Thomas Jane & Co. talk about BAD PLANET

Thomas Jane, Steve Niles, Lewis LaRosa and Tim Bradstreet are working on a new comic, Bad Planet, jointly published by Image Comics and Raw Entertainment in December. They have stopped by First Comics News to talk about their new six issue mini-series and provide our readers with a four page seek peak at Bad Planet.

1st: Let’s start with the basics: what is Bad Planet about?

Thomas Jane: It’s about an ‘accidental’ alien invasion. A ‘freighter’ full of hundreds of different animal-like alien creatures crash lands on Earth, seemingly at random. Most of the creatures die from exposure to our Sun and atmosphere, but some species – a very few – survive, and actually start to thrive.  We try to stop these creatures, but we just don’t have the tools or the skills, and they very quickly gain the upper hand. Mankind gets knocked down one rung on the food chain, and the natural balance on Earth starts to disintegrate. Hence, Earth is transformed, almost overnight, into a ‘Bad Planet.’

Steve Niles: For me it’s about the characters. There are a couple great relationships that grow over the series. Like you can see on the first cover there’s an odd couple situation of an intergalactic type. Great characters are really important. You know, then you introduce the slimy, disgusting space spiders and kill them all. It’s great fun.

Tim Bradstreet: For me it’s not just about the story. Bad Planet is a Sci-Fi horror story with its roots firmly tied to the old EC books. It’s the kind of story we don’t see a whole lot of in comics these days which is why I’m so gung-ho over it. But for me it’s also (visually) about working with this hand picked crew of Lewis and Grant. We all have similar sensibilities and we make a great team. Grant and I have worked together for 15 years and Lewis is just a natural fit. So for me it isn’t just about the story, it’s about the collaboration.

1st: Are you just getting together to do a comic or is this a first step on the way to a film?

Bradstreet: We’re not even thinking film at this point. The whole reason we are doing this is because Tom had a strange dream and it inspired him to create this story. There was never any thought other than this being a comic. It’s been a dream project for us all, but mainly because Tom said “I want to make a comic, and Bad Planet will be that comic.” Tom is learning what it’s like to be a publisher and he’s having a ball with it. He also takes it very seriously. He’s the overall creative machine behind this so he’s making sure it’s done right. If some kind of film comes out of this it will be a secondary concern.
The first priority is making the best comic book we can.

Thomas: That’s right, I was hopped up on Vicodin, recovering from a car accident, when I had these fever dreams with these horrible alien deathSpiders that you’ll see in issue 2, and the images stuck with me, wouldn’t let me go, and out of that this story was born.

Steve: Of all the projects we’re working on this is the one I have no thoughts about making into a movie. Not because I would mind, but because Bad Planet has been a chance to really let go of my imagination and see where it lands. The short answer would be yes, we are just getting together to do a comic.

1st: How did you guy get together?

Bradstreet: That’s a long story. Steve and I have known each other for 15 years and always wanted to work together. I met Tom doing The Punisher film and we hit it off right away. Lewis is a guy that I’ve wanted to work with since I first saw his stuff on Punisher Max. And Grant I’ve known for 20 years and we’ve worked together for over 15. When Tom asked me if I knew any good writers for this type of project I immediately thought of Steve. Not only because of his obvious qualifications but because I knew Tom and Steve had met and liked each other. They were both from the D.C. area and they were both into the same music, comics, etc. To me it was a no-brainer. Getting Tom and Steve together got this thing kick started, then I had to go to Italy for 7 months and while I was gone they had kicked it into gear with Australian artist, Chris Bolton. Thankfully for me Chris didn’t work out so when I got back from Italy we put together the current team.

Steve: That pretty much covers it. The story about how Bradstreet and I will cost you money, and we’d need to have public records broken open. It would be a mess. It’s very strange. I’ve known Tim forever and I feel like I’ve known Tom just as long. I can’t imagine the work we could have done if we’d met sooner. There would be some great comics out or two dead guys. Either way it would be exciting.

Lewis LaRosa: I was going to quit comics and go back to school after the last Punisher thing I did till Tim rang me up and told me I couldn’t do that, that tom and Steve wanted me to work with them on this book, that Tim would ink me, and that Grant Goleash would color me, and if I turned it down, I’d live to regret it. I immediately hung up on him. I didn’t know it was Tim, I thought it was just some drunk prank calling me in the middle of the night. But then I got a perfumed package in the mail with a cool book on EC comics in it, some candy, and a head shot of Thomas Jane signed by Thomas Jane. That was all I needed.

1st: With two writers how do you work together?

Thomas: Steve and I plotted the whole story out as an outline, and we both work from that, throwing the script back and forth until it’s done. When one person gets stuck, we pass it on like a hot potato.

Steve: Bad Planet is basically the spawn of Tom’s twisted mind. When we met he told me the story, and I don’t mean he sat calmly like a civilized human and told me, he performed the story. He told it with so much enthusiasm I got sucked right in and the next thing I know I’m typing and adding stuff and watching the idea grow and grow.

1st: Tim, your both art director and inker. How does this work, do you just redraw panels or do you send them back to Lewis if your not satisfied?

Tim: No, not at all. I offer my advice. If I see something that screws up continuity I bring it to Lewis’ attention. I weigh in on anything that doesn’t jibe. I like to let the artist do his thing, that’s why we hired him. I’m hands off as much as possible. It’s more like coordinating between the different entities. I do all the scanning and positioning of the line art, ink it, then upload pages and reference to Grant. I’m there for Grant if he has any color, technical, or other questions. I’m the hub between all the artists and Tom. Tom and I discuss everything as much as possible and if we don’t like something we both agree on what we’re going to ask these guys to change. Actually Tom works closer with Lewis than I do. It’s Tom’s vision so in actuality I know Tom has had Lewis redraw certain things at the pencil stage. I also deal with Jason, the letterer. I take his lettered files and apply them to the finished color pages. Then I make decisions and apply color to the FX and caption boxes. The rest is technical and boring to hear.

Lewis: Tim knows that if he’s not satisfied with any of my work he can simply shove it.

Steve: I’ve tried to redraw panels, but my stickmen with laser guns kinds didn’t “mesh”.

1st: Lewis, you came into this series after Chris Bolton left did you look at what he had done and go from there, or did you start from scratch?

Lewis: Chris is a real talented guy, but I was only shown a couple of his pieces. I looked at those and then started from scratch. The only design we kept that was done before I came on board is the design for these deathSpiders. I don’t know who came up with those. Chris? Tim? Tom? Everything else was me.

1st: Tom, you have read a lot of scripts, but is this the first time you have written one?

Thomas: it’s my first comic script. Steve walked me through it, showed me the format he works in and gave me a few pointers along the way. But I’ve written a screenplay The Amateur Kind, which I’m directing next fall, and a few short story and whatnot. I guess I’ve always been writing something, if you count scrawling on the bathroom walls, so I like to think I’m picking it up pretty quick.

1st: Why did you choose Image Comics?

Steve: I’ve worked with Image a few times now and I’m always impressed with the attention they give their books. The level of enthusiasm is incredible and it makes it fun to make comics.

Thomas: They gave us the best deal and allowed me to publish the book that I want to publish, with no compromises. They’re a great group over there. Jim Demonakos and Eric Stevenson and Joe Keating and Allen Hui have all been invaluable, really great and supportive.

1st: This is co-published by Raw Entertainment, how does that work?

Thomas: Raw Studios is publishing Bad Planet with Image. Raw Entertainment is our production company. Steve and I have a first look deal over at Lions Gate, where we’re making horror movies. We formed Raw Studios so we can own and control the comic properties that we want to do. Bringing Image in to help us with marketing and distribution was a no brainier.

Steve: What he said. The nice thing about what Tom and I are doing with RAW is that we can wrap it around a lot of different thing we want to do; comics, films, music. And because it’s just the two of us it makes it easy to team up with others if we want to. The most important thing about RAW is the material we produce is uncompromised. In the case of Bad Planet, it’s a peek into Tom’s imagination and there’s no way we could censor that! We’d wind up with a three page pamphlet.

1st: Originally this was announced as a 12 issue mini-series and now it’s a 6 issue mini-series, how has the story changed?

Thomas: we broke the story into two parts, because it allows us to take a break halfway through! Plus we found that there was a natural break in the story, where one story line wrapped up and another one began. Part 1 and part 2.

Steve: Once Tom and I started jamming on the story it just grew and grew. That’s what’s so great about collaboration once you start volleying ideas basic ideas grow and expand.

1st: The story starts with a freighter that has been heading to earth for 400 years, didn’t the people who lost the freighter notice it was missing?

Thomas: Ah, now you’re getting into areas of secret import. The short answer is yes.

Steve: Now we’re heading into Part 2 territory.

1st: I understand setting part of the comic in Washington D.C., it would lead to some great scenes with destruction to national landmarks; but why use Bloedriver, South Africa?

Bradstreet: I’m sure the landmark thing was part of it but you also have to remember that Tom and Steve come from DC. Write about what you know as they say. Bloedriver offers a complete 180 in terms of locale. Completely different terrain, and let’s face it, there has to be a bit of randomness when hurtling space objects start hitting your planet. But this is a better question for Tom and Steve.

Thomas: Because it’s one of the most impoverished places on the planet. Because it’s damn close to the Cradle of Man, where the oldest known human bones have been discovered. Because it has a cool name.

Lewis: For one, it gives me more fun stuff to draw. More variety. An exotic location and culture to play with.

1st: You have this intergalactic Convict break out and come to earth. If he could break out, why did he stay in prison in the first place?

Bradstreet: Again, this is a better one for Tom. But knowing what I do about the Convict I’d say that the reason he allowed himself to be taken prisoner and thrown into a rotting penal colony had something to do with him believing he had to pay some sort of penance for sins he may or may not have committed. Psychologically he was in hell, so why not be there physically?

Steve: His escape is also a situation where circumstances come together just right. Believe me, it’s not like he just walks out the door.

Thomas: Because he had absolutely no where to go. Because space is very, very big. Because his own planet was entirely destroyed, by something that he never really understood. It’s not until the Convict gets word that the same thing is happening on another planet, that he has reason to bust out of prison and go hunting for some answers.

1st: With one alien race coming to earth to hunt and kill another alien race, are there any parallels to Aliens VS Predator?

Lewis: Aside from that, no. That was a shitty movie and this is an ass kicking comic book.

Bradstreet: The Convict comes with no hunting party. He comes by himself, with blood in his eyes. We, all grew up on Alien, and even Predator, but the only reason I’d take the time to watch Alien VS Predator would be to see Lance Henrikson on screen. Other than that I have no interest left. Parallels there may be, but we are not conscious of them. Also, this is not for sport. These things killed the Convict’s world. This is as far from AVP as you can possibly get in terms of the parallel.

Thomas: yes, if there were one Predator, and 14 million Aliens.

Steve: You callin’ us copycats? Why I outta… There’s no parallel at all except for some fine intergalactic apparel.

1st: If the Convict is tough enough to come to earth to save the planet from the deathSpiders, how did they destroy his home world?

Bradstreet: They multiply faster than Stephen Hawking. They eat everything in their path. I think the Convict is just coming to Earth to kill as many as he can before they kill him. I’m not far enough in the script but my thinking is that saving the human race is a secondary objective. But I could be wrong about that.

Thomas: well, first of all, the Convict is not here to save the Earth. He’s only interested in the spiders, and figuring out where they came from, and why they destroyed his world. The Convict comes from a tough race – extremely tough. They don’t have to breathe, they can stand extreme temperatures. But as tough as they are, the deathSpiders are tougher. But if he can take a few million out with him, he’d like to do that too.

Steve: And who said he saved his home planet?

1st: Does the Convict care about the people of earth or is it all about revenge?

Steve: What the Convict cares and doesn’t care about is really the bones of the story. The Convict we are introduced to will not be the same Convicthalfway through the story. You’ll see.

Bradstreet: He probably doesn’t really care at first, being that it’s likely that he has never encountered a human before. But when you see how this cataclysm effects a people and how they fight to survive in the midst of it can’t be anything other than “moving”. I don’t personally know the lady I’m watching on CNN, in tears over her dead children and ruined home. But when I see this with my own eyes I find myself feeling compassionate towards someone I didn’t even know existed 5 minutes ago. It makes me want to help. And maybe the Convict finds redemption this way.

Thomas: Let me put it this way. The things that led him here, are not the same things that convince him to stay.

1st: Issue 3 has a 3-D section, the obvious question is why?

Lewis: Why not? It’s not going to get in the way of the story because if you don’t put on the 3D glasses it’s still going to look like a regular comic book. It’s not going to be that red and blue junk. It’s not like it’s a chrome cover or something, too, because this actually enhances the reading experience. The 3D will punch up the action a bit more in a certain sequence and it’s just something fun that no one does anymore.

Bradstreet: I think Lewis was right on here. Tom has called in 3-D developer extraordinaire Ray Zone to oversee this section of the book. If you do not want to look at it in 3-D you don’t have to. It will look like any other page in the book without the glasses. The obvious answer is why not? We’ve stated many times that this is a throwback book, inspired by Sci-Fi of the 50’s and 60’s. Where would the 50’s and 60’s have been without 3-D!?

Thomas: I am an avid member of the Southern California Stereo Club. I absolutely love 3D images, and now Ray Zone is doing them in color for comics! They look fantastic. And Tim is right, you don’t need the glasses to read the 3D segments. You can still see the action without them. But believe me, you’re going to want to see it full tilt, with glasses on.

Steve: I’d like to take this question as an opportunity to please beg for help. Tom is insane and he drags me to dark meetings where men with horned rimmed glassed play with strange devices that hurt my eyes and make the characters from films leap from the screen. Help me. Please. God. Help. Us. All.

1st: What does the 3-D do to enhance the story that regular line art doesn’t accomplish?

Lewis: It’s going to feel like the characters are punching you right in the face and kicking your nuts so hard they come shooting out your mouth.

1st: Are there any other enhancements in other issues?

Lewis: I look at Tim’s inks, Grant’s colors, Jason’s lettering, and the badass lineup of legendary artists we have on covers as enhancements.

Bradstreet: Lewis said this best.

Thomas: Steve and I were thinking of doing a musical soundtrack to go along with the book, to play while you read. I think it would be awesome, music coming from the writers. But realistically, just great art and great cover artists. Besides Bernie and Tim, we’ve got Mark Shultz, Michael Kaluta, and Dave Stevens!

Steve: Issue six and half will be Scratch & Sniff.

1st: I have heard there is a sort of cliff hanger ending to the mini-series. Does the story have an ending or are the readers going to be left waiting for the follow up mini-series?

Bradstreet: A better question for Tom and Steve but as you mentioned, this was initially going to be a 12 issue series. We have to break it up to give the creators the time they need to bring their best effort to the table. The story should continue 2-3 months after issue 6 comes out so there won’t be that long of a wait. I’m merely speculating here but I’d say that if the first 6 issues sell well enough for us to warrant doing six more, it makes sense that there would be a cliff hanger. If we know we’re not going to go another six I’m sure it will be wrapped up in a neat little package.

Thomas: the first story has a really good, stand alone ending. It also introduces key elements that will drive part two.

Steve: As Tom and I talked about the story I realized we were talking about a HUGE epic story. The first part introduces us to the characters and the world and is a completely self-contained story. The second part explores the history of the events more and what led to them and is also a completely self-contained story.

1st: What else is planned from Raw Entertainment?

Thomas: Raw Entertainment is doing Steve’s comics ‘The Lurkers’ and ‘In the Blood’ as films for Lions Gate. We’re also doing something called ’The Dark Country’ over there. I’m directing ‘The Amateur Kind’ for Renegade. Raw Studios will be adapting it to comics, as well as doing something called ‘Alien Pig Farm 3000’ — kind of like ‘Mars Attacks’ meets ‘Dukes of Hazzard.’  And a werewolf thing called ‘The Lycan.’

Steve: Tom and I have a lot of stuff planned. Like he said, right now we’re concentration on Bad Planet, the Lurkers film which I’ll begin writing any second now and Dark Country which Tom and Tab Murphy are pulling together. We certainly don’t have any shortage of material. Honestly, it seems like every time Tom and I talk something new comes out of it. Oh and bloody Hell, I’m having lunch with Tom in an hour. Check it tomorrow for more projects.

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