You probably aren't familiar with Joshua Williamson. As a comics writer, he's only got four professional projects to his name, all published since 2007. But while comics readers may not be that familiar with Williamson, Hollywood is. This week, Kickstart Productions announced they're optioning Williamson's all-ages title "Dear Dracula" - and since his Desperado Publishing series "Necessary Evil" is already in development with Cartoon Network, that makes Williamson two for four at getting his projects picked up by Hollywood.
CBR News caught up with the 28-year-old Oregon resident to talk about his comics series and the media deals for "Necessary Evil" and "Dear Dracula."
At the end of January, Cartoon Network announced they were developing Williamson's "Necessary Evil" as part of the network's new live-action TV initiative. The comic book tells the story of two brothers, the sons of the world's greatest supervillainess. After the boys' mother is killed by a superhero, the brothers are enrolled in the Necessary Evil Academy - a school for supervillains.
Williamson and artist Marcus L. Harris published nine issues of "Necessary Evil" through Desperado Publishing in 2007 and 2008, with a tenth issue planned for an online release. Williamson said the story's jump from page to airwaves is pretty straightforward; that his manager took the property to some people in television, who took it to Cartoon Network, who liked it.
"I hate making it sound so blah, but that's how it happened," Joshua Williamson told CBR.
The "Necessary Evil" show is still pretty early in its development, but Williamson is liking the experience so far. "Everyone at Cartoon Network is great to work with," he said. "The scripts have been super exciting and I'm really happy with how it's all turning out. The main characters' translations from comic to screen so far have been awesome. I didn't completely believe it until Mark Sable [writer of Image's 'Grounded' and BOOM! Studios' 'Unthinkable'] e-mailed me congratulating me. He's friends with one of the show's writers, so he knew ahead of most people. That was when it actually set in."
Since his work on "Necessary Evil," Williamson's had several projects picked up by Shadowline, Jim Valentino's imprint at Image Comics. His most recent Shadowline books are "Johnny Monster" and "Overlook," two very different projects. "'Johnny Monster' is a three-issue miniseries that just ended, about a kid who was raised by huge subterranean monsters," Williamson explained. "Now he fights them to protect them." What that means precisely, Williamson said, readers will just have to find out by picking up the book.
"Overlook," on the other hand, "is about a dirty loser prize-fighter, Mickey, who takes a job to kill a mobster's wife and return the money she took," Williamson told CBR. Once again, there's a twist. "If he pulls off the job, in return the mobster will kill off anyone of Mickey's choosing."
Williamson's found his two 2009-debuting projects fun to write, especially because they're such opposites. "With 'Johnny Monster' being superhero fun and 'Overlook' a crime story, it helped me challenge myself and to stretch out two different types of writer-muscles."
Williamson's first book with Valentino's branch of Image was "Dear Dracula," published through all-ages sub-label Silverline and illustrated by Vicente Navarrete. "Dear Dracula," the story of a little boy who writes to Dracula on Halloween the way other children write to Santa Claus on Christmas, has now been optioned for development by Kickstart Productions.
Most comics fans are probably familiar with Kickstart, or at least their projects. The company produced the film adaptation of Mark Millar's "Wanted," the "Wolverine and the X-Men" cartoon series, and even an animated pilot based on Mike Mignola's cult comic book "The Amazing Screw-On Head." Kickstart's interest in "Dear Dracula" is long-standing. "Last year, long before the book was out, [Kickstart founder] Jason Netter came to us with interest in the book," Williamson said. "Like all things Hollywood, [the deal] just took a while to come together."
The "Dear Dracula" creators and Netter briefly talked about producing the film in stop-motion animation, but they've settled on releasing it as a computer animated cartoon instead, with Williamson and Navarrete writing the first draft of the screenplay. "Jason has been really good about letting us keep our vision and tone for the story," Williamson said.
Writing the screenplay has turned out to be an opportunity to add some elements of the story that were cut in the original book, and it's letting Williamson and Navarrete pick up where the original story left off. "We've taken the book and just added a whole new level to it," Williamson said. "We've kept everything from the book and expanded on it. If people enjoyed the book, they're going to love the movie."
Fans will be seeing more of Williamson's work soon, both in comics and in Hollywood - but right now, the writer isn't allowed to say where. "Pretty much everything I'm working on now, I can't talk about yet," he said. "It drives me nuts that I can't share it, but it's better off a secret for now. Lately, my time has been pretty evenly split between the comic world and the film/TV one. Once a few things are announced, I'll be able to talk more openly. The next few years are going to be very interesting and exciting!"