Haunted City interview with Taylor and Johnson
What if New York City was the biggest haunted house in the world? And who protects us from the unknown? These are the questions that writers Chap Taylor and Peter Johnson have set out to answer in their new series, Haunted City. ComicMonsters.com reporter Stephanie Shamblin Gray caught up with Taylor and Johnson to ask them a few questions about the book.
Stephanie Shamblin Gray: Can you tell us a little about the story of Haunted City and the main characters?
Chap Taylor: The idea behind Haunted City is basically that New York City is the biggest haunted house in the world. The premise is that all of the superstitions of all of the immigrant groups that passed through New York are true, and that there has been a secret unit within the NYPD that has been fighting to keep the city safe since it was founded.
Our protagonist is Tom Whalen. He's a bad cop, corrupt, strung out on drugs and alcohol. As the series progresses, we'll find out that a lot of his problems stem from the fact that he's the son of the most decorated cop in the history of the NYPD, "Iron" Mike Whalen. Tom's father is a legend on the force, but Tom knows that his father was really a tyrant who hideously abused his wife, Tom's mother, who is now deceased.
In the zero issue, Tom tries to end his corrupt relationship with some Korean drug dealers. The dealers don't take it well and they try and kill him. When Tom wakes up in Bellevue Hospital, there's a mysterious man sitting by his bedside who offers him a job with a secret unit inside the NYPD - a unit that's been keeping the city safe for 400 years from all the monsters brought over by the immigrants who populated the city. Understandably, Tom doesn't believe any of that at first, but internal affairs is closing in on him and he sees it as a way out. It's only when he's confronted by the reality of Jewish golems, Irish banshees and all of the other monsters that haunt New York that Tom realizes there are far more dangerous forces at work in New York than Korean drug dealers.
The other character who's probably most important to the narrative is Katherine Gray. She's actually a nun, a member of a secret order within the catholic church called the Order of St. Michael, serving with the secret NYPD unit that fights monsters. She's the character with the most doubts about Tom when he's recruited. In addition to Tom's obvious character flaws, Katherine has good reason to doubt men's intentions in general; Katherine's mother was an IRA fighter who was seduced by a member of British intelligence and tricked into betraying her fellow revolutionaries. Katherine's mother gave her to the church and then committed suicide, a mortal sin in catholicism. Katherine doesn't have what you might call a trusting nature, but Tom has his own dark charms and when Katherine finds herself drawn to him despite herself, all kinds of other problems are created.
Stephanie Shamblin Gray: Chap, in the book notes, you and co-writer Peter Johnson coin the term "Universal Storytelling". Can you explain the meaning of that and tell us
about your ambitions for the story?
Chap Taylor: Universal storytelling just means that we're trying to create a brand new universe of stories and that we're trying to tell those stories in whichever medium best serves each particular narrative. In honesty, it isn't a "new" universe of stories since what we're doing is telling our own versions of folk tales that have been around for hundreds of years. What is new is our ability to tell those stories as feature films or a television series or a video game, depending on the scale and tone of the story itself.
Where we hope to stand out from all of the other attempts at creating transmedia properties is the fact that our underlying narrative - the superstitions of all the different people who passed through New York - is already a universal group of stories. Since we're partnered with director/producer McG and his company, Wonderland Sound and Vision, we have access to a number of different mediums. Our job is to find the right media platform for each story in a way that best serves the entertainment of the fans and not the quarterly profit reports of a media corporation. We certainly hope to make money, but because we're drawing on such a diverse body of stories, we feel like we have the freedom to tell each story in the scale it deserves. We don't have to try and force a small, dark folk tale into a giant hollywood spectacle or take a sprawling epic and fit it into a 60-minute television episode. Universal storytelling means we hope to make the medium serve each story and not the other way around.
Stephanie Shamblin Gray: How did this writing collaboration begin between you and both?
Chap Taylor: Peter is a true fan boy, but his day job is running McG's company. He and I were already trying to find other projects to work on together in film and television. When I came up with the idea for Haunted City, the first place I took it was Wonderland. As it turns out, Peter and McG were already talking about starting their own comic imprint. It was doubly lucky for me, since I'm primarily a screenwriter and had never written in the comic format before. Peter liked the idea so much he proposed that we write the comic together and I was very glad for his help.
Peter Johnson: One of the things I love about working with Chap on this is that he's a total New Yorker and is fascinated with the deep history of the city, especially the stuff beneath the surface. It's great because I'm a boring Californian who's practically been nowhere, so Chap is an awesome resource of rich information about the world of New York. We complement each other well, except that I'm boring and he's not.
Stephanie Shamblin Gray: Tell us about working with the artist, Michael Ryan.
Peter Johnson: Michael has been fantastic. I was a fan of his but had mainly seen his more superhero-based art. This book gives him a chance to change gears and go for a kind of stylized darkness consistent with the tone of the story. At the same time, he gives it a pop that keeps it from getting too gritty. His stuff is terrific.
Stephanie Shamblin Gray: At this time, are you anticipating the comic to be a mini-series or an on-going title?
Chap Taylor: We're committed to doing a five-issue series for Aspen. Issue #1 will be out later this month. Hopefully, the fans will respond and we can keep on going. Peter and I already have ideas for several more comics based in the Haunted City universe. We're going out with a film script at the end of this year and we'll pitch a television show after that. We'll keep on telling these stories as long as someone is interested in listening.
Stephanie Shamblin Gray: Where can our readers go for more information on the book?
Chap Taylor: You know what i'm going to say, right? The best way to get into Haunted City is to go out and buy it. Put it on your monthly pull list. Go down to your local comic book store and ask the owner to carry it. The more support we get, the more likely it is that we can keep telling stories. Fans can also go to the Aspen web site at www.aspencomics.com. They can go to Haunted City's page on facebook, at http://www.facebook.com/hauntedcitycomic. And we'll be creating a dedicated Haunted City web site in the near future where we'll be posting original material they won't be able to get anywhere else, including detailed biographies of each character, details about our own Haunted City version of New York city's history and some of the folk tales upon which we'll be basing future stories. We'll even have a feature that will allow fans to nominate their favorite superstitions or folk monsters for us to use as future material.
Stephanie Shamblin Gray: Anything else you would like to say about Haunted City?
Chap Taylor: This is really a labor of love for us. We know that there are a lot of comics that have been spun off from film properties or just basically used as a blueprint to do television or whatever. We certainly feel like this is a universe of stories that can be told across several different media platforms, but first and foremost Haunted City has to be a truly satisfying comic experience for the fans. We want every single reader who pays their $2.50 or $3.50 to get more than their money's worth. For however long it takes them to read the comic, we want to take them to a place they've never been and tell them a story they're really going to enjoy. If we don't do that successfully, then we don't deserve their support in whatever other projects we try and create.
Stephanie Shamblin Gray: Thank you, Chap and Peter, and good luck with the book! Comment on this interview here.
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Published on: 2011-08-23 (3628 reads)[ Go Back ]