BY JENNIFER M. CONTINOScott Christian Sava
told THE PULSE
his latest graphic novel, My Grandparents Are Secret Agents
is like "Austin Powers
meets Grumpy Old Men
." If you can imagine that, then you'll look at the elderly in your life very differently when any one of them is adjusting his or her hearing aid, dentures or hair pieces, because you'll never know if they've got a secret weapon in there! Going up against the Purple Haze, these grandparents have a weekend to save the world and keep their grandchildren entertained. It's a tough line to walk! THE PULSE: Just hearing the title, My Grandparents are Secret Agents, I'm left thinking it's a generation next for Spy Kids ....
SCOTT CHRISTIAN SAVA:
It's a little bit Spy Kids
... true. But it's mostly Austin Powers
meets Grumpy Old men. My Grandparents are Secret Agents
is about two kids who stay with their grandparents for the weekend, while their parents take some time away for their anniversary.
During that weekend ... the world is under siege from the criminal mastermind named "Purple Haze." He's stealing high tech parts to build a time machine to take him -- and everyone else -- back to the '60s.
The grandparents work for Social Security's secret cover ops division. The fun part is that all of the little things you see your grandparents deal with: false teeth, hearing aids, pacemakers, a toupee; they're all actually weapons to battle evil.
So a hair piece could be plastic explosives, hearing aid can be a two way radio, and false teeth (when coupled with dental floss) can be a grappling hook.
It's quirky and fun ... just like grandparents.THE PULSE: That explains why my grandfather has his denture cream in that locked strong box ...! You mentioned Austin Powers, Spy Kids and Grumpy Old Men; who if anyone, did you base your kids and grandparents upon? Any real people you looked to for inspiration on fleshing these folks out?
Well my parents for sure. My dad (AKA THE SICILIAN) kind of fits the description. My mom (AKA THE DIVA) DEFINITELY fits that description. But I think the characters in My Grandparents are Secret Agents
are much more watered down from their real life counterparts. My parents are more like the Barones from Everybody loves Raymond
. JUST like them. [laughs]
The kids are named after my Godfather's grandchildren Alyssa and Nicholas. Since the book was dedicated to the memory of my Godfather who died while writing this book, I thought it appropriate.THE PULSE: How'd you come up with the Purple Haze? Wasn't that a Jimi Hendrix song?
Ha ha...yeah. I'm not a huge Jimi Hendrix fan...but the name really just popped to me.
I mean a retired person these days WOULD be children of the '60s. So imagine someone who's now forced into retirement and suddenly a grandpa and realizing ... they're OLD.
It'd be a shock to the system for some old hippies out there. I figure...it's not too far fetched that one resourceful old guy might actually try to find a way back to the days of Free Love and Woodstock.
That's what Purple Haze is all about. Being groovy and being cool.THE PULSE: It sounds like a fun idea, having grandparents who are secret agents, but what sets this apart from any of those kid friendly spy type films?
Most kid friendly spy type movies have the kids or young beautiful/handsome actors playing spies. My Grandparents are Secret Agents
has your grandparents saving the day. And the equipment and villains are all wacky and goofy.
I see grandparents as having something they can read with their grandchildren and when their grandkids look up and say, "Are you a secret agent, grandma?" The grandmother can look down and wink and say, "I can't tell you that, Timmy. Or I'd have to kill you".
Well ... maybe not THOSE exact lines, but you get the picture.THE PULSE: What did your own kids think of this story? Do you have them beta read your comics or anything?
They loved it. They always seem to latch on to one gag or another in each of these books. The ones they keep repeating are "AGH Tastes like Motor Oil" when the robot dog S.N.A.C.K.S. licks anyone, and of course the funny names of the different scientists who are being kidnapped by the Purple Haze. Names like Marcel Francois Le Poo Poo (from France) and Schnitzel Von Hoffelshoff (from Germany). Kids just love it when you read to them. They really do. My boys are now six and learning to read for themselves in Kindergarten. So we're now practicing on these books. Starting with Ed's Terrestrials
and working our way up.
I adjust my writing as I go based on what they laugh at (usually poop and fart jokes) and try to make the books enjoyable for both parents as well as boys and girls.THE PULSE: Do your children influence a lot of what you're doing now? I mean, since I've known you, you've mostly done all-ages friendly books, but, being a dad, how does that affect you when you're considering the elements to add to a comic book story?
They do affect me greatly. It's so hard juggling between what kids want, what retailers want, and what Hollywood wants. I put the kids first. It has to be fun for them. But you dont' talk down to them. I try to use bigger words when I can. So they can learn. But also keep it "low brow" in places so they can laugh. Physical comedy is just the greatest. If you can smack a pie in the face, bonk your head, or crash a car, they're happy.
But retailers (especially librarians) want the books to fit within a certain age limit. So if my books are being sold to 5-10 year olds, you can't use the word "STUPID" and they frown on too many "big words".
Hollywood wants the books to have older characters so they can get Ben Stiller
or Hugh Jackman
or Will Ferrel
to play the parts. But how many kids want to read books about 40 year old men?
So you put the kids first, you write the best story you can, and you cross your fingers everyone is happy.THE PULSE: What kind of track record have you had so far? I know there's a lot of buzz around your books, but which ones have performed phenomenally and which didn't quite reach that mark you aimed for?
Well I don't really know. The books officially came out in the winter. So I've not heard how they're doing other than IDW saying they're "doing well". But in this economy, who knows what that means?Ed's Terrestrials
seems to be doing good. Pet Robots
is probably our biggest seller in this line. But that's mainly, I'm sure, due to Disney
making it into a live action feature film. Hyperactive
has been getting wonderful reviews, I think mostly due to Joseph Bergin III's
And My Grandparents are Secret Agents
I HOPE is doing good, but we're only a week in. The Dreamland Chronicles
is a different animal altogether, and therefore I don't think it's fair to put it up against these books.
I think we're (IDW
and Blue Dream Studios
) in it for the long haul. These books are going all be sitting next to each other in the Kids Graphic Novel section of Barnes and Noble
. We have four in stores already, and four more coming out in the next six months. Hopefully when a parent buys one -- and the child likes it -- they'll go back and try the rest.
Also, the movie deals will definitely help with the sales. And we have almost every one of these set up or being set up at studios as we speak. So we just need to be patient and let word get out about them all ...THE PULSE: What is the status of some of the announced movie deals?
Well Pet Robots SHOULD be going into production by the summer. Just waiting on the final draft of the screenplay.Magic Carpet, Hyperactive, My Grandparents are Secret Agents
, and of course The Dreamland Chronicles
already have actors and actresses, writers, and production companies attached, and we're working out the distribution deals now.
These things take time, especially in this market.
One thing I don't want to do is go announcing books being optioned and then nothing happening with them.
So I'm working with an incredible producer who's making sure the movies are ready to go into production before we even sell it, much less announce it. It's just annoying with all the announcements of things getting optioned every week. I don't think people should announce anything until it's ready to go into production. But that's just me.
And of course you'll probably see announcements from the studios that MY books have been optioned once we finalize everything. [laughs] But rest assured, it's not MY doing.THE PULSE: How surreal does all this feel to you?
MEH. Coming from Hollywood...you kind of get sick of it. It's all talk. All of it.
My wife Donna says,"I won't believe it until we're walking down the red carpet for the premiere". I kind of have to agree with you.
Hollywood is all about "spinning things". They love to announce big deals, big stars, etc. But they have such short attention spans. You just don't want to go announcing anything unless you're 100% certain.
Also, as an animator, I'd get offers to work on HUGE projects weekly. And 99 out of 100 would fail. They'd never happen. So you just become a skeptic. You grow a thicker skin. So as surreal as all of this sounds -- it's just talk. It's really talk that you shouldn't be talking about. It's MAYBE TALK.
Now, on the FLIP side ....
The optimist in me says. It's TOTALLY surreal. It's amazing having studios want to turn your comics into movies. I'm really stoked. Sometimes you get excited about it despite the fact that you know it's all talk. I guess that's the little kid in us all.THE PULSE: You seem to always be working on a dozen or so things at any given moment, give us the rundown of what you have recently released or have coming out soon?
Since October, we've released Ed's Terrestrials, Pet Robots, Hyperactive, The Dreamland Chronicles Book One, The Dreamland Chronicles Book Two, Nastajia
figure (toy), Kiwi Figure, the Felicity Figure, the Alexander Carter figure, Paddington Rumblebottom III Plush, The Dreamland Chronicles Book 3, My Grandparents are Secret Agents
, and upcoming is Cameron and his Dinosaurs
(March), Gary the Pirate
(April), The Luckiest Boy
(June), and Magic Carpet
I'm starting writing on two new projects. One called Bollypop
(with my buddy Kevin Grevioux
) and one called Animal Crackers
. You can see snippets of them all here: http://www.bluedreamstudios.com/books.htmlTHE PULSE: How did the deal with IDW come about?
Through Janna Morishima
over at Diamond Kids
. She hooked me up with Ted Adams
at IDW. I'd already known Alan Payne
(VP Sales) at IDW when we worked together at Malibu Comics
years ago. He's a great guy and the thought of working with him was a definite influence on my decision.
From what I can remember, IDW
was looking for more All Ages product and Janna recommended me and my studio. We were just starting out as a publisher and trying to figure it all out. I spoke to Ted and he (as the Godfather would say) "Made me an offer I couldn't refuse". So now Blue Dream Studios
is an imprint of IDW
and we're loving it.THE PULSE: Going to any conventions this season?
Yes. I'm doing Wonder Con in two weeks, Then Heroes Con, San Diego, Baltimore, and a new one in Nashville: Middle Tennessee Anime Convention. I'd like to attend some anime conventions. If possible. I think that might be more my fanbase for the Dreamland
. But we'll see.
My Grandparents Are Secret Agents
is in stores now from Sava and artists Juan Saavedra Mourgues
and Christian Gonzalez