Archive for March, 2010

Victor Gischler on The Deputy

Fans of Victor Gischler’s writing get transported to some pretty fascinating places. In the current story line of his Marvel Comics’ series “Deadpool: Merc With a Mouth” Gischler had taken readers to an alternate dimension that’s infested by flesh hungry, super powered zombies. And next month in the spin-off series “Deadpool Corps”, the writer takes readers out into the depths of space and to several alien worlds.

Gischler’s recent prose novels have also had some pretty interesting settings. “Go Go Girls of the Apocalypse” unfolded in a post apocalyptic world, where strip clubs were the last bastions of the civilization. “Vampire A Go-Go” took place in the city of Prague, where a young college student got embroiled in a centuries old supernatural conspiracy. On April 1st, “Gischler’s new prose novel “The Deputy” hits stores, and in it, the writer spins a story that unfolds in a mundane, but equally compelling world, a small town in rural Oklahoma with a big crime and corruption problem. I spoke with Gischler about the book.

His two most recent novels feature science fiction and fantasy elements, but Gischler started off writing gritty crime novels and “The Deputy” marks his return to the genre. “It actually felt really good to leave crime fiction and go do some of the science fiction and fantasy, because when I started writing that’s what I wanted to write. I wanted to write science fiction and fantasy stories in some form. So in a way I felt like that was going home to do that,” Gischler said. “Now after being away from crime for awhile, I realized that I want to be there too. I don’t consider my crime writing a second choice or second place. So I feel very good to have something coming out to reconnect with those crime fiction readers.

“A lot of those readers are just great. They came with me from my crime fiction to my post apocalyptic and vampire novels,” Gischler continued. “That was great of them, but I think a lot of them have expressed that they’re very happy I’m coming back to a crime book. So I don’t want to call one particular genre my home. As long as I like a story, the characters, and what I’m doing that’s the main thing. Regardless of genre .”

The idea for “The Deputy” first came to Gischler several years ago. “About five years ago I tried to do the idea as a short story. So I’m writing and it’s about 20 pages, then 25 pages, and then 30. It was becoming a very long short story. I didn’t think it would be that long. So it didn’t come together for me as a short story. Then I thought, ‘Maybe it will be a screen play?’ I didn’t want it to be a screenplay though because it’s a first person narration from the protagonist’s point of view and that doesn’t really work for me in a screenplay,” the writer explained. “Then I finally decided I could turn it into a short novel like the old pulp paperbacks. Once I started on it as a novel and I got a few chapters in to it I realized that was the right decision.”

The events of “The Deputy” take place over the course of one night in the small town of Coyote Crossing. “It’s this very rural middle of nowhere town in western Oklahoma. I used to live in Oklahoma and if you get far enough west it starts becoming prairie and wilderness. So that’s where I set the novel,” Gischler remarked. “The town is out of cell phone range and away from everything. It’s this little town that grew up at a crossroads. There’s almost no reason for it to even be there.”

Helping to keep the peace in Coyote Crossing is the titular character, a 25 year old part time deputy named Toby Sawyer. “He lives in a crappy little trailer on the edge of town. His ambition is a very modest ambition, and that’s to get put on as a full time deputy so he can get better pay and health benefits. He’s got a wife that he’s not a hundred percent crazy about, but they’re together and they have an 18 month old toddler. So he’s kind of stuck in this family situation and he’s trying to make the best of it,” Gischler revealed. “He starts the book as this sort of callow youth and then sort of becomes a man. Just in the span of the book he grows up and realizes, ‘I can’t be a snot nose kid anymore. I’ve got to be a man.’ In that way it’s sort of a hard-boiled modern western. There’s very much the sentiment of, ‘A man’s gotta do, what man’s gotta do. That sort of cowboy sentiment comes to the surface as the novel progresses.”

The main action in “The Deputy” begins when Toby Sawyer receives a midnight call from his boss, the Sheriff. “He’s told to come babysit a body in the middle of the street until they can send somebody with a body bag to wrap it up. When you’re the part time deputy you get the crap jobs, like babysitting dead bodies. So he stumbles out of bed, puts on a sweatshirt, his Weezer t-shirt, and his high tops and goes down and sits with the body,” Gischler revealed. “He then decides that it’s the middle of the night and nobody is going to come take this body. He’ll just go sneak off for a little bit to visit his girlfriend and when he comes back the body is gone. He knows he’s in trouble because you’re not going to get a full time job with the department if you loose a body.”

Toby’s quest to recover the body unfolds between the hours of midnight and 7 A.M. And during that time, he meets an eclectic cast of supporting characters. “One of the main sources of conflict is the corruption in the town and because it all takes place in the wee hours of the night we really don’t meet the rank and file townspeople,” Gischler explained. “The normal good citizens are mostly all in bed. So the people we meet during that long night are the people who for some reason or another have business at 2 or 3 or 4 A.M. Since they’re up at that time doing those things, they’re probably not representative of the good people of the town, but rather the corrupt elements.

“It’s a first person book so Toby really is the star of the book and I think the people you meet along the way are very interesting supporting characters,” Gischler continued, “They are more believable, real people though than the supporting characters you might meet in ‘Vampire A Go-Go’ or ‘Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse’. There’s a less over the top quality to the characters in ‘The Deputy.’”

Toby Sawyer’s after hours adventure in “The Deputy” is a brutal one, but it’s not entirely bleak. “I think I like the term hard-boiled more than noir for this story. I think there are elements and a flavor of noir, but ultimately noir is just about bleak hopelessness and it doesn’t quite go that far,” Gischler said. “It’s definitely hard-boiled though. I think it’s not humorous in the way that ‘Vampire A Go-Go’ is humorous, but there are bits of humor in the story. Toby doesn’t have the best life, but it’s not outright bleak and grim.”

“The Deputy” hits stores April 1st and once Gischler’s fans complete the novel they won’t have to wait long for his next story. His comic series “Deadpool: Merc with a Mouth” wraps up it’s run in June , but his new Deadpool series “The Deadpool Corps” kicks off April 7th. Plus, the writer has lined up another Marvel Comics assignment he can’t talk about yet.

Gischler is also developing his next prose project. “I have what I consider to be a very good premise for a novel, but I’ve had a couple of false starts with it. It’s going back to a more fantasy, sci-fi genre. I’m trying to get comfortable with the tone and who the protagonist is,” Gischler said. “So there’s been a slow start on this new novel, but I believe in the premise enough that I’m going to stick with it until I feel comfortable with it. Then once I feel comfortable with the main character and the tone, I can sort of launch into writing and try to get some chapters under my belt.

Since he started writing comics Gischler’s fan base has grown, and the writer feels that “The Deputy” has something to offer both fans of his prose and four color work. “Not everybody who reads novels reads comic books. And not everybody who reads comics reads novels, but I do think there is some good over lap there,” Gischler stated. “So I’m always hoping that my novel fans give my comic work a try and my comic fans give my novel work a try and maybe they’ll find a new way to appreciate what I do.”

Categories: Author Interviews

Siege: Young Avengers

In my latest CBR interview I chat with writer Sean McKeever about his work on the april one-shot “Siege Young Avengers”

Categories: CBR Links

Avenging in an Age of Heroes

In my latest CBR piece I talk with writer Brian Michael Bendis about two of his Avengers porjects set in the upcoming “Heroic Age” of the Marvel Universe: the five issue mini-series “Avengers Prime” and the next volume of “New Avengers

Categories: CBR Links

Storming Heaven- Bendis on Siege #3

In my latest CBR piece I speak with writer Brian Michael Bendis about some of the important happenings in issue #3 of his “Siege” mini-series

Categories: CBR Links

Dealing with the Daredevil

In my latest CBR interview  I talk with Antony Johnston about his work co-writing “Daredevil” with his collaborator Andy Diggle and his first solo DD work, the one-shot “Daredevil: Cage Match”

Categories: CBR Links

Recent CBR Piece: Spider-Man, Zombies, and Secret Warriors

I thought I’d return to offering some links to my CBR work.  Here are a link to some of the articles I’ve done this week:

I spoke with writer Brian Reed about his work on the “Siege: Spider-Man” one-shot and the “Amazing Spider-Man Presents: American Son” mini-series.

I spoke with writer Fred Van Lente about his work on the “Marvel Zombies” 5 mini-series

And I chatted with writer Jonathan Hickman about his “Siege: Secret Warriors” one-shot.

Categories: CBR Links

The Cos and Bill Maxwell Take on the Outfit

One of the great things about my job writing for Comic Book Resources is that I meet many cool writers, and a lot of them have really good tastes. So I get introduced to a lot of cool stuff. The most recent example of this is Duane Swierczynski, writer of some Marvel Comics’ excellent “Cable” series and some kick-ass crime novels, introduced me to an obscure ’70s detective movie via his blog.  I really enjoyed it. It was called “Hickey & Boggs”

“Hickey & Boggs” is a grim, violent, private detective movie starring . . . wait for it Bill Cosby and Robert Culp.  Now my parents’ generation knew the Cos and Culp best as the stars of the old show “I, Spy” which I’ve never seen an episode of, but I hear it’s a pretty good and pretty serious show. I was introduced to Bill Cosby first through things like “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids” and his classic stand up special “Bill Cosby Himself”. And of course later as Cliff Huxtable on “The Cosby Show”. Robert Culp I knew best from his role as FBI agent Bill Maxwell on “The Greatest American Hero”.

Comedy was a big part of all of those things.  So I wasn’t used to seeing either actor in serious roles. So it was fun to watch Cliff Huxtable say, “Mother fuck” and blow some guys away with his .357.  Plus both actors nailed the serious scenes, Cosby especially.  There’s a development in the latter half of the movie that leaves his character a haunted and angry man and the Cos nails it.

That’s not to say that there aren’t funny bits in the movie either. The chemistry between Cosby and Culp is very apparent. The movie is pretty bleak, but you buy that these characters are long time friends that will walk through hell for each other. This leads to some fun, joking moments that occasionally have a buddy picture feel.

Culp does double duty in the film as a director, and for a first time director he’s pretty damn good. There’s a lot of shots that give you extra information about the characters and the story and they do so subtly. The film rarely hits you over the head with anything. Plus the film’s action sequences: shoot outs at an LA football arena, a parking lot, and a climatic beach gun fight are all pretty exciting.

The story of “Hickey and Boggs” is admittedly more than a little complex and convoluted.  The title characters are Private investigators hired to find a missing women. They’re investigation has many twists and turns and eventually puts them in conflict with both The Outfit (the all powerful ’60s-’70s incarnation of the mob) and a militant black power group. All of the connections in Walter Hill’s script can be hard to pick up on, but interesting enough they don’t really matter because at one point Cosby’s disillusioned character says of his job, “It’s about nothing anymore.”  And a way he’s right.

What’s important about “Hickey & Boggs” is the journey these characters go on. It’s a violent one. It beats the hell out of them emotionally and physically and it’s pretty fascinating to watch.  Like some of the best noirs it ends with the main characters trying to do what they feel is right and get some payback. And of course the end result is never what they bargained for.

Another fun aspect of “Hickey & Boggs” is that it’s filled with some recognizable actors, and a number of them would go on to bigger fame. Vincent Gardenia (Little Shop of Horror’s Mr. Mushnick) and James Woods play cops. Michael Moriarty (Law & Order) has hair in the movie and he works for the mob. Other actors with smaller roles include Ed Lauter ( character actor who’s been in a ton of stuff) as a cop and Roger E. Mosley (T.C. from Magnum P.I.) as a black millitant.

So if your fan of ’70s style noir and crime films do yourself a favor and see “Hickey & Boggs”. It’s a pretty great and entertaining movie. The DVD is out of print and from what I understand you don’t want to see it anyway because the picture quality is terrible.  iTunes has a  nice quality copy available to both rent or buy.  That’s what I did and I wasn’t disappointed.

Categories: Movie Reviews

Book Review- Sleepless

Thanks to my gig as a freelance writer I got a chance to interview Charlie Huston about his comic writing work, which lead to my discovery of his novels. I’ve read all of them now and he’s currently one of my favorite writers. His stories blend noir and black humor in some fun and fascinating ways. Huston has done straight crime, a blend of horror and noir, and in “Sleepless” he tries his hand at science fiction and crime/noir and the result is his best work yet.

“Sleepless takes place in a world not that is not much different than our own in terms of technology. It’s happening in the near future. What makes it science fiction is a plague that causes people to become unable to sleep has broken out world wide, and it’s end result is fatal. The specific location of Sleepless is a Los Angeles that looks and feels a lot like Baghdad. Thank to the chaos of the sleepless plague street gangs have become full blown militias, and a psychotic sect of conservative christians have become terrorists and suicide bombers. It felt a lot like the movie “Children of Men”

Huston places his protagonist Parker Haas into the middle of this chaos. Park is an LAPD officer trying to make the world a better place for his baby daughter and his wife who has been afflicted with the Sleepless Plague. When “Sleepless” begins Park is undercover as a drug dealer and investigating a black market trade in the only drug that offers the Sleepless some comfort. His investigation uncovers a dangerous conspiracy and forces him to make some difficult choices for his family.

“Sleepless” was a fantastic read thanks to the strength of it’s cast of characters and its frightening and fascinating setting. Huston also plays with perspectives in an interesting way. Park’s story is told third person, but journal entries provide a deeper look into his though process. The book also offers up another parallel first person story with the character of Jasper, a hitman, whose path eventually intersects with Park. So if you’re looking for a powerful, morally murky, action thriller that will entertain you and in some ways break your heart, you definitely want to check out “Sleepless”

Categories: Book Review