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RYAN SCHIFRIN
Co-Writer of Spooks
Published by: Devil's Due

Interviewed by: Richard Vasseur - (Posted: 1/27/2008)

 

Ryan Schifrin

Richard: What is it like working with Larry Hama co-writing this comic?

Ryan: Working with Larry is a dream come true for me. I grew up collecting GI JOE and reading all of his comics. He has always been a major influence on my writing. So, to have the opportunity to collaborate with him is incredible! The first thing he did was write up character bios similar to the ones he did for the back of the GI JOE toy packages. I donít think Larry has ever had a writing partner before, and I was used to writing alone as well, but weíve found a really good system that works. He lives in New York, and I live in Los Angeles, so we talk on the phone all the time, and email back and forth constantly. This is my first time writing a comic, and weíre basically adapting my screenplay into comic book format, so Larry has been teaching me a lot as we go through the process. A lot of screenwriters want to adapt their scripts into comics, and a common mistake is that you end up with basically talking heads. Larry knows how to tell stories visually, and how to distill the essence of a scene into key images and keep you turning those pages. Larry writes in the moment, letting the characters almost write the story themselves, and my job is to keep an eye on the big picture and structure and make sure it stays on track. We both do passes at the dialogue, and keep the best stuff in there.

Richard: What is the basic story of "Spooks"?

Ryan: SPOOKS is an epic action-fantasy in the same spirit of STAR WARS and LORD OF THE RINGS Ė instead of setting it with knights, dragons and castles or space stations and storm troopers weíre shifting the venue to modern day America, and having an elite military fighting team taking on monsters in an all-out war. An evil witch named Patience Van Anders wants to destroy humanity and take over the world, by raising an army of the dead. She creates an alliance between all the vampire clans and werewolf tribes to support her Crusade. The Department of Supernatural Defense, code name SPOOKS, is our only chance against them. They have to stop the Witch before she can finish her spell to raise the dead across the entire planet, or all will be lost. She plans to perform this ceremony on Halloween, and the clock is ticking.

Richard: Which monsters will appear in this series?

Ryan: I wanted to get a lot of the classic monsters into the story Ė vampires, werewolves, witches, zombies, skeletons, our version of the Headless Horseman, and our version of Frankenstein. Thereís even a giant mutated crab monster Ė every fantasy always has those large beasts. The key was to not throw the kitchen sink in and have it be silly - there has to be a logic behind everything. The vampires need to rest during the day, and need guardians to watch over them, so they have these flesh golems (which are basically like Frankenstein) as bodyguards. The Witch needs a general to lead her undead army, so she raises the spirit of this evil Confederate leader who had his head blown off by a cannon ball in the Civil War. Because the Witch has magical powers, she can raise the dead, transform everyday animals into horrible creatures and so on. It gives us a lot of freedom to bring in fantastical elements that have a logical reason for existing.

Richard: What do you think of Adam Archer & Jonny Rench's art?

Ryan: I could not be happier with the artwork. Adam and Jonny are kicking ass Ė every time I see new images it feels like Christmas morning. They are really talented guys and I feel very lucky to have them working on SPOOKS. Adam is doing an amazing job with the characters Ė their attitudes, their emotions, their actions, and heís really brought the world to life too. And Jonny has a brilliant eye for colors. I send him reference photos from movies to explain what sort of lighting I want, and he just nails it perfectly. Everything is very cinematic.

Richard: Who are the main characters on the Spooks team?

Ryan: We have three main characters. Zach Ramirez is our young Bond-like hero. Heís a veteran of the war in Iraq, and one of the rare .001% of humans that is immune to lycanthropy. Because of checkpoint incident in Iraq, heís got a guilty conscience that he alleviates by dishing out as much pain as possible against the supernatural critters. Heís got a big crush on Felicia, unaware that sheís half-witch.

Frank is the commander of SPOOKS Ė he was their star agent when he was younger, and now heís sort of like Kirk in Star Trek II Ė behind a desk and missing the action. Years ago his family was killed by the vampire leader, and Frank has been hell bent on getting revenge. When he finds out that this particular vampire has come out of hiding, he knows this is his chance.

Felicia is Frankís adopted daughter. Sheís actually half-witch, but Frank keeps that a secret, and no one in SPOOKS knows about her powers. She has a lot of potential, and is tired of hiding who she really is.

Richard: Where did the idea for this comic come from?

Ryan: The origin was a conversation I had with HITMAN producer Daniel Alter. We were discussing my love for Halloween, action and fantasy and came up with the concept of a government agency that fights classic monsters. I developed the screenplay from there, and came up with the plot and characters and set pieces.

Richard: Do you have a favorite creature of the night?

Ryan: That is a tough one! Iíve loved monsters since I was a little kid. I guess Iíd have to go with the Headless Horseman or Frankenstein. But then Iíd be leaving out the Creature From the Black LagoonÖ do I really have to choose?

Richard: How did you feel after you completed the movie "Abominable"?

Ryan: Exhausted! But it was incredibly fulfilling. The movie was a labor of love, and so many talented people chipped in to really help bring it to life. Iím very proud of how it turned out Ė especially considering how little time and money we had, I thought we were very ambitious and lucky to pull it off. I got to work with many of my idols, from Jeffrey Combs to Lance Henriksen and Dee Wallace, and even Drew Struzan, who did our poster! Sometimes I had to pinch myself, just to be sure it wasnít a dream.

Richard: Will you be making any more movies and comics?

Ryan: God willing, yes! Thatís pretty much all I want to do is continue telling stories. Iíve got a couple of movie projects lined up which Iím looking forward to, and if the SPOOKS mini-series does well we have a great idea for a monthly series featuring Omega Team (with Larry writing it) AND another mini-series sequel to this one. Thereís a lot of story left to tell, so I really hope we get the chance.

Richard: Where does your inspiration come from?

Ryan: I donít think anyone can really answer that question. Iíve always thought that the only sign posts you get in life, the only hint that youíre on the right path is if you feel enthusiasm about something. Even if it doesnít seem important or make sense, if something excites you then you must explore it further. But I donít think we consciously choose those things. You may love collecting stamps, or watching NASCAR. Someone else might love LAARPing or flying planes. But ask them WHY they love those things, why those particular things caught their fancy and I donít think it can be explained. You just love the things you love. I loved monsters and Halloween since I was a little kid. Iíve been drawn to fantasy authors like R.A. Salvatore because something about their work resonates with me. So when "inspired" ideas pop into my head, I couldnít tell you where they come from. I think you donít look a gift horse in the mouth Ė itís your responsibility to grab those ideas and nurture them and try to bring them into the real world. I guess you can say you were lucky that they chose you to be the mid-wife and itís your job not to screw it up!

Richard: Any chance "Spooks" could become a movie?

Ryan: Iíd love to see SPOOKS become a movie. That was the original intention behind it. I know that Dan Alter and Adrian Askarieh (who also produced HITMAN) are actively working to make that a reality. But, itís out of my control so I canít worry about it. My job is to make sure the story comes to life, and in this case the medium is comics, and Iím really satisfied with how itís turning out. Itís incredibly fulfilling to see the characters and world being realized and have the ability to share this thing that was in my head with everyone.

Richard: What comics did you read as a kid and do you read now?

Ryan: Growing up I read SPIDER MAN, DAREDEVIL, FANTASTIC FOUR, MICRONAUTS, AVENGERS, GI JOE, HULK, CAPTAIN AMERICA, the little comics that came with the He-Man figures, and a ton of others. I still read comics, Iím reading JASON VS FREDDY VS ASH right now, along with HEDGE KNIGHT, RED SONJA, FORGOTTEN REALMS, GI JOE and many more. I really think that reading comics from an early age helped me become a director, because it trained me to think visually.

Richard: How can someone contact you?

Ryan: Iím on MySpace, just look me up under my name.

Richard: Any final words of advice?

Ryan: Whether itís films or comics, just keep creating stuff and showing your work because you never know what it will lead to. Everything Iíve done leads to something else. For example, if I hadnít directed ABOMINABLE I never would have met R.A. Salvatore. He watched it on SCI FI Channel, and we met at Comic Con and I asked him to work on SPOOKS with me. That led to Devilís Due being interested. Adam Archer watched ABOMINABLE and coincidentally contacted me to let me know heíd love to collaborate on something, right when we were looking for an artist. Weíll see what SPOOKS leads to. I can trace back everything Iíve done in a chain of events, all leading back to this short film I made called EVIL HILL. That led to me getting my first manager, which led to my first script sale and so on.

So, the advice is donít just talk about doing stuff Ė DO IT. Make something, the only way youíll get better is to keep making stuff. Donít be afraid to fail. No one will discover you if you never try.

Bob Salvatore has his own piece of advice that is brutal but honest: If you can quit, quit. If you canít, then youíre a writer.


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