It's Alive! – Jeff Amano Raises The Dead In "The Cobbler's Monster"

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Hollywood has a long tradition of mixing entertainment properties. The belief is that if each alone is good, then the two together will be great. The horror genre seems to cultivate this concept more than any other. Hence, audiences have been treated to "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein," "The Three Stooges Meet the Wolf Man," and more recently, "Freddy vs. Jason" and "Aliens vs. Predator" (more sci-fi than horror, but you get my point).

A new book from Beckett Comics also follows this template, fusing a story typically placed in the horror genre with a children's fairy tale. Ladies and gentlemen, prepare for Frankenstein Meets Pinocchio in the original graphic novel "The Cobbler's Monster," written by Jeff Amano (President of Beckett Comics) with art by Craig Rousseau. CBR News contacted Amano to find out more about this new twist on an old tale, and as a bonus, he also gave us a quick explanation about the company's publishing deal with Image (who is putting out this OGN as well).

"The story takes place in New York City, Hyde Park and the Adirondacks in the late 1800's," Amano said of his book's settings. "In our story, Gepetto's son, Victor, is dying from a disease that took his mother as well. Unwilling to go through such torment a second time, Gepetto – with the help of his friends – mixes the new science of DNA with the old magic of the Kabbalah so that his son can live through a 'golemized' body."

With everyone from Madonna to Ashton Kutcher declaring their devotion to the Kabbalah, the story could be seen as having loose ties to the present. However, the writer emphasized that the book's main inspiration comes from the past.

"I read the original 'Frankenstein' novel and was struck by the father-son theme that I never noticed before in the book or ever seen in any film version. For some reason, it brought to mind similar concepts in the Pinocchio story which drove me again to the original source. From there, everything gelled."

As for the time it takes to complete a graphic novel, Amano indicated that the secret is careful coordination with your collaborative partners. "There was some scheduling juggling because of previous commitments, but it took about six months from the start of the script to the lettering of the last page."

Boris Karloff's "Frankenstein" movie has long been considered a classic horror film. But most movie critics (along with fans of the novel) would probably argue though that the book is a heartbreaking drama about life and the need for love and acceptance. As this graphic novel contains elements of both "Frankenstein" and "Pinocchio," we asked Amano how he'd label his tale in terms of genre.

"While horrific things happen in the story, I personally would classify it as a drama. It's about a man and his son trying vainly to touch each other while never quite reaching out at the same time. As with many father-son relationships today, they're like two ships passing in the night. You think they're about to make contact, but they're actually miles apart."

For fans who are more familiar with the "Pinocchio" elements of this story, you may wonder if the wooden boy's "Blue Fairy" will be making an appearance. Amano's only response to this was, "Not unless you count my VP of Creative Affairs, Gabe Benson. Man, he's going to poison my coffee for that one..."

And while we're on the topic of Beckett Comics, approximately one year ago – in May 2005 – the company announced a publishing deal with Image. "The Cobbler's Monster" is being published through Image as part of that agreement. This may lead to some confusion for those not familiar with industry dealings and processes, and cause one to wonder: is it an Image book? Or is it a Beckett book? The answer actually depends on how you want to look at it.

"Image publishes all of our books, so 'The Cobbler's Monster' is a Beckett book like 'Jurassic Park' is a Michael Crichton book; but it's an Image book in the sense that 'Jurassic Park' is a Ballantine Book," Amano explained. "Okay, that was supposed to make it simpler and clearer, but I think I failed."

In an attempt to clarify, CBR News asked Amano to go into a bit more detail. Prior to the deal with Image, Beckett Comics was published through Beckett Publications (makes sense, right?). Since this is no longer the case, the question becomes: are Beckett Comics and Beckett Publications still "connected" in any way?

As president of Beckett Comics, Amano clarified, "No, we are no longer a part of Beckett Publications, which was bought by Apprise Media and is now called Beckett Media. Our company is called Beckett Entertainment Partners, LLC and is owned by original Beckett Publications founder and owner, Jim Beckett III. And yes, I am a co-owner of BEP LLC.

"We are just a couple of guys telling stories whose publisher is Image Comics. The only major difference between us and many other Image Central authors is that we (Beckett Comics) pay our artists a page rate and, therefore, retain all our creative rights."

Before any hopeful comic creators start to ponder the possibility of submitting works to Beckett, Amano gave an addendum to his clarification. "We don't accept submissions because we are no longer a publisher. We're creators that are fortunate enough to be able to afford to hire other creative talent to complete the project. Sometimes I will do the covers, as in the case of 'The Cobbler's Monster,' and sometimes I'll do the whole book, as in the case with 'Fade From Grace.' But most of the time, we use contracted creative teams."

In talking about his upcoming plans, the writer was happy to talk about his next project. "We have another OGN coming out in October called 'Red Warrior: An Assassin for the Thieves World.' I did the story and cover art with Andy MacDonald ('NYC Mech') on pencils and inks. A 16-page preview will be given away from our booth in the Image section at Comic-Con International this July.

"'Red Warrior' deals with the Russian 'Mafiya' and a new wave of Russian martial arts, while centered around an assassin who falls in love with an asset. In the midst of an underworld conspiracy, Tolik (the aforementioned assassin) may be too busy taking lives to stop and save the one life he values most – Elena."

When Beckett Publishing was putting out Beckett Comics, the catalog consisted of a handful of series priced at $1.99 per issue (a great deal by today's standards). Since the deal with Image, the company's solicitations have exclusively been graphic novels. This is definitely no coincidence, according to Amano.

"In our analysis, we find that it only makes sense to do singles if you are doing a continuing series. That's the only way the series will eventually pay off. Now, note that I am talking about a production scheme where you are paying page rates. If you're not doing that, then this scheme does not apply – at least directly. However, if you're doing a limited series then moving on to a new property, then OGNs are the most sensible way to go. Not 'sensible,' mind you – just 'most' sensible. Ha, ha…"

In addition, one of the reasons publishers and creators are so interested in the "graphic novel route" is that it opens up the possibility of bookstores as an outlet. While graphic novels have a higher cost to produce, the exposure granted by being on a Barnes & Noble shelf outweighs the economic drawbacks, the Beckett President explained.

"We think that our stories and format is very conducive to the mass market, given a chance. We are experiencing some proof of that now with the interest Hollywood has taken in our books. So we'd like to get it out there, and we're really depending on the smart guys at Image Comics to pull it off for us."

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