From Film To Comics: Coleite & Rodriguez tackle "The Covenant"

Spring of 2006 will see a new film staring a group of young men learning to use their magical powers hit the silver screen in "The Covenant," from writer J. S. Cardone. The Sony Screen Gems film, produced in association with Sandstorm Films, has already been green lit with production to start this fall. But before the film comes out you'll get a chance to enter the world of "The Covenant" in the form of a new four issue original graphic novel to come this September from Top Cow and Spacedog, Inc.. The book is by "Crossing Jordan" writer Aron Coleite ("Proximity Effect") and artist Tone Rodriguez ("Violent Messiahs"). We caught up with both creators to see what's what with "The Covenant," plus we've got a massive preview of the first issue for you.

"The Covenant" graphic novel features a story that takes place prior to the events in the upcoming movie and follows a group of four families whose patriarchs wield a vast eldritch power. Those powers have been passed down from father to son for generations. "The main players in the book are Caleb, Pogue, Reid and Miller. We meet them at the moment when they discover they are next in line to receive the power of the Covenant," Coleite told CBR News earlier this week. "At my Bar-Mitzvah I was given a check for 13 dollars from my great uncle Jules. These four kids are told, 'Happy Birthday - you're warlocks and can tap into a magic that flows through the universe.'

"These four boys are the heroes of our story-- and like any good coming of age story they're also the villains. When you put a 'Covenant' together it doesn't mean they're going to get along. While the Covenant is going up against evil camp counselors and demented demons from hell, the real threat is to see if they're going to tear themselves apart.

"The story begins with our four boys learning about the Covenant and how to use their powers," continued Coleite. "During that summer of fun and experimentation, the boys unknowingly release an evil out into the world. Four years later, the Covenant has to stop the menace they unleashed. However, when suspicion falls on a member of the Covenant - the true evil is the jealousy that might tear the Covenant apart."

While at first glance you might think "The Covenant" sounds a bit like the Harry Potter Universe, Coleite says that's really not the case. "'The Covenant' skews much more towards 'The Crucible' than Harry Potter," said Coleite. "The summer camp isn't a camp for warlocks - it's the former site of the Massachusetts Witch Trials - where witches and warlocks were burned alive. There's a real history of persecution for all things magic or pagan. These boys are not only taught how to use their power, but more importantly taught to respect, fear and keep the magic secret."

Coleite says that in writing "The Covenant" he's found '80s horror films to be a driving influence-creators like Wes Craven, George Romero and Tobe Hooper to name a few. "Love those guys. They messed my head up good," said Coleite.

"I was also heavily influenced by the old annuals. Mostly X-Men. Claremont/Davis. You people know what I'm talking about. God, I miss them," continued Coleite. "They were wonderful stand alone-- longer than normal-- fun romps. I could read them over and over again, all summer long. I wanted this book to be a fun, scary adventure that you could enjoy all summer long.

"Also, 'Scooby Doo.' Major influence. You'll see when you read the book. Scooby is a master at story structure."

Coleite previously worked with Top Cow and Spacedog on "The Proximity Effect." After that book, Coleite and Spacedog's Roger Mincheff were looking for the next thing to do together. "Roger felt that 'The Covenant' had a darkness that would appeal to me. Since I write about death and murder all day, I guess I've gotten a rep for being dark."

Coleite is joined on "The Covenant" by artist Tone Rodriguez. The two were first introduced back when Rodriguez was still working on "The Snake Plissken Chronicles." "All I really recall about that first meeting was that Aron was working on the 'Crossing Jordan' television show and that he was interested in us [Hurricane Entertainment] doing something with or for the show, you know a way to incorporate some of the artwork that I had done on 'Violent Messiahs,'" Rodriguez told CBR News. "Some how I was flim-flamed into doing some pitch art for a possible 'Crossing Jordan' comic book. Man, looking back at that, I'm surprised I got the chance to work with Aron on this project."

"First of all I'm a big fan of Tone's," added Coleite. "With 'Violent Messiahs' Tone created a world so rich - I had to take a shower after reading it. I came up with the story before Tone signed on, but afterwards I tried to write to Tone's strengths. Amazing detail. Killer action. An overall fantastic journey. Working with Tone is a lot of fun. I'm never quite prepared for just how thoughtful he was about each panel. The guy is simply very perceptive and found details I didn't know were there."

Rodriguez is equally as effusive when talking about working with Coleite. "You know I love the fact that Aron will write up a description that ends with, 'Tone, now just kick ass' or 'just have fun.' It's just the kind of encouragement that I dig and Aron did it on more than one occasion. Reading the script, it really made me feel like he trusted me with his written words. I only hope that I was able to live up to his expectations. If not, lets just blame someone else!"

As for the design of the book, Rodriguez says there's nothing more intimidating to him than a blank page. He started by spending some time on design ideas, but the tight production schedule kept him focused on the important goals for the book. "I'm thankful this book was based in the real world as opposed to something like a future space camp on Mars," said Rodriguez. "Because of this I think some of the designing was easier than trying to create a fictional place. God bless those good people at Google. They have definitely made my life easier."

Rodriguez says the first character he worked on was the Woodshole Warlock. "He was a blast," said Rodriguez. "Aron went over a few ideas I had for the Warlock. The only thing that I was really told to incorporate was that he would have the 'ram horns.' With this as my only guideline I went to work on his design. I think the only thing that I'm bummed about is that he isn't in more of the book. Man, I could draw him for days and not get bored.

"This book was a challenge, but it was a pleasant experience," continued Rodriguez. "I enjoyed working out the looks for the principle characters, then worked out their younger selves. I wanted to see about making each member as different from each other as I could, but in the end I figured that if these guys would end up spending as much time with each other as they do that they would almost surely resemble each other with just a few tweaks-- like clothing, or body language. Ultimately the designing was worked out one day and implemented the next."

While Coleite may be well versed in the world of television script writing, comics scripting is still a bit new to the writer, but he says the differences aren't that extreme. "The truth is writing is hard," said Coleite. "It takes time and practice and trial and error. Mostly error. I'm still learning to write both and, honestly, I don't see that much difference. Scene descriptions. Dialogue. Collaboration. Notes. Compromises. Hair pulling. Ulcers. The key difference for me is that in television, I write to the act break-- making sure that the audience will come back from the commercial. In comics, I'm writing to the end of the page-- trying to make sure the reader will want to read the next page. It's like twenty act breaks."

Outside of "The Covenant," Coleite has a number of projects both in comics and television to keep him busy. Next up in comics is "Vice," a Top Cow book with artist Tyler Kirkham coming later this year. "It's about the FBI Unit that cleans up the mess our country is in. I just finished re-writing book two. It's a great book. Tyler's stuff is just amazing. Some of the coolest action sequences ever."

In the world of television, he's still writing for the NBC series "Crossing Jordan," which is entering season five. He's also written the pilot for "Urban Arcana" for the SciFi Channel, based on the Hasbro role playing game. "It's twisted. Kind of 'Men in Black' meets 'X-Files' meets 'Lord of the Rings.' The lead detective in the series is a hotty. Literally. She's a red dragon named Miranda.

"However, the best thing I've ever created happened just seven weeks ago. I'm so lucky to have a beautiful baby girl named Eden. I'm hoping she'll be the youngest girl ever to go to Comic-Con."

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