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 04/14/2004
[Not] Just Another Chick Flick
Rich Henn on Scenes from the Small Press: Colleen Doran
As I've surely mentioned elsewhere, I've known Rich Henn for a number of years now and have watched him toil endlessly to spread the word not just about his own comics, but about all comics ...
And especially about good comics, and the folks who create them.
So it was little surprise when he started up what he originally described to me as a "small documentary about independent comics". Nor was the general high quality of the results of his new filmic endeavors ever much in question, nor was the concept that Rich would deliver results intriguing, entertaining, and perhaps even with a dash of edification.
What did surprise me as I observed from the sidelines was how quickly not just footage piled up, and the way that the scope of this "small documentary" naturally ballooned to include both short and lengthy, in-depth interviews with many star players in both the mainstream and indy comics world. The solid glimpses I got of the work-in-progress was not just promising, it was downright exciting!
Well, there's been no need to take just my opinion about it. In mid-2003, Rich released Mainstream Raw, part one of the multi-installment Scenes from the Small Press project his "small documentary" grew into. Now he's preparing for the sophomore release of the series, Colleen Doran, and if the heat that this intensive look at that gifted and outspoken artist has already generated prior to its release, Henn's got something that a lot of people are talking about ... and are very, very interested in seeing for themselves.
Bill Baker: So, for those who came in late, and to remind those who caught your initial appearance hereabouts, could you describe your Scenes from the Small Press project, and maybe clue us in on what it has to do with Colleen Doran?
Rich Henn: Scenes from the Small Press is what I choose to call my three-year long docu-film series about the comic book industry. What started out as a single film focusing on self-publishing in the comic book marketplace, ballooned to a much broader series of films. When I started filming, the premise was to focus on two or three books and their creators, as they worked on the project from start to finish. To that end, I wanted to encapsulate the industry as a whole. So I also began filming material with some of the more recognizable names in the industry, such as [Joe] Quesada, [Frank] Miller, [Matt] Wagner, [Dave] Gibbons, etc. After a 15-min. preview was shown at conventions during 2002, it became clear that I could easily craft a series of films, rather then put together only one feature that only touched upon several issues.
The first of which was Mainstream Raw. I released that film on DVD last April. Now a year later, I am releasing the 2nd film in the series, one which focuses purely on one creator ... Colleen Doran.
BB: Why choose Colleen? What about her as an artist, and probably as importantly, as a person made her such a natural subject for this kind of film?
RH: When I first sat with Colleen in November 2001, it became clear even then that I could do a film just on her alone. She's all at once informative, captivating and intriguing. She's funny, charming, and one of the sharpest people I've met in this industry. As an artist, she is without question, one of the most talented in the field. As a creator, her stamina is paralleled only by Dave Sim. Dave has been self-publishing for 27 years, only recently reaching the end of his epic Cerebus run. This year marks the 20th Anniversary of A Distant Soil. Colleen began writing the title when she was 12 years old, saw it realized in print at age 15 when she entered the market as a pro, and has produced the book as both creator and publisher for the last several years.
On top of that, she's done work for Disney, Marvel, DC, DC/Vertigo, Innovation ... far too many companies to mention here.
Her work on Orbiter last year with Warren Ellis really made people stand up and take notice.
BB: There's been some rumors and veiled -- and some not so veiled -- remarks being tossed around that some of the content of this particular installment of Scenes has the potential to be not just controversial, but even incendiary and quite polarizing. Is this a true assessment of your film ... and if so, is that all that there is to it, or is there perhaps more at the heart of the film than that?
RH: There is so much heart to this film, I don't even know where to begin.
There are parts of the film that are so powerful and moving, it's difficult to describe just how poignant they are. And then there's other points of the film you find yourself chuckling along with Colleen, as she reveals both personal and funny anecdotes from her past. She's at a point in her career where she is comfortable with herself as a creator and an individual. She can roll with the punches life has handed her, and at times -- now years later -- even laugh at them. She's one of the strongest women I know, and not just in comics. You can't help but immediately like this woman, as she reveals her past, present and future in this always competitive field.
This is at times, a very personal "Inside the Artist's Studio" look at Doran's work and her life.
Most importantly, people should know this is not gossip. Doran is not repeating third party tales about people's personal lives. She is talking about her professional life and direct experiences. She speaks quite specifically about how her experiences as a young creator became integral to the story in A Distant Soil. We show panels from the book that illustrate exactly what she is talking about. Even entire scenes of psychodrama in A Distant Soil are autobiographical. To that end, the underlying theme of the book has become a metaphor for both abuse of power and abuse of children.
And while there are no specific names, dates or places mentioned anywhere in this film, if anyone who watches it can see themselves anywhere in these stories, then they should really stop and ask themselves why.
BB: So is that the ultimate reason for doing something like Scenes from the Small Press: Colleen Doran? To serve as a cautionary tale? Or is there more to it than that? I mean, I could easily see the film being viewed in a variety of ways, including as an important art history document, a modern fable of the good that results from perseverance and belief in self in the face of real and constant adversity ... and even an act of self-promotion. So, what purpose do you hope this film ultimately serves?
RH: I feel, as I do with all the films in this series, that we are well past the time to present something of this scope to the marketplace and the media. The self-publisher, the writer, the artists in this field are truly the unsung heroes of our industry. People outside comics are familiar with the names Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman. But many have never even heard the names of the people who created these icons, let alone the people who are creating tomorrow's legends today. To do a series of films that center on people like Colleen Doran, Frank Miller, Joe Quesada, Matt Wagner, Evan Dorkin, Carla Speed McNeil, Chris McCollough, Pat Giles, Amanda Baer, Frank Cho ... you see where I'm going with this? It's simply a privilege for me to know these people.
I want the world to know these people.
BB: I've also heard it said that the release date of this project is no accident, that there's some devious, self-serving or even venal motive behind your releasing it at this particular time. What's your reply to those and other, similar "observations"?
RH: I'd like to state for the record that Colleen and I have been working closely together on this film for several years, and the release of the project was [intended] to coincide with the 20th anniversary of her own book, A Distant Soil. With the success of Orbiter and her other Ellis project, an online strip at Artbomb called Super-Idol, I felt the time was perfect.
To be honest, the film wasn't supposed to come out until November, and that was simply because what should have been the second film in this series is tied up with another editor until May/June. This film was pretty much in the can, and I wanted to get it out there.
I contacted an editor I'd heard about through the grapevine, someone who did post-production work on American Splendor. We worked out a time table, and began finalizing the print this past February. Sitting in his studio, we looked at hours of footage, some of which I hadn't seen since I first shot it over two years ago.
At one point, the editor looked at me and said, "Wow. Do you realize what you have here? You really need to let me look into putting this into a film festival."
BB: Well, that brings up the questions of what's next for this film? When and in what formats will it be released, how can folks grab a copy of this and the previous installment of Scenes from the Small Press for themselves -- and what's it going to set us back? Oh, and what about that festival or con screening? Or even -- dare I say it? -- multiplex showings?
RH: In order ... the next project is the biggest ... the one I started with in March, 2001. And more than likely, the big finale in this series -- Scenes From the Small Press: The Road to SPX. To edit this picture has been extremely difficult. I think in the end, it may seriously be a 2-disc DVD set. There's well over 50 hours of footage to go through.
There is, however, a 40-minute preview of both Mainstream Raw and Road to SPX on the extras portion of the Colleen Doran DVD. Expect to see about 15-minutes of highlights from Mainstream and 30-min. from Road to SPX. At this point, I'm not certain how much of that 30-minute clip might go into the final film ... at least 15-minutes of which I am certain. So the Colleen Doran DVD might be the only place that stuff will show up.
Expect the last film to be out in late September.
All the films in the series are released on DVD only.
For now, people can order both Mainstream Raw and Colleen Doran from my website, by clicking over to www.timespell.com and then just following the buttons. There is a page each dedicated to both movies. People who order both films can get a $5 savings right now on the pair, and shipping is always free. The Colleen Doran DVD will ship April 30th.
Both films are listed at $24.95, or the two together for $44.90. Again, shipping is FREE.
Retailers and fans without Internet access will be able to order the film as well, when it's solicited in the May Previews from Diamond Comic Distribution, as well as FM International, Cold Cut and Westfield Comics [May's catalog is for items that will ship in July].
Retailers who are interested in carrying the film sooner can contact me directly and receive some nice discounts.
No cineplex showings for right now, but there is a couple guys in Texas who are interested in getting it shown at a local arthouse cinema.
And who knows ... it may turn up in a film festival down the road. I'll keep you posted!
BB: What else might you be working on that you'd like to update or let us in on?
RH: Recently, I just finished a Timespell screenplay. I was inspired to enter the Project Greenlight competition. They were looking for horror/thriller themed pieces. So many people that read my Timespell comics told me time and again that it should be a movie. Let's see if they're right!
BB: I know you've been crafting Timespell for quite a while now, so I've got to wonder what it feels like to have finished telling, at least in one format, that tale?
RH: I finished a story that I began almost 20 years ago ... to me, that was very fulfilling. Very satisfying. I was beginning to wonder if I'd ever get the entire actual story down on paper.
BB: So what's the next challenge for you, comics-wise?
RH: Now I am working on my magnum opus, a Zoomies graphic novel and a screenplay.
For those of you out there unfamiliar with Zoomies, it is quite simply, the kind of stuff you can't make up. It is "The Wonder Years meets One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest." I run two page stories from Zoomies in the back of Carla Speed McNeil's Finder, and the success and popularity of it has prompted me to cover a much broader storyline. I would like to point readers to my website again for more on Zoomies. Click over to www.timespell.com/zoomies and after you've read some snippets ... click the cover art. There is an AMAZING flash cartoon under there by Jason Yungbluth that encapsulates the project better than mere words here can.
BB: What do you hope that viewers now, and in the future both near and distant, get from watching this particular edition of Scenes from the Small Press?
RH: I'd like outsiders to get a deeper understanding for what some women in comics have gone through in the past. What nobody realizes is that a lot of editors in the past, and I'm talking about the Golden and Silver Age ... a lot of editors took a page from Hollywood's own casting couch when it came to women in comics. And a lot of people outside the industry would never believe it because ... well, because it's comics.
BB: What did you get, personally as well as professionally, from doing this part of the project?
RH: From this particular project, I got a much deeper appreciation for what some creators have to endure. I also got a much broader understanding of what it takes and how long it takes, to have people appreciate not just your work, but you as a person and as a creator.
BB: And what about Colleen? What do you hope she got from the experience ... and gets from the film's general release?
RH: I'd like to see Colleen get some satisfaction as an artist and a writer, as someone who has been quiet for so long on some topics...bring to light the truth about certain aspects of her career, rather then have people continue to make judgments and innuendoes without knowing the details.
I'd like to see her continue to get more and more work, and more and more recognition by both her peers and her fans.
Finally, I'd like to see her get the respect she so richly deserves, not just as a creator, but as an individual.
BB: Any final thoughts?
RH: Just keep checking www.timespell.com for updates on both the film series, Timespell and most importantly, ZOOMIES.
So many people have been telling me this past year that Zoomies should be and would be an incredible film. My wife and I realized that the one person who'd be perfect for a movie like this would be Kevin Smith. He'd be able to walk that fine line between humor and drama so perfectly with this project. Cast Paul Newman as my Dad and Kathy Bates as my Mom ... round it off with Matt Damon as Vic [the Gumby] ... and brother, you've got a hit.
I'd like to go on record as saying to Kevin Smith ... when you're ready, I'm holding your Academy Award for Best Director, 2005. Come take your prize, brother. Forget those fart and dick joke movies, and come get your certified Hollywood hit. Don't make me sell this to Paramount!
Mr. Smith, I'd like you to seriously suggest that you do precisely what Master Henn has so kindly asked you to. He is deadly serious. And he wields that dinged but still valuable vintage Casper bubble bath container just like it's old Oscar himself! And rest assured that the property referred to is quite the cold blooded killer. Serious hit potential written all over it's kisser, if ya know what I mean.
Now remember that I speak from experience in these matters, Mr. Smith, having encountered the brute myself, so to speak, so please keep in mind that I've got your best interests in mind, Mr. Smith, sir, when I suggest that it really would be best if you'd just acquiesce right now and face the inevitable ...
You will be directing Zoomies: The Movie!
As for the rest of you, please don't forget to go to www.timespell.com and buy your copies of the first two parts of Master Henn's magnum opus, Scenes from the Small Press: Mainstream Raw and Colleen Doran. It's really in your best interests that I make this ... ahem ... suggestion.
If you haven't already, take a look at last year's Baker's Dozen interview with Rich Henn on Scenes from the Small Press: Mainstream Raw!
<< 04/07/2004 | 04/14/2004 | 04/21/2004 >>
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