There’s a new comic on the racks with a very famous name above the title. “John Carpenter’s Asylum,” the new book from Storm King Comics, features a classic Carpenter-style setup in a new format.
From the Comixolgy first issue blurb: “There’s a war coming to the City of Angels. In tunnels beneath the city, in the dark alleys among the homeless, demons lurk and Lucifer bides his time. One man knows. One man sees. One man walks those dark streets. Father Daniel Beckett’s seen demons and he’s spoken to the Devil, but he’s never seen an angel and he’s never spoken to God. Obsessed and driven as much by betrayal as righteousness and anger as redemption, he walks the smoke-filled encampments of lost souls like Dante’s nine rings of the Inferno. He is God’s warrior at war with God.”
Series co-creator and longtime Carpenter collaborator (and wife since 1990) Sandy King sat down with me to talk about the new project.
Reid Kerr: The new project is the comic book John Carpenter’s Asylum, what led you to bring this story to comics, as opposed to some other format?
Sandy King: Originally, we had been thinking of making this as a television series, but the more we worked on it and were working with our art director on presentation art for a studio package, the more it felt like a graphic novel/comic book was the appropriate medium to tell the story in. For a long time, comic books had been being brought to us for John to attach his name to but they didn’t seem like the right fit. The timing just seemed to work out to create and publish one ourselves that reflected John as a brand and that could bridge the gap to story telling in a different medium.
Reid: Of course, you guys are known for your movies. Are there any plans to take JCA into a movie, or any other kind of filmed presentation? The book really jumps off the page, almost like it’s been storyboarded.
Sandy: None at the moment. Really, we just want to make the best comic book of this story that we can. We have just completed the first arc of the story and it feels like we’re just getting off the ground. I think if anything, the next step for this story might be a video game. And then, the idea would be not to duplicate what is already in the comic, but to expand on its universe.
Reid: How did the process go for this project? What format was the story in originally, and how much was worked out and complete before Bruce Jones came on board to write the comic? Did he make any changes or flesh out any details you weren’t expecting in the first story arc?
Sandy: Thomas Ian Griffith and John and I had already created the characters and basic story arc for the proposed series and therefore for the first year of the comic. We also already had the overall arc delineated for the storyline and the characters’ individual developments. But what we knew we lacked was the first clue how to write a comic book. That is an entirely different skill set in writing. I had spent a couple of years researching and studying (beyond our being major comic fans to begin with) but we knew we needed to bring in a real pro to make the story work as a comic book. Bruce Jones was gracious with his time and advice and ultimately with his actual writing. There would not have been a book in your hand without him. I wrote more of the prologue–which is going to be included in the trade coming out soon–and then he reworked that. Then he wrote several more issues. No big surprises.
Reid: In the writer’s piece at the end of the first issue, John Carpenter says “There is no greater villain than Lucifer.” Do you agree? How do you approach telling a story with such an overpowering villain and not make it too bleak, and still give enough hope to your heroes that we’ll keep reading or watching?
Sandy: It’s an age-old battle. If Lucifer weren’t almost as powerful as God, it would have been game over a long time ago, now wouldn’t it? It’s the ultimate tennis match. I think the stories are always about how we as mere mortals deal with circumstance and the moral choices we face. We are our own heroes or villains ultimately. Regardless of what lies before us, it is what we as humans do that defines us–in the case of Beckett it will be his humanity, not his divinity that will define him, and his mentor, Father Leone, who will be his guide.
Reid: I really enjoyed the first six-issue arc of JCA. Coming from your background in movies, do you tend to think of larger stories like that, or will we see some shorter ones to come? How far in advance have you imagined this story, and do you already have an ending in mind?
Sandy: I hope to bring a couple of other long-form serials to our comic book division and there are already two shorter limited series being done right now as well.
Reid: When you create a work, do you ever revisit it? You’ve created so many things that have become a part of pop culture (I’m a huge fan of “Halloween” and “They Live,” for example), is it interesting to you to see what happens to the work after completion, and how they take on a different life among fans?
Sandy: While it’s fun to see the work take on a life of its own among the fans, it is usually a finished piece for us. It’s a story already told. I’m not a fan of doing prequels and sequels, etc. I DO love seeing that silly alien ghoul face I designed for “They Live” as social satire picked up on by pop culture, though, because it’s for the right reasons. People got the message. I dig it.
Reid: What’s the next project coming up for you?
Sandy: Right now, we have Randy Queen’s ’90’s comic, “Darkchylde” in development as a feature film as well as about four television projects. I haven’t a clue which thing will go first.
For more on “John Carpenter’s Asylum,” like the comic’s page on Facebook.
— Reid Kerr is a freelance writer, and has watched “They Live” at least once a year for the last two decades.