Creator talk is one of Avatar Press’ newest online exclusives, featuring the real life experiences of a wide range of comic book professionals. Artist of the upcoming Garth Ennis series, Streets of Glory, indy creator, and frequent colaborator with Warren Ellis and John Russo, Mike Wolfer participates in the debut of this all new feature on avatarpress.com. Mike has gone as far as successfully publishing his own comic book to then cement a relationship with a promising, new independent publisher, Avatar Press. Find out about how Mike came to collaborating with some of the most famous creators of the past half century, and work on a few of the most iconic horror franchises. Visit Creator Talk to read the first four installments.
HOW AVATAR PRESS SAVED MY LIFE, Part 5: Strange Killings On Friday The 13th
By Mike Wolfer
And so it began, in the summer of 1999, my long and memorable collaboration with Warren Ellis at Avatar Press. The incredibly high-concept character of Combat Magician William Gravel and his bizarre, and often times perverse adventures afforded me the opportunity to grow incredibly as a storyteller. No matter what Warren threw at me in the script, I was prepared to make him proud, transforming his written words into a gray-toned, two-dimensional reality.
STRANGE KISS begat STRANGER KISSES, then a string of STRANGE KILLINGS assaulted readers’ sensibilities, always pushing the boundaries of what is the acceptable behavior of a hero. But despite the horrific violence, the ritualistic mutilations, and the sexually-depraved zombies, Warren never let us forget that it’s all about Gravel. As Garth Ennis professes, “No matter what, you can always depend on Gravel to be a cunt.”
It came as a surprise and an incredible compliment when I learned that Warren and William Christensen would allow me to assist with the scripting of STRANGE KILLINGS. Warren’s confidence with my ability as a writer was something that had never even crossed my mind, nor would it have been something that I would ever have contemplated. After all, he made the characters speak; all I did was draw pretty pictures. But in reviewing my work, Warren felt that I could flex my creative muscles in a way that would not conflict with his own vision and somehow, the experiment flowed seamlessly. Again, William Christensen opened a door for me, helping me to widen the scope of my resume and strengthen my talent in ways that I had never thought possible.
Always on the lookout, William had a new offer for me as Warren and I wrapped up the finale of the six-issue STRANGE KILLINGS epic, NECROMANCER. Avatar had secured the licensing rights to several New Line Cinema properties and seeing as I was an “old school” horror film fan, the FRIDAY THE 13TH comic series seemed like a natural choice for me to illustrate. It didn’t hurt that Brian Pulido would be writing, since he and I go way back to the “Indy” days when I contributed to several of his Chaos! Comics LADY DEATH pin-up books.
Chronicling the undying rampage of Jason Voorhees was a blast for me, as I had always been a huge fan of the franchise, so when the opportunity arose for me to take over the writing of the series, I was already prepared to finally make sense out of 10 movies-worth of continuity and thematic errors. Oh, the plans that I had, the characters that would return from the films, the situations and locales that we would revisit. I had a grand scheme that would extend over at least two mini-series and even tie-in to the JASON X comic, which I would also be scripting.
My first crack at the property was the “they said it couldn’t be done” JASON VS. JASON X, which I also illustrated. That one turned out to be an incredible crowd-pleaser, with its unexpectedly poignant ending taking quite a few reviewers by surprise. But that’s always been my tactic as a horror writer: Give them what they want, and just when they become comfortable, give them something that hits them emotionally.
I couldn’t wait to get my hands dirty on the regular FRIDAY series, on which I could cut loose with everything I had. My first issue was the FRIDAY THE 13TH FEARBOOK, wherein I tidied-up the carnage created in Brian Pulido’s four-issue run… And then New Line pulled the plug, shifting the book over to Wildstorm to keep it “in house”. The less said here, the better. Let’s just say, I was supremely pissed.
But right around the corner, the zombies were lurking in the form of the screenplay for John Russo’s yet-to-be-produced ESCAPE OF THE LIVING DEAD. John had co-written the original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD with George Romero and had written this direct sequel that falls somewhere between NIGHT and DAWN OF THE DEAD. Once again, William had put a project into my hands that I could not believe and it was my pleasurable duty to transcribe the screenplay into a five-issue comic book series, juggling scenes, tweaking dialogue and reworking it into a format that held four cliffhanger endings. Not an easy job, to be sure, but a complete joy. It was only a matter of time before George Romero, noting the success we had with ESCAPE decided to officially license NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD to Avatar as well. To keep a consistent feel between the series, I was asked by William to be the writer of NIGHT as well, and had the supreme honor of serving as scripter of the official prequel to the first film, the three-issue NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD: THE BEGINNING. An ESCAPE spin-off, PLAGUE OF THE LIVING DEAD is now also in my hands. It’s true, I am surrounded by zombies and that’s a heavy burden that could easily burn out any writer if a little diversity isn’t thrown into the mix once in a while.
As if on cue, in rides Garth Ennis, the orange sun sinking below the horizon behind him. And in his hands, a script that reads, STREETS OF GLORY.
To be continued…