Sunday, January 15, 2006

Movie Options that Didn't Happen - The Scary Book

This was a long time ago. I'd just had a conversation with someone about how comedy and horror never mixed well, and we'd cited numerous movies that proved that fact. Then I got a call from my comics editor, Roland Mann.

"I want you to write a comedy horror comic," he said.

"Well," I said. "That's probably impossible to do well, but I'll give it a try."

It wound up being something I feel is one of my most interesting pieces. It died at one comics company, bloomed again at two others and was considered as a treatment at 20th Century Fox once upon a time.

Laugh at the devil
When I began the first outline, I decided to brew a mixture of every zany horror element I could find. The devil, usually no laughing matter, became a key figure along with is goat-horned office manager Baalberith.

In the story, due to a shipping error, the scary book of the title, fell into the wrong hands. It was a sorcery tome that really worked and was meant only for the most accomplished adepts.

Quickly, the wannabe sorcerers of the world shared it, invoking all of the demons from the pits at one time and bringing Hell itself to a standstill.

Angered by this problem, Satan ordered the hapless bookstore clerk who sold the book on the open market in the first place to get it back or face fiery retrobution. He sent a beautiful but damned soul to help him.

Proper British form
Malibu Graphics, later to be swallowed by Marvel, optioned it initially and had me script it in a British comic style with frequent cliffhangers in hopes of re-selling it abroad after its U.S. run.

Developing complications
I think we developed the complete four-issue miniseries, written by me and pencilled by Steve Willhite and inked by Dan Schaefer. Then some shakeup at Malibu killed it.

Roland felt so good about the project that he shuffled it over to Caliber, publisher of The Crow.

They put out two issues then stopped.

The Scary Book - The Graphic Novel
So Roland, not to be defeated, eventually formed a publishing arm of Silverline Comics which had previously been a packager for other publishers.

He brought out a complete-in-one-volume graphic novel version of The Scary Book.

Having worked for a while at Malibu, Roland knew quite a few people in the comics industry and he and Warren Ellis talked over a Silverline book with a title to be named later.

So flash forward to Comics-Con in San Diego: a Hollywood person stopped by Roland's table that year, caught wind of a possible Ellis property and started talking to him.

The result: 20th Century Fox asked for a list of Silverline titles and from that list they asked for a treatment of The Scary Book, which we gladly produced.

And that's about as far as it went, but it was certainly a fun and exciting experience and educational about how things happen.

I guess The Scary Book would not have been quite right for prime time or Pixar but it would have been fun to see what came about with say: Danny DeVito as the devil, Mike Myers as the hero and Jennifer Love Hewitt as his sultry sidekick (the cute one in the fedora in the sample page).

Oh well. Life goes on.

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