Exclusive | Action Lab takes 'Puppet Master' from film to comics

Evil comes in all sizes -- and now it comes to comics.

Action Lab Entertainment has drafted the cult horror movie franchise Puppet Master as the newest in its growing line of comics titles beginning March 2015. Licensed directly from creator Charles Brand, the Puppet Master comic series sees the menacing marionettes who have evolved from creepy villains to somewhat likeable anti-heroes looking to get a life of their own outside of their wooden bodies. Written by long-time fan (and Action Lab co-founder) Shawn Gabborin and illustrated by Michela Da Sacco, Puppet Master follows in the footsteps of the movie franchise's ten films while aiming to be new reader friendly for those that haven't seen the films (or haven't seen them in some time).

ROBOT 6 spoke with Gabborin about the series, and Action Lab has provided us with a exclusive preview of the book in advance of its March 2015.

ROBOT 6: For those that haven’t seen the Puppet Master movies (or haven’t seen them in a while), how would you describe the premise of the comic series?

Shawn Gabborin: Puppet Master is about a band of puppets, each reanimated with a human soul. They may have their own personalities, but being puppets, they must obey the will of their “master” (of which they’ve served several over the years), usually leading them to kill for their master’s gain.

Our story finds the puppets where the “present day” timeline in the movies left off: The puppets have spent 70+ years in their wooden bodies, and have grown tired of having their strings pulled. They’re looking for a way out… and during this comic, they may just find it!

I’m writing the comic as a continuation of the movies, but it is very accessible to new readers. The first story arc introduces the world, characters and rules.  The second arc goes off in a direction the films never have, making it just as fresh to someone unfamiliar with the franchise as I hope it will be to fellow lifelong fans.

In the comic, the puppets are looking to get out of their wooden bodies -- tell us more.

Sure! I wanted to bridge the gap between the movies and the comics, so I added some story elements that play up what I feel is a natural progression from what we've seen in the films. Where our story picks up, the Bodega Bay Inn has stood abandoned for years. In that time, rumors about the puppets have spread, gaining the hotel increased notoriety as a supernatural hotspot. Because of that, people have been leaving dolls in the hotel as a form of tribute to the spirits they believe to be there… sort of a superstitious attempt to earn favors from the spirt world. This really sets the stage for a lot of what I have planned for the series… and lets the puppets hide in plain sight!

Due to its notoriety, a group of friends set out to use the Inn as a party spot. It doesn't take long for them to realize that the rumors are (in part) true, and they should have stayed clear of the Bodega Bay Inn!

In a lot of respects, the first story arc tells a traditional Puppet Master story. The second arc breaks away and does something different… and the third is different from those. I'm doing my best to vary each arc so that, while telling an overarching story, it stays fresh and entertaining.

Which of the puppets from the movies will be in this comic?

For the bulk of the series I’m focusing on what I would consider to be the main eight puppets, as featured through the first five films. Each has their own unique characteristics that make them fun to play with in the context of the story. Blade (the most popular) is very well armed, with one hand being a hook and the other a knife blade. Pinhead (my personal favorite) is a pint-sized powerhouse. Tunneler has a coned drill on the top of his head. The accurately named Leech Woman can cough up leeches onto her victims. Jester isn’t much one for getting his hands dirty, but he does delight in distracting you while a more deadly puppet creeps up from behind. Torch is armed with a flamethrower on his right arm and a bad temper. Six Shooter is a six armed cowboy, each brandishing a tiny-yet-powerful pistol. Decapitron rounds out the cast, hosting the spirit of the original Puppet Master Andre Toulon, who can swap between a set of weaponized heads. It’s quite a diverse cast and allows for a lot of fun ways to add to the body count!

I've been told Puppet Master creator Charles Band is involved in this comic series. What’s his role?

Charles Band has been great to work with! Everything gets cleared through him from pitches and scripts to final art. He’s been very open to what I want to do with the comics and is letting me tell the stories I want to tell, which is great.

I remember Eternity doing some Puppet Master comics years ago. Any plans to dust those off if this new comic series proved successful?

No plans at this time. Eternity was brought in as an imprint of Malibu, which was bought by Marvel, so it’s muddy who owns what with those comics.

What do you see in Puppet Master that you think will work well in comics today?

Puppet Master may have been birthed in films, but it’s tailor-made for comics. The characters and base locations are so visually rich they play right into this medium. A big plus about bringing them to the comic page is that I don’t have to worry about a special effects budget! I can show full body shots of the Puppets running, jumping, struggling with a victim… with no worries of if it looks “real” or not. My mind can run wild on the kills because I don’t have to think about “how do I make that work practically?” As long as my artist can draw it (which she’s proven she can!!), we can do it.

Before we go, let’s talk about the artist, Michela Da Sacco. How did you and her connect to do this series together?

I had worked with Michela previously on an anthology comic I self-publish called Short Stack (The colorist for Puppet Master, Yann Perrelet, is also an artist I met through that project). She did a story for me called “Reaper”, and I knew I had to work with her again on something bigger. I got very lucky that she was available when I brought in the rights to Puppet Master. Each page she turns in is better than the last. A perfect blend of beautiful art and creepy atmosphere. I can’t wait for people to see these pages!

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