind. There's also a character who works for an organization called the Ministry of Dreams- they're kind of a stop gap between ours and the dream world, sort of police for anything that goes wrong."

Most readers think of Rouleau as an artist and not a writer, but the half-Canadian loves the written word and says there are a few reasons he's making his big time writing debut now. "There were a couple of factors that went into this. First off, working with all the man of action writers and being a writer myself, I got the confidence to do it. Secondly, I have an unusual style and whenever I draw traditional superheroes, I'm usually compared to the current benchmark of that, so reaction varies because of that. But when I do my own things, like 'M. Rex' I still get people asking when the next issue is coming out and I've realize I've got a style that is better suited to people viewing a project in the first time, instead of comparing it to past artists. Number three, I'm getting to point where I don't want to tell another Superman story or I don't want to tell another Spider-Man story, I want to tell stories of my own.

"I am now totally in love with the graphic novel format so the idea that I can be a novelist in the chosen field I like and do it that way is going to be the way I do it from now on.

"The most exciting aspect is easy- if I don't have to answer to anyone else, including 50 years of continuity, it's very liberating. On the flip side of that you make all your decisions entirely on your own. When you take on an endeavor like this, you leave yourself to hang financially a little more, but at this point I don't care about that- I've got other projects to help me out."

With his obvious enthusiasm, fans of Rouleau's work can expect to see some added nuances to his work, but he isn't going to spoil the surprise too much. "I'm not going to reel myself in as much, so I've set up a story and format where my bizarre and wild style will make sense for the story itself, where characters are not going to necessarily going to have to look like your standard humans."

You can expect the hard-cover, black & white "Nightmarist" in January and an extended preview of the series in the near future on CBR.

This isn't the first time you'll see Rouleau's writing- along with his Man of Action cohorts, he wrote the script for the highly anticipated multi-platform "X-Men Legends" role playing game (RPG). This RPG has been playable at the Comic-Con International and Rouleau's happy to see the work of his team receiving so much praise. "The story itself, we all came up with it and we took elements from all across the X-Men universe and weave some familiar terms in the game. It was a lot of fun to take things fans were expecting and turn them on their heads where they say 'Oh I thought they were just going to do the Phoenix Saga' and it might be going that way, but it'll go in a way that people reading the comics won't expect, but will really appreciate. I got to see the game at E3 and I like it.

"I haven't seen most of the game, but most of the Nightcrawler and interior mansion stuff is all my dialogue. So if you hate that stuff, I guess you can blame it on me!"

As he mentioned earlier, Rouleau's involved with a number of animation projects and he's happy to share details. "'El Maximo' is a really kid centric story who sends away for a pair of glasses from a comic, you know those standard ads, a comic book that never finished and stopped printing. The glasses arrive, even though the company doesn't exist anymore and when he puts them on, he is transported to a world where he is the superhero inside of the story but everything mirrors his real life. With 'Ben 10,' its about a boy Ben, to the tenth power, and he's got a device called the 'Megawhat.' It transforms into ten different versions of himself that have superpowers. 'Petshop Girls' is about girls working at a pet shop for magical creatures and instead of catching dogs, they catch hydras and placing them all in good homes [laughs]."

Rouleau's enjoying the con and says it is as big as legends say. "It's unbelievably, amazingly bigger- it's only Thursday but it feels like a Saturday. It's astounding! But I wouldn't call it a comic book convention any longer."

Rouleau thanks fans for their support and has a few parting words. "Read the 'Nightmarist' because it's gonna be me... but more [laughs]!"

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