RICH INTERVIEWS: Michael Valentine Director/Writer/Producer for Comix: Beyond the Comic Book Pages, the film
First Comics News: Who will enjoy the documentary of “COMIX: Beyond the Comic Book Pages”?
Michael Valentine: COMIX has something for everyone from the comic book fan who really wants to get an inside look at how comic books are made to the average person who maybe doesn’t know how some of these iconic characters were created. Some of the greatest talent in the comic book industry are featured in this movie telling their stories.
1st: How did you get Stan Lee, Frank Miller, Neal Adams, Mark Waid and Marc Silvestri all to agree to be in this film?
Michael: It took a lot of patience, and persistence.. I would love to say that it was my devilish charm but the truth is, I just kept bugging them until they could not say no. 🙂 I also think that once they understood what my vision was for the film they believed in it, too. With Stan, I kept calling his assistant until the answer was yes. The same with Frank. Neal, Mark and Marc were open from the start. ALL of them were very giving of their time. For example, both Stan AND Frank each gave me two hours of their time and their complete interviews will be available this summer. More on that to follow.
1st: How was the idea to make this film born?
Michael: COMIX is a labor of love that began about 12 years ago and spawned from a treatment I wrote for a comic book. I soon realized that it was not so easy to make one. First, I had to find the right artist to visually tell the story that I was trying to tell, and that process can be quite complex. I am also a huge fan of documentaries, and one day, I had an epiphany that I wanted to document the process of making a comic book that has now evolved into COMIX: Beyond The Comic Book Pages.
1st: What is the documentary focusing on?
Michael: Here’s what it is…Comic books tell stories. COMIX: Beyond the Comic Book Pages tells the story of comic books and the phenomenon surrounding them.
COMIX includes some of the greatest creators, writers, and artists in the industry, like Stan Lee, Frank Miller, Neal Adams, Mark Waid, Marc Silvestri, John Romita Jr., and so many more. It also includes comic book store owners, independent publishers, collectors, and especially, the amazing fans at Comic-Con, Wizard World, Wonder-Con, and Anime Expo, many in full costumes talking about their love for cosplay. They have made this phenomenon what it is today.
Comic books are a visual medium and my film has over 200 comic book images! This film delves into the attraction to comic books, the collaboration process from idea to finished book, the history of American Comics, comic books into movies, independent publishing and how some of our favorite superheroes were created. It was also important to focus more on the independent creators and publishers because I believe they are the future of this medium and sometimes get overlooked.
1st: What first got you interested in comics?
Michael: I have loved comic books since I was about 7 years old. All I wanted to do was draw John Romita’s Spider-Man and Neal Adams Batman. I would walk home from school and stop by the 7-11 to read comic books (yes, back in my day, they had comic books at 7-11!). Those were great times. After about an hour of brain freeze, I would leave with my school books in one hand, a slurpee in the other, and a comic book or two, rolled up in my back pocket. I would also tie a towel around my neck like a cape and pretend I was Batman and my friend and I had our bat cave but it was in a tree, and we would shimmy down the tree like Bruce Wayne slid down the pole and switched into Batman in the original 1960’s TV show.
1st: Why do people love comic books?
Michael: People love comic books because people love a good story. The imaginings from these stories have become the fabric of our culture. The artwork puts you in a place that your imagination can run wild. It is a way to escape the outside world for even just a little while. I think a great comic book is one that has a compelling story, good character development, and of course, great artwork and coloring. That is what I love about them.
1st: Are superheroes the most popular type of comic books?
Michael: It’s a great time for comic books. There is something out there for everyone. There is the traditional superhero comics and beyond. There are great new creators coming out with things that blow my mind! It is amazing how the comic book industry has changed over the last 30 years and that you can create any world you want. The future of comics is in the hands of the fans and the new Indie creators who are pushing the limits of what can be done. I think no matter what happens everyone needs a good superhero and a good super villain.
1st: Who wrote and drew the comic book that comes with the DVD of “COMIX: Beyond the Comic Book Pages”?
Michael: I love this question because my original idea was about creating a comic book and now, I got to do just that! It was very exciting to create an original comic book that will only be available on DVD in a two-disc set this summer. I worked with a very talented writer, Julian Aquino, and the amazingly gifted illustrator Paul Limgenco, who also did the movie poster for the film. They both understood my vision and helped me make this dream of creating a comic book a reality. I am so stoked!
You mentioned the DVD release. When is the release date and what will fans get with it.
I am so excited about the DVD release date on July 17th 2016, just in time for Comic Con San Diego. The DVD Release will be a two-disc set that includes more than 4 hours of bonus footage, including the complete Stan Lee and Frank Miller interviews, as well as footage that did not make the film. It was important to me to do something special for the fans, something exclusive, and more of what they would want.
1st: Why use Kickstarter to fund this film and what is the link?
Michael: We did a Kickstarter campaign but did not reach our goal, so I ended up funding the film on my own.
1st: What was it like to meet all these greats from the comic book field?
Michael: It was amazing! I am really proud of the film and the talent in it, and that includes the fans! They were all so great and generous with their time. I am so honored to have been able to talk to the creators, to hear their incredible stories and how they created or worked on some of the most iconic characters in comics.
1st: What were some of your favorite parts about making the film?
Michael: That’s a tough question because there were so many great moments about making this film and I had such a blast doing it. If I had to choose one, it would be meeting Stan Lee, the marvel himself! It was a childhood dream come true not just to meet him but to talk with him about his contributions to the industry. I was in awe of every word he spoke. He is still one of my heroes. Another thing I really enjoyed was meeting and seeing the fans, witnessing their passion and how much they knew and care about the characters. You can see the excitement in their eyes at the conventions, they are thrilled to be there, and their energy is contagious. When you are around them, you know you are part of something special.
1st: Is there anyone who was not included in this film that you would have really liked to have been?
Michael: There is just so much amazing talent out there and I just feel so lucky to have landed the talent that is in COMIX.
1st: Besides the comic book talent who else has contributed the most to making “COMIX: Beyond the Comic Book Pages” a success?
Michael: Making a film is a collaborative effort just like making a comic book and I am really proud of the crew who helped me bring the film to life. It is a great accomplishment to make a film with people who care. They bring their own talents to the film and share in the passion to make something great, down to every frame. There are so many people who contributed to the making of the film that to mention them all would take me quite a long time. But there are a few people that I have to mention. Douglas Miller was my DP/Cinematographer throughout most of the process and a real important part of the film Doug helped to bring my vision to life, frame by frame. Brian Ging, my editor was another crucial component and contributed so much from the editing and producing standpoint.. I gave him at least 500 clips with a list of what I wanted and he turned it upside down and put it all together. He was like the Puzzle Master. Michael Crane composed the music for the film – 1 word – EPIC! OMG when you hear the score you are going to be blown away. He captured the superhero sound and is such a part of the film’s mood!! Walt Gorecki – created the graphics for the film’s opening title sequence, all the transitions, and the closing sequence. He helped me visually give the film a cool look and style that mixes classic feel with a modern edge thrown in. He literally made the characters come off the page. It looks so cool!
1st: The film is fun, and informative, but it is also inspirational, was that planned?
Michael: Sometimes the best things aren’t planned. In this case, it just happened organically. When we were editing the film together, we knew that there was something special about it. It goes beyond just comic books. It is for anyone who loves comic books but also to anyone who has a passion for something, to never give up on your dreams.
1st: How can someone contact you?
Michael: They can contact me through my website at www.comixthemovie.com
1st: What advice would you give to someone reading this?
Michael: Believe Believe Believe!! Believe in yourself, go for your dreams and never give up. And most of always be grateful.
1st: Any last thoughts on “COMIX: Beyond the Comic Book Pages” and anyone who helps to make it a reality?
Michael: COMIX is my contribution to the art form I love. If you are passionate, and driven, believe in yourself , and never give up, you can accomplish anything you want! I hope everyone enjoys watching this film as much as I did making it.