Collaborating With A Childhood Hero: Brandon Easton On Making A Wrestling OGN With Jim Cornette And More
by Gary Catig
Comic Con Revolution was held at the Ontario Convention Center on May 19th and 20th. The show had plenty to offer, and you can catch some of the sights from that weekend here. Among the many invited guests was accomplished creator Brandon Easton. The writer for television and comics has received prestigious honors and awards, from being a recipient of the ABC-Disney Writing Program to an Eisner nomination and three Glyph awards for Watson and Holmes. I had the pleasure chatting with Brandon during the con to talk about some of his current projects including Vampire Hunter D, Jim Cornette Presents: Behind the Curtain – Real Pro Wrestling Stories, and Incidentals.
Gary Catig: In addition to your comics work, you have also served as a script writer for TV. You have worked on animated shows like Transformers: Rescue Bots and Thundercats and also live action like Agent Carter. How would you compare and contrast writing for the two mediums, both animation and live action?
Brandon Easton: Usually when you think about animation versus live action, you gotta to consider cost. In a live action show, the budgetary restrictions and limitations are tremendous. In animation, you can blow up the Earth fifteen times in the first 10 seconds, but on a live action series, every little thing has to be completely budgeted down to the last moment. You have to write sometimes to the budget, and make sure that certain scenes have to be rewritten so they are cheaper and easier to reproduce. You don’t worry about that in animation. Not at all.
GC: Speaking of your writing for animated shows, a couple months back, you were announced to be writing the script for the Vampire Hunter D pilot. Also, you wrote the five-issue comic based on the same franchise. How is it developing projects for Vampire Hunter D for the two different mediums?
BE: Well, the first thing you have to realize is that when you’re dealing with Vampire Hunter D specifically, you’re dealing with a, what I call, a “living franchise”. Meaning that they’re still creating new material for it as we’re creating material. You have to be very, very careful to not to step on the toes of the creator, and Hideyuki Kikuchi is very, very, very much involved in this process. It’s not like we have carte blanche to just tell the stories we want. With that in mind, the comic book stuff was actually a lot harder than the TV show pilot. I’m still working on the pilot. I handed in my outline and everything else and they loved it. Unified Pictures loved it.
With the comic book, that was based upon an unreleased short story that Hideyuki Kikuchi created. We had to be very, very careful not to step on his toes. As far as I understand, and I could be completely wrong, that comic book story is an early adventure in Vampire Hunter D’s life and you haven’t really seen the early stuff. Actually, we don’t even know when his early stuff is [happening] because there’s so many thousands of years that can pass by with Vampire Hunter D, because he’s immortal. It was much tougher to do the comic book adaptation from a short story than it was for me to adapt two of the novels into the ten-episode series.
There are 26 prose novels out right now, I think, in English. I adapted novels seven and eight which are called Mysterious Journey to the North Sea Parts One and Two. That was interesting to adapt prose into a screenplay, but I’ve done that many times in my past anyway. Again, the comic book was more challenging than the pilot was definitely.
GC: Moving to your comics work, I would like to congratulate you on a successful Kickstarter campaign you were involved with. Jim Cornette Presents: Behind the Curtain – Real Pro Wrestling Stories far exceeded the amount needed and even hit some stretch goals. I was curious how this project came together? I know you and Denis Medri worked on a book about Andre the Giant. Did Jim like Closer to Heaven and he approached you guys for this graphic novel?
BE: He did like Closer to Heaven, but he did not put this together. The folks at IDW, some of the editors and some of the higher ups, put this together because a couple of those dudes are wrestling fans. I’m a pro wrestling fan. When Andre the Giant: Closer to Heaven first debuted, it was split between Lion Forge and IDW, and then eventually IDW dropped it and Lion Forge took the rights back. What ended up happening is they contacted Jim. Jim liked Closer to Heaven and he was like “Sure, I don’t know nothing about writing comics, but I can tell you my stories”.
They put me in touch with Jim Cornette, which was a dream, because I’ve been a fan of his forever. I used to see him at the Baltimore Arena and I’m from Baltimore, back in the day watching Jim Crockett Promotions/N.W.A. To see him and talk to him and have him know who I am was just crazy, man. It was just absolutely insane. It’s been a very incredible process. I was stunned at how quickly we hit the Kickstarter goal. I’m not a part of running the Kickstarter. I’m just involved with the actual project. Jim did like, very much, Closer to Heaven and because of Closer to Heaven, I think he had the trust in me and Denis to tell his stories. And IDW had the trust in us to tell his stories. That’s how that came together. It was mainly the guys at IDW connecting with Jim and then putting him in touch with us and that’s how it built up from there.
GC: That’s interesting that you got to meet a childhood hero and everything.
[Art In Progress]
GC: Behind the Curtain is an anthology and has several different stories in it. Like how a feud between the Junkyard Dog and the Free Birds received so much heat, that a fan was ready to intervene on behalf of the JYD. How did you choose which stories to include in this graphic novel?
BE: We had about 30 stories that Jim wanted to tell. This is how it’s going to work. It’s a 60-page graphic novel. It’s going to be hard cover only for the Kickstarter people. Different stories are going to be different lengths. We have probably about six long stories, which are about ten pages a piece or so and a bunch of little stories. I think maybe we’ll get about 13 or 14 stories in the entire collection.
It was tough because we wanted to make sure each of the chapters had a different theme. We’re going to be doing things like how far people go to protect kayfabe, which is like the Junkyard Dog story. We’re going to talk about Sputnik Monroe desegregating pro wrestling back in the old days. We’re going talk about the original Montreal Screw Job of 1937 as well as the one with Brett and Shawn. We’ll talk about the Ric Flair plane crash. We’re going to talk about Andy Kaufman and Jerry Lawler, that feud which changed wrestling forever.
There were like another 20 stories that he could share. Like being chased out of South Carolina because the Midnight Express defeated the Mulkeys in their hometown. That story is insane. Jim has been threatened with knives and physical violence. People have spat at him and on him. He has so many stories about what was going on in the WWE. All the stuff with Vince Russo, of course. You have to look at it because Jim worked with every major wrestling promotion that existed in the modern era. Starting with Mid-South and he’s been in AWA, Jim Crockett/NWA, OVW, Smokey Mountain, WWF, WWE, TNA, Ring of Honor. He has touched so many lives and so much talent. It was really hard for us to narrow that down but we wanted to get the stories that thematically touched on the things that he talks about as a promoter and as a fan himself. It was space and also relevance.
GC: You touched on it a little bit and also with the Kickstarter getting to the stretch goals. If when the book is released by IDW and has good sales, do you see more volumes coming? Like you mentioned, Jim has plenty of stories.
BE: This is how I look at that, right. I don’t know how far this is going to go. I don’t know how much is going to happen. From what I understand overall, they are going to release the book first for the Kickstarter people. There is a possible plan to release the 60 pages as three different books just to test the market and see how it goes for the general market place. I don’t know what’s going to happen but at the very least, I know that there will be a retailer version available at some point, but I don’t know exactly what the timeline is. But I know that the Kickstarter people will get everything first.
GC: In other comics work, you have also been announced as taking over the comic Incidentals, starting this summer. What interested you in joining Lion Forge and writing in the Catalyst Prime universe, in particular, this series?
BE: I’ll start at the beginning. I was the first writer hired for Lion Forge back in 2012. I have been working for them since before the Catalyst Prime universe got started. In fact, the Andre the Giant book was a Lion Forge production as well as about five other things I did for them. I wasn’t part of the original Catalyst Prime launch for whatever reason, but I know Ramon [Govea]. I was the one who introduced Ramon to the Lion Forge people. He created Incidentals. It was his property to begin with. What ends up happening is that they were looking for a new writer. They were interested in doing a Hollywood story and since I work in the business, I felt it would be a great idea to combine Incidentals with a Hollywood conspiracy. Ramon put my name out there and the editors were like “Sure, why not”. That’s basically how I got on Incidentals. I was always interested in working on Catalyst Prime but as I said, I wasn’t part of the original launch. Incidentals definitely needed a reboot and so we’re going to work on that.
GC: You also mentioned Ramon. You guys are co-writing. What is your script writing process like with him? Do you work together on creating each script or do you alternate issues but have an overall storyline that you two keep each other in the loop?
BE: We came up with the overall story arc for five issues together. Basically, I write the first draft and since he’s much closer to those characters than I am because he created them, he goes in and does a dialog pass and an action pass. Then he gives it back to me to make sure everything flows and then we give it to the editor. Then we get notes on that. Basically, it’s me, Ramon, me, and then the editor.
GC: You touched upon it a little bit, that you’re doing a Hollywood conspiracy theory. Is there anything more you can reveal about this upcoming third arc?
BE: Sure. Marko Brenner, who is like the de facto leader of the Incidentals team, decides to start a Hollywood talent agency exploiting their super hero situation and monetizing it. They want to do Incidental TV shows as well as lunch boxes. They want to figure ways to brand them. The story begins when the Incidentals stop an armed robbery in broad daylight in Wilshire Boulevard, which is in the middle of Beverly Hills. A part of it is in Beverly Hills and they save the star of Hollywood’s biggest horror franchise guy. Like the Blumhouse of the Incidentals world. It turns out this guy’s powers are based upon the absorption of fear. The reason why he creates movies like Saw and Get Out is so that he can go to the movies on the night it comes out and absorb the fear from the audience to become more powerful. He can summon demons and he can do all sorts of crazy stuff. He’s very much like a dark sorcerer of fear. The Incidentals team runs across him and things get crazy after that.
GC: Lastly, we’ve talked about a variety of the projects you have going on. Is there anything else you’re working on that you would want to mention or make our audience aware of?
BE: Well, of course there’s still the Andre the Giant book that’s still available. There’s my original graphic novel property, Shadowlaw, which came out in 2012 and won a Glyph award that year. I just got the rights back to that, so I now have books of that to sell again. It has a Latino main character and hero, so I’ve been trying to get people to check that out because we definitely need more people of color as heroes. I did some Marvel animation stuff that I can’t talk about, but I have some Marvel stuff coming out real soon animation wise. I’m still working on television in LA and I’m just trying to get on my next show.