Long Last Snake...
perhaps the single-most embarassing (so far) lag time in Fanboy
Planet deadline history, we ran the first two parts of this
interview with Hurricane Entertainment back in September,
always forgetting that the downside to having fun and in-depth
taped conversations with creators is that they have to be
heavens for winter holidays, because finally,I had a chance
to finish this up. Once again, a big thank you to the folks
at Hurricane Entertainment for opening their home to a fanboy.
That would be the kind and gracious Jan Utstein-O'Neill, the
softspoken (and recently featured in Wizard Magazine impersonating
George Lucas) Bill O'Neill, and the mercifully loud and easy
to hear on tape Tone Rodriguez.
One of our interview
Two of our interview
now, Part Three...
McCaw: All of this leads to Snake Plissken. Obviously, there's
a lot of buzz on this book, and a lot of recognition for the
character. You've got Violent Messiahs, with a dystopian
metropolis, and of course, people are familiar with Snake from
the movies. And that's not necessarily the most pro-social of
characters. I like how you described him in the preview comic:
"the anti-patriotic patriot."
O'Neill: John Carpenter called him that.
That's two interesting characters for you to be working on.
So I've got to know, what are your political leanings? How
much is this reflecting what you really think?
Oh, no. How should I say this? I'm politically incorrect,
okay? I'm a moderate conservative. I admit it. As horrible
as that seems.
You think that's weird in the comics industry? It would be
Actually, I run into some people, they're like… closeted conservatives.
We have secret handshakes and stuff. Just kidding. But when
somebody muscles it out of me…like right now…
I'm going straight to Universal Studios with this information…
I generally try to keep my political beliefs to myself. But
when I'm like, "oh, all right, I'm a conservative more or
less," their eyes light up. "You too?" So there's more conservatives
in this town than I'd initially feared.
So what makes Hurricane Entertainment the right company to
handle Snake Plissken?
Just because I'm a conservative doesn't mean I can't be cynical.
(laughs) I understand the character, I think. I really
loved the first movie, even though I… I don't know how to
say this without sounding arrogant… I would hope anybody who
is a good creator, writer, penciller, whatever, can work on
characters that aren't exactly them. Not limited to, "this
is a version of ME, with muscles and long hair," or something.
I really don't have too much in common with Snake. I could
never be that much of an asshole. In the real world. But he's
an entertaining character.
Is there a place for Snake Plissken in a post-9/11 world?
You know, I was wondering about that myself. When we were
initially approached about this, I was wondering since patriotism
is "in" again. People want to be proud of America. Whether
they are or not is something else entirely. But even the most
cynical liberal would like to be proud to be an American.
And so I think that's a lot of the current patriotism, it's
like, "I'm tired of hating America, I'm tired of not being
happy about being here." Here's this attempt.
Do you think Snake really hates America, or is he just the
I think he's more of a libertarian. In my vision of Snake,
he's not really right or left, he's just himself. Belonging
to a political party would be a waste of time in his mind.
He's solely out for himself.
that's how I can be comfortable working with the character.
I don't see him as a revolutionary, a person trying to overthrow
the government, per se. He doesn't like the government. He
hates the president that's in power in this universe. But
he doesn't feel it's worth the trouble to do anything about
it. He's just out for himself as far as I can tell.
I'm not planning to put him in any adventures where we have
to get too political. I want to create some very entertaining
stories for him to get into. Like the second film, Escape
From L.A., I didn't like. But I didn't like it for several
other reasons than other people didn't. Sorry, John.
It's true, though. One, it bombed. For something to have this
huge cult following, finally gets a sequel, and then nobody
goes to see it…
A lot of people were disappointed with it. I think it bit
off more than it could chew. They were trying to do a lot
with special effects in that movie. Money-wise, they probably
should have cut the amount in half, and spent more money on
fewer special effects. They'd have gotten better shots. I
thought the political humor wasn't very subtle, so it wasn't
It was also following a very strict pattern.
Yeah, it was also very much following the template of that
first movie. So much so that it didn't seem clever.
Carpenter himself admits that he pretty much makes the same
movie over and over.
I'm just afraid I've said too much about my political beliefs.
Utstein-O'Neill: You are being taped.
It's okay. None of it will make it to the final edit. (wink,
wink) So they (Carpenter's production company) approached
you on this?
Pretty much what happened was we signed with a new agent,
someone we had known for many many years, at least six years.
And we had been talking with him on and off for about a year
now. And he mentioned that they were working with John Carpenter
and Debra Hill to bring Snake's world back out into the public
in a very good way.
of that plan was to do a comic book. Before we even signed
with him he said, "you guys are the perfect ones to do this.
I can't think of anybody better to do this book."
lot of it has to do with the style and appeal about Violent
Messiahs. Tone's artwork is just perfect for Snake Plissken.
It wouldn't make much sense for Tone to be doing Thundercats,
necessarily. But for him to do Snake Plissken, it makes sense.
actually looking at another property, to do this with, going
after another property in the vein of Snake's world. We were
pursuing it, and then this fell in our lap. It definitely
was just one of those wonderful things. We did not look for
it; it came to us. We met with John Carpenter and Debra Hill,
and Tone, who's now here…
walks into the studio, a big friendly guy with a casual style.
Tony did some sketches beforehand of Snake. At the initial
meeting, we presented those sketches, and John was so thrilled
at the artwork that there was no question as to whether or
not we were going to be doing this. And we were on our way.
In your press release, you said that Kurt Russell is still
Oh, absolutely. Kurt wasn't able to be at the meetings because
he was travelling at the time. But he is very much a partner
in all of this. He will be part of the process of okaying
everything, especially the likenesses. Tony's really happy
What were you saying?
Just kidding. About Kurt Russell and your likenesses.
As long as he doesn't turn any of them back. That's all I'm
really worried about. I really am. Because we've made Debra
and John happy. He (Kurt) is the only one we have to make
happy with the likeness. He seems to be very very nice about
it and not too concerned.
From the previews, it looks like you've done a good job.
It's not like the Star Trek stuff, that all those people were
dealing with back in the day, where there's like thirteen
different people that have to okay their likenesses. It's
just one person. We lucked out on that one.
You're moving a film into comics. At the Convention, you were
hyping up the anime version of Snake, but do you have any
involvement with that or is that a separate deal?
We're not really involved; however, we are working with the
writers of the anime.
So you'll create a continuity?
They're really intuitive, great guys. Nice guys. We've gotten
together twice so far and just talked shop. "What are you
planning on doing with the character, what are we planning
on doing with the character?" To connect the two things. Stuff
like that. We're not creatively involved with the film, but
they wanted to hear what we had to say.
My guess from reading what little there is in the preview
is that you're ignoring Escape From L.A.
I won't go so far as to say "ignoring" Escape From L.A..
It (the comic book) just picks up right after the first film.
That gives us fourteen years to fill in.
We're not going to get to it immediately. You don't have to
worry about it right now. I think we've got more important
things to do. A, set up the life, the world, and all that
kind of stuff. And then there's a lot of other things we might
want to do that take place prior to Escape (From
New York). Whether or not we actually get to it or whatnot,
people are interested in that stuff.
get the Escape From L.A. question. And it's like, well,
it's going to take a while before we go into that. It's a
non-issue right now, I guess. It really is. But it is interesting
because all of those really hard-core Snake fans, they always
ask that question. "Is he going to be on that surfboard?"
That made me laugh in the movie.
It has its moments.
Okay. This has been the summer where the comics/film crossover
is on everybody's mind. Every producer, every studio, was
circling (at Comic-Con) and looking for the project that they
can own and take. Were people biting at Violent Messiahs?
There were a lot of sharks at San Diego. I felt like Roy Scheider
in the back of the boat, shoveling out the chum. "We're going
to need a bigger booth."
at that point where we have people interested so we can't
say. So just take that as a good sign.
We also like being very conservative about that. We've had
things in the past as well, and we don't like talking about
anything until it's real. Other companies put out, every time
there's a nibble, a press release. I've been around the industry
enough to know that it could be nothing.
Sure. Anyone who's read Kevin Smith's Superman 5 knows that
that ain't happening.
Wasn't Tom Cruise attached to a Rob Liefeld project at one
time, according to Rob Leifeld?
Yes. He was atttached to The Mark, and then Will Smith got
attached to it. Then Liefeld published a book by Jada Pinkett-Smith
to entice Will Smith, and now it's dead.
It's like a game of poker. If you play with your cards way
out here where everyone can look at them, you're not going
to win the game.
It's also like that old line from the military. It's always
"hurry up and wait." They go "we love it! We love it! Let's
tell the trades right now!" And then the pages fly off the
calendar. "What happened?" "Oh, it dried up."
You feel the pressure of this. You've got the high profile
of Snake, and then following up with the second Violent Messiahs
I don't feel any pressure. I really don't. I have other pressure
to f***ing piss me off. (gestures at Bill and Jan)
They worry about that stuff. I'll let them do it. They'll
come to me and say, hey, here's your check, and I'm like,
how I handle it. Their pressure is "how am I going to get
that check for Tone?"
Just as long as they do.
I get to worry about it. That's my job.
That's where the pressure's at.
You also have mentioned that Chassis is headed for a re-launch,
but you don't have an artist yet.
But both it and Snake Plissken are going through CrossGen…
No, not at this point. Just Snake.
Then forget I said that, though I'm sure that Mark Alessi
would be happy to have it as part of his plan to dominate
the industry. He's a force of nature. Do you think Stan Lee
was like that at forty?
Okay. So you're moving Snake to CrossGen while keeping Violent
Messiahs at Image.
Do you think, though, that the Snake Plissken thing kind of
rocked the industry? After The Red Star, it seemed like, okay,
it's not really CrossGen's thing, but they're dipping their
toe in, and then suddenly they've got John Carpenter's Snake
Plissken. That's a huge thing.
It was not an easy decision to make. I mean, we weighed everything,
and took all the information we gathered and brought it over
to our friends at the "Escapees." (John and Debrah.) We discussed
what would be best for the project.
was decided that even though CrossGen was a newer company,
some of the things that they were working on could potentially
give us a much wider range of, not just distribution, but
attention. It is a good time at CrossGen. There's a lot of
excitement, there's a lot of buzz around the facility. But
there's a lot of things that Mark (Alessi) is working on right
now that haven't quite come out yet that I think will allow
us to get into a lot more stores with a project like Snake.
I said, it was a very difficult decision. It wasn't something
where we just went, "hey, yeah, let's go to a new company
and see what happens."
about the decision. I'm happy about it. But at the same time,
we felt that it was best that we have Violent Messiahs
stay exactly where it was. It's an Image book. Image has done
right by us with the book.
think that was the plan of anybody, necessarily, when plans
were being made for how companies would come to CrossGen.
But it's early. Some people told us that this was kind of
a ground-breaking thing within the industry - a company like
ours that produces comics going to different publishers at
the same time.
We're the only people that are doing it. We're the test. I
feel like little pawns right now.
There are writers that write for different companies, and
so forth. But this is different. We're actually producing
two different books at two different companies. Check with
us in about six months and we'll tell you if it's working
or not. (laughs)
It'll be interesting. It was very weird, not just at the press
conference, but at the first panel we did with CrossGen. They
actually produced a pamphlet, and I guess our names were on
To let you know who was going to be at what panels. Someone
ran up to me and said, you know, you're on a CrossGen panel.
And I freaked out. I didn't know anything about it.
Yes. Jan, you told me on the first night of Comic-Con that
something big was coming with CrossGen, but made me promise
not to leak it, which was okay because I really wasn't in
any position to do so anyway. Mark Alessi sort of danced around
it, but then hands me this press release with your names -
it was pretty obvious what was up. Like you guys were just
going to show up and say, hey, we like CrossGen…
We knew that once it was out…
You really enjoy reading Ruse…
One of the guys that was waiting to go into the CrossGen panel
is a friend of ours here in L.A. But he's like a really big
Violent Messiahs fan. And when we walked in, they were
only letting the panel members in. He saw Jan and I walking
in and he looked up and his face was just like a Tex Avery
cartoon. He was freaked out. When it turned out that it was
a Snake thing, it was kind of cool for him.
weird how personal people take this stuff. It's just a comic
Our name on the list, of course, let everybody know something
was going on. But they didn't know exactly. A lot of people
assumed that we were taking everything over to CrossGen and
that was not the case.
We made it fairly clear at the panel.
Okay. We have the artist of Violent Messiahs and Snake Plissken
in the room, but Bill, are you going to go back to drawing
I'm developing another project right now. I hope to be the
artist. It's two years away now. First we've got to do Snake.
Hopefully that will increase my visibility a little bit.
And then we're going to be doing Chassis at some point,
somewhere, which I'm going to write. Once we get that up and
running, then I'll be able to launch this third project. It'll
be a mini-series, but I've got a lot of ideas.
Tone, now that you're here, I'll ask what I asked Jan and
Bill: What makes you the right guy to be doing Snake Plissken?
They couldn't find the right guy. I was just in the other
room, working. They went looking for the right guy and they
couldn't find him, so they said, "fuck, I guess we've got
to give this to Tone."
know what? It was just really weird. When the call came in
from whoever, all I know is that one day Jan walked in and
asked, "what do you guys think about Escape From New York?"
I said, that's cool. Right?
sort of came out of the blue. She gave us the lowdown, they
were interested in doing something, and our name got thrown
in the hat. And we were going to meet with them in a week.
said, well, should I do some artwork? We didn't know what
to do, because we didn't know anything. So I went ahead and
did three or four…I mean, the night they told me, we were
sitting at dinner at Mel's, you (Jan) explained to us there
and we grabbed a napkin. I just drew a Kurt Russell picture.
He looks like a long-haired guy, so I just drew a long-haired
guy with a stubble beard.
only thing that really makes him Snake is the eye-patch. So
I put it on there and said, hey, here's our first one! We'll
take this to the meeting…
sounds good until you get back to the studio. You're like,
"what the hell were we thinking about?"
It's the only one we didn't show them.
I wanted to take it. I wanted to show them that we were committed.
We wanted to do this since Day One.
Even though it was on a place mat.
Okay, it was on a place mat.
I feel Tony's work is perfect for Snake Plissken. It's got
a gritty, urban feel to it. It's nasty. And that really works.
Do you like that? Being nasty?
I don't know. I've heard crude, but not nasty.
His name's Tony. Mister Rodriguez if you're nasty.
Actually, that's what I want to bring to Snake. I want it
to be humorous in a way, the way the first film was. The first
film had some very funny moments in it. Let's go back to that
cynical, dark humor.
like Garth Ennis' work on The Punisher right now. It's
just this brilliant… he knows how to take it to the wall.
He knows how to take a PG right to the edge of R. It's brilliant
how he's doing that, managing to play right on that fence.
got the wildest ideas, and it's drop dead funny. Violent,
and yet half the time it's all set up and pay off. Most of
the time it's not the actual act. He just describes what pain
The Punisher is going to do to somebody. Then you cut to a
scene and cut back, and it's been done to that guy. It's just
a brilliant job.
It's never the action. It's set up and delivery.
What we're really going to be capturing more than anything
in this series is the irreverence of the world of Snake. You
asked about the world of post-9/11 and all that. I don't think
we're going to be toying with the political, but we will be
dealing with the world that is that way because of the political
One of the things I really like about the first film is that
it is apolitical. It's cynical and it's dark, but it's not
preachy, either. It had a great balance to it.
And our first story arc, which we're not going to go into
Let's step outside, Tone.
I'm really happy with what Bill did. We went over the outline.
He hasn't finished the writing, but the outline was really,
It's perfect with Snake. It's just so Snake.
I finally got one of the jokes the other day, and he gave
it to me months ago. I called him on it, hey, I know what
that means now. It's an East Coast thing. A lot of people
on the East Coast are going to get it. Me being a West Coast
guy, I didn't get it at all.
I think we can say that the majority of the action in the
first arc will be taking place in Atlantic City. Regardless
of what I end up writing, that's pretty much a given. I just
want to do a story that's a really fun balls to the wall adventure.
With a couple of cool thrills and a couple of cool laughs.
when we're done with that, I don't want to change anybody's
world with it. I just want the guy who's done reading it to
go, "that was fun."
next issue will be just as cool. There's no cardinal sin in
Not at all. Have you guys achieved your dream project yet?
Why does everybody look at me?
I always like to ask artists that, especially. Because you
grow up with certain books…even writers. Like it seems like
everybody at DC wants a crack at Captain Marvel. It won't
sell, but everybody wants it.
No one's ever really bought Captain Marvel, and I feel sorry
about that. I really do. I feel horrible about it, but it
just doesn't sell.
Five years from now, Tony's doing Captain Marvel…
No. Not at all. I think Jerry Ordway nailed him. In that hardcover,
Power of Shazam. Beautiful book.
know. I've got a lot of stupid shit I want to do. But I keep
talking to people about it and they say they can't do it.
What one character?
I have a Batman story I want to do, but I don't think it's
ever going to get done. And that's it. That's the only thing
I really have.
Bill, anybody else's toys you want to play with?
I'm happy with Snake right now. There appears to be a lot
of interest in the property and everything I've shown to the
public has had a good response. So maybe with higher visibility
down the road I'll put something to DC or Marvel. I've got
a couple of ideas. But nothing I want to say right now.
book does well, that gives me more clout to actually pick
up the phone and say, "hey, I've got an idea for this character.
Do you want to hear it?"
Jan, how about for Hurricane? Do you want to see it grow like
a studio like Wildstorm, where it becomes a whole line?
Yeah. I really see us in the future…a lot of people ask us,
"what is Hurricane Entertainment?"
The Hollywood answer is that we produce content.
We are content providers. That's the best way to put it.
That would be the Silicon Valley answer, too.
With my background in film, and in comics, and theater and
all that, I don't that we just are publishers. My vision for
this company is that it expands out, it gets us out of here
(gesturing around the apartment). You're the first
person to actually see where we're working.
No one ever comes here. EVER.
I will be allowed to leave, right? I took no photographs.
Everybody assumes that we and Team Red Star have studios somewhere,
when we're really working out of our homes. My first dream,
which is not very large, is to move out of here and into offices
and have a full-time staff. I absolutely see this company
growing larger, having a full-time running staff, a number
of titles going at the same time, and entertainment as well.
That's my background and where I want to take it.
so we turned off the tape, looked at some art, and said our
goodbyes. The Adventures of Snake Plissken is scheduled for
release from CrossGen sometime in the first quarter of 2003.
I can hardly wait.
Messiahs: The Book of Job