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 12/07/2005
The Quick Witted and the Deadpan
Todd Livingston on The Living and The Dead
If you've ever had the pleasure of reading The Wicked West, or either volume of The Black Forest, there's one thing that's certain about Todd Livingston and his creative partners: These folks know how to craft truly suspenseful and deeply disturbing tales of horror. And as Livingston and company's most recent release -- the wonderfully creepy The Living and the Dead -- demonstrates, these skills are only being honed as time goes on.
However, there's a lot more to Todd Livingston than just the ability to scare the $%^! outta folks. He's a man of many talents and abilities, and the following interview highlights one of his better attributes -- a lightning-quick and terribly sick wit -- with some real effect.
Drink coffee while reading this piece at your own risk of delivering a spit take directly and forcefully into your monitor. You have been forewarned...
Bill Baker: How would you describe The Living and the Dead?
Todd Livingston: It's 5'10", blue eyes, loves sunsets, puppies and long walks on the beach, is grumpy if it doesn't have coffee in the morning and it could stand to gain a few pounds.
Actually, The Living and the Dead is a twisted, perverted gothic horror story about redemption -- and how keeping secrets from your wife is bad. A tagline we never used for the book is: "From the bedroom to the graveyard and beyond!"
BB: So where'd this particular tale come from, other than your and Tinnell's obvious love for the horror genre, and how did it evolve from that initial germ into what we see on the page now?
TL: A movie producer friend of mine called me and asked if I had any horror story that could be produced overseas for a million dollars. I told him "Yeah, but can I call you right back - I'm on the other line?" I didn't have one, of course, but I called Bob immediately and told him we need to come up with 3 ideas right now for this guy. One of those ideas was The Living and the Dead. I called the producer back and pitched them, and he said that I was probably too cerebral for the financiers. He was going away for 2 weeks and when he returned he was going to meet with them. But Bob and I couldn't let go of this idea, it just came to us fully formed!! All of these influences were so internalized that we knew exactly what this story was. So, we decided to just write it and give the producer a finished script when he returned. We began that day, and in 2 weeks the screenplay was complete! Seriously. Just puked it out like Nicole Ritchie's last 500 meals.
BB: What is it about this particular literature, horror, that draws you to it? Does it allow you to address certain concerns, or ideas, in a way that other literatures can't -- or am I perhaps reading too much into it?
TL: I'm just doing horror until I can break into writing porn. I have a great porno version of the upcoming Chronicles of Narnia called "The Lion, The Witch, The Wardrobe, A Couple of Twins and Some Lube." I grew up loving the classic Universal horror films of the 30's & 40's, the Val Lewton RKO movies and the Hammer stuff. Obviously, I draw a lot of inspiration from them and would love to create something that has the same effect on some kid as those movies had on me. The genre certainly allows writers to address ideas in ways you can't in other forms of literature, but not exclusively. It just lets you explore a theme in a different way. Kind of like making an apple pie rather than one out of angry rats. You're still making a pie. Just one with less rabies. And chances are that either way, Nicole Ritchie won't eat it.
BB: How you and Bob collaborate, typically?
TL: Here's how Bob and I work: shot, beer, noun. Shot, beer, verb. Whoever passes out first forfeits the right to supply adjectives. I'm kidding, of course. We don't use adjectives. Truthfully, we work via email, taking turns on the pages. For example, Bob will begin and write pages 1-5. I'll re-write those and continue to page 10. Then he'll re-write my 5 and continue. When we're done, it's like having a second draft. And a hangover.
BB: You're an accomplished script writer in your right, which makes me wonder what benefits working on a story with someone else generally, and Tinnell particularly, does for the work that you might not be able to do by yourself?
TL: It adds a different dynamic. Even though Bob and I have similar sensibilities and backgrounds, we each have a particular vibe that we add to a project. Some things I would just rather do myself, some I like to work with certain people because it will be more fun or their style is complimentary. Bob and I simply could not have done The Black Forest and The Living and the Dead without each other. On most stories, though, I would prefer to let someone else do all the work and just take credit for it.
BB: You're also a fine film director, which brings up the question of why do comics when you can make films, but also what are some of the important differences between these two art forms? And does working in comics enable you to do things as a storyteller that cinema might not allow?
TL: Oh, you flatter me, Mr. Flattery McFlatterson. The primary artistic difference between comics and film is that comics allow you complete freedom. I can make a story as big or small as I want, it's not limited to a budget. On an OGN, even in collaborations, I'm not fighting with anyone telling me that I need to do this or that for distribution. And no pesky starlets are trying to have sex with me to guarantee them a role.
BB: One thing that struck me about the new book is that, even though your and Bob's usual artist, Neil Vokes, isn't involved, that the art is outstanding. Where'd you find this new guy, and what can you tell us about him?
TL: We found him on the freeway onramp holding the sign: "Will Draw Perverted Horror Story For Food." So we gave him the script and let him go to town. What he did was remarkable, he's a natural storyteller with a style all his own. He worked his ass off on this book and we're extremely fortunate Josh Fialkov introduced us to him at [the San Diego] Comic-Con '04. He's the real deal. We never did feed him, as I recall.
BB: So what's next for you? Will we be seeing a sequel to The Living and the Dead, or any of the other projects you and Bob have going? And what about some solo stuff, any plans for something written just by yourself for comics?
TL: Book 2 of The Wicked West is up next. Neil is working on it now. Then he and Bob have a monthly book planned. And also we'll do a third volume of The Black Forest. I seriously doubt there will be another The Living and the Dead book, it's pretty self-contained.
On my front, I have a solo book in the works called Chamber of Horrors illustrated by J.C. Grande that's got a real EC vibe to it. And one written with Nick Capetanakis called VamP.I. which is a smartass vampire noir illustrated by Mahmud Asrar and colored by Allen Passalaqua. They're all really talented kats and I'm lucky they're working with me. I'm also lucky because I have a four-leaf clover in my pocket.
BB: What do you get from doing comics that you don't get from film and TV work?
TL: Something to sell out of the back of my car.
BB: What do you hope readers get from The Living and the Dead? What about your work, in general?
TL: I hope they get moist in the pants-ular region. Really though, artistically, I hope readers see something they've never read before, whether it's a small, like a moment between characters or dialog that sparks them, or just a laugh or scare or two. I want readers to come away with the feeling that they really got something special for their money. That's why we put the kind of extras we do in our books. We really brainstorm and put a lot of care into that stuff! I love that extra junk in our trunks.
BB: Anything else you'd like to add before I let you get back to it?
TL: Go to our damned websites and look at all the cool-ass stuff we've put there for your enjoyment! Trailers with stunning visuals and spectacular original music by one of TV's top composers! Galleries of unpublished art! A friggin' radio show starring Dan Roebuck, Yvonne Monlaur, Xenia Seeberg and Geoffrey Edwards! Plus, one lucky visitor can win a tour of our secret chocolate factory.
<< 10/26/2005 | 12/07/2005 | 01/25/2006 >>
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