IAR's Comic Book Corner: Writer F. J. DeSanto Talks 'Immortals: Gods and Heroes'

Wednesday, 21 September 2011 15:26 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR's Comic Book Corner: Writer F. J. DeSanto Talks 'Immortals: Gods and Heroes'

Comic books have become a rich resource that Hollywood has been tapping into for many years now. While Superman first took flight in the late ‘70s, and Batman began patrolling Gotham on the big screen in the ‘80s, the super hero movie genre really took off in the last decade with film franchises like Spider-Man, X-Men, Iron Man, and The Dark Knight. With the recent prequel X-Men: First Class, the upcoming reboot The Amazing Spider-Man, and The Dark Knight Rises, Man of Steel, and The Avengers on the horizon … it doesn’t seem like the genre is going away anytime soon. So here at IAR, any time we have the opportunity to speak with someone in the comic book industry about their latest project, comic book adapted movies and the marriage of Hollywood and comics, we’re going to jump at the chance. We call it…. IAR’s Comic book Corner!

In the comic book industry, licensed comics (comic books based on properties from other forms of media) have been given a bad rap … and rightly so. In the past they have been used as nothing more than a cheap marketing tool, a throwaway pamphlet that is intended to raise awareness about the impending film or TV series. Well that is all about to change with the September 21st release of Archaia Entertainment’s Immortals: Gods and Heroes, based on Relativity Media’s upcoming film Immortals, which will hit theaters on November 11th.

The graphic novel is a stunning, two-sided hardcover anthology collection that features several all-new tales of Greek myths as told by some of the top talent in the industry including Jock (The Losers), Ben McCool (Captain America), Ron Marz (Green Lantern), Phil Lester (Green Arrow), Jim McCann (Return of the Dapper Men), Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Grey (Jonah Hex), and Ben Templesmith (Choker). Immortals: Gods and Heroes is set to serve as an irreplaceable companion piece to the upcoming movie directed by visionary filmmaker Tarsem Singh (The Fall, The Cell), which stars Oscar nominee Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler), Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire), Luke Evans (The Hobbit), Isabel Lucas (Transformers), Kellan Lutz (Twilight), Stephen Dorff (Blade), and the man-who-will-be-Superman, Henry Cavill (Man of Steel).

One man who is no stranger to comic books or movies is writer/producer F.J. DeSanto. Beginning his career as an assistant to legendary comic book adapted film producer Michael E. Uslan (Batman, The Dark Knight) on the film Constantine, DeSanto went on to co-produce Frank Miller’s The Spirit with Uslan, which is based on Will Eisner’s classic hero. The two men would eventually team-up once again to bring The Spirit back to the page with a series written for DC Comics. DeSanto is also well versed in the world of licensed comics having written Star Trek: The Next Generation: Manga for TOKYOPOP. Now the writer/producer is channeling his love for comics and movies into a new story for the upcoming Immortals: Gods and Heroes, which hits stores today.

I recently had a chance to speak with writer and producer F. J. DeSanto about his work on Immortals: Gods and Heroes. DeSanto and I had a wonderful conversation about his background in the industry, the new book and his contributions to it, Archaia Entertainment, and why Immortals: Gods and Heroes is so much more than just your average comic book based on an upcoming movie. Here is what he had to say:

To begin with, can you talk a little about your background in the comic book industry and how you became involved with
Immortals: Gods and Heroes?

F. J. DeSanto: My background technically by day is that I’m a movie/television producer. I produced the movie The Spirit with Frank Miller a couple of years ago. I have a couple of movies in development right now but mostly in the comic book genre. I’m producing a pilot for the Syfy channel right now but I also have a writing background and I write comics for DC Comics and Tokyo Pop. I create a lot of stuff for them and I’m writing an original one hundred-page book for Archaia this year, which is an original idea. I’ve formed a good relationship with them and I’ve been invited to be a part of the wonderful Immortals: Gods and Heroes experience.

In the comic book industry, licensed projects and especially comic books based on films are often looked at rather suspiciously by fans and creators alike as nothing more than a cheap marketing tool, did you have any reservations about coming on to this licensed project and what indicated to you that it would be more than just a comic version of the film, but rather its own stand-alone graphic novel experience?

DeSanto: The reason I kind of jumped at it was because I was really familiar with the project and I know people involved in it. It was a project that was already on my radar and as a fan I looked at it with excitement. It was something where I hadn’t even seen a frame of it when I got asked to do it, but I had been so familiar with the project, and especially with Tarsem directing that I knew it was going to be visually off the charts. I was like, yes, absolutely. The fan in me knew how Archaia was approaching the book and that it wouldn’t be a cheap adaptation. I knew that Archaia would put together a very rich project that was going to enhance the world of the movie. It is going to be something where somebody will see the movie and learn something about the world from this book, and I think that will be a cool companion piece. You know it’s funny because comic fans, including myself, can often sort of smell something that’s not authentic. This just sort of pushed all the right buttons in terms of something I probably would have bought anyway but had the chance to actually be involved with it. That’s the other thing. You look at everything Archaia does, and it’s so top notch that I felt like it was going to match the quality of the movie and exist on a certain level that normally you would not get from this kind of project.

So after you agree to work on a project like this, what exactly is the process? Did you get to see footage or a rough cut of the film before you began writing and did you have any conversations about it with director Tarsem Singh?

No, I’m doing it all through the editor. What they do is that there is a certain amount of material that you’re exposed to which is very exciting, such as the trailer, and the script. These are the materials I’ve been given to study up on. There is obviously a lot of thought, a lot of careful thought, from the filmmakers as well as all the people involved in the graphic novel. There has been a lot of careful thought into how this world is going to be built. It’s not, “Hey, take a look at the movie and write something.” It’s not that. It’s very careful, and meticulous, which is wonderful. I think that’ll reflect in the eventual book. The people that are being chosen to get involved with the book, like Ron Marz, understand the pace. They are respectful of the pace and all the things geared toward world building, which I think is very exciting.

Did they decide for you which portion of the mythology you would be working on or did you get to decide what you were going to be writing about?

DeSanto: What other people were doing is that they gave central themes of what they were looking for. I sort of had a couple of thoughts on that, you know luckily Nate Cosby and I both live in New York so we can both kind of get together and hash the idea out. What first came out of it was where the focusing would be and what we were thinking. Then I came up with a couple of things, some of it worked and some of it didn’t work because I had Nate Cosby as editor shepherding everything. He’s sort of the convoy between the filmmaker and the writer, so he’s the caretaker. Nate is sort of the curator. His responsibility is to make sure that it goes along with what the filmmakers would want. It’s not something where you can just go, “Hey I want to do this.” It has to be carefully thought out and we have to make sure it fits in the realm of the world and enhances the vision of the film.

Finally, as a comic book writer with a background in movie producing, do you think this is the perfect project for you in a sense? Do you think it’s the perfect marriage of your two careers?

DeSanto: Oh yeah, it’s a lot of fun because I don’t have the responsibilities of being the producer. It’s an interesting challenge because I’ve done lots of licensed stuff before. I’ve written things like Star Trek and Star Wars, but those things are still wide known, this is a new world and you sort of take a personal pride in it. You look at that trailer and say, “I want to do something with that.” You’ll see something that ties into what you’re doing and you’ll get very excited about it. This is my little wheelhouse and I like to play in it.

Immortals: Gods and Heroes will be available in stores on September 21st.

Immortals will be released in theaters on November 11th.

Full Disclosure: Immortals is produced by Relativity Media, iamROGUE's parent company. 

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