The first thing you notice when you pick up the "Punisher" from Marvel Comics is Tim Bradstreet's dark, moody and dynamic covers. Bradstreet's covers set the tone for the blood soaked, bullet-ridden tale inside the book. So, it's no surprise that he has created a series of promotional images and posters for the "The Punisher" movie from Lion's Gate Films, which opened, nationwide Friday. CBR News recently talked with Bradstreet via e-mail about his Punisher film work, and his other comic and film related projects.
When Bradstreet learned production had begun on the latest big screen adaptation of Marvel Comics most lethal vigilante, he offered his talents to the Punisher production staff. "I found out that they were going into pre-production with it so I deduced that it had been green lit. I called a friend in the industry to get me the number for Gale Anne Hurd's production office. It turned out that this guy was a good friend of Gale Hurd and also her husband Jonathan Hensleigh, who just happened to be writing and directing the film. He put us in touch and Jonathan and I hit it off. The rest is inexplicable history," Bradstreet said.
Hensleigh and the film's star Thomas Jane were both inspired by Bradstreet's cover work on "The Punisher" comic. Many scenes in "The Punisher" film will seem vaguely familiar to fans of Bradstreet's work. "The tone of the character, some of the lighting, and definitely the way Tom looks and is dressed is influenced in part by the work that I have done on the comic. I don't think fans will mistake it. It's all there," said Bradstreet.
Bradstreet created a series of five promotional illustrations for The Punisher movie. These images can be found in a number of places including The Punisher Army Web site. "All 5 are everywhere on the net as advertisements. Some are on billboards and buses. I just saw the layout for Carlo Siliotto's 'Punisher' score and my art will be on the cover of that as well. All 5-teaser designs will also be 40X60 subway posters. I'm pretty sure they may be using teaser 5 as the cover for the DVD," Bradstreet said.
In addition to the five teaser images, Bradstreet got to fulfill a dream by designing two one-sheet movie posters for the film. One poster features Thomas Jane as the Punisher and the other poster depicts the film's villain Howard Saint, played by John Travolta.
Bradstreet took photos of Thomas Jane to help create his Punisher designs. The two had a great time on the photo shoot. "Working with Tom was easy. He's very much just a regular fella. He's just as geeked about comics as anyone else. Very easy to work with. He gave me a lot of cool shots to choose from. We had him for two hours and he stayed three and a half to accommodate us. He was having fun too. That's what I try and do at a shoot, just relax and have fun," Bradstreet said
During their photo shoot, Jane demonstrated to Bradstreet why he was the right choice to play Frank Castle. "Jane has the quintessential steely look. He absolutely smolders when he sets that jaw and throws me that look of grim determination. He had some stubble that day too, which I am happy for. It added some grit and a bit of character, which complimented the whole thing perfectly. I kinda felt like I was shooting Clint Eastwood from the early 70's, Joe Kidd, High Plains Drifter time frame. I don't think this requires more elaboration than that. He's perfect as far as I'm concerned." Bradstreet explained.
Once he had the photographs, Bradstreet began his illustrations. Illustrating the images was a difficult but rewarding task for the artist. "Creating the illustrations was hard at first because of all of the approvals. They were leaving it up to me to come up with concepts so I had a great deal of freedom. They trusted me to find the vibe and tone of where we all wanted to go with the look and attitude of the character. It was grueling at times, but I never lost sight of the fact that I was creating art for something that I have fantasized about doing for over 20 years, a film poster! To say that I am blessed would be an understatement."
Bradstreet wasn't able photograph John Travolta for the Howard Saint poster. "I created that poster from a head shot photographed by the unit photographer, Gene Page. The body is a double. My pal Scott Harben stood in for Travolta and did the shoot for that as well. We matched everything together and I came up with a background for it along with a skull design that I truly stumbled onto which I absolutely love. Travolta gave it a big thumbs up so that is very gratifying," said Bradstreet.
Bradstreet's "Punisher" one-sheets should be available through most movie poster dealers. The artist plans on selling signed copies of the posters through his Web site. Eventually, he hopes to have some watercolor paper artist proofs of the pieces available on the site, including a limited number possibly signed by Thomas Jane.
The "Punisher" was not the first film Bradstreet has worked on. He designed many of the characters that appeared in "Blade 2". Bradstreet worked with Director Guillermo Del Toro, writer David Goyer and an art team composed of many of the same people who went on to design for Del Toro's "Hellboy" film. "Guillermo brought me in because we'd been wanting to work together. There was a feeling going around that the first film had some visual ties to the work I'd done with White Wolf for 'Vampire.' The lighting, the attitude, the style. Guillermo told me I'd get credit this time," Bradstreet joked. "He knew exactly how he wanted to utilize the artists he brought in. I handled designing the characters of the 'Bloodpack' and the character of 'Nomak' in his less-reaper-like look. Mike Mignola worked on some creepy set design, costumes, icons, and all kinds of stuff. Wayne Barlowe designed the physiology of the 'Reapers,' and TyRubin Ellingson does what he always does for Guillermo, design cool gadgets, weapons, vehicles, and anything else Guillermo dreams up. It was a great team of guys," said Bradstreet.
Writer/Director David Goyer's "Blade 3: Trinity" hits theaters this December, but Bradstreet is not involved in the production. "I contacted Goyer when he was going into pre-production for 'Blade 3' offering my services but he never got back to me as far as I know. I got along with him very well on Blade 2. He's a very talented guy. I wish him the best of luck with this film. I wish I could have been along for the ride."
John Constantine, another character close to Bradstreet's heart, will stroll onto movie screens next year. Bradstreet provides the covers for Vertigo's monthly "Hellblazer" book and would love to do some promotional work for "Constantine," the film adaptation of "Hellblazer" starring Keanu Reeves, which is currently in production. "I think it would be an absolute trip to get a shot at doing a one-sheet for that. Send Laura Donner a bunch of mail. I may be known for doing a certain kind of thing with the regular covers, which may not be the kind of thing they are looking for, but I think it's fairly clear that I can grasp what it takes to bring it to another level. I'd love a shot at that. I know the nuts and bolts of that character inside and out. Applying it to Keanu would be a fun challenge and a great opportunity," Bradstreet explained.
Bradstreet's poster art and conceptual designs have impressed many people and has more film work already lined up. " I will be doing more poster art. I think it's safe to mention that I will definitely be working on the 'Punisher' sequel. Avi Arad absolutely loves the teaser designs and one-sheets. I've got another thing I'm talking about with Avi and Marvel that will be an absolute scream to pull off. People are gonna freak out when we get going on this. I've also got another gig lined up with a different studio but cannot elaborate at this time. I'm leaving for Italy in a few weeks to begin work on a 3D animated film. I'll be doing character design, art direction, and conceptual. I'll be gone for 6 months. It will truly be an incredible film. Can't say what it is yet but I can tell you that it will get a major release here in the states," Bradstreet said.
Bradstreet enjoys working on both comics and films for different reasons. "They are both extremely satisfying in their own ways. Working in film is a bigger stage. Way more people see that stuff. As far as conceptual design work in film you have to realize that it's a much more collaborative art form. I create a character, and then you involve the costumer, make-up artists and so forth. With posters I am working by myself and it is very rewarding. In comics it's just you, your vision, your execution, almost total control. I like working anywhere that I get a chance to do what I love," he explained.
Bradstreet's main comic work consists of designing covers. Besides "The Punisher" and "Hellblazer" Bradstreet has done covers for Garth Ennis's "Unknown Soldier " mini series from Vertigo and Marvel Max's "Blade" comic. Recently, he has provided some stunning covers for Devil's Due Publishing's new "G.I. Joe: Reloaded" comics.
Even though his cover and film work bring him much acclaim, Bradstreet also wants to do interior art for a monthly comic. The problem is finding time in his busy schedule. "It requires a lot of passion and focus for me to dedicate that amount of time and effort. I have something going on right now at Marvel, but I don't want to jinx it this early on by talking about it. There are two other major sequential things that I have in various stages of development. Give me a little more time and your going to see what I'm capable of," said Bradstreet.
Bradstreet has two other projects he is developing. The first is an art book called "Archetypes." "I love the concept and very much want to do it. As of now I'm compiling dozens of character material and photography. When I have enough I will start doing the illustrations in my spare time. The idea is to complete enough material to do one book, and then I'll begin to search for a publisher. I very much want to do it. Basically the plan is to create a full-page illustration of a character. I write the vital stats and elaborate about technical things - Like a bio thing. Then I will go out and get writers to create a story based on the illustration. Total carte blanche. They can write whatever they are inspired to write. Kind of a reverse artist/writer collaboration. I just think that would be cool," he explained.
The other project Bradstreet is developing is "Red Sky Diary" which he has spent a number of years developing the story and illustrating its main character, Gallows.
"'Red Sky Diary' is the tale of 'The Mudir Hunters.' The concept traces a legacy line of warriors, dating back to ancient Mongolia around the reign of Kublai Khan (circa 1281 AD) and leading up to the late 19th century. These warriors are working to eradicate a vampire-like species known as the Mudir (ancient Arabic for Demon). The guts of this story center around Kerulan Ulaan-Bataar, who goes by the name of Gallows. He is the last warrior of his line," Bradstreet explained.
"Red Sky Diary" won't appear in comic book stores. Bradstreet has considered turning the story into an illustrated novel that would be published in a large "coffee table book" format, but what he really wants to do is turn "Red Sky Diary" into a film. "Right now I'm working on a screenplay and having development meetings with studios. I want to work with a guy like John Milius on this. A man who is familiar with this kind of story and the historical time period I've chosen for the action to play out. Only time will tell. I want it to be a genre film with a lot of nasty elements and action that aspires to be Lawrence Of Arabia. It is truly epic in scope."