How were you approached for this project and what made you say yes?
Well, in my case, Rick Sanchez had been familiar with my work, I believe specifically with Evil Ernie. Rick's a colorful character, he likes really edgy material. I believe he suggested me to the guys and they asked, "What would you do with Lara Croft?"
My attraction to the character [also played a role in taking the job]. First, I'm used to writing and enjoy writing characters where women are in control and in commanding positions. That's real natural for me. And the idea of working on an icon like Lara is real attractive. She's part of a long line of British adventurers who are basically bastards. She's snide, she's tough, she has all the answers, and she can back it up. It's just really liberating and fun to write a character like that. So then to throw her in a horrific milieu in the case of the one story, "Legacy," was a blast.
On the second story, I got a call from Elliot Blake, our producer, and he said, "Brian, what do you think about doing a Tex Avery-inspired Lara Croft story?" I said, "Whoa, I'm your guy." Maybe I'm not the first person to call for that, but I do love those kind of wacky cartoons. He shot me the artwork and I got it. It just so happened, maybe two hours before that call, I was watching some old "Wallace and Gromit" stories. And I loved the relationship between the two characters, how you have the dog really knows what's going on and the human knows nothing, but he thinks he's in charge.
In very, very short order, the other thing that was going through my mind was the absurdity of--there's a history of Mexican films called Aztec Mummy films. So this mélange was going around in my brain. I think I called Elliot back within 24 hours and I said, okay, I got it. Here's the story, "Revenge of the Aztec Mummy." Elliot said yes. We were off to the races.
I went to the video store and got a collection of old Warner Brothers cartoons and studied the language. That was something Elliott wanted. He said, "Let's use the language of those films; how sound effects were used, how gags were used." It wasn't so much to repeat them as much as to provide some familiarity to the audience so really they knew we were all in on this joke; that we're doing an homage to Tex Avery. So that was fun. I watched a bunch of those and saw what was in common, what drove the story and came up with that particular story, which was fun. I think I turned in the draft within 48 hours because it was on deadline and then Elliott made some comments which I thought were great and some clarifications and at that point I said, why don't you just call yourself a co-writer on this thing cause I think your contributions are really excellent to what this story is.
What was your relationship like with the designers? You mentioned David Alvarez was already attached to "Revenge of the Aztec Mummy" when you came on board, how did Ivan Reis come onto "Legacy" and what was your working relationship like with both of them?
Well in the case of "Legacy," I was asked early on if I had any relationships with artists who might be interested in designing. The first guy that came to my mind was Ivan. Actually, we worked together for many many, years on "Lady Death." Since '97. I've always loved how he draws women, always powerful, in command. He knows how to make them sexy and sensual without being disgusting. He was invited on board and he worked with closely with Elliot and myself on designing how Lara would look, how she would dress, what the beast men would look like. He gets all the credit for what he came up with. Elliot guided him a little bit. I suggested him and then everybody just went off to the races.
|"The Aztec Mummy" designs by David Alvarez|
You've worked on licensed projects before. What was it like on this project?
Go back a couple of years and I hadn't worked as a writer on licensed stuff. I had worked as a publisher on licensed stuff and had that particular experience, and a couple years ago I had this opportunity to write all the New Line Cinema monsters, more or less all at once. I went in there with some trepidation, kind of wondering, "Oh my gosh, what's this going to be like, what are the revisions going to be like?" And honestly for all the books I wrote for that particular company, there was only one scene requested to be rewritten. And it probably should have been, because it was very strong. So I walked away from that particular experience liking working on licensed material. A company that's very together has some form of design document and they outline exactly how they see their character, how they don't. In the case of GameTap, Turner, Eidos they really had it ironed out how Lara operates.
You'd imagine that sounds restrictive but for a guy like myself who's done mostly original content all his career, the idea was extremely liberating. It was like, oh, I get it. And when I would turn in my drafts, Elliot Blake acted as editor and there were really very few changes and I think that all the changes that were suggested were the right things to do because they usually just made us get back on coarse to what the character was about.
A small example of that is in "Aztec Mummy." A couple of actions in the early draft had Lara being funny on purpose and we decided very quickly that she should be the quote unquote straight man in the situation and that everything orbiting around her would be funny or comical or silly. Little corrections like that. I actually found it great. And all kidding aside, working with Elliot Blake as an editor was great. He has a great sensibility. I've worked with a fair amount of editors in the past and I thought that was definitely among the strongest and most decisive. So I found the whole process to be fun, not restrictive at all.
You mentioned one of things that was appealing to you was Lara and her status as an icon. Was there a certain inspiration for the tone or feel?
In the case of "Legacy," which ultimately winds up being like a lost "Johnny Quest" episode, I was thinking of that film "The Name of the Rose." It's the one where Sean Connery goes into essentially a murder mystery in a hidden monastery. And I thought that what I see about Lara, she goes to far off unforeseen places goes after an object, run into a ton of complications. I just hadn't quite seen that before. My distinct inspiration, not of the character of Lara. I think the character of Lara is, as a writer my responsibility is to replicate her, I wasn't doing my quote unquote take on her cause she was supposed to operate as people expect her to operate.
In the case of "Aztec Mummy" I was definitely looking at these crazy Mexican Aztec mummy films from the '60s, which are kind of like the cousin or offshoot to the crazy Mexican wrestler films. I wasn't really taking anything specific from it, just the absurd notion that there were mummies in the Aztec culture, which, I don't think there were mummies in the Aztec culture.
When I looked at Lara as a character, we were told to go right to the source of the games, not necessarily to look at the comics or the movies. What I gleaned out of that was a woman who's very strong, who was very well researched so that when she said something it was usually right because she probably put in more research than the other person. She's at peak physical ability and has certain specialties like how she uses her guns. So again I didn't think it was my game to do "my take" but to replicate what I thought was always there.
Your role was more to create a story that the character could be placed in.
Yeah, to put her in a milieu she was a little unfamiliar with. I don't recall a Lara story where she's in the middle of a comedic situation, nor one where she has that much of a horrific edge. So yeah, that was the game.
You obviously enjoyed it. "The Aztec Mummy" doesn't feel like your work and I don't just mean that it was funny. Did you enjoy the chance to do something completely different from what you usually do and what people expect from you?
Yeah, it was. I think you hit the nail on the head. If you refer back to my '90s work in a comic like "Evil Ernie" -- although horrific, it's frequently funny and ironic. I'm very happy with what I write and what I tend to write, but yeah, I tend to view the world fairly funny and silly, so it was great to express that part that people usually don't get a chance to see. "The Aztec Mummy" was funny and I got probably hundreds of comments from people like, "Geez, I didn't know you saw things that way" or "you're funny." And I thought, I don't know, it's all pretty funny to me.
Are you a gamer?
I haven't played a video game since 1988 except "Pac-Man" and "Galaga." I'm one of these guys. That was my era. I'm not progressive at all. I thought that was funny. I was asked that when we were doing the Re/Visioned panel at San Diego Comic-Con and it's like, "Nope, don't play games." So the honest answer is no. But I guess the basic premise of games is really distilled down to the essence of an "Indiana Jones" film which is progressive obstacles; can you get out of the progressive obstacles? So I kind of operated from that point of view.
But a gamer, no. The reason why is I'm afraid it'd be too addictive. I have an addictive personality. I'm afraid that if I start I won't stop. And I already have enough compulsions, so I was afraid I would add yet another addiction.
What else are you in the midst of?
Well, a couple things. Lady Death marches on into her 16th year of publishing with a fun schedule for '08. I'm finishing a story arc on her. I actually own a production company that makes music videos and commercials in Phoenix, AZ, so I've just finished one for a hard rock band called Sixstitch. I have a video I just posted online for a band called Calabrese, they're horror-punk; exactly the sort of band you think I would do a music video for. And for that particular genre, that video was already the most viewed video on YouTube, over 500,000 times.
I have a project, a feature film, and we're raising capital to shoot it in '08. And finally I've got three or four different stories in different places, which will eventually go out to different either through movies or comics and get those published. Typically horror. One is a children's horror story called "The Thing Under the Bed That Saved Christmas." So it's a little different.
Something that's coming up -- I founded a film festival out here in Arizona called International Horror and Sci-Fi Film Fest. It's a competitive event and we also show retro classics and we show seventy films in three days on five screens. It's a signature cultural event out here and this year our guest of honor is Linda Blair and Ken Foree of "Dawn of the Dead."
You and "Star Wars" novelist Michael Stackpole are working on something together?
We are. Mike and I have written one screenplay called "Gone," which won the grand prize for the Fade In Magazine screenwriting contest. And the particular movie I'm talking about that we're raising capital on, quite successfully I might add, we co-wrote that one. It's called "The Sickness."
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