Ed Brubaker Talks "Angel of Death"

Wed, March 11th, 2009 at 1:28pm PDT | Updated: March 11th, 2009 at 1:36pm

TV/Film
Jami Philbrick, Staff Writer
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Ed Brubaker and Zoë Bell on the set of "Angel of Death"

Writer Ed Brubaker is best known for his work in comics, revitalizing the Captain America, Daredevil and Iron Fist characters for Marvel, as well as his work on “Uncanny X-men,” “X-Men: Deadly Genesis,” “Criminal,” “Incognito” and “Gotham Central.” Brubaker can now add screenwriter to his impressive resume. His new film, “Angel of Death,” which has been split into ten separate episodes, began airing on Sony’s Crackle.com March 2 and will air a new episode each weekday until it’s finale on March 13.

“Angel of Death” stars stuntwoman/actress Zoë Bell (“Death Proof,” “Xena: Princess Warrior”) as Eve, an assassin who suffers severe brain trauma when a knife is stabbed into her head. As a result of her injury, Eve begins to hallucinate and becomes haunted by her victims, forcing her to seek revenge on those who ordered the hits in the first place, her Mob employers. The film boasts a mini-“Xena” reunion between stars Bell, Lucy Lawless (“Battlestar Galactica”) and Ted Raimi (“Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn,” “Spider-Man”) as well as Doug Jones (“Hellboy II: The Golden Army,” “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer”) rounding out the cast.

CBR News had an opportunity to sit down with Ed Brubaker to talk about his new film, its talented cast, what fans of his comics work can expect to see in the next few months, and his failed plan to meet Bruce Campbell.

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CBR: Tell us about “Angel of Death’s” lead character, Eve.

Ed Brubaker: She’s a hit woman who basically has no remorse, no conscience about anything she’s ever done. She’s a professional killer that gets a head injury and starts being haunted by the things that she’s done. She basically grows a conscience and starts to turn on the people that she’s been working for all this time because of that. It’s pretty brutal.

Was this an idea that you’ve been kicking around for awhile?

Yeah, about eight or nine years ago I was watching a documentary about an ER in Austin, Texas. A guy went into the ER with a hunting knife stabbed into the top of his brain and he just walked in. They basically just shaved his head and slowly pulled the knife out and he was fine. I just thought, “That’s really interesting. I guess I got to store that away to use at some point.”

Scene from "Angel of Death"

So that was something I had been sitting on for a while and then John Norris, the producer, approached me about doing something for the Internet. They had been talking to Zoë about doing something and I thought, “Well, I’m a huge Zoë Bell fan, why don’t I just create something for Zoë?” So I just wrote up this pitch, took this idea, sort of flushed it out into what it became and sent it to them, you know, as a thing for Zoë.

Miraculously there were no roadblocks. They hired Zoë, we got green-lighted, I got to write the script and it just went from there. They started filming two weeks after I finished the final draft. We announced it in August and it’s out now, it’s crazy.

You have an amazing cast. It’s kind of a “Xena: Warrior Princess” reunion, was that deliberate or did that just happen?

Well, it actually just kind of happened. I wrote the part for Lucy [Lawless] but that was actually [director] Paul [Etheredge’s] idea to come up with a part for Lucy Lawless where it would be sort of reflective, a little bit, of their previous relationship where Zoë was her body-double. So the part was sort of written for her. She really threw herself all into it.

We got Ted Raimi because we needed somebody for the part who was a really good physical actor, since the character has dialogue but he’s gagged. So you need somebody who is really good at that stuff. And they just called up Ted. I don’t think he knew this was Zoë’s project. He just did it because it sounded like something that would be fun to do. He showed up and found out that it was Zoë’s first starring role and I think he was like, “Oh, cool.” But when I suggested they hire Bruce Campbell it was like, “No, we are not doing a whole Xena reunion here.” I was like, “Damn it, I’d really like to meet Bruce Campbell.”

Scene from "Angel of Death"

Doug Jones, that was something they talked about early on. Paul had met him at the “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” premiere and they started talking. He asked Doug, “Would you ever want to do some acting without a mask?” Doug was like, “Yeah.” So I thought he’d be perfect as the junkie-Mob-Doctor. He really is perfect in everything he’s in. I would say he’s like the Dude’s rug in “The Big Lebowski,” “He really ties the room together.” But it’s really true. There’s a scene where Zoë’s beating the crap out of these people, it’s like episode seven or eight, and Doug is on a couch in the background freaking out. You just look at him and he’s so great. Doug is like the comic relief in it.

That’s the interesting thing coming from comics to film. A lot changes on the set in movies and characters that you didn’t think would be funny end up being funny, like the guy who plays Franklin [Justin Huen]. He’s actually funny throughout the movie because his reactions to things came off different then when I was picturing it while I was writing it. It really worked I thought and it added a little bit of lightness to a really dark story. So that was really cool to see.

Was it different writing a film for the Internet as apposed to writing a film for theatrical release?

The challenge was to do something that would work as a feature but that would also be able to be broken up into episodes and since I work in comics it was such a natural thing to do. So I liked the challenge of trying to make it be able to be both. Because each one has to be good on it’s own merit. I figured you could do that for “Raiders of the Lost Arc,” you could probably cut every ten or twelve minutes and it would still be really good that way. But when I wrote [“Angel of Death”], I wrote it as a feature so they knew we’d be doing it this way. I wrote an outline for the whole thing and then figured out, well that’s this episode and that’s this one. Some stuff was shifted from one to another and things like that. But I wrote it, then decided where to break it up because you had to make sure each episode had enough meat on it’s bones to be worth watching on it’s own without the other parts.

Scene from "Angel of Death"

The best for me was that we got to do this cool low budget action film that gets out to people immediately. It’s that immediacy of it that is really exciting. Especially coming right after “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog,” I felt that broke down some walls. You can actually make really cool stuff for the Internet. It doesn’t have to be people just talking to the camera. It seems like every Internet thing was geared around the Internet and around the fact that it was going to be on the Internet and our thing is just a movie. The fact that it’s on the Internet doesn’t matter. Every movie doesn’t acknowledge that it’s in a movie theatre. We don’t brake the forth wall. Our thing is just a story and the Internet is just how it’s being distributed. For me, that’s just a middleman.

Would you like to write a feature for theatrical release next or write more films for the Internet?

I think of [“Angel of Death”] as just writing a feature. I’ve written other screenplays that haven’t gotten made and I’d love to do more stuff for the Internet. It was a lot like comic books in that there weren’t a lot of roadblocks to getting it done. Where my other experience in Hollywood was nothing but roadblocks. There are a thousand movies in pre-production and only a hundred of them are ever going to get filmed. With this, it was green-lighted before I wrote the script. That’s the greatest thing about these, so I’m already talking to Sony about doing more stuff like this. Because of this, I also have interest from other companies about doing regular screenwriting jobs that aren’t for the Internet too. But I really like the Internet as a provider of getting material to people.

As a comic book writer, how do you feel about the Internet as a source for comic books such as motion comics or digital comics?

Scene from "Angel of Death"

Well, the Internet’s great because it goes everywhere, but I’m less interested in digital comics. My feeling with digital comics is that when I’m listening to music on my iPod, it’s still music, but I don’t think a motion comic really looks like a comic. It’s animation. I don’t personally like reading comics on the Internet or on my computer. They’re great when they’re printed and they’re not really that expensive. But a lot of people don’t live where there’s a comic store or they can’t afford comics so I like the idea of getting our material out to more and more people. I’m a print baby, I grew up in a house full of readers and writers and I was going to the PX to buy comics when I was four-years-old on a military base in Gitmo. So as long as there are printed books and printed comics, I’ll be buying the print versions.

I know that there’s a whole generation that’s come up after me that has had email since they were eight. [I was in my 30s when] I got email for the first time, it’s a whole different world. I think as long as people want to buy books, newspapers and magazines, we’ll still have print. But I definitely read more news on the Internet than I do in the paper.

Was it frustrating coming from comics, where you have complete control, to writing for film, where they may change your words on set or even re-write you?

Well, yeah, because in comics we’re all control freaks. No, I didn’t feel frustrated by any of it. A lot of my actual writing stuff has to get changed when they’re filming because they can’t get a location they wanted or the scene doesn’t quite work the way the actors say it, so you need to change stuff. There’s always the odd line of dialogue where I’m like, “I didn’t write that.” But mostly I felt like it was really faithful to what I actually wrote and I thought a lot of times if it was different than how I pictured it, it was actually better than I pictured it. There are just so many moving parts so it’s going to have to be different.

Scene from "Angel of Death"

Is directing something you’d be interested in doing some day?

I think every control freak probably feels that way, but directing seems like an intensely hard job. Paul, our director, had to have emergency dental surgery while making the movie and was back two days later for filming. That’s not my life. You know, we’ll see. We’ll see how it is trying to get a few more things made, being on the set and getting experience with what that job is like. I certainly don’t want to just try to waltz in like I know what the hell I’m doing. In comics, I know what the hell I’m doing and I can be that control freak. But you know there are so many revolving parts in a film and a lot of it comes down to how good your actors are or how good your [director of photography] is. But the director is the person that has to have that vision to see all those moving parts and where they’re supposed to fit. I think my head works in that way in some ways but I didn’t grow up imaging that I’d be a film director. I just grew up imaging I’d be a cartoonist and now I’m a comic book writer.

Can you give fans of your comic book work a teaser of what they can expect from you in the next few months?

Sean [Phillips] and I are working on “Incognito” right now, our series about a super-villain living in witness protection and that’s going to hit some major twists in the next issue. It goes even darker.

I’ve got huge stuff coming up in “Captain America” this summer that I’m not allowed to talk about. But it’s going to be really big.

Scene from "Angel of Death"

Steve Epting and I are starting a thing for Marvel’s big Seventieth Anniversary celebration where we’re actually sort of going back and retelling the early days of the Marvel Universe. Sort of like “The Right Stuff” but it starts during the Depression and goes to right after Pearl Harbor. I keep comparing it to “The Right Stuff” because that’s really what it’s like. We all know what this story is going to be. It’s really kind of about this Cold War race to create super-humans. If you look at the early days of the Marvel Universe -- 1939, 1940, 1941, end of the Depression to the beginning of World War II -- Europe’s at war, America’s not in it and then you look at the Marvel Universe and they had the Human Torch, they had the Sub-Mariner and they were creating the super solider with Captain America. So I was looking at that and I’m like, “How do you fit that all into one big story?” So it’s a really big espionage story basically, but a real sprawling character piece. So that’s a lot of fun.

And I have a secret project starting in July that I’m not allowed to talk about with a really big artist.

Finally, are there any Marvel characters that you’d still like to take a stab at writing?

Someday I think I’d still like to write for Spider-Man. But I was never the kind of guy who really thought, “I have to write this character or that character.” I didn’t think so until I got to Marvel and then I was like, “I got to have Captain America and Iron Fist.” Those two books were the ones I wanted to write because they were the first comics as a kid that I ever bought with my own money when I was like five-years-old.

You’ve reinvigorated both of those characters, Captain America and Iron Fist, for a whole new generation. That must be gratifying to you?

Well, [co-writer Matt] Fraction had as much or more to do with “The Immortal Iron Fist” than I did but yeah, that’s really one of my proudest accomplishments that our Iron Fist out-lasted Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s book. I said, “We just got to get to issue seventeen and then we can quit. We just got to get to issue seventeen and then they can cancel the book.” But it’s doing well and I think Duane [Swierczynski] is doing a great job picking it up where we left it. We both really thought that Marvel should give him a chance on the book, we’ve been really supportive of what he’s been doing. It’s been a lot of fun.

“Angel Of Death” is available now on Crackle.com with the finale goes live this Friday, March 13.

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TAGS:  ed brubaker, angel of death, zoe bell, crackle

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