Breck Eisner's recent remake of The Crazies caused many horror fans to sit up and take notice of the genre filmmaker. And though Eisner announced his next projects – Escape from New York and Flash Gordon, the next horror film he hopes to make has not yet been revealed…until now. (And no, it's not a remake of David Cronenberg's The Brood.) Hit the jump for the exclusive word on the film from one of the key men behind it.
I just spoke with Insight Studios comic book creator Mark Wheatley (Frankenstein Mobster, Breathtaker), who told me that Eisner's next project will be an adaptation of Wheatley's Dracula comic Blood of the Innocent (cover art from which is pictured above), co-written by writer Rickey Shanklin, with art by Marc Hempel and Wheatley. Here's my conversation with Wheatley…
Breck Eisner's next project, after the Escape from New York remake, was thought to be Flash Gordon. Is this still the case?
Flash Gordon is scheduled for 2012 now, I think. Escape from New York is the one he's actively working on right now. He's trying to make Blood of the Innocent the picture he does after Escape. He and the writer have been working on the pitch. The writer, Bill Marsilii, has been working on the pitch now for almost a year. But Breck came on board, I think, back in February. And so the two of them met several times and honed the pitch and worked out a "live" version of the pitch. [Laughs.] The two of them put that two-person act on the road and they've been going around to the various studios making the pitch. Bill's got a pretty impressive credits list himself. Right now he's working on a thing called Lightspeed, for Bruckheimer. He's writing that. And he's written the script for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. It was going to be made until McG came on board, then it suddenly evaporated.
Who brought Blood to Breck's attention?
That would be my manager, David Engel, who's with Circle of Confusion.
How did Bill come by Blood?
He and David Engel put their heads together. Bill really likes period pieces – that's why he had worked on 20,000 Leagues. David thought he might be interested in reading the Blood of the Innocent comic book; so he gave it to him. He just went nuts over it, and he gave me a call and we talked several times about various ideas. I was actually very impressed; because the first time we talked we were just sounding each other out. But after that, as we talked, I began to realize that gradually he was surpassing me in knowledge about the story. Because he was going out and doing a tremendous amount of research about the time period. So the thing that makes the story work – and this, by the way is research done by Rickey Shanklin, my writing partner on the book – is that the events that take place in Stoker's Dracula, date by date, mesh perfectly with the Jack the Ripper murders. That was the core of what started us off on doing the story. But Bill brought some new ideas to it, and it's pretty interesting to me, because if you read the pitch, he's kept all the action of our book, every single beat. But he changed the intent of one character, Jack the Ripper. And completely transformed the impact of the book, really improving it.
For the uninitiated, how would you describe Blood of the Innocent?
Well, this may take a while, but I'll say it right now. It's Dracula versus Jack the Ripper… [Laughs.] That's it. That's the whole concept.
That sort of brevity certainly lends itself to studio pitch sessions.
I think it was a natural, frankly. Then, if you happen to point out that Dracula is a vampire, I think you've got something. [Laughs.]
I heard they're all the rage with kids these days. [Laughs.]
They are. I'm sure some studio somewhere may have us turn Jack the Ripper into a vampire too. But I don't know. We may hold out.
Of course Blood features a more aggressive vampire than young audiences have come to expect from stories like Twilight.
Absolutely, yeah. But I should point out that an underpinning of the story is a romance between Dracula and a woman.
But a mature romance.
Oh no, they go at it like… [Laughs.] I think the real difference is that our Dracula shaves. Although that's not in concrete or anything. We're open to notes about the beard status.
How did you first conceive of Blood?
It goes back quite a ways, to the early days of Insight Studios. Rickey Shanklin was a friend of mine who I had known since my fanzine days, way back. And it just so happened when we opened our studio, his parents' house was right behind our studio. We started toying with the idea of working together. I had just worked on a paperback book series for Bantam called Be an Interplanetary Spy, and I had also done Mars at First Comics, with Marc Hempel, and we were looking for a project to follow up Mars. Rickey mentioned that he had written an eight-page horror story that he wanted to get done, which was all about Dracula versus Jack the Ripper. I said, "My God, this is a great idea. We shouldn't waste it on eight pages. We should do a long comic book." He didn't think it was possible, but he went back to his research and came back and brought me the raw research, and the two of us worked out a much more involved and in-depth version and did it as the first weekly comic book series in the United States.
That's an impressive feat.
It was. And certainly back-breaking, since the publisher didn't get the idea that we still needed to do them on a monthly basis. [Laughs.] But we managed to pull it off and get a lot of attention. The book's original publisher was Warp Graphics, the folks who did Elfquest. The book was a bit of a departure for them; they were thinking they could branch out their publishing into a line of books. But then they decided that they really wanted to focus on Elfquest. So they handed over their line to Apple Publishing, which did a long run of our Blood of Dracula comic book, which was kind of a spin-off of Blood of the Innocent. But when we got around to wanting to do the graphic novel it kind of fell between the cracks of transfer between the two companies; and when it was solicited they never actually got around to printing it. So now it will be part of the IDW ComicMix library.
When will the collected edition see print?
I don't know. It's on the list, but I have no confirmation at the moment exactly where it falls on the schedule. Right now we're looking at Lone Justice for September, and probably the second volume right before the end of the year. That means the earliest Blood can come out would probably be early next year.
Having read the original four issues, I think it's worth waiting for.
And the adaptation is still being shopped around Hollywood?
Yes, Circle of Confusion has put the package together – the writer and the director of the property – and now they're looking for a studio that will work with them.
What other projects are you working on right now, in comics or film?
I can speak directly to the comics. I've put out a number of graphic novels in the past twelve months – that includes Hammer of the Gods: Mortal Enemy, which is about big, striking Viking lads and Valkyries going at it, followed by Frankenstein Mobster: Made Man, which is about a guy who gets sewn up and goes out and fights evil and monsters, and then the EZ Street graphic novel – which is all about how people make movies with comic books (which could be instrumental in understanding this interview) – came out just a month or two ago. I'm just working on the covers for the Lone Justice graphic novel. It's a two-fisted pulp adventure set in the 1930s, about a guy whose kind of like the flip side of the Bruce Waynes and Tony Starks of the world, who do all their crimefighting because they have a great deal of personal wealth. Instead, we're dealing with a guy who was wealthy and who lost everything, and is still trying to fight crime. The first volume will be out in September. And all of these are out through the partnership of IDW and ComicMix. ComicMix.com is where a lot of my graphic novels appear online for free, and you can read them any day of the week.
Thank you very much, Mark.
Hey, my pleasure!