At its panel Saturday afternoon at New York Comic Con, Radical Publishing announced that it will be publishing an illustrated novel titled “Oblivion,” written by “Tron 2” director Joseph Kosinski with art by newcomer Tae. A preview book will be available at the Radical booth throughout the convention. CBR News caught up with Radical publisher Barry Levine to discuss the project, the progress of its “Hercules” and “Caliber” films, and big announcements yet to come.
“Joseph Kosinski is directing Tron 2, and last year he did amazingly well at Comic Con [International in San Diego] where he showed that test and had 6000 people show up. This year, he's going to have a trailer, not of the entire film, but just what he's been shooting. He started shooting in April, and given his pedigree and what I know about the film and what I know about Joe--the film will be amazing,” Levine said. “So he'll show that trailer there and we've got his project, 'Oblivion,' which is a big sci-fi epic piece. The book won't be coming out until 2010, so what we've got at San Diego is a special presentation of the book, in a portfolio, with about 10 images and two or three pages of the story breakdown. We're going to sell it there for a very little amount of money, in a hardcover presentation, to give people a point of reference of what's to come.”
Levine explained that Kosinski's new project is not a comic but rather an illustrated novel. “We do various formats and have various divisions,” the publisher said, noting that even its comic book format is somewhat unconventional--many of Radical's titles are published in 48-52 page installments at $4.99, resulting in fewer issues per miniseries but, in Levine's words, “more meat” in each issue. “We also do graphic novels, one contained story. But we're doing like the French do sometimes, we're doing illustrated novels,” Levine said. “And the reason why we're doing it, is when you come across people like Joe Kosinski, who maps out this real intricate world that is also character-driven, you sometimes want to, like a novel, do a lot more backstory, develop the dialogue more extensively, develop the characters more extensively. But you don't get to do that in six to eight issues because you've only got so many bubbles to a page.
“So Radical is known for its artwork, but we also want to be known not only for our high concept but also for our story, how well our stories are developed. So we're going to do that format, and 'Oblivion' will be our first illustrated book,” he continued. “It will have about a 125-130 pages, and will open up with about 3-4 pages of text, like a novel, but it will be an 11x14 book, and then you'll have fully-painted images. Some of them will be splash pages, some will be fully-painted single pages. We'll have forty to fifty images, and each will represent maybe 2-3 pages that you've read. There are some artists that don't really want to do sequentials, because they just want to do art or they just want to do covers, or they just want to do gallery stuff. So this is a way of really telling Joe's story in a very intricate way, in a very specific way, allowing the artist to breathe as well.”
Levine indicated that Radical has another major film announcement coming soon, one that the publisher had hoped to make at New York Comic Con but had been asked by the director to delay making public until he could confirm a writer. “We will make that announcement probably at Comic Con in San Diego, or maybe before that,” Levine said, explaining that it was important to make the announcement at the proper time. “Because you don't get a second chance to make a first impression, and we want to make the right impression.”
At last year's Comic Con International in San Diego, Radical announced that its first two titles had been picked up for film, with director Peter Berg attached to “Hercules” and Johnny Depp's company, Infinitum Nihil, producing a John Woo-directed “Caliber.” “We've only been in existence since May, so we're a relatively new company. And we've already progressed further than most companies because selling a film--selling a graphic novel, adapting it as a film, is not a difficult thing to do if you have a great high concept, and if you have great artwork,” Levine said. “Getting them made is always very hard.”
Levine added that his goal was not simply to sell film options to Radical's comics, but also to see those films produced. “When we do this, we go in with a director attached, we do these incredible presentations with our studio Storm Lion in Singapore, like we did on 'Aladdin' and 'Hercules,'” he said. “These are big presentations in boxes and portfolios that are specifically made--the 'Hercules' portfolio was made of torn leather with a lion's head bronzed on the cover. It's all bells and whistles, but when you're dealing with high concept graphic novels that we do, and you're going after the kind of directors of substance that are very stylized, you need to bring it.”
In addition to finding a director before pitching a project to a studio, Levine said that he often likes to hire a writer, as well. For some bigger projects, though, he finds it better to bring a treatment rather than a full script. “We can't afford a seven-figure writer. We can afford a six figure writer, but not a seven-figure writer. So that'll be a treatment, but it will still have a director,” he said.
“So we try to do a certain amount of development before going in. What I won't do, and I'll never do--and I've done it in the past and it never works, or it almost never works--is just go in with a comic book and a pitch. Those things are sold every day, and 75-80% of them sit on a shelf and never make it. And I'm involved with a few of them in the past. We try to build a foundation, we try to go in there with everything possible so it's hard for them not to put it in active development and try to get it made. You walk in with a director of substance, you walk in with a script and a presentation—what else is there? Sometimes we attach an actor, very rarely, sometimes. I like to think that most of the stuff we're doing right now is not actor-driven, meaning we don't need an A-list actor to make the film. You look at Zack Snyder's '300,' there's no star in that film. Who's the star of 'Twilight?' There's a lot of these films that the director was the star. Ridley Scott was the star of 'Blade Runner,' and that's what we're doing with our stuff.”