Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Interview: Kevin Grevioux

Valkyries is written by Kevin Grevioux, who is probably most well-known as the writer of the movie Underworld. A former microbiologist who left his graduate studies in genetic engineering to give Hollywood a try, Kevin became a successful actor (Underworld, Planet of the Apes), stuntman, and producer. A self-described Marvel Zombie, Kevin is multi-talented and a heck of a nice guy, and the good news for us is that he’s now writing his own line of All Ages comics under the banner of Astounding Studios. Until recently, several of his titles (Valkyries, The Toy Box, The Hammer Kid, Guardian Heroes, The Vindicators) were being published by Alias, but with their change in publishing focus, things are a bit up in the air for Astounding’s comics. We checked in with Kevin to talk about Valkyries and get the latest.

All Ages Reads: You have quite a varied and fascinating background. How did you go from genetic engineering to Hollywood screenwriting to writing comics?

Kevin Grevioux: Well, I have always loved science-fiction and fantasy ever since I was a kid. Getting into REAL science as a profession was a natural progression that was more “socially acceptable” than getting into “science fiction,” especially for the parents. Basically, I ended up getting out of science because it didn’t pay very well. I loved it, and I was already in grad school, but when I looked at how long it was going to take me to finish my masters and PhD, as well as the small amount of money that people in my lab at NIH were making, I decided it was no longer for me. Plus, I had already decided to try to start a film career by taking film classes congruently with my GE curriculum. Film eventually won out.

AAR: Was it a natural transition from writing films to writing comics? It seems to me that because of their visual nature they might be similar.

Kevin: I don’t know if it was natural per se, but I think I was able to do it without too much difficulty, although there are still some things I’m learning. But remember, I’m doing my own comics, so the environment of doing my own thing is probably much different than working for Marvel and DC. There are some similarities between screenplays and comics, but there are differences as well – the major differences being the placing of “reveals” and the pacing of a comic book script versus a screenplay. You can drag things out and take your time with comics, but with a screenplay you can’t do that. At least not in the same way.

AAR: What made you want to write comics? And why all-ages comics in particular?

Kevin: As far as the comic books were concerned, they’ve been a hobby of mine since I was about 12 and I’ve always wanted to write them, but I never thought I’d get the chance. But, doing the all-ages stuff really came about accidentally. I met two guys, Scott Sava and Mike Kunkel, two of the most talented cats I know, and they showed me this book of all-ages/animated properties they were creating. It was some of the most imaginative stuff I’ve ever seen. That’s what really got the ball rolling and provided the impetus for my getting into the medium. Other than that, I had noticed for some years that there was really a dearth of comics for kids nowadays. The public still thinks comics are for kids, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I like mainstream comics, especially with Marvel’s Civil War. But sometimes parents read some of the books out now and they may view them as too intense for younger audiences, thinking that comics have gone from G rated to R rated. But after seeing some of the books like Dreamland Chronicles, Herobear, and Bone I thought…WOW – these are cool. So I decided to throw my hat into the ring.

AAR: How do you define “all-ages”?

Kevin: I guess the best definition is a book that ANYONE can enjoy. But all-ages shouldn’t mean “kiddie”. I don’t want to read a kiddie-book. I do want to read a book that takes me back to the time when I first started reading books. Look at the books Stan Lee created in the 60’s. To me those were all-ages books. But they didn’t talk down to the kids. They respected them and treated them like they had intelligence. And to be honest, no matter how sophisticated or how good mainstream comics get, I still get a kick out of the books Marvel created in the 60’s and 70’s. The writing may have been simpler, but it was honest and fun. Marvel currently has a line of all-ages books, Marvel Adventures, that I think is really cool – especially the Avengers one.

AAR: It’s difficult enough to create one successful all-ages title – what made you want to create a whole line?

Kevin: A couple of reasons. First, because I have varied interests. I like mythology and action-adventure, as well as fantasy and science fiction. Secondly, I wanted to appeal to a wider demographic. When I grew up, comics were basically for boys. But with an eye towards global inclusion, in today’s market you have to have something for everyone. So, I have The Hammer Kid and The Toy Box that may appeal more to boys. Valkyries, The Mighty Girls, and Pam Bam are skewed more towards girls. The Vindicators is about a group of black superheroes, something that black kids can identify with because healthy, well-balanced images of African-Americans are so scarce in comics. And lastly Guardian Heroes is an international and multicultural book that everybody can enjoy. However, and I want to be clear about this, ALL the books can be enjoyed by EVERYONE. They are not so demographically specific that only the target audiences can enjoy them. There is something about each title that can strike a chord with everybody.

AAR: It seems that there aren’t a lot of kids going into comic shops these days. Do you have any great ideas for getting your comics into kids’ hands?

Kevin: I do, but then again, who am I? I’m really not going to say anything that hasn’t been said better by someone else. I just think that if comics got on the news stands again, in the schools and the libraries, kids might be exposed to them more. I will say that comic commercials may do the trick. Marvel has put out some neat little trailers of some of their books, and I’m quite sure if you did those on TV more people would at least be more aware of current comics. All action figures and video games should also come with a corresponding graphic novel or comic book like some DVD’s do. But, that’s just my 2 cents, for what it’s worth.

AAR: What comic books did you read as a kid? How have they influenced your work?

Kevin: I was a HUGE Hulk and Fantastic Four fan. The Avengers and Thor too. I have almost a complete run of each of them and even recently bought the DVD collections that Eagle One is putting out. These books really helped instill a sense of wonder in my books. I hope it translates.

AAR: You mentioned Thor -- were those books an influence on Valkyries?

Kevin: Hmmm… Yes and no. I mean Marvel’s Thor is a modern day comic book superhero character and they brought Norse mythology to the medium. I’ve done the same thing, but my book is a period piece based on the myths. Stan and Jack’s Thor, at least in the beginning, was a mixture of mythology and science fiction. So it stands out and can go much further in terms of scope and power than mine can.

AAR: Mark my words – Vikings are going to be the new pirates! How did you develop such an interest in Norse mythology?

Kevin: HAH! Probably because I’m a Minnesota Vikings fan. I grew up partially in Minnesota, so the cool Vikings logo the football team had was probably what flipped the switch for me.

AAR: Did you do any research while you were writing Valkyries?

Kevin: Yes. I was already familiar with most of the Norse myths, but I didn’t know that much about the Valkyries. Most of the names of the Valkyries I took from the myths.

AAR: The art in Valkyries, as in your other books, is phenomenal. I mean, talk about eye candy! Who are your artists and how did you find them?

Kevin: Leonel Castellani and his team of Eduardo Lemos, Mauro Vargas, and Javier Tartaglia at Pampa Studios are my main guys. The work they do is so good it seems to MOVE off the page. They’re so good it scares me sometimes when I look at the pages! They are doing three of my books, Valkyries, The Vindicators and Guardian Heroes, with more titles on the way.

I’m also working with a great artist named Javier Giangiacomo. He’s doing The Toy Box for me as well as the upcoming book P.R.O.D.I.G.Y. The work he’s doing is simply amazing. Toy Box #2 should be out soon.

Lastly, I’ve had the privilege to have worked with the incomparable Jack Lawrence of Lions, Tigers and Bears fame. My buddy Mike Bullock introduced us and I was able to get him to do The Hammer Kid preview issue for me. Jack couldn’t finish the series for me due to other commitments, but I have a new fantastic artist named James Riehl who will be taking over the book. You’ll be floored when you see what he can do.

AAR: Can’t wait to see it – we really loved The Hammer Kid. Can you talk a bit about the work process between you as a creator/writer and the artists?

Kevin: I come up with a book concept and bang out on paper what I envision as character concepts and possible environment elements. I give these to the artists and they draw based on my descriptions. Very rarely do we disagree. I’m hands-on, but not so much that I’m stymieing to the artist. I basically do my job and let them do theirs. But there have been occasions when they have spotted something in a scene I’ve written that they think can be done in a much more exciting and dynamic way. I give them as much latitude as they need. But, to be quite frank, I can come up with cool concepts, ideas and scripts all I want, but it’s my artists that really make the books come alive. If there is a reason that people like the books, I have to tip my hat to them. I’m just here to enjoy the show.

AAR: With Alias’ change to all Christian comics, we certainly hope that Valkyries, as well as your other books, will continue. Any news on the publishing front?

Kevin: Not quite yet. The artist is working on #3 now, and I will have Valkyries #3 and #4 available at SDCC 2007 and online as they're finished. I’m working on a few things that I hope come to fruition, but I’m just not sure yet. But when I do you’ll be the first to know.

UPDATE: Kevin has been announced as the writer of Marvel's New Warriors!


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