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An Interview with Catastrophic's William Katt
Will he be the Greatest American Comic Book Publisher?

"I like darkness..."
For years, fans have cherished actor William Katt's performances in a variety of genres. Theater folk love him as Pippin in the video of Bob Fosse's classic musical. Surfers know him from Big Wednesday. Horror fans still get a kick out of his turn in House -- the horror comedy, not the Fox series, and of course his role as the doomed all-American boy in Carrie. At least one person I know immediately leaps to the first prequel -- Butch and Sundance: The Early Years -- when talking about Katt.

Most of us here, though, think of the Greatest American Hero, three seasons on ABC that really answered the question what if an ordinary guy gained fantastic powers -- and wasn't exactly sure how they worked?

A few series and several movies later, Bill Katt is still vital as an actor, including doing a guest-turn on the the upcoming third season of Heroes. But what really holds his interest these days is his new comic book company, Catastrophic Comics. On Wednesday, June 18, the first issue of the company's first title, Sparks, hits comic book stores.

This past weekend Bill sat down at a local restaurant to talk about the company. An open but intense man, he's also gracious and kind, stopping our interview to chat on a stranger's cellphone when the guy said it was his wife wanting to know if Katt was still cute. It was a genuine moment from a man grateful for where life has brought him, and where he hopes it's about to take him.

Derek McCaw: What led you to becoming a comic book publisher?

William Katt: I had been writing scripts for a long time, a number of them produced. I had one that I couldn’t get produced, a film script. I had met one of my partners, Chris Folino, on a film that he directed, and we started talking about this script idea that I had, that it would make a nice animated piece.

He actually said, “no, this would not make a nice animated piece.” (laughs) It was for twelve-year-old girls. He had some ideas, and suggested we try to put it together as a comic book. I said, okay, well that’s interesting, so we started throwing around ideas on how to adapt the film script into a comic book. Together we wrote a story for ten books, we created this world, Mythology Wars. (currently scheduled for a 2009 in-store release)

There are any number of ways we can go with it in that world. The name just grew out of that. Then we were going to do some other books, which we have done and are in the process of doing. We just liked the name “Catastrophic.” It’s “earth-shattering.” (laughs) No one else would touch that name.

A preview page from Mythology Wars.
Artwork by Jeff Jumper.
Derek McCaw: Were you a comic book reader beforehand?

Oh, yeah. When I was a kid, you know, in the Valley here growing up it was all dairy farms and orange groves. Every Saturday morning it was like a race to get down to the drugstore in Sherman Oaks on our bikes to see who could get there when it opened, to get the newest editions of Superman, Green Lantern…Spider-Man…I guess mostly DC books. At the time, there weren’t a lot of independents.

Derek McCaw: You may have fallen away as you got older, but when you started this company, did you start getting into comics again?

William Katt: I have. I’ve been reading a lot.

Derek McCaw: Which titles have caught your interest?

William Katt: I love DMZ. I still read a lot of the DC books. I’ve been catching up on graphic novels. I just got finished reading Wanted. I love Watchmen.

I guess the first graphic novel I ever read years ago was Maus, and you know that was just damned impressive.

Derek McCaw: We talked about Mythology Wars, but the first book coming out of the gate is actually Sparks. What sparked you to Sparks?

William Katt: Well, Sparks really comes from Chris. He has a real dark side to him, and I think it was taking longer than expected to create Mythology Wars. We’d had some problems finding the right artist, working out the problems, so I think he got impatient and wanted to express this dark side of himself. So we talked about (ideas for) Sparks, and got that going. To me, Sparks is Chris. It’s different aspects of his personality.

Derek McCaw: Do you have a particular viewpoint, a mandate, for Catastrophic editorially?

William Katt: I personally like really dark pieces.

Derek McCaw: But when you started out with Mythology Wars, it was for a twelve-year-old girl. You must have, well, if not a little girl inside you, a light side…

William Katt: I think in all of my work, what I like to do as an actor, and I’m trying to bring to the books…I like darkness, I like to see the underbelly of people. But it’s got to be funny, too. There has to be an irony to it, and I think that’s apparent in the books that we do.

You can count on this monthly mini-series...
Derek McCaw: You’re obviously in this for the long haul. What hopes do you have for Catastrophic’s future?

William Katt: I’m hoping to bring out a new book at least once a year. We’re going to be around. Sparks is a mini-series of six books. That’s for a number of reasons. It’s our first trial, and we’re kind of feeling the waters out there. Fortunately, it’s been reviewed very well. People seem to like it. I personally like it a lot.

The other books, I think, are going to have longer legs. I’m hoping that we can revisit Sparks in a little while. We’re going to be pretty busy with the other books for a while.

Derek McCaw: There’s definitely room for that.

William Katt: There’s room to come back and revisit Sparks. Mythology Wars is going to be a book that will be around for a while, going many different directions with that.

Derek McCaw: Obviously, comics have become a fertile development ground for other media. Is that a hope you have for Catastrophic?

William Katt: I don’t want to completely rule that out. It’s fun to think about, but it’s not the reason we got into it.

We got into this because we were really a little frustrated not being able to make films, and Chris and I are both storytellers. We love to tell stories. It was just another venue for us to tell stories, fun stories that don’t suck. Stories with an interesting beginning, middle and end. We throw the audience some red herrings, do the unexpected and take them through some doors they weren’t expecting to walk through.

Derek McCaw

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