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SuperGuy Today's Date:

Love Means Having To Wear Spandex:
An Interview with Mark Teague

Mark Teague, surrounded by his next project...

When 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?

Then, 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.

But today we should talk about SuperGuy...

Fanboy Planet: Years ago, you and Bill Lae decide that you need to work together on a film project. How did that evolve into SuperGuy?

Mark 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.

After 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.

So 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.

I called 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.

Years 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.

We 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.

We 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.

So 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!"

I said, "We'll get my brother to play him."

But Bill says, "He lives in San Jose. Why don't you play him?"

"No, I'm not going to play him."

"Why not? You're a big guy."

Fighting for truth, justice, and the American Way...
I had 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 Couch Critics?

It was on. We tossed around some names then said, how about just Super …Guy? We started laughing about it. It stuck.

Fanboy Planet: So by a process of elimination, you became SuperGuy…

Mark 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.

I stood 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.

Fanboy Planet: So you walked around nude with the SuperGuy outfit drawn on?

Mark 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…"

I took my shirt off and she said, "yeaaaaah, perfect!"

She 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.

We put that on, and it just looked right. It was on. Then shoot and shoot and shoot. Every weekend.

Fanboy 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?

Mark Teague: No, nothing yet. It would be an honor.

When I approached Jim Valentino when he was head of Image, he said that would be his biggest fear in doing it as a comic.

I think we dealt with all those issues when we worked with Paramount writing a pilot for it.

Fanboy Planet: There's a pilot?

Mark 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.

So 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.

They optioned it for two years. They paid us to write a pilot. It was on.

Fanboy Planet: Did it get to the pilot stage?

Mark 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.

Then, 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.

They 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.

So 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!

Trying to avoid the paparazzi...
But 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.

We 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.

Then, 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.

We 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.

So 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.

He just went on and on about how this was a masterpiece and Christopher Guest had some competition…great review.

So 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 out.

We 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.

It 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."

And nothing happened.

I almost 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.

So 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.

Fanboy 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…

Mark 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."

Then 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 easy.

Fanboy Planet: You didn't wear a suit and glasses over it?

Mark 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."

I got over the embarrassment right away. I got so used to wearing that costume every weekend it was no big deal.

Fanboy Planet: Do you still wear it?

Mark Teague: I'll never tell.

Fanboy Planet: Are you wearing it right now, as you work out?

Mark 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.

It 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.

Fanboy Planet: I think the ending you settled on works. It is moving.

Mark 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.

Teague, Tim Peyton (who also plays Ronald Pittman) and Mike Ziemkowski.
I always 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.

To this day, Ronald Pittman (SuperGuy's biggest fan) gets the best laugh.

Fanboy 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?

Mark Teague: I think I'll be on a panel. I was on one last year, so it will probably be something about independent filmmakers.

Fanboy 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?

Mark 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.

Fanboy Planet: How much are you willing to say about what Tony Loco actually is?

Promotional poster for Tony Loco...
Mark 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.

Tony 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?

It 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 of love.

It's basically Sling Blade meets Calvin & Hobbes meets Desperado.

It 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.

Fanboy Planet: I've seen some pictures involving were-coyotes.

Mark 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.

My favorite all-time artist is Frank Frazetta. So I want to do something like that - something evil.

Fanboy Planet: So Tony Loco would be that horror film?

Mark 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 horror, mystery…

Fanboy Planet: How about just a fun film?

Mark Teague: Right.

Fanboy Planet: You also have plans for a comic book with this project?

Mark 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.

So 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.

Fanboy Planet: Which comic did you draw before you went to work for Marvel Animation?

Mark 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.

I did 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 Cynder comic.

I probably could have got lots of work after that. But I was burned out on it, and hadn't really made a dime.

Fanboy Planet: But you're back now, so it's okay.

And 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, it's possible.

Derek McCaw

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