KICKSTART DAY: Hollywood Writers Launch Season of the WITCH

KICKSTART DAY: Hollywood Writers Launch Season of the WITCH


Pulled from

By Chris Arrant March 2, 2011

Although comics may seem like a realm of superheroes and mutants, magic has long cast its spell on the medium. From pulp legends like Mandrake the Magician to mid-century icons like DC’s Captain Marvel and Marvel’s Doctor Strange, magic is in comics’ blood. There have been magicians and sorcerers, warlocks and mages... and yes, more than a few witches.

Next up in California-based publisher Kickstart's growing line of titles is the slimline graphic novel Witch, following a teenage girl named Kylie that discovers she’s a witch – and one of the last of her kind. Aiding in the discovery of her hidden heritage is a black cat – traditional in witch lore, but different in that this little kitty is seven feet tall and named Ridley. Together, Kylie and Ridley try delve into the secret history of witches and the Old Ways while also trying to find her new family – witches – before a tyrannical breed of witchhunter snuffs them out for good.

Witch’s story comes out of the mind of two rising screenwriters named Terry Matalas and Travis Fickett. The duo has worked in Hollywood for years, and are currently writing for Steven Spielberg’s new series Terra Nova coming from Fox later this year. Kickstart editor Jimmy Palmiotti paired the comics’ newcomer with veteran artist Tony Shasteen to breathe life into their story, and the two comics-loving screenwriters have fallen in love with the comic-making process.


Newsarama: What can you tell us about Witch, guys?

Terry Matalas: Witch is a supernatural coming-of-age story. It touches on that awkward time in a lot of teenager's lives. That time when no matter what's going on, you feel like an outsider. No one understands you. Witch begins with a teenage girl dealing with a lot of those issues... and then discovers her whole life is not what she thought was. She's been hearing a voice in her head -- at times having full conversations with it. And one night she ends up in a dangerous part of the city, gets mugged and ends up summoning this voice into existence. Turns out the voice is in fact that of her Familiar -- which in witch lore is traditionally a black cat -- but in this case, is a seven foot demon-cat named Ridley that only she can see. And it follows her where ever she goes. So imagine having to deal with the torment of puberty, high school, over-bearing parents... and having a demon talking in your ear the whole time. Of course, this discovery thrusts her into an adventure and emotional journey that will ultimately define her as a hero.

Nrama: Can you tell us about the teenage girl at the center of this?

Travis Fickett: Her name is Kylie Woods. She’s been harboring this fear that she’s a nutjob – and that’s meant keeping people at arm’s length. That also means she’s developed a biting sarcasm as a defense mechanism.

Nrama: Tell us more about this cat familiar that Kylie has?

Fickett: Ridley's kinda like what would happen if you crossed the Cheshire Cat with Hannibal Lecter. He's a dangerous and powerful demon who has served at the side of witches for centuries. But in the old days, a witch was ready for their familiar – it was a tradition passed on from one generation to the next.

In Kylie's case, she's adopted... so she has no idea what's about to happen to her. Ridley could just be a form of schizophrenia. And unfortunately he can't just go away. Once you summon your Familiar, it's there for life. What's interesting about Ridley is he hasn't been at the side of a witch for some time. So the world has changed quite a bit.


Matalas: Now there's coffee... and he really likes that.

Nrama: Are these witch powers something Kylie inherits, or something she got just by chance?

Matalas: Well, without ruining too much for you, we can tell you that this is a whole new take on witch lore. There are no spells, no black pointy hats, no wands. Here, a witch's power come solely through control of their demon Familiar. Some Familiars are stronger, faster, smarter, bigger... and a few even fly.

Nrama: She can't be the only witch out there – can you tell us about the witching world she, and us readers, know nothing about?


Fickett: Witches have been hunted to an almost extinction by Hunters -- a war that's secretly raged on for centuries. Witch picks up basically AFTER the war is over. Both factions have been forced to return to the real world... no witches left to hunt, no hunters to kill. But Kylie is very significant to the possibility of things heating up again.

Nrama: Witches have been hunted throughout time – is our lead character hunted in Witch?

Matalas: Since she was born... although she doesn't know that yet.

Nrama: Speaking of hunting, I've hunted for other comics by yours but haven't found one. What can you tell us about yourselves?

Fickett: We're both avid comic readers -- and geeks to everything movie, television, anime, and books. At the moment we're writing on a TV show for May 2011 called Terra Nova on Twentieth Century Fox Television. It's science fiction adventure show being produced by Steven Spielberg and Peter Chernin.


Nrama: How'd you hook up with Kickstart Comics to do Witch with them?

Matalas: We met Jason and Samantha after pitching a feature film version of Voltron to them. What can we say? We also love giant robots.

Nrama: As first-time comics writers, you get to experience seeing your words drawn up and show up in your email box before anyone else sees it. Tony Shasteen is drawing Witch, so how has it been for you?

Ficket: Getting pages from Tony Shasteen has been one of the most creatively satisfying things to ever happen to us. When you write a movie or a television pilot, just because it may sell doesn't mean it will ever see the light of day. With comics, there's a sort of instant gratification of seeing your story come to life.


Matalas: Tony's art is simply incredible. His attention to detail and creature design are some of the best out there.

Fickett: We have his art hung all over our office. We're huge fans.

Tune in tomorrow morning for an interview with Kickstart Editors Jimmy Palmiotti and Larry Young!


KICKSTART DAY: Burn Notice Writer Gives The Gods a HEADACHE

KICKSTART DAY: Burn Notice Writer Gives The Gods a HEADACHE


Pulled from

By Chris Arrant March 2, 2011

This is the first of four interviews about Kickstart Publishing for today, so stay tuned for more features, plus an interview with the big cheeses, Jimmy Palmiotti and Larry Young tomorrow!

Although it’s super-heroes who dominate the American comics landscape, they owe a lot to another group of super-powered people – the mythological gods of Greece. And on several occasions, Greek gods have made their appearance in comics but never quite in the way a new graphic novel from Kickstart are.

In the upcoming graphic novel Headache, the Greek Gods are living among us as the rich and the powerful. In many ways they do the same things they did in ancient times, just in a modern context. But although the times have changed, their struggles and squabbles are fresh as a new day. In this book, an eighteen year old girl named Sarah finds out that the father she’s never met in life is a god – Zeus, in fact – and by extension she is a god herself. Embodying the spirit of the goddess Athena, Sarah must navigate through this treacherous world and secret society of gods and goddesses while trying to escape the murderous gaze of her stepmother Hera and set things right with her philandering father Zeus. As one of the few humans with insight into the secret society of these supernatural beings, it’s up to her to take up for mankind in stopping her father’s family’s dangerous games.

Coming late this April, Headache is part of a second wave of titles coming out from the new publishing company Kickstart Entertainment. Using funding from the company’s Hollywood production shingle, Kickstart enlisted editors Jimmy Palmiotti and Larry Young to guide their titles and secured an enviable distribution deal with Wal-Mart amongst others to get their books into the public’s hands. And as part of this they solicited stories from outside the typical comic circles – in the case of Headache, it comes from Burn Notice writer Lisa Joy.

Newsarama: From the preview, I can see that Headache opens with a young girl in a mental institution who thinks she could be a god. What can you tell us about her and the book, Lisa?

Lisa Joy: Sarah, the hero of the book, is a 19 year old amnesiac locked up in a mental asylum in modern-day New York. She thinks she’s the Greek Goddess Athena. But the doctors and nurses assure her she’s just a paranoid schizophrenic with a delusional God complex.

In fact, Sarah is Athena, the Greek Goddess of war and wisdom. (Technically, she’s a demi-God – born of an illicit affair Zeus had with a mortal woman.) The other Olympians have a plan to destroy mankind and reassert their power. Because Athena is half-human and sympathetic to mankind, they worry she’ll try to stop them. So they erased her memories with Lethe, drugged her to weaken her, and locked her in a mental asylum so she’d doubt her own sanity.

What follows is a journey of (or more like a battle for) self-discovery where Sarah must learn to trust herself and her instincts in order to take on the other gods and save the world from a serious smiting.


Nrama: And those gods after Sarah – aka Athena – are led by Hera. Why is Hera out to get her?

Joy: Ostensibly, the answer is that Hera is in favor of Armageddon and doesn’t want Sarah standing in her way. Hera’s also not very pleased with Sarah – because she was born of an affair Zeus had with a mortal woman.

But the relationship between Hera and Sarah is more complicated than that. I wanted to play with the notion that women are each other’s worst enemy and maybe subvert it a little. So as Sarah discovers more and more about her past, she begins to see Hera in a somewhat different light. It’s a scarring (sometimes literally so) process where Sarah has to grow up and gain a little emotional maturity in order to see Hera not just as a “wicked stepmother” but as a complete and complex person in her own right.

Nrama: So gods do exist – when people think of Greek Gods they think white robes and Greek columns. What’s the life like for these Grecian immortals in modern times?


Joy: The Gods have changed and evolved along with the times. They’ve swapped togas, acolytes, and temples for designer suits, personal assistants, and mansions.

Instead of ruling as they used to in Ancient Greece, they’ve found they’re able to exert more power and meet less resistance when they blend into society and control civilization from the sidelines.

Headache posits a world where the Greek Gods are the socio/economic/political “invisible hand” that has been guiding the course of human history for the last couple thousand years. But, some of the Gods are getting tired of being “invisible” and they want to give the smack down to humanity so they can return to ruling in the open.

Nrama: In the world of comics, more often than not people have powers. Does Sarah have anything here as the god Athena – even if she isn’t quite sure of it?

Joy: When we first meet Sarah, she’s weak, drugged up, frightened and insecure. But once she frees herself from the mental asylum, she discovers a strength (physical and otherwise) that she never knew she had.

As a half-God Sarah is much stronger than all humans. But she’s still physically weaker than the other Gods. Fortunately, as in the Greek myths, her real super-power doesn’t lie in brute strength – it lies in strategic thinking and warfare. So she’s able to make up for her inferior strength with her superior smarts.

Another important asset she has is a few unlikely allies she picks up along the way including Hades, who may or may not be the sinister figure she thinks he is; and the weapons forger Hephaestus, who despite his crippled leg and gentle nature – can be a force to be reckoned with.


Nrama: Can you explain the title, “Headache”, as it refers to the story?

Joy: The title refers to Athena’s birth. According to Greek Mythology, she sprang fully-grown and armed to the hilt from Zeus’ head. To me, it was a perfect jumping off point for a bit of reinterpretation. The idea that a “bastard child” emerged from Zeus’ skull seemed like the kind of far-fetched lie a philandering god might tell his suspicious and vengeful goddess wife. The truth, in Headache, is far more banal – Zeus cheated on his wife with a mortal woman, then tried to cover up his transgression by making up the whole spontaneous birth-via-skull yarn.  On another level, the title refers to the mental anguish Sarah feels as she’s locked in the asylum, and to the “headache” she causes her parents when she decides to rebel against them and the other gods.

Nrama: What other familiar Greek gods can we look forward to seeing in this book?

Joy: Sarah interacts with a bunch of Greek Gods and we get to see them all in their modern-day guises and lifestyles. Aphrodite owns a matchmaking service for high net-worth individuals. Neptune is a professional surfer. Ares is a hitman. Apollo is a movie star. Hades runs a seedy nightclub called “The Styx”. The debauched Dionysus is CEO a pharmaceutical company. Hera is a Stepford wife who lives in the suburbs with her ever-philandering husband, Zeus – who, like many powerful men with money to burn, is basically a man of leisure.

Nrama: Although Zeus is a man of leisure, you’re a woman of work. Although your name is new to comics, Samantha at Kickstart says you’ve been a busy writer. Can you tell us what you’ve written?

Joy: I got my first break straight out of law school as a writer on Bryan Fuller’s show Pushing Daisies. After a magical two years, I went to work at Matt Nix’s show Burn Notice where I continue to live out my Bond girl fantasies in Final Draft form.

I’m currently developing a pilot called Mind Fields with Bryan Fuller for the USA network. And what kind of writer would I be if I didn’t add that I’m working on my first feature too?


Nrama: We’ll give you that – even though Headache sounds like it’d be a good comic and a good movie. How’d the idea for Headache come about?

Joy: I’ve always had a girl-crush on Athena. She’s wise, strong, feminine and beautiful. She’s a great strategic thinker and brilliant at warfare – but she prefers compassion to violence and diplomacy to battle. In every sense, she’s a modern and liberated heroine – and that says a lot given her birthdate was sometime in the B.C.s – waaay before women’s lib.

By setting Athena in contemporary times, with a human alter ego, “Sarah” – I wanted to explore the girl behind the goddess. I imagine her struggling with a lot of really relatable, human issues: falling in love a guy who might be bad for her, fighting with imperfect parents, dealing with insecurity and self-doubt, and struggling to find a place where she belongs in the world.

I told Samantha Olsson at Kickstart about the idea and with her fantastic support, Jimmy Palmiotti’s fabulous editing, and Jim Fern’s amazing art – we were able to bring it to life.


KICKSTART DAY: Screenwriting Team Help Forge BLACKSMITH

KICKSTART DAY: Screenwriting Team Help Forge BLACKSMITH


Pulled from

By Chris Arrant March 2, 2011

Kickstart has become an avenue for talented writers to jump into the diverse medium of comics. Steered by top-notch editors Jimmy Palmiotti and Larry Young, these books are unique in both their story and format – slimline graphic novels priced at under $10 and available not just in comic and bookstores but major retailers like WalMart. For the upcoming Spring book Blacksmith, two entrepreneurial young screenwriters are bringing a new twist to the classic action story with the graphic novel Blacksmith.

Blacksmith tells the story of the newest member of a secret society of weapons-makers that have fueled the United States’ dominance in the past two hundred years. From industrial age technology to 21st century tech, the Blacksmiths have kept with the times – and kept on the cutting edge. But when Blacksmith Alex Malloy finds out a weapon of his was used to commit an unauthorized public assassination, he’s on the run – to stay one step ahead of the law while tracking down his weapons now in the wrong hands. The story is by screenwriters Malik Evans and Richard Sparkman, who are joined by artist Alberto Muriel (A-Team: War Stories: Face, Legion: Prophets) to tell this twisted take on an action tale.


Nrama: So guys, what can you tell us about Blacksmith?

Evans: Well, the Blacksmith is a very original concept, but at the same time with a familiar character. A character we’ve all been accustom to and seen in movies in the past decades. You can even go back far as to 1963 with the film Dr. No featuring the first days of the James Bond series with the character Q.

Sparkman: Instead of concentrating on your hero who uses the weapons, we’ve focus on the character that actually makes them. Hopefully this will set us apart from other projects. We are taking a different angle on someone you already recognize.

Nrama: Like you said, this is not about the guys who need the weapons – but the guys who make them. At the center of Blacksmith is a secret society of blacksmiths – weapons-makers – who have supplied the U.S. Government for years. Tell us more about their handiwork and history.

Evans: Well, that’s really the cool thing about this concept, is the mythology of the Blacksmiths.

Nrama: Mythology? Just how long have they been making weapons?


Evans: These Blacksmiths have created and supplied the military dating back to the 18th century.

Sparkman: They have been involved in turning the tides of all major U.S. battles: the Civil War, World War I & II and Desert Storm, just to name a few. Also another intriguing factor is no one really knows the true identities of the Blacksmiths.

Nrama: And who is the particular blacksmith we’ll be following in this one-shot?

Sparkman: Our main character is Alex Malloy, a young male who is a weapon genius known as the Blacksmith. He’s in a league of his own and the top-notch Blacksmith of his era. His specialty is guns and various heavy artillery.

Evans: The authentic thing is that the Blacksmith is by no means a kick ass character, but rather a guy that’s a few steps away from being a nerd, building some of the most advance weapons in his own basement.

Nrama: And in your story Alex is having to hunt down one of his toys when a nefarious someone gets a hold of it. What kind of weapon did they take? guys?

Evans: Well, it’s not really just a particular weapon but plans for his different creations.

Sparkman: Actually the most dangerous weapon is his mind.

Nrama: And who are the bad guys exactly?

Sparkman: The bad guys are an assemblage of Black Ops soldiers that no longer work for the government, but for themselves and the highest paycheck.

Evans: With every great protagonist there always should be a better antagonist. Your hero can only be as good as your villain.

Nrama: This is a really interesting spin on the action movie. How’d you guys come up with it?

Evans: That’s one of the most challenging things in this business is coming up with something no one has ever seen or heard before. Personally we get tired of seeing the same material and so many remakes flooding the business.

Sparkman: We’ve just decided to take another route with the hero. Instead of your typical macho man we’ve chose to use the underdog. We can easily spend hours, days and even months trying to brainstorm new ideas. Blacksmith is just the beginning; we have more great things cooking in the oven and soon people we get a taste of what we have in store.


LIE TO ME Writer Mashes LOST, X-FILES in Kickstart's WARD 6


LIE TO ME Writer Mashes LOST, X-FILES in Kickstart's WARD 6

Pulled from

By Chris Arrant January 12, 2011


You might say you had a crazy day every now and then, but it's nothing like what's happening to six people in the upcoming graphic novel Ward 6.

In this standalone OGN scheduled for release in comic stores and Wal-Marts nationwide at the end of January, five residents in an antebellum psychiatric ward find out they're not alone. With nothing to bond them but the memory loss as each other, they bond together to determine a way out. Part Sci-Fi and part psychological thriller, Ward 6 explores the story of these five individuals and the bizarre things they experience in this unusual mental ward.


Nazis Win WWII? The Future is Wrong in HEAVY WATER

Nazis Win WWII? The Future is Wrong in HEAVY WATER

Pulled From

By Chris Arrant January 10, 2011


Comics are a medium where storytellers have complete freedom to let their imaginations go as far as they want. We've seen countless speculative futures where everything that can go wrong as seemed to, and in the graphic novel Heavy Water it's showing a world where Nazis won out in World War 2 but one man finds out how wrong it is – and finds a way to travel back in time and set things right.

Heavy Water is part of the launch titles for California-based publishing newcomer Kickstart Comics. Spiraling out of a film production company of the same name, Kickstart brings with it several talented screenwriters with innovative concepts that seem like ready-made comics. In the case of Heavy Water it's Jonathan W.C. Mills, who directed the recent punk rock documentary We Were Feared and sold a spec script back in 2008 called Inside Passage. Working with Mills on Heavy Water is artist Alberto Muriel, who illustrated A-Team: Face and Legion: Prophets for IDW.


Newsarama: When I was talking to Kickstart about Heavy Water, they described it as Saving Private Ryan meets Time Machine – how would you describe it, Jonathan?

Jonathan W.C. Mills: That’s a fairly accurate description as a logline, but Heavy Water is bigger than that. I was inspired by Maus and of course Watchmen...books that reach beyond themselves. On one hand Heavy Water is a classic heroic journey with amazing action and a sweeping historical epic. It reaches out and grabs you by the gut and makes you care about this rather quiet man who ends up making enormous sacrifices for something he isn’t sure he believes in. On the flip side is the intellectual component of the story; the time travel, which engages on a much different level; cause and effect, totalitarianism and fascism, love and sacrifice...these are just a few of the themes running through Heavy Water.  At its heart this book is an action filled adventure, with some very complex and exciting intellectual underpinnings.

Nrama: So what’s the world like in Heavy Water?

Mills: There are two worlds that are explored in Heavy Water. One is the future totalitarian state run by the Nazis with a breathless efficiency. I imagined this future as a place full of bright light and open architecture; a culture built around the refutation of the very idea of privacy. To me the goal of the Nazis was to create a master race; where their imagination failed them is that even if they were to achieve a plurality of perfect physical specimens they would never, ever truly control people's minds and hearts. Entropy is found in every system and cannot be eradicated. The second world we spend time in is Norway in 1946. In that part of the book it's almost always dark and snowing, and our colorist really captured some amazing snow effects that seem to leap off the page. But the world itself is a familiar one. It's full of trees, wilderness and natural vistas not seen in the future. It roots us in the familiar and anchors the story.

Nrama: And who is the man that can change this horrific future?

Mills: Ben Haukelid is an everyman of the future. He is Neo from The Matrix; someone who is going about the grind of his life knowing that something bigger is waiting for him but unable to figure out what that ‘thing’ is. Then fate finally reveals the answer to him. What’s interesting with Ben is that he truly grows as a character through this story, he becomes someone and it was really fun, as I wrote, to see him evolve into this heroic man. I really cared about him by the end!

Nrama: You mention that Ben exists in that future where the Nazis rule it all. What's his position in society?

Mills: Ben is a mid-level bureaucrat working within the system. He wakes up, goes to work, works out, goes home. His life will be very familiar to many urban dwelling citizens right now. He's working to live and living to work and he hates it. The only thing that gives him joy is his amazing girlfriend Floria who turns out to be much more than even he bargained for. She is truly the hero of the story in many ways; she's smart, brave and passionate. Things that Ben, at least initially, isn't.

Nrama: What triggers Ben to start asking questions?

Mills: His involvement in the narrative is, at first, purely a function of fate. He is in possession of an item that is extremely important; it's a critical piece of history in a world that doesn't have any. The Nazis have destroyed it. Yet he knows nothing of the mission to change time. The link is his girlfriend, Floria, who discovers his historical secret and knows enough to act on it. Ben is not proactive, that comes only when he casts of the shadow of the time he lives in...and in that way he really starts off as an anti-hero.

Nrama: Although I think this is your first comic, it sounds made for comics – Nazis, time machines, alternate futures. How’d the idea for Heavy Water come about?

Mills: The germ of the idea came from reading Richard Rhodes' amazing book, The History of the Atomic Bomb, which is a freakishly fascinating story of how the atomic bomb came to be. Everything from that moment on was a product of an overactive imagination and a lot of ‘what if’s’...

Nrama: And how’d you go about deciding comics were something you wanted to do with this story?

Mills: I will admit that I was not a comic book reader growing up. I was a bookworm. But this story needed to be told and when the opportunity presented itself to make it as a GN it seemed like the perfect fit; it had so many terrific visual elements and yet was a compact story so I jumped at the chance to do it. Since then I've started to dip my toe in the world and have a bunch of friends who are involved with Comic Book Sundays (C.B.S.) here in Los Angeles and have a lot more experience writing comics than I do. For me, telling a story graphically just makes sense...

Nrama: Although you're new to comics, you've done a bit in film – you sold a spec script called Inside Passage as a movie, and directed the puck rock documentary We Were Feared. How'd you find yourself a writer, and what's it like to jump into comics?

Mills: I think anyone who writes professionally does it because there is very little else they are suited for. I count myself very lucky to be able to use my imagination to make a living and was very excited to have the opportunity to work with Kickstart on this book. Alberto Muriel took the words and layout and made it real on the page, which was an incredible experience for me. I do hope it’s the first of many collaborations because I believe this form of storytelling has enormous potential for me.  

Nrama: Let's come back fill circle and talk about the title of this graphic novel, "Heavy Water". What does the name "Heavy Water" refer to?

Mills: Technically  Heavy water is water containing a higher-than-normal proportion of the hydrogen isotope deuterium. The title refers to this water, which was a by-product of the hydro electric plan in Norway that was a key strategic goal for the Nazis...but symbolically the title is also a nod to the fact that water, and its weight, played a key role in how the story unfolded in WWII. It was a story about, and ended in, water.


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