Original short interviews with notable, rising or overlooked
figures from comics or the larger entertainment field by Bill Baker.
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BAKER'S DOZEN for 08/13/2003
A highly successful pop artist, publisher and comics creator, he easily strides across the "Great Divide" between indy and mainstream publishers. And he makes this feat look quite simple, continuing to publish his own creations -- including El Mucho Grande-Wrestler for Hire, Spells, Suicide Blonde, and the ever-enigmatic Mr. Beat -- independently despite the fact that he's "made it" and become a regular contributor to one of the most widely recognized brand names in the entertainment world, The Simpsons. Add in a seriously wild and devilishly clever sense of humor, an entrepreneurial drive that would give Horatio Alger an inferiority complex, and a bottomless reserve of well-crafted, creative ideas and you've only begun to scratch the surface of Chris Yambar, the man with ...
A Talent of Frightening Proportions
Bill Baker: For those who might not be familiar with it, what is Edison's Frankenstein 1910 and why should they care about your adaptation?
Chris Yambar: A lot of people don't realize this, but in 1910, inventor Thomas Edison made what has largely been hailed as the world's first horror film and what is definitely the very first adaptation of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein. The film was way ahead of its time. Although it was a 'bloodless' epic it was the subject of a lot of public outrage, especially from the more conservative leaders of that time. People protested it and some felt that it was blasphemous because of its 'creation of life' sequence. The movie was quickly pulled and copies were destroyed. Edison's Frankenstein was thought to be lost and for the longest time was on the top 10 list of most sought after American silent films. A film collector unearthed the only known print of the film and, after keeping it hidden for nearly two decades, has released it on an ultra-limited edition DVD. For silent film and horror fans this is a very important moment.
BB: What makes this particular film a good candidate for comics adaptation?
CY: Due to the rarity of the DVD and the facts that I've already mentioned, Edison's Frankenstein will still remain a very hard to find film to view. Our adaptation will allow Franken-fans to get a solid look at the classic from a literary point of view as well as a graphic one. I think that people will be very surprised to see how different this version is when compared to the popular Universal images we've all grown up with.
BB: So, just how did you become involved in this project, and what kind of challenges, hurdles or special concerns did it present to you as a writer?
CY: I first learned about the film when I was reading monster magazines in the 1970s. I was always puzzled by the lack of information regarding this version. I grew up being a fan of silent movies and always thought that they possessed a certain dreamlike beauty and mystery. About a year ago I decided to surf the net regarding the film and met historian, Frederick C. Wieble Jr. who had written an entire book about the subject. His self-published book provided all the missing links I was looking for. Fred has contributed a large amount of historical data in this book which I know will be of special interest to every reader.
The biggest difficulty about working from a silent film of this nature is filling in the many blanks that have been hurriedly glossed over between scenes. A lot of details that were previously taken for granted needed to be fleshed out and filled-in when transformed into written and graphic form. Sometimes a mere gesture or subtlety becomes the linchpin that holds the whole story together. Without it the bottom could fall out completely. Films aren't made with that type of mindset anymore. Today everything is completely spelled out and over the top.
BB: How did you decide which scenes needed those graphic narrative bridges you spoke of, and how difficult was building them while remaining true to the film?
CY: One example of scene building is the previously unexplained gap between young Dr. Frankenstein's entry into college and his formulation of the mixture that creates a three dimensional life form that is a reflection of his own inner id. That was all taken for granted in the original film. Pretty heavy stuff for the early 1900s. Pretty heavy stuff for the early 2000s too. That's the stuff that presents the biggest challenge.
BB: While you do work on some licensed properties, you typically do original stories featuring your own creations. Did this project allow you to use different "muscles" as a writer, so to speak, or was it much the same process for you as when you work on one of the Simpsons books, or even your own projects?
CY: Troubleshooting is my sport of choice whether it's working with a movie or book script adaptation, a recognized licensed character like Bart Simpson or Mister Magoo, or my own creator owned properties like Mr. Beat, El Mucho Grande, Spells, or Suicide Blonde. I go out of my way to approach each effort from outside of the box.
BB: How did Robb Bihun get involved, and why is he the perfect artist to do the visual adaptation?
CY: I've been a big fan of Robb's work for years! His illustrative style captures the historical and horror environment I had in mind when I first considered doing this book. His experience as a storyboard artist and designer for motion pictures and music videos has helped give this interpretation the professional edge it deserves.
BB: Does this prove project serve as proof that comics are just "films on paper" as many other creators have suggested, or do you see comics and film as two distinct art forms? And, if the latter is true, what are the similarities -- and important differences -- between the two, and how did you reconcile them in the book?
CY: If today's comics are truly 'films on paper' then Ed Wood is owed an apology for being called the worst film maker of all time. I am not a big fan of modern comics. The independent ones interest me but the mainline titles are playing it safe and are reruns of ideas that didn't pan out right the first time. Original scripting and solid composition are lacking in both fields. I'm no genius but I'd like to think that I'm offering a fresh perspective with my writing. That's the goal. There are different demands for writing for film and for comics. Films like the X-Men prove that you can get away with somethings that you just can't with film and vice versa. They are similar but completely different sciences at the same time. Knowing those differences and how to craft them properly is the real trick.
BB: Aside from the comic adaptation, what else will people find in the book?
CY: We're including nearly 20 pages of historical information and profiles on the film's cast as well as the graphic adaptation. On one hand you've got a 40 page visual adaptation by Robb and I and on the other you've got the historical vitals by Fred. It's like getting two books for the price of one.
BB: Who's publishing it, when's it coming out, what's it going to cost, and -- most importantly -- how can readers get their hands on a copy?
CY: Edison's Frankenstein 1910 will be published by Comic Library International in early October. The book will be a 64 page squarebound trade with a $7.95 price tag. A signed edition of the first printing will be offered as well. Folks who can't get a copy from their local comic shop or bookstore can order copies directly from my website at www.yambar.com. Ordering information will be posted there in September.
BB: Is this a sign of things to come? Will we be seeing more movie-to-comic adaptations from you and Robb, or was this a one-time deal?
CY: Robb and I are already talking about our next adaptation. We'd like to offer 2-3 new books a year if our schedules permit. Robb and I are also knocking around the idea of doing an all new original series called McBride - The Faerie King for the Spring of 2004. We've talked about doing this stories for years. It's a wild ride. We'll see.
BB: What are some of the other projects you're working on that might be of interest to fans?
CY: George Broderick Jr. and I are working on El Mucho Grande-Wrestler For Hire and the world's first 'choco-erotic sci-f thriller': Suicide Blonde. Both of which are on the shelves even now. Levi Krause and I are still working on the mean spirited Spells and an upcoming sci-fi adventure called Scourge which should see the light of our universe in 2004. 'Mr. Beat will return to comics in early 2004 just in time to celebrate his 10th anniversary. Fans of masked Mexican wrestling may want to keep an eye out for a new Blue Demon comic which I'll be penning and Ron Frenz will be penciling. Disney duck artist, Pat Block, is working with me on a new all-ages title called Midnight Nursery. I'm threatening to do a lot more work for the kind people over at Bongo on titles like Bart Simpson's Treehouse Of Horror (2004) and the bimonthly Bart Simpson Comics. I've also been creating some paintings for a line of Disney lithographs and canvas transfers that I hope to see in print soon, too.
BB: What do you get from doing this work, aside from the big bucks and the accolades of millions?
CY: The satisfaction of a job well done. And cookies.
BB: What do you hope that fans get from Edison's Frankenstein 1910, specifically, and from your work in general?
CY: I hope that people feel that they've gotten way more bang from their buck than they expected.
BB: Any last thoughts?
CY: I could use some sleep.
You can still order a copy of Edison's Frankenstein 1910 from your local comic shop. You'll find it listed on page 286 under Comics Library International in the August, 2003, edition of Diamond Comics' Previews magazine.
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