Some people out there are good-looking, some are talented, and some just happen to be in the right place at the right time. Then again, there are a handful of folks that fall into all three of these categories at once.
Don't you just hate those guys?
Except I don't. At least, not the following individual: actor-producer-comic writer/publisher Thomas Jane. He's starred in several fantastic films ("*61," "Stander"), he's had the opportunity to play comics' most popular antihero on the big screen ("The Punisher"), and he's partnered with two of the comic industry's top creators – Steve Niles and Tim Bradstreet – to create his own producing/publishing house, RAW Studios.
Really, I'm not jealous…much.
With RAW's release of the comic "Alien Pig Farm 3000" this Wednesday, CBR News managed to find a few minutes during Jane's hectic schedule so we could bring you an update on both his films and comics. Naturally, even when we found a moment in his schedule to chat, Jane was already on his way to his next adventure.
Hi Tom – thanks for finding some time in your day for us. Where are you at the moment?
Right now, I'm driving from New Orleans – I just left my family at Mardi Gras, we were having a little Mardi Gras weekend – and now I'm nursing a hangover and driving from New Orleans to Sri Port where we start shooting "The Mist" [based on the Stephen King novella] tomorrow. I'm 100 miles outside of Sri Port right now, ready to talk to you about comics and stuff, driving through the swamplands here.
Where is Sri Port?
TJ: It's in northern Louisiana.
Okay, well…drive carefully. To bring our readers up to speed, RAW is both a movie production company and a comic book studio, correct?
TJ: Yeah. Raw Entertainment is the movies, and Raw Studios is the comic books. Steve, Tim and I have the company, and Todd Farmer is doing "Alien Pig Farm 3000" for us, and we're just having a blast. Steve is developing his comic – "The Lurkers" – [into a film] over at Lions Gate, and I'm doing a movie called "The Dark Country" which I plan on shooting in 3D in the fall. So, we're just really having fun.
Sounds like it. Can you tell me anything else about "The Lurkers?"
TJ: Steve wrote the comic and he's adapting the screenplay from his comic. It's like a horror-noir, as I like to call it. It's a detective story with dead people. It's very cool, and in the vein of some of the classic detective noir movies. And I'll be playing Detective Jack Dietz.
And "The Dark Country?" Did you or Steve write that?
TJ: "The Dark Country" is written by guy named Tab Murphy. Tab and I hooked up on this project a few years ago. Steve and I are producing it, and Tab is a wonderful screenwriter. He's probably best known for writing "Tarzan" for Disney. He's terrific and he's written a very dark, nourish – again – thriller, kind of like a Coen Brothers/early Stanley Kubrick/Alfred Hitchcock film.
Are there monsters in this one?
TJ: I wouldn't say it's a monster, but there's a killer. We're also going to do a graphic novel. This is a much more realistic thriller.
Is Tab writing the graphic novel then?
TJ: Yeah. Tab actually wrote a short story that this screenplay is based on. What I'm doing is translating the short story into a graphic novel. I love the short story and think this will be really neat. Readers will get to read the short story through the graphic novel. I'll probably do it in kind of a Thomas Ott-style.
Nice. When you and Steve hear of a property, how do you determine whether it should be a film or comic? Or are you always looking at both?
TJ: We look at the story, and then try to decide what would best serve that. So, if we have a story, we might think, "Oh, this would be great as a comic." Like "Bad Planet," which we are just finishing up. That was always going to be a comic. We thought the scope and the scale of it made it best-suited for a comic. "Alien Pig Farm" was the same way. We just thought this would make a great comic. But we also thought, in the case of that particular one, that it might make a great movie. We'll then use the comic as a way of getting the story out there. And if it catches on, then we'll have a great basis for a film, which I'm excited about. "Alien Pig Farm" is basically aliens vs. redneck Kentucky pig farmers. It has a hillbilly/"Mars Attacks!" vibe to it, mixed with Lil' Abner. It's quality, heh.
Speaking of aliens, what's the status of "Bad Planet?" [NOTE: "Bad Planet" is a comic book miniseries written by Jane and Niles. One issue shipped in December 2005, but then the book was put on a "hiatus" of sorts due to a change in pencillers.]
TJ: Well, we'll be bringing "Bad Planet" out soon. You know, we had to get a new penciller, so that took awhile. It took awhile to find the right guy, and we also wanted to find someone that Tim Bradstreet wanted to ink. But we found that guy in Jim Daley. Jim came from the computer gaming design industry, and we pulled him away from that long enough for him to do six glorious issues of "Bad Planet." So we're really excited about him and how the art is turning out. Jim is finishing up issue #5 right now. So we'll resolicit issue #1 – for those who missed it the first time – soon, and number two should come out in July. Fans should be on the lookout for the solicitation soon.
We kinda learned from our mistakes the first go-round, and this time I decided to get all six issues in the can and ready to go before I brought them out so I could be consistent on a monthly basis, instead of having a book come out once a year. We've done that with "Alien Pig Farm," too. All four books are in the can – they're finished and colored and the covers are done. The whole series is ready to ship. I think it's a great luxury to be able to do that because it ensures that the books will come out on time.
I agree. Lateness does seem to be an issue killing many good books and it's nice to see you being proactive about it.
TJ: Yeah, we want to be able to be consistent. We had trouble, as you know, hitting our deadlines on the first one because we lost our penciller. That set us back a few months, so, yeah, that was a tough one. But I figured if we got them all in the can right off the bat, and then solicited, we wouldn't have that issue.
What else do you feel you've learned about the comic book industry since you opened your doors at RAW Studios?
TJ: Well, I'm always surprised by how the readership has shrunk. When I was younger and buying comics, even [companies like] Pacific Comics or Eclipse or Dark Horse – they were shipping fifty thousand or a hundred thousand of their books. Now, if we do fifteen thousand, we're golden, you know? And that's for an independent guy. And if Marvel is shipping thirty thousand of a book, that's a hit book. So, that's a little disappointing.
I was also surprised by how little variation there seems to be out there. It's 90 or 95% superhero stuff, wouldn't you say? And the room for something different – like a horror book or a detective crime story or science fiction – is virtually non-existent. Although, it does feel great that we can fill a niche that's been severely neglected and underlooked.
On the other hand, I do wish we (as readers) had more stuff out there – just on a selfish level – stuff that I could read. The last great thing I read was that Chris Weston book, "Ministry of Space." I mean, I read Warren Ellis' stuff whenever he puts a book out, because there's sci-fi stuff to be found there. Overall though, it just feels few and far between.
That's understandable. Well, how about getting an update on some other projects you're working on over at RAW. I hear you have something called "In The Blood," – is there anything new on that one?
TJ: That's a werewolf story by Steve, and I'm not sure what we're doing with that at the moment. We're hunting for the right artist right now, but I'm not fully sure what Steve has in mind for that one. We'd love to set it up as a film, and get a good artist on it. It's just a great werewolf story. There's this kid who's a werewolf, and in the beginning, he's being chased through the woods by a cop. He gets away, goes home, and the cop walks through the door and it's his dad. And of course, the cop has no idea that his kid is a werewolf. I like that hook. It's a really good hook.
It is! And what about another project you're developing – "The Amateur Kind?"
TJ: That's an original script that I wrote with David James Kelly. Again, we want to do that as a graphic novel and set it up as a film. The script is done and ready to go, it's just, we're very picky about our artists and artists are harder and harder to come by. The independent world is tough, because Marvel and DC are signing all the good guys to these exclusives, which is great for the artists because it gives them some guaranteed work and insurance and all that. It's just hard for us to compete, because we're looking for top-notch artists as well, but they all get snatched up by the big guys.
It just takes awhile to find guys who are in-between contracts or freelancers who aren't extremely busy. Comic books just take a long time to do, you know? The work itself takes a long time, and then just lining up everyone's schedule so that you can carve out a time in these artists' schedules is tricky.
TJ: And speaking of great artists, have you seen any of the "Alien Pig Farm" covers yet [drawn by Mark Schultz and Phil Stout]?
Yeah, I have. They look great!
And on that note, how did you guys get involved with "Alien Pig Farm?"
TJ: I hooked up with Todd Farmer, and we were just batting ideas back and forth. And Todd told me that one of the ideas he was batting around in the back of his head was this rednecks vs. aliens thing. And I was like "That's great!" I loved it! So Steve, Todd and I sat down, had a couple of bull sessions and hashed out the story. We worked out an outline and then sent Todd off to write it, which he did a spectacular job with. Todd turned it in, and then we tweaked it here and there with him and sent it off to the artist. So that was a really fun experience for everybody. Everybody seemed to have a blast on it.
Don Marquez, who actually Steve Niles was a fan of, was picked for the artist job, and I think he did a great job. And artist Phil Stout had once written Don a fan letter, and Don said that he was a huge fan of Stout's, so I got a hold of Stout and said that Don was doing this series for us, and Phil agreed to do a couple of covers. And then Schultz, of course, we had worked with on "Bad Planet." He did the cover for issue #3, which is going to be in 3D by the way. So, that was a match made in heaven to have Mark Schultz and Phil Stout trading off on covers for "Alien Pig Farm." It just raises the game and makes it very exciting for me. I'm really proud of the book and can't wait to get people's reaction.
Cool. Just out of curiosity, how often do you and Steve talk about your projects? Daily? Weekly?
TJ: Well, sometimes we talk every day, depending on what we're working on. Other times, it's a couple of times a week. We're just trying to keep all the balls in the air, you know? We're always working on something. Steve and I are cooking up a couple of ideas right now, now that Bad Planet's wrapping up. We've always got stuff to talk about or we're swapping comics, or meeting up at the House of Secrets [a comic book shop] over there in Burbank.
Has there been anything you've read lately that you really enjoyed?
TJ: I really liked "Criminal." It's a great book. That impressed me a lot.
I enjoyed it, too. And do you have any update for the fans on a "Punisher 2" film? Does it look like it's going to happen?
TJ: Well, the problem has always been getting a decent script. We actually have a script that's being turned in this week and we all have our fingers crossed, you know? We'd love to do it. Everybody wants to do it, but we all want to make a good movie. It starts with the script. We've gotta get a good script, and then we'll be ready to rock. The plan is to start the "Punisher 2" in June; of course, I think I said that last year, too.
Anything else you want to add?
TJ: "Alien Pig Farm" comes out in April. Buy it!
Tom, thy will be done.
However, if any fan needs more convincing, they can check back here at CBR for a chat with the creative team behind "Alien Pig Farm 3000" as their book arrives in stores this Wednesday.
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