Means Having To Wear Spandex:
An Interview with Mark Teague
surrounded by his next project...
we first met Mark Teague last summer, he was working the
Creative Light Entertainment booth at ComicCon. Sure, there
was a picture of him up on the booth's wall, dressed in
spandex and flying towards the viewer with grim determination.
But at the time, who knew from SuperGuy?
after interviewing Mark in his capacity as production
designer for Jekyll, he handed over a copy of his labor
of love: SuperGuy:
Behind The Cape. Suddenly, we knew from SuperGuy, and
could hardly wait for this film to be released. As of today,
June 22, 2004, the general public can know what we know.
This is one seriously multi-talented guy, with a background
in comics, animation, and live action film production that
will just keep on building.
today we should talk about SuperGuy...
Planet: Years ago, you and Bill Lae decide that you
need to work together on a film project. How did that evolve
Teague: I was working at Marvel (Animation) on Fantastic
Four. I was the character designer over there. Literally
the day before I was working as an orderly in a psych ward,
taking care of crazy people. I'd been doing comic books
for independent companies here and there, and then I got
this job at Marvel. They wanted me to start right away.
about a week or so, it hit me. Wow. Superheroes are such
a big market. Then I thought what if there really was a
superhero? Then I started reading all the scripts we had,
for storyboarding and designing, and thought, geez, who
the hell would want to be a superhero? It's so dramatic
and everybody wants a piece of you at some point.
then I started thinking I'd love to do a documentary about
a superhero and follow his daily life. I started obsessing
and analyzing everything a superhero would go through, from
the time he brushes his teeth, what clothes does he wear,
does he actually eat a well-balanced diet? All that stuff.
my brother. He liked the idea, but he didn't think it was
such a great thing to work on. I asked him if he would play
the character, and he said "naaah, I don't think so." And
that was it.
went by, and I met Bill in New Orleans, of all places -
Mardi Gras. We kept in contact here and there, and he asked
me to do some animation on The Couch Critics. He
ended up making me a producer on it, and we started doing
this thing on the weekends, developing a TV show, a Siskel
& Ebert meets In Living Color sort of thing.
worked on that for about a year, and when it was done, we
started noticing how at the time all these internet short
movies were getting big deals. There was one called 405,
something called Swingblade, all these different
films were on the internet. And we thought, we've got to
make a short.
pitched around an idea kind of like It's A Wonderful
Life, a small filmmaker whose always battling big production
companies. It was okay, but I told Bill I had this one idea
a long time ago about a superhero, a documentary. Bill loved
it, and wanted to know more about it.
I told him more and more and he loved it. Bill is like the
special effects king, so he was saying, "yeah, we could
make him fly, it'll be great!"
"We'll get my brother to play him."
Bill says, "He lives in San Jose. Why don't you play
I'm not going to play him."
not? You're a big guy."
a nice gut on me at the time, but I thought about it for
a few days, then I got realistic. I thought who else is
going to do this every weekend, like I've been doing for
for truth, justice, and the American Way...
was on. We tossed around some names then said, how about
just Super …Guy? We started laughing about it. It stuck.
Planet: So by a process of elimination, you became SuperGuy…
Teague: The first costume we made was horrible. We had
it remade again. I took all of my comic books out. We never
said, let's do a parody of Superman. We just kept coming
back to that somehow.
nude in front of a mirror in my house. I was so tired of
looking at all these different costume ideas, so I got a
marker and just drew it right onto my body - the outline.
Planet: So you walked around nude with the SuperGuy
outfit drawn on?
Teague: No, no, I just drew it on so it would make sense
when I went to see this lady in Venice Beach - she was like
a spandex expert. So I get there and we're talking about
what I want. I showed her some drawings, but finally said,
"actually, this is going to sound kind of weird, but…"
my shirt off and she said, "yeaaaaah, perfect!"
does Ice Capades and stuff like that, so she put a white
costume over me and traced the outlines that were on my
body, and then she had a perfect costume, like a glove.
It made her whole job easier.
put that on, and it just looked right. It was on. Then shoot
and shoot and shoot. Every weekend.
Planet: Have you heard anything from DC at this point,
since there's obviously the Superman/SuperGuy joke, and
Superman is acknowledged in the movie?
Teague: No, nothing yet. It would be an honor.
I approached Jim Valentino when he was head of Image, he
said that would be his biggest fear in doing it as a comic.
we dealt with all those issues when we worked with Paramount
writing a pilot for it.
Planet: There's a pilot?
Teague: Yeah. Before the movie was even finished, we'd
taken this "How To Get In Touch With Your Creative Somethin'
Somethin'" workshop. We met a producer named Dan Fausey
over at Paramount. He said that when the class was over
he'd welcome any pitch we might have.
we pitched Couch Critics, but he didn't seem too
into it. He asked what else we had. We had this thing, but
we weren't done with it yet. We showed him the trailer,
and the next week we had a deal.
optioned it for two years. They paid us to write a pilot.
It was on.
Planet: Did it get to the pilot stage?
Teague: Actually, no. We wrote the pilot. The guy that
wrote Sledge Hammer! wrote the first pilot, and they
hated it. So they let the creators write the pilot. We wrote
it and they liked it.
as it got up the ladder of approval, The Tick had
just come out. Superheroes hadn't really made it that big
yet, like Spider-Man. They just thought eh, The
Tick is kind of cheesy and a one-trick pony, and we
think SuperGuy is going to be a one-trick pony as
well. So let's pass on it.
hadn't started the casting process yet. But they were thinking
of people. They were planning to get it on the air at the
UPN. So they optioned it for another two years and got a
bigger name writer to write the pilot.
they got the guy that wrote the Fred Savage Working
TV series. It was very well done. He really watched the
movie over and over. I know that the hardest part about
writing the pilot for us was cutting half the characters.
We don't really need the father anymore - cut! We don't
need the maid - cut!
this guy really fought for the characters and kept them
all in. It was a great script. Of course, they passed on
that. So we just decided that we wanted to get our movie
back and get it on the shelf.
to avoid the paparazzi...
had a screening at ComicCon for the first time about three
years ago, and it got a good response. That's where I met
(Scott) Zakarin. He said that if we ever wanted distribution
to keep him in mind.
we said we'd keep it in mind. We thought it was a solid
property and would be a hot commodity, so we wanted to build
it a bit. Our next step was film festivals.
put it in film festivals like a year later. We're all very
tired at this point. We know it's a good thing, but it just
hadn't hit the market yet.
the Dances With Films Festival in Santa Monica got it in
there. We didn't know there was a writer with Variety in
there. The following Monday after the festival, Variety
came out with this huge write-up about SuperGuy.
just went on and on about how this was a masterpiece and
Christopher Guest had some competition…great review.
I called a friend on Monday and asked, will I get any calls
on this? He said probably not, it will just be good to say
you were in Variety. But I check my emails, and I've got
thirty emails, from every big studio in Hollywood. The phone
starts ringing off the hook, they're calling Bill, they're
calling me, and it went on for a week. We were freaking
started getting calls, taking meetings, all that. We had
a meeting with Richard Donner's production company, the
people that did Superman. We pitched ideas to them,
then to different agencies, to get an agent.
was basically a lot of "heeey, you directed a movie, we'd
like to work with you, let's do something. I've got another
meeting in ten minutes, but let's talk next week."
think that the article got us noticed, but more just to
see who these new guys were, see what they're all about,
rather than do anything. We were like new fish, and they
didn't want to take a risk on us. I don't know why nothing
ever really took off. We were kind of offered something
with the Zuckers' company.
there we are dead in the water again after a while. I convinced
my three partners to go back to Creative Light and see what
kind of deal we could get, because it had been a while.
Planet: So it's been at least four years since you shot
it. You'd put a lot of effort into this little labor of
love, working weekends, all that…
Teague: Yes. It took up a lot of time. Bill had his
way of directing, I had mine. He lets the directors find
their way, where I'm like very direct, "here's the scene.
What do you think of O.J. Simpson? 'oh, I can't stand him.'
Good. That's what we need. Bye."
there was stuff that we would strategically plan, with SuperGuy
on the scene. We'd steal a shot here and there. We'd organize
it the night before and show up with two or three cameras
and bang it out really quick. I mean, here I am in a spandex
outfit, so I had to ride a bus with the public. It wasn't
Planet: You didn't wear a suit and glasses over it?
Teague: Nope. I'd just put the costume on and ride in
the back of the car. They'd say "get out here and run around."
over the embarrassment right away. I got so used to wearing
that costume every weekend it was no big deal.
Planet: Do you still wear it?
Teague: I'll never tell.
Planet: Are you wearing it right now, as you work out?
Teague: Actually, I'm working out because I've got to
lose weight to wear it again. They may be getting me on
the Jimmy Kimmell Show.
was definitely the best movie-making experience I've ever
had. Looking back, we had a lot of disagreements, but all
our disagreements turned out to be gems. We had another
ending, and we just thought it had a too negative feeling.
I wanted something more uplifting, that would offer some
sort of realization about life.
Planet: I think the ending you settled on works. It
Teague: The only time I ever watch it is when I attend
a festival. But when I watch it, I forget that it's me on
screen. Then I sort of go with it, and I believe in every
character. There are two or three parts that make me a little
emotional. It holds up. I hope that it holds up years from
now, for what it is. I made the movie for fans.
thought that if we just keep the Fanboys close, the rest
of the public would follow later on. If at any point, the
true fan says, aw, man, that wouldn't happen, then we failed.
That's how critical I was. And that was the source of most
of our disputes.
Tim Peyton (who also plays Ronald Pittman) and Mike
this day, Ronald Pittman (SuperGuy's
biggest fan) gets the best laugh.
Planet: You're finishing up the production work on Jekyll.
Once SuperGuy gets on the shelf, what's next for
you? Obviously, you're planning on a ComicCon appearance.
Has anything been firmed up?
Teague: I think I'll be on a panel. I was on one last
year, so it will probably be something about independent
Planet: Up next, you've got a project called Tony
Loco. Let's talk about it a little bit. You've gotten
some interest in this?
Teague: I am actively looking for investors for my next
project. It's kind of the last lesson I'm learning about
the movie business: where do you get the money? I spent
a big chunk of my own cash on SuperGuy, and I don't
think I could do that again.
Planet: How much are you willing to say about what Tony
Loco actually is?
Teague: Tony Loco is live-action mixed with animation.
I really feel that that genre hasn't been defined yet. I
think that Quentin Tarantino and Oliver Stone have dipped
into it here and there, but I want to go even further, like
Pink Floyd's The Wall.
poster for Tony Loco...
Loco is a simple story in a small desert farming town.
Something tragic happens to a young boy, ten years old.
He's basically been in a mental care facility for twenty
years, and he's just getting out and has to figure out how
to live the rest of his life. Or should he backtrack, battle
his demons and try to figure out what happened to him?
has a Western feel to it. I love Westerns. I love all the
Eastwood Westerns. It's a story of revenge, and it's a story
basically Sling Blade meets Calvin & Hobbes
has a Latin flavor to it. I really like dealing with Latino
characters, because there's still a mysterious feel to the
Mexican desert, where regardless of what year it is, it
still feels like some dark evil stuff could happen out there.
It's dark and stylized.
Planet: I've seen some pictures involving were-coyotes.
Teague: I'm itching to do a horror film. I'm just dying
to. I've worked for so many companies, like Marvel and Disney,
all the big names, doing kind of cutesy stuff. And now I
want to do something dark and raw.
favorite all-time artist is Frank Frazetta. So I want to
do something like that - something evil.
Planet: So Tony Loco would be that horror film?
Teague: I guess it's a horror film. I want to focus
on genre films. I guess it's a horror film, but I think
they need to come up with a new name for the genre. There's
Planet: How about just a fun film?
Planet: You also have plans for a comic book with this
Teague: I've been aching to do a comic book. What better
comic than Tony Loco? I miss drawing. I miss something
that's just me, the pencil, and the paper. I don't have
to collaborate with fifty people.
in the meantime I'm going to do Tony Loco as a comic.
I've locked in my old inker that I used to use, Walden Wong.
He worked on Comic Book: The Movie, but he's worked
for everybody, DC, Marvel, etc.
Planet: Which comic did you draw before you went to
work for Marvel Animation?
Teague: To tell you the truth, I worked on a lot of
comics for a now defunct company called Blue Comet Press.
This guy, Craig Storman, was my mentor. He had a little
company in Manhattan Beach, an old surfer guy. I told him
I wanted to learn comics, so he made me a partner. He discovered
many of the greats: Rob Liefeld, Steven Hughes from Evil
Ernie, he's worked with everybody.
the first color book of Cynder. It was actually a
company called Liar Comics. They do More Than Mortal
for Image. It really put us on the map, but I was so done
with comics. I'd been doing them for three years. I did
a few horror short stories, and my only big title was that
could have got lots of work after that. But I was burned
out on it, and hadn't really made a dime.
Planet: But you're back now, so it's okay.
indeed, you can follow this
link to a gallery of Mark's concept art for the Tony
Loco series. In addition to working with Walden Wong on
Tony Loco, Mark will be launching a webcomic right here
on Fanboy Planet, Disguised As Dan, written by some
hapless idiot who thinks that writing a comic strip can
easily be added on to his duties as editor-in-chief of Fanboy
Planet. Hey, until I actually get a full-time job again,