Q: Tell our readers a little about Samurai’s Blood?
A: Samurai’s Blood is a classic revenge tale that takes place in Edo Japan. It concerns 3 teenaged samurai who are from the same mountain village, and are part of the ruling family of their province. When a traitor from within destroys their family, seizes power, and burns their village to the ground, these three set out on a mission to take their vengeance and resurrect their clan. More broadly, Samurai’s Blood is an attempt to tell a samurai story that’s a little more grounded. There are no magical powers or ten-foot swords, just samurai and ninja and their lives as they might really have been.
Q: What’s it like, being a screenwriter at Benaroya Pictures?
A: Well, that’s sort of two separate questions. Working at Benaroya Pictures is an amazing opportunity for me, because I get to do creative work and I get to work with my friends. When I started working here, 5 years ago, is when I really felt like I had ‘made it’. As to the life of a writer: It’s perfect for me, because I get to work on what I want and I don’t have to get up early, but it’s not without its stresses. I always try to explain this to people, that there’s no job without problems. Putting the pressure of earning a living onto a creative process makes it way, way harder. Most people can’t handle that kind of pressure. I’ve learned, but it’s still difficult on a day-to-day basis, and I spend 60-70 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, at my desk making it happen.
Q: Tell our readers a little about The Fires Of Avalon?
A: Fires of Avalon is the next series that I’m doing, which will hit stores in 2012. It’s another historical piece, this one set in Roman Britain. It’s kind of an alternate history, set in a world in which the descendants of King Arthur have continued to rule Britain from the mythical city of Avalon. The story concerns a street urchin who loses the love of his life, and goes on to become a soldier of legend, caught up in a grand fate. I’ve seen the finished first issue and it looks amazing. All the colors are painted and it looks like it’s happening in a dream. People can follow me on twitter, @OGWiseman, for more info on when it will be coming out and how to pre-order.
Q: How long have you been enjoying comicbooks, and which titles did you particularly enjoy in your youth?
A: I have read comic books since I was a kid, but was never fanatical about it, except for a few titles. First and foremost, I loved Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes, had every single book as a kid. That book taught me that comics can hold big ideas like basically no other medium. I also loved Spawn as a kid, especially Alan Moore’s Violator miniseries. I must have read that 20 times. Later on Frank Miller, especially the Batman stuff, obviously. Lately, I’ve liked Transmetropolitan, Criminal/Sleeper, and now I’m reading Rucka’s Punisher with great interest. I tend to stick much more to the Indie stuff than the big two, not just because that’s what I write, but because the storytelling seems much more daring to me on the Indie side.
Q: Which of the comicbook films of 2011 did you like best, and why?
A: I’d have to say my #1 is X-Men: First Class, because I liked X-Men as a kid, and those are my favorite characters. Magneto is probably my favorite major comic book character ever created. Thor wasn’t a fantastic movie, but it had some great moments, notably when Natalie Portman was on-screen. Finally, I’ll say I liked Green Hornet a lot more than most other people seemed to at the time. I just thought it was a fun movie that wasn’t taking itself too seriously.
Q: As a screenwriter, how much inspiration do you find that you draw upon from pre-existing films, versus what just comes naturally for you?
A: I’d say I draw more from existing films as a screenwriter than I draw from existing comics as a comics writer, if that makes sense. With regard to movies, it’s really important to understand where your film fits into the canon at the early stages, while you’re creating the concept. This is true, first of all, because it’s creatively important to have a defined concept. But it’s also important because the whole thing with a movie is being able to pitch it. That’s how you get it funded and get it made. And the best way to pitch a movie, or a movie character, is to compare it to something else. However, by the time I’m actually getting down to the details and writing the thing, I’ve moved beyond that stage (if it’s working) and I’m hopefully getting to something that hasn’t been done before. That’s the formula for movies: Start with something familiar, and take it in a new direction.
Q: When you aren’t writing films or comicbooks, what do you do for kicks?
A: Play the piano, cook dinner for my girlfriend, go see stand-up comedy, play basketball, and read.
Q: What was your first car?
A: A 1989 VW Fox, that belonged to my mother. Yes, it was a hatchback. Yes, it had a bunch of hippie bumper stickers on it.
Q: Who is your favorite band, and why?
A: Radiohead. I literally don’t have any better answer to why than: Their music makes me feel good inside.
Q: What is your favorite television series, and why?
A: These aren’t exactly novel choices, but: Currently on the air: Breaking Bad. All-Time: The Wire. Both for the same reason: What I can’t stand in story-telling is a lack of realism. I can accept a fantastical premise (as in, say, superheroes), but within whatever world the story creates, I need it to be grounded. I can’t watch procedurals because they make really basic mistakes about things like, for example, how an MRI machine works, or how a criminal trial is conducted. I can’t stand movies where the hero ignores some obvious solution to her problem. Both ‘Breaking Bad’ and ‘The Wire’ are almost perfect in this sense. I’m never screaming an obvious solution at the TV while I’m watching them.
Q: You’re a baseball slugger in the big leagues. What’s the nickname for your favorite bat?
A: Thor’s Hammer.
Q: You’re a deep sea diver, and you’ve just discovered a fascinating sunken treasure in international waters. What is this treasure you’ve found, and what are you going to do with it?
A: I have discovered a statue carved by one of the ancient masters. Once we dredge it up, I’ll sell it to a museum and get filthy rich while helping the cause of great art.
Q: You’re going on a picnic! Yippee! You can bring five things along with you. What are they?
A: 1) My girlfriend. 2) A really friendly labrador retriever. 3) A pack of Tennis Balls to throw for said Dog. 4) A computer with nice speakers and Pandora. 5) A pre-packed picnic lunch basket from Greenblatt’s Deli in LA, which will include at least one pastrami sandwich with cole slaw on it. (See what I did there? I cheated!)
Q: You’ve just become a daimyo, during the time of feudal Japan. What will your first official act be, as daimyo?
A: This is a really hard one. Two answers: Joke answer: Sake Bombs! Real Answer: The differences between their society then and our society now are so profound that it’s difficult to even discuss a single change, apart from a whole network of other changes, which are more cultural than political, and thus out of the control of a Daimyo. One thing that always seemed silly to me is the prohibition, at certain times, against growing the so-called ‘five grains’, which kept a lot of people really close to starvation who didn’t really need to be. That’s probably one thing I’d try to change.
Q: When the time comes for you to write your memoirs, and publish an autobiography in the autumn of your years, what do you imagine a fine title for such a book would be?
A: The View from Hollywood Boulevard (NOTE: I actually do live on Hollywood Boulevard.)
Q: Who are three of your favorite screenwriters today?
A: I’m interpreting that question as referring to people who are still working, so I would say: Quentin Tarantino, Cameron Crowe, and David Mamet.
Q: Who are three of your favorite comicbook illustrators?
A: I think very highly of both Javier Aranda and Nam Kim, who are doing my two series, but I figure you want some other names, so my three are: Jim Lee, Tim Sale, and Nate Simpson. I thought Nonplayer was a little over-hyped from a story perspective–how much can you really tell from one issue–but the art is above reproach.
Q: What are your thoughts on all of this reboot/relaunch/retcon stuff with The Big Two (DC and Marvel)?
A: I’m waiting and seeing. In this world we have now, everybody wants to make a decision about everything in the first 5 minutes. By that metric, just from a sales perspective, it’s obviously a huge success. Creatively? I’m more hesitant. I think this reboot was a real opportunity to tell these stories in a different and more daring way, and instead it seems to me that, at least with the limited amount titles I’ve read, they’ve gone right back to a convoluted, continuity-heavy mode of storytelling. That said, it’s only been a few months! I think we’ll be able to look back in 5 years and evaluate, but right now, it all depends on where it goes from here.
Q: What were you for Halloween this year?
A: I went as John F. Kennedy and my girlfriend went as Marylin Monroe. It was epic.
Q: Do you happen to have any scars that tell a story?
A: One under my left eyebrow that I got winning a basketball game in Perrydale, OR. A pair of others on my left palm that came from the glass of a busted car window. Not going into any more detail than that!
Q: What’s next for Owen Wiseman fans in 2012?
A: People should follow me on Twitter, @OGWiseman, if they want detailed info, but definitely look for ‘The Fires of Avalon’. I’m also planning on putting out more prose stuff. There are already some stories from the world of Samurai’s Blood on out website, www.samuraisblood.com, and I’ll be doing more of those. Plus I’m writing a sci fi Novella, called ‘Unchained’, and I’m writing a movie right now that we’re hoping to make late last year. Stay tuned, it’s going to be a great one!