Thursday, August 21, 2014

Interview - Nathan Graham Davis & Jack Purcell

Santa Claus is known the world over for his belly, laughing and general proclivity for handing out gifts across the world in one night. What if he really wasn't that benevolent? What if Santa Claus ruled Christmas through the eyes of a true capitalist? And where would Krampus fit into all those plans? Nathan Graham Davis & Jack Purcell want to answer those questions for you in Malice and Mistletoe. They've got a Kickstarter up for the book, but in the meantime, they've been awesome enough to answer a few questions about the book, Krampus' personality and changing the public's perception of Christmas.

Omnicomic: In Malice and Mistletoe, Santa Claus is something of a CEO. Where did that idea come from; to make him the literal figurehead of Christmas capitalism?

Davis: The whole premise started as a flash of midnight inspiration. I woke up thinking it would be awesome if Santa Claus hired an assassin to kill someone. It seemed logical that a Claus who'd be willing to do that would be a little different than our traditional Santa, so I quickly began to see him as this kind of powerful, ruthless CEO type. He's still likeable and charismatic, but fuck with his cash flow and you've got a problem.

Omnicomic: You mention on the Kickstarter that some of your Hollywood colleagues warned against the subject matter of Malice and Mistletoe. Obviously, you don't wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment as you're going forward with the book, but does that stay in the back of your mind as you work on the book more and more? That it might not be received that well because it bucks tradition?

Davis: Okay, I still think this thing would make a sick movie, and I'd be lying if I said Jack and I aren't at least a little hopeful that there might be a film version of this someday. The premise, and our treatment of it, needs a visual medium to do it justice. But that's also why it works great as a graphic novel.

I definitely get where people are coming from. We're going to be able to print 1,500 high-quality copies of this book for less than $7,000 (the rest of the $9,500 we're requesting on Kickstarter goes to shipping, rewards, and fees). Doing this thing as a movie would cost over $100 million. People don't want to sink that type of money into a movie that they don't believe is a sure thing. And messing with Christmas -- especially when you're not basing your movie on a known property -- is just not going to give studios and investors a whole lot of confidence.

That said, the response we've received from fans and at cons has been awesome, and there is clearly an audience for this in comic form.

Omnicomic: Krampus isn't quite well-known as Santa Claus, despite being quite old himself. How would you describe Krampus to those who have never heard of him before?

Davis: Well there's Krampus, and then there's our Krampus. The traditional Krampus is often referred to as the "Christmas Devil." He's Santa's counterpart, known for tormenting and torturing bad children (yeah, it's kind of an awesome myth). He's also half-goat.

One of the conceits of our story is that our Christmas mythology is just that -- mythology. But like every legend, it's based in some truth. There are elves. But they're not jolly, nasal-voiced, candy-cane-farting pipsqueaks. They're a lot more diverse than that. A lot more human. Our Claus wears suits and smokes cigars. The reindeer -- well, their heads adorn the walls of his great room. The Rudolph myth came from The Rudov -- an ancient, red amulet that can freeze time and allow Claus and Krampus to travel the globe, doting on and torturing children.

As for Krampus -- he's just another elf. His scraggly beard, ugly features, peg leg, and nasty temperament eventually evolved into the goat-man myth we know now. And yes, he tormented a kid or two in his day. And yeah, he's a serious badass.

Omnicomic: Recently, Image Comics released a Krampus comic by Brian Joines and Dean Kotz. In that version, Krampus is somewhat more jovial in his disdain for the concept of Christmas. Would you say your Krampus is a bit more biting in terms of personality?

Davis: I found out about that comic maybe two weeks after I pitched this whole thing to Jack!

We were initially pretty frustrated and pissed off -- especially since we'd originally intended on calling the book "Krampus." But I bought the first couple issues and realized we were doing a completely different thing. Like you suggested, their tone is a whole lot more comedic. Our Krampus is sinister. Jack's drawing up some promotional art right now that will emphasize that. It should be up on our Facebook and Kickstarter in a couple days.

However, I've got to say, that Krampus comic super fun and you're making me think I should read some more of it...

Omnicomic: What can you tell readers about Eldon Carrillo?

Davis: Eldon's our protagonist, but I'll say it right now -- there aren't really any "good guys" in this book. Whereas Claus is ruthless and Krampus is sinister, Eldon is more of a Terminator-type. When he's on a job, he gets tunnel vision. Nothing else matters.

Delving into his backstory would involve too many spoilers, but I can tell you that he's a loner who likes to blend in. He walks the streets in jeans and a hoodie. You'd never know that they're lined with armor and stealth weapons.

Omnicomic: Kickstarter is definitely becoming the go-to for projects such as Malice and Mistletoe. Did you pursue that as the only option for getting the book published?

Davis: I think we'd settled on Kickstarter within a week or two of deciding to work together. Although comics and graphic novels definitely push the boundaries more than movies do, we were both excited to create something without giving up any creative control. Producing it on our own lets us avoid having any outside influence. We are hopeful that we'll be able to sell enough of these on our own and build enough of a buzz that traditional distribution channels will eventually pick it up, as long as our audience can read it as we intended.

Omnicomic: What advice would you give aspiring creators on any part of the process?

Davis: Constantly work to improve yourself, don't take rejection personally, make friends and be fearless.

A lot of people say "it's who you know." That's only partially true. I didn't know anyone in Hollywood before I started writing screenplays ten years ago, and I didn't really know anyone in comics until I convinced Jack to meet me for beers. You can meet people by getting good at what you do, being persistent, and not being a jerk. If you've got the goods and can hold a conversation, doors will eventually open.

Purcell: Work hard and every day even if it’s just for a short time. I would advise any artist who wants to work in comics to draw from life and not from comic books. You need to know how real structure works as well as texture, light and of course, anatomy. No matter how fantastic and how stylized you want your work to look, it is all derived from reality. I think many young artists work too hard to find their “style” but that is something that most often evolves on it’s own. If you are showing work to editors always show the most recent and best work. The last thing you want is to sound like you are making excuses for your work.

Omnicomic: Do you plan on attending any conventions in the next few months?

Davis: Jack's a regular at cons in the northeast, and we've already promoted Malice and Mistletoe at two. Jack was at the Boston Comic-Con a couple weekends ago, and we were both at ComiCONN in Bridgeport, CT this past weekend. The response has been fantastic, so we definitely plan to attend more.

Purcell: I plan to attend the Albany Comic Con in November and there are a few others that I have not firmed up yet. I will be announcing any additional appearances on Facebook Facebook and Twitter.

Omnicomic: Anything else you want to plug while you have the floor?

Davis: Tons! But a few off the top of my head --

BUBU THE MURDEROUS MONKEY - Awesome webcomic by my friend Dave Bekerman
GHOST COP - Graphic novel by my buddy VJ Boyd (also a writer on JUSTIFIED)
HEROES DON'T COME HOME - Indie film by my friends Jake Hulse, Michael Haas and Wade Wofford
SEE NO EVIL 2 - Horror flick featuring Kane (yes, the wrestler!), written by my buddies Nathan Brookes and Bobby Lee Darby

Also, if you haven't seen Adi Shankar's unauthorized Marvel shorts DIRTY LAUNDRY and TRUTH IN JOURNALISM, then DO THAT.

Purcell: Just Malice and Mistletoe at the moment. We are both very excited about the book and are putting everything we’ve got into it!


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