WC10: "Frankie Stein" Is Alive!

Do you ever feel like you don't fit in with everyone else - that no matter where you go in life, there is something about yourself that's a little bit, well, off?

If so, you have more in common with "Frankie Stein" than you might initially think.

Announced at WonderCon 2010 as part of Man of Action's deal with Image Comics, writer Steven T. Seagle is teaming up with his "Soul Kiss" collaborator Marco Cinello to tackle a new children's book called "Frankie Stein." The story tells the tale of young Frankie, a young child that lives outside of Transylvania, Pennsylvania and is more or less your typical youth - aside from the bolts, scars and green flesh, that is.

"The town rumor is that he's a monster boy - that his dad, Stanley, assembled him from leftover parts," Seagle told CBR News in an exclusive interview. "But as far as Frankie knows, he's just a normal kid. And that's the story here, something most kids can relate to, that idea of, 'Do I fit in, or am I some kind of freak?'"

"Frankie Stein" takes place during Halloween night and presents the young protagonist with his first opportunity to explore the world around him. "Frankie, a kid who was born, grew up in and has never ventured outside his home of Castle Stein, decides to make a break and find out if his father's warning that the world outside is full of monsters is true," said Seagle. "But the day he chooses to make this journey, his birthday, also happens to be on October 31st - Halloween! So, needless to say, he finds some freaks out that night."

Although "Frankie Stein" is designed as a children's book, Seagle said that older comic book readers would find plenty to enjoy about the story. "I love kids books," he said. "I love the art. I love the design. I love the simplicity of the storytelling. Kids books also usually have a great character humanity that's all but evaporated from comics lately. And the art on this book is just as cool as it gets. Marco did a highly graphic, but incredibly detailed painting style that's just eye-popping, so if people like that kind of stuff - or if there are any comics readers out there with kids, and I've met a few thousand of you this year through my Man of Action show 'Ben 10' - I think 'Frankie Stein' will be great fun for them."

With mature titles like "American Virgin" to his name, Seagle's involvement in a children's book might be surprising to some fans. However, the writer said that he's long hoped for the opportunity to tackle the medium. "I actually used to read children's books out loud to children at a kid-oriented Los Angeles bookstore called Storyopolis and I always thought, 'I should write one of these, it'd be easy,'" he said. "But that's so not true! It's actually difficult to keep the plot interesting, keep the wording simple, and keep the storytelling clear all at once. That's a tough balancing act. I just recently went back in and completely redeveloped the narrative stance in the script to strengthen those elements. The book is more in the William Joyce children's book wheelhouse than the Dr. Seuss kind of world."

Even if some readers are surprised by Seagle's decision to pursue a children's book, it's hardly a stretch for the writer himself. "I'm very used to working in extremely different spaces," he explained. "I was once profiled in 'KidScreen Magazine' and 'Hustler' in the same week, so I obviously like working on a broad spectrum of material. It fires different pistons. Doing a kids book taught me interesting things about storytelling that will now find their way back into my mature readers work."

If nothing else, Seagle at least has a familiar collaborator on board in the form of Cinello, who he worked with on last year's "Soul Kiss" from Image. "I call Marco 'The Crazy Italian' because he is both Italian and crazy, but his particular mania is an unbridled work enthusiasm," said Seagle. "He knocks himself out drawing this stuff and it's just not possible to be around him and not be infected by his desire to create stuff."

Despite Seagle and Cinello's healthy creative partnership, "Frankie Stein" hasn't been without some birthing pains. After some difficulties with the book's initial publisher, the creators decided to give "Frankie Stein" a bit of an overhaul. "Our original publisher IDW solicited the book, then decided to wait a year, then decided they couldn't do children's books profitably in the direct market at all - then, like a year later, they started a whole division of kids books and never called us back!" the writer said. "So when my Man of Action partners Joe Kelly, Joe Casey, Duncan Rouleau and I started an imprint through Image, I just thought, why not put this book out myself instead of looking for a publisher? Being able to do exactly what I wanted, I felt Marco and I had to go back and make this book even stronger."

With "Frankie Stein" still a few months away from release, Seagle and Cinello are already looking ahead at their next collaboration. "We've already started on our next project together - an original graphic novel in the vein of my Vertigo Superman book, 'It's A Bird,'" said Seagle. "We're actually developing 'Soul Kiss' for TV with a major Hollywood producer. We've discussed a number of extension and sequel possibilities for the show, which may find their way back into comics, but for now, Marco and I are knee deep in the new project."

Additionally, Cinello is helping Seagle on another project that was announced at WonderCon - Image Comics is collecting "The Crusades," Seagle's Vertigo Comics series co-created by Kelley Jones, in two new 256-page hardcover volumes featuring new covers from Jones, interviews and other bonus material.

"Kelley Jones and I have long wanted to collect 'The Crusades,' but we could never get DC to move on it," said Seagle. "A few years ago, we started requesting a reversion so we could put a collection out ourselves. DC repeatedly declined. This year, DC suddenly decided they were going to put out a collection, but it really was not the kind of book Kelley and I wanted, so we lobbied for reversion again. Just before his departure, Paul Levitz reconsidered and reverted the property to us, for which we are very grateful. With Man of Action already set up at Image, the fit seemed a no-brainer. Now, Kelley and I - along with an enormous amount of digital help from Marco Cinello - are able to present 'The Crusades: Knight & Dei,' two hardcover volumes collecting the entire run."

Seagle said that while the collection of "The Crusades" doesn't mean that new stories are on the way, he still has plans to work with Jones at some point in the future. "I definitely want to work with Kelley again," he said. "We had more that we wanted to do with 'The Crusades,' but I'm really at a place where I want to keep doing new projects right now. And so I've written a graphic novel for Kelley that I'm hoping he'll find some time to draw in the near future. Though not a 'Crusades' story, it does feature two characters from that book in a supporting role."

Looking beyond "Frankie Stein" and "The Crusades," Seagle may or may not announce a new Image Comics collaboration with "Madman" creator Mike Allred at some point in the future - a non-announcement that the pair has been teasing for quite some time. "Just to clarify, Mike and I never said we were not doing a comic book - we simply announced and have continued to affirm that we are not announcing a comic book in 2010," said Seagle. "We will continue to not announce it in 2010, and may even revise its non-announcement as extending to 2011 given Mike's unexpected return to monthly comics with 'I, Zombie.' So continue to not look for that official announcement any day now from Image Comics!"

"Frankie Stein," written by Steven T. Seagle and illustrated by Marco Cinello, is expected to ship in the fall of 2010. The first volume of "The Crusades" arrives in stores on July 4, 2010.

Art from "The Crusades"

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