Whether he’s a rock covered behemoth or a dirty cop on the streets of Los Angeles, actor Michael Chiklis casts a rather large shadow. With the final season of the critically acclaimed and award winning “The Shield” coming to a close last year, one might wonder what Chiklis will do to follow-up his role as Detective Vic Mackey?
Why, work on a comic book, of course.
Chiklis and writer Anny Beck have teamed up to bring “Olympus” to IDW Publishing later this year. The new series is set for 6 or 7 issues with Marc Andreyko writing and an as yet unnamed artistic team, to be edited by IDW Special Projects editor Scott Dunbier. “Olympus” is a classic battle between father and son. In a world similar to ours, in the not too distant future, the human race is struggling and looking for answers to all the problems that plague them. The world finds their answer when the Greek god Cronus returns. The once failing world’s fortunes change with Cronus guiding their way to a life of prosperity and relative peace. However, that turn of events is not long-lived as Cronus grows mad with power and the world suffers as a consequence. It’s at this point that his son Zeus returns, to challenge his Father and save the world from his growing evil.
While the series is still in early development, CBR News spoke with Chiklis and Beck earlier this week for an exclusive first interview about the return of the Greek gods.
I read through the treatment for this already, but starting off, I could use a bit of background on how this began – was it originally a TV or Film pitch?
Michael Chiklis: First and foremost this is starting out as a comic. Obviously it’s meant as a vehicle for feature film, and hopefully something that will be really exciting as a vehicle for me.
Reading through the treatment, it’s a fairly ambitious undertaking of a universe being created here. Let’s get to the brief description of what "Olympus" is – what would the Hollywood pitch be?
Anny Beck: I would say the Greek gods are back, and what happened to the Gods when people didn’t believe in them anymore and what happens when they return.
Chiklis: The one line I’d give it would be "What if the Greek gods were real and what if they had been living among us all these years?" We’re bringing this down to a very human level. I think what we want to do is sort of shatter peoples expectations. It’s probably not going to be what people think. These gods will take very, very human form and characteristics.
Reading through the treatment, we have here a world where everyone’s kind of lost and the world’s not exactly a happy place. Then the gods return, and the human race puts their faith in these gods, and life gets appreciably better – for a while. It seems to me that this is a world very much like our own today – people feel lost, there’s an escalating number of crises, and everyone’s hoping for a quick fix to make it all go away. Is this story in any way a reflection or comment on our current world situation, and maybe hopes to impart some lesson about putting too much faith in just one person?
Chiklis: I don’t know that that’s the lesson, and I’m very wary of proselytizing. That’s definitely one of the thematic questions we’re dealing with in so far as where we are historically, but I’ve always been the kind of storyteller where I believe there’s a place for black and white storytelling of course. But I’m a big fan of ambiguity and ambivalence and not being preachy. I like it when you tell stories and people have to sort of make their way to figuring it out themselves; how they feel about it, and what they need from the story.
Michael, your visage will be seen in the role of the Greek god Zeus, right?
This was a pitch that Anny brought to me a couple of years ago. Anny you have to tell him this story.
Beck: It’s a great story. I had been rolling this around in my head for quite some time and had been writing a lot about it, but it hadn’t really gelled for me. I got to know Michael and his wife and daughter because our children had known each other. So, we all went out one night for dinner at a Greek restaurant in Malibu. It was my family, it was Michael’s family and some friends, and we were all sitting at this big, long table. Michael was sitting at the head of the table, and he knew all the waiters at the restaurant and people were coming up and saying hello. It was a really great night. So, on the drive home I turned to my husband and said, “Can you believe Michael Chiklis? He was like a Greek god sitting there!” He had such a presence at that table. And as I said it, the idea began to crystallize for me, and I saw Michael as Zeus. Once that happened I understood how I wanted this to go and how I thought it should work.
Michael: Jonah, ask yourself, how can you argue with that? (laughs)
Nothing like a bit of feta cheese for inspiration.
Michael: That’s right. When someone calls you up and says, “I think you should play the Greek god Zeus,” well, that’s a Hell of a starting point.
What really attracted me to the piece, though, is that it’s very human, very dark and gritty, which is certainly part of my purview. Graphic novels, when they’re successful, really do lend themselves to feature film. It really seems like a great way to introduce the public, and the industry as well, to a really phenomenal movie franchise with tremendous potential.
So, your focus is on crafting the best graphic novel you can before getting to the film part?
Beck: Yes, absolutely. I think this is such an epic story that we’re telling, and so multi-dimensional, that I think when it’s written as a comic it will be so compelling that of course, people will want to see it as a movie.
Chiklis: The real fun thing for me is that this is a tremendous ensemble piece. On the one hand you have all this sort of familiarity of the pantheon of the Greek gods and the Titans, but in this completely unfamiliar context. You won’t see me with a beard and in robes. It takes place in a future, our future, that will have a completely different look and feel, but it won’t be focused on the supernatural per se. Although, obviously, there will be an element of that. I think we’ll shatter certain preconceived notions about that.
This story lends itself to so many themes of the world we’re currently living in, and potential scenarios of the world we may end up in, that I think it’s incredibly compelling. Without getting into the bone marrow, what I mean by that is, sometimes when people tell stories, they get so preachy that they tell things that are so close to peoples real life situation that it becomes a turn off. It strikes too close to the bone. I feel this story speaks to everyone’s different hopes, dreams, imaginations, wants, desires, all those things, but it’s removed into a fantasy where they can be entertained and palatable.
You're bring Marc Andreyko on to write the series. What can you say about the writing process on “Olympus?” How collaborative an effort will this be?
Chiklis: Very. You hire a writer to write, but we feel very strongly about this piece and will be working closely with Marc. Certainly to help set the tone and feel of the whole series. We want to work closely with him to establish the world and to tell the kind of story we’re telling.
Beck: When we met with Marc there was a really good energy and synergy while the three of us were talking about the project. I think that was one of the things about Marc that was so great -- he wanted this to be a collaborative effort.
Michael: What’s more is we were all on the same page about the way we’d like to go about telling this story. You can’t buy that. That’s something that organically happens or it doesn’t and right off the top we were all on the same page and it became a very exciting meeting.
One thing you should also remember about this project is, I’m of Greek heritage. I’m ¾ Greek – my father was 100% Greek, my mother was ½ Greek, so I grew up hearing about Greek history and mythology. It’s very much a part of my culture. So, the notion of doing anything involving the Greeks appeals to me on a personal level. This isn’t something I just want to hand off to someone else and walk away from. I really want to make sure that this is something I’m not going to get phone calls about from my family!
You have a serious personal investment in this then.
Michael: That makes everything better, really. If you’re only mildly or half invested, it won’t be good. I don’t like to do things in half measures. It’s not a good idea. At the same time, you want to hire people who are equally as passionate and you want to let talented people be talented. Anny and Marc are very talented people and they’re obviously going to be dealing with a lot more of this than I, because I do have a busy life and schedule and other things on my platter, but again its not something I’m going to just lend my name to and walk away from. Although I will say we are very excited about the prospect of this, down the line, being made into a feature.
How did you get hooked up with IDW and Scott Dunbier?
Beck: I got in touch with IDW two years ago after Comic-Con International in San Diego. I was at the show and had looked around at everyone. Now, Michael and I had already talked about “Olympus” and we were already in development together on this project and looking for a home for it. I just loved the work that IDW was putting out – the quality, the design, the writing. Of all of the publishers I saw in San Diego, they stood out to me the most. So, I contacted IDW President Ted Adams directly, completely cold e-mailed him and said I have a really interesting project and I have Michael Chiklis and would he like to talk about it. He responded immediately and that was the beginning of the relationship.
Chiklis: Part of the reason why this took so long, aside from the business aspect of it, was because I was very embroiled with the last season of “The Shield” and the second “Fantastic Four” movie. Again, if I was just going to throw my name at it and walk away, it would have been a different situation, but because I wanted to know what was going on, it admittedly didn’t have all my focus at that time. It was something I was definitely interested in doing, but I was very preoccupied at that time.
Beck: And it was important for all of us that Michael was really involved in this. This wasn’t the kind of thing where I wanted Michael to just put his name on it. I wanted to do this idea with Michael. This is Michael in my head. So waiting for his schedule to free up and his commitments to change made it all worthwhile.
Michael, you’ll be offering up your likeness in these comics, and we’ve seen your visage in “The Shield” comics before. I’m sure it’s one thing to see yourself filmed on TV or Film and you have a certain emotional reaction to that, but do you find you have a different reaction to an artists interpretation of who you are?
Michael: Wow, that’s a tough question. [pauses] You know, absolutely, and I’ll tell you why. An artists rendering, particularly in this genre, in this world, is often much more flattering than reality! [laughs] So, on that side of it I’m really happy! [laughs] In all honesty, I’m a storyteller, I like to tell stories, and this project has great potential to tell great stories. So to lend my face and my name to it, if it allows us to tell those stories, that’s really the main thrust behind my being involved with it.
Anny and Michael, talk about your own personal history with comics.
Beck: My personal history is more having done a lot of advertising and promotion for a lot of Sci-Fi/genre television shows, many of which were from comics or turned into comics. It’s always been an interest of mine, and now I have a 9-year-old son who is just comic book geektastic! He loves the genre and is always drawing his own. So I’m living it through his eyes as well. I’ve now actually become a cool mom because I’m in the genre!
Michael: And I’m the Thing, dude! (laughs)
Of course! [Laughs] But what about in your past?
Chiklis: I went through what I call my comic book period, I’d say around 10 years old. I was up at Lake Winnipesauke where my Dad had a boat and I was walking by a newsstand and saw my first comics in person and it was the “Fantastic Four.” My Dad used to give us a roll of quarters, and I’d go into the arcade at the Weir’s Beach, and at that time I believe comics were $.25 cents. I bought four of them – two “Fantastic Fours,” a “Thor” and an “Iron Man.” That’s when it started for me. I went through several years of reading, up until my mid-teens, maybe 14, but then I discovered girls and that’s when the comics reading started to wane. [laughs]
While I did eventually return, I did the same thing in my teens – girls trump comics.
Chiklis: Thank you. It seemed like the natural choice.
I always liked comics and if I saw one I’d breeze through it. I never lost my affinity for it and I always thought what cool movies they would make and, well, here we are. Part of the drag when I was a kid was that the technology just wasn’t there so they couldn’t do it. But today, wow. Kids these days – they’re so lucky! [laughs]