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Into the Blue

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Hollywood legend is a term that tends to get bandied around quite a lot and in most cases (especially when applied to the latest ‘hot’ actor or director) the use of the term seems unwarranted. Of course, if you are using this collection of words to refer to Ray Harryhausen, you are on the safest ground you can find.

The works of the special effects pioneer and monster movie master have inspired generations of storytellers. His mighty mythological missives have dominated the big screen with movies such as Clash Of The Titans, One Million Years BC and Mysterious Island. Now his vast imagination has inspired a new line of comics called the Ray Harryhausen Signature Series, published by indy innovators Blue Water Productions.

Darren Davis, President and Managing Editor at Blue Water Productions, is no stranger to comics and the entertainment industry. He has worked with Wildstorm, Image, Alias Enterprises and has recently splashed out into the world of self-publishing.

BROKEN FRONTIER: Darren, welcome back to Broken Frontier. I know that the spark for your work with Ray Harryhausen was a meeting with his producer Arnold Kunert in 2006. What happened next? I understand that you got a pitch together pretty quickly. How did you sell the idea to Ray Harryhausen? Was he immediately receptive to your plans?

DARREN DAVIS: It was really easy. After meeting them, I had Nadir Balan put some artwork together, while Scott Davis and I put together the written treatments. Within two weeks of meeting Ray we had the deal signed. They were very happy with our dedication and our take on the characters. I was kind of shocked at how easy it was.

We have been pretty fortunate to do easy deals with celebrities; it was the same with Cindy Margolis, Traci Bingham and Rena Mero (Sable from the WWE).

BF: I think I would be even more nervous to meet with Ray Harryhausen than with Sable! I know that you are a huge fan of mythology and Ray Harryhausen’s work.

So, in terms of coming up with the individual comic series such as Wrath Of The Titans or 20 Million Miles More did you undertake a lot of research or were you always fairly certain of the direction the stories would take?

DD: I did research into what happens to Peruses and Andromeda in Greek mythology. I read about their story and adapted parts of it; there are a lot of parts that I needed to add to make the story flow. We also took some characters from Ray’s world that were never in the original story, such as the Hydra in issue #1.

As for 20 Million Miles More, Scott Davis loved that movie and wanted to do something with the Ymir. He went from the backstory of the movie and added a new world for the Ymir to smash. My favorite is our mother’s house in Beverly Hills that the Ymir trashes in issue #2.

BF: Ouch! What role are you playing in these books? Are you overseeing the line? Are you personally writing any of the series?

DD: I am still creating most of the series at Bluewater, mainly from the modern line of books like 10th Muse, Judo Girl, Legend of Isis. We are developing a couple new ones like Gearz and Insane Jane.

I am only writing 10th Muse and Wrath of the Titans right now. As for the Ray Harryhausen line, I am working with some great writers on the stories, such as Max Landis, Greg Thompson, David McIntee, Scott Davis and a bunch of others. Some of the people that I am working with at Bluewater will be doing some books with us in 2008 like Kid Gloves and Ninth Order.

BF: Good to see that you will continue to grow the line of books you publish. Why do you think the Ray Harryhausen properties are suited to being explored in comics? Why do you think they will appeal to comic book fans?

DD: Because the Ray Harryhausen titles are timeless. There were two requests from Ray; no sex and no real violence. This was another reason why we worked well together, most of the Bluewater titles are PG.

BF: Sticking with the Ray Harryhausen line, you are launching with Wrath Of The Titans and 20 Million Miles More. Which other Harryhausen-inspired series should fans keep their eyes out for?

DD: We just spoke to Arnold who works with Ray and we are doing Flying Saucers vs. The Earth, based on the film The Earth vs. The Flying Saucers, but form the perspective of the aliens.

We also will be doing Sinbad: Rogue of Mars, Jason and the Argonauts: Kingdom of Hades, Back to Mysterious Island, Sinbad: Merchant of Ages and we are developing an ongoing series for Wrath of the Titans. We also signed a new deal to develop three new properties with Ray; those will be announced soon.

BF: As we say here in Oz, you are going to be flat out! Let’s move away from the Ray Harryhausen books for the moment. What else is coming from the new Blue Water Productions? I see there are other new series in the works…

DD: We are bringing back a lot of our popular series. In May we released VSS: Nemesis Rising and Legend of Isis, one of our most popular titles. 10th Muse will be coming back in August as a one shot and we just did a crossover with Billy Tucci’s Shi.

Judo Girl and Blackbeard Legacy will be back as well. We do have plans for a series of Odyssey one-shots. We are also in development with Gearz, Insane Jane, Ninth Order, Kid Gloves, Violet Rose and Waterbury. As well, we are developing a new VSS mini series called Russian Roulette.

We also just got the rights to the old sci-fi films Plan 9 From Outer Space and Missile to the Moon. We really want to be ahead of schedule before we release the books, which is why we have them in process. I do not want the books to ever be late!

BF: The fans are going to appreciate that commitment. Some of your creators, such as someone I have know for a long time, Derek Ruiz, are new to comics. Is that part of your vision; to break new talent?

DD: I think breaking new talent has its advantages and disadvantages. The cool thing we offer is we treat the creators as teams; everyone has a say and gets to see the process of the book down to the letterer (which is a place that can make or break a book). They are so eager to work on the books that they rarely miss a deadline.

I have a feeling that Nadir Balan, who was just breaking out when he took on Judo Girl, will be moving to the majors after Wrath Of The Titans. I have watched him grow as an artist. Sometimes the creators get overwhelmed and decide they want to quit comics, that only has happened (with us) twice. The one person that stands out right now is Joey Campos who is coloring Wrath of the Titans, 10th Muse/ Shi and 20 Million Miles More. He is such a great find; amazing talent and fast!

BF: Can I ask if self-publishing was always on the horizon for you, or was it an option that emerged due to the challenges of producing through other publishers?

DD: I sort of got pushed into it. We have been producing comics at Image, Alias and Avatar over the years. When Alias decided to change directions, I started to look at my options. My business partner Jason and I spoke about it and decided to take the plunge.

It really is not that much more work than what we were doing now. Jason is now working full time with everything from licensing to ad sales. I handle most of the creative and editing of the books. Nadir Balan and Matt Wieman both work as art directors on the books. Matt is responsible for the look of the books (placement and design). Nadir really helps me with the talent. I have a guy named Patrick Foster that handles all the logos.

One of the biggest is Chris Studabaker who handles all the lettering and production of the books; he is amazing and such a big part of the company. He is also a writer who is doing a new Valkyrie series for us. Ryan Scott Ottney really handles a lot of the press and Lisa Brause represents us in Hollywood. We have a very strong, close-knit team here.

BF: Lastly, I understand there has been interest in your properties from other media like movie studios and action figure manufacturers. Can you give us some more information about these deals and when fans can expect to see BWP toys and movies?

DD: Legend of Isis is still on the map (as a movie), we are dong the final rewrite of the script and Ali Russell is still writing the screenplay. She just finished writing an issue of Legend of Isis and VSS. We are also about to start pitching Hollywood in the next month. Lisa K. Brause, our agent, has been busy! We are doing Isis as an action figure through Shocker Toys as part of their Indie Spotlight; it will be part of their 2nd phase.

BF: Thanks again, Darren! All the best with your exciting plans!

DD: Thank you as well for all the support!

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