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Opening The Vault: Sam Sarkar Discusses His New Image Miniseries

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Sound technician. TV scribe. Actor. Director of Development for Johnny Depp’s production company. Listing accomplishments doesn’t quite do Sam Sarkar justice, but it’s obvious that he’s one busy man, and he isn’t finished yet. Moving in to comics writing with Radical’s five-issue mini-series Caliber: First Canon of Justice was clearly a good choice, as acclaim (and a possible John Woo directed film adaptation) followed the unique western/ fantasy story.

Next up is July’s The Vault, with artist Garrie Gastonny, which focuses on a team of adventurers and their discovery of a mysterious and coveted item at the bottom of the ocean, and the huge implications it brings. A great looking and believable series, it creates a real sense of danger and is the kind of adventure we rarely see in today’s spandex-epic driven market.

BROKEN FRONTIER: Your IMDB listing is an interesting read; A sound tech on The Big Lebowski, “Gangbanger No. 1” in a Friday the 13th film and a writer for the original 90210 series.  How did you go from that to writing comics?

SAM SARKAR:  Uh, procrastination?  I've written since I was little, always wanted to write but was also very interested in science and medicine too. As a kid, I had a deep voice, so I always used to get the part of narrator in things, which got me used to acting and speaking in public.  (You're asking yourself, where is he going with this?). 

So when I got to high school, I had to make the choice between the path of a doctor/medical researcher, which is what my parents had done, or something else.  So much to my poor mother's dismay, it turned out to be film school in Montreal.  Film school however, took second fiddle to work, which came about because I had friends moving to Vancouver to start working in the nascent film industry. 

I followed them out in the fall of 1986 and started as an extra and stand-in on 21 Jump Street.  I was fired for not being willing to cut my hair and I landed a plum role in a play called Class Enemy.  This was during my nightclub and poetry writing phase.  My roommate at the time, and my work in the play, got me a shot at a lead role in the pilot for the TV series I did in Canada, Neon Rider, and the other acting roles I had such as Friday the 13th Part VIII, Legends of the Fall, etc.  I also wound up becoming president of the actor's union in Vancouver for a brief and dark time.

After that, Jason Priestley and I were trying to put a film together for writer/director Raul Inglis (ReBoot).  This lead me to co-writing with Jason's life partner at the time, Christine Elise.  Christine and I wrote on Beverly Hills 90210 (she also played Emily Valentine on the show) and also wrote a pilot for Aaron Spelling.  I became a sound guy while working on a feature script called It All Happened So Fast, when it was titled something else.  Sound guy work then continued with a movie called The Brave, which led to Out of Sight, Big Lebowski, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and a few others including a small independent-spirited movie called Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

After Pirates, Johnny Depp started a company with his sister, Christi Dembrowski, called Infinitum Nihil and I came on to serve in development.  A few years later, I wrote Caliber: First Canon of Justice with Radical.  Through that experience, I worked with David Elliott, Garrie Gastonny, Stanley Lau and the gang at Imaginary Friends Studios. And that's the gang I pulled in to help me bring The Vault to life.

Man.  Summing that up like that makes me feel like a real bore. 

BF: How does Hollywood view comics in general?

SARKAR: I think the obvious answer is that Hollywood sees comics as a herd of cash cows that it wishes to milk for all they are worth.  But that would be very cynical of me to say, so I will go instead with, "Hollywood has had an increasing admiration for the breadth and depth of storytelling that comics have to offer.  And as well, they've learned to appreciate the readership and audience that comics represent." 

BF: I believe you had a birthday recently. Did you get all the presents you wanted?

SARKAR:  I had a couple of wishes come true.  I didn't really have much in the way of material stuff I was looking for.  "Wishes come true" is pretty awesome though.  Can't tell you what they were because I don't want to mess things up. 

BF: Are there any comics that you’re following at the moment?

SARKAR: I have been looking at a few new titles.  But frankly, I've been really low on spare time lately.  Kids finishing school and lots of stuff going on at work.

BF: Did your previous work with Garrie on Caliber make things a lot easier on The Vault?

SARKAR:  Absolutely.  We've got a great shorthand going that seems to work well. And Dave Elliott in the middle. I did lot of work on my iPad, pulling images for reference.  Paintings, sculptures, landscapes...you name it.  Garrie has done an incredible job of synthesizing all of that into something that I think is pretty special. 

BF: Was there a lot of research involved in writing the series? It does touch upon a few different topics.

SARKAR:  You know, there was a lifetime's worth.  I grew up with the Oak Island Mystery, coming from Nova Scotia.  As well as tales about Sable Island.  But it's really all the mythology that is wrapped up in The Vault that makes it interesting.  There's a lot that I've looked at that we can only start to uncover in the first story.  There will be references to different mythologies from around the world.  Nostradamus’ Eschatus is in there. 

   ;">

    

BF: The international team of specialists is a great way to set up a story. Is the look or personality of the characters based on particular people?

SARKAR: No, not real people.  Any resemblances are completely coincidental, to persons living or dead.  Or undead for that matter.  (That is kind of a red herring.)

BF: There’s a great balance between believable technology and an intriguing mystery. Was it difficult to balance those elements?

SARKAR:  It's dangerous to geek out too much on the tech stuff.  Certainly because technology will change, but I'm fairly confident most of what you see is cutting edge.  In ten years, people will probably look at the tablet computers in the book and laugh that they are rigid and not paper thin. Or waterproof.  But I think the references to real tech and methods are important to ground the story.  It's also a good counterweight before taking flight into the supernatural.

BF: The first issue has a great beginning and an even greater cliff hanger. Do you always have the start and end of a story in mind before you hit the keyboard?

SARKAR: Yes.  And I always spend a lot of time on opening lines.  It's like a serve in tennis. You want the first serve to be something that wakes everybody up a bit.  Endings are also important because they need to be both satisfying and provocative at the same time.  I think each issue of this series does that.

    

BF: Do you have plans for the series beyond the initial 3 issues?

SARKAR: I would really love to keep writing these.  The implications of the story extend backwards and forwards in time and spread around the globe (and the universe as we know it for that matter).  It's hard to reconcile how much evil there is in the world with the notion of a Creator that has a purpose for everything. I worked on a paper about that in first year philosophy.  I'm still grappling with the answer and understanding of that concept and working it out in The Vault and other things I'm writing.

The Vault #1 (of 3) from Image Comics is released on July 27.

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