Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Doubly Devilish ... Inside

For anyone who knows me well, I have a fetish for the subject of Evil. I find Evil verrrry verrrrrry fascinating.

When I was at SDCC, I was urged by a couple of my friends to "go say hello" to Todd Stashwick at his booth. "You have to drop by to see him," they said. "He is promoting a comic with his partner." It took a few more prods (the verbal not the electric kind, you kinky people.. geez) and I got all curious.

It was fortunate that I had time on the very last day of SDCC. That Sunday was still a hectic day. I was packing "Castle" and "Merlin" panels, filming the "Lucid" interview with Michael McMillian, chasing down the "Syndrome" OGN peeps for autographs, saying hi to the Archaia folks and David H Lawrence XVII again and doing a last minute and thorough walk of the exhibit hall.

I passed by Todd's booth at Artists' Alley a few times but he wasn't there. I did see Dennis Calero looking rather lonely manning the booth by himself. But since I didn't know him (at that time) and I am rather shy (*blink blink*), I preferred that Todd was around when I visited their booth.

Between my belligerent iPhrus nearly dying due to lack of battery and the horrible wifi in the exhibit hall, I manage to get a tweet from Todd saying he was going to be back at the booth in 15 min. By then, I was already back in my hotel room because my shoulders were sore and tired from hauling a lot of stuff in my bag all around the convention centre.

After gulping some food and caffeine, I got back some XP and it so happened that roomie @RealFastTlkr also wanted to hit the exhibit hall too. So we headed back towards Todd's booth together.

Todd was indeed back at the booth. We introduced ourselves to him and he gave us quick warm hugs. He was more charming and captivating in person than I expected. Those blue eyes are mesmerizing! In a warm and friendly manner, he promptly launched into his introduction of the "Devil Inside" free web comic, for which the first episode had already been launched online on his website. He really seemed excited about this online project.

The art (and especially the colours) from the first few panels looked vibrant and eye-catching. The artistic style meshed well with that idea of the Devil trying to get redemption. I was intrigued.

Todd, then introduced us to his partner, Dennis Calero, the web-comic's artist. Dennis knowing that we were both "Heroes" fans, allowed Todd to do most of the talking at the time. But he could get snarky in a good way ;)

More episodes of "Devil Inside" have already been released since then, with a new one out every Wednesday at midnight, PST.

As I feel that more folks should get to know this developing web-comic and how evil biceps should *really* be flexed, I managed to catch the devilish duo for a blog interview. Here's Part 1:

1. Having the Devil as the main protagonist is an interesting premise. What do you think about naysayers saying that portraying the Devil sympathetically may be tricky simply because he is a well-known religious/ theological who embodies ultimate Evil.

Todd: First and foremost it’s just a story. I’m not trying to step on the toes of anyone’s religious beliefs. We are dealing with the Devil in a literary sense, a monster, a metaphor. We are pulling from many different incarnations of the guardian of the underworld, not just a Judeo/ Christian one. The rest we’re just making up.

There is a long tradition of evil being treated sympathetically, Stoker’s Dracula etc.. This is a redemption story. So in order to have the stakes as high as possible, I chose the ultimate evil. If the Devil can try to redeem, we all can.

Dennis: I don't think there are many naysayers.  The Devil as a character is a much used trope for a reason: the Devil is inherently interesting if he's treated somewhat like a human being.  The Devil is a character of choice, a person, so to speak, who went against the grain. And of course, you can't really treat him as solely a source of evil. He has to be more three dimensional than that, and that's what we're doing.

2. Todd, writing a comic is something new to you. Were there some things that you learned or had to pick up real quickly from Dennis' experiences in the comic industry?

Todd: Dennis has shepherded me through this process. He has guided me on how to boil things down, economize and get the biggest bang out of the fewest frames. I’ve written screenplays and pilots so I already think visually but Dennis deeply understands comic flow and dynamics and I am learning week to week. Plus he encourages me to draw. He’s a great partner.

Lightsabre duel (pic from Todd's Twitter)
3. Devil Inside is a first-time partnership for the both of you, what were the things you had to adjust to each other quickly? For instance, have there been epic lightsabre battles to resolve issues? ;)

Todd: Lightsabre duels are there to blow off steam and stem the tide of the Sith. The only hurdle if you can call it that is physical distance. Dennis lives in NYC and I in L.A. It can be difficult for us to communicate an idea just through e-mail. It often takes a bit of back and forth for clarity.

Dennis: There were no adjustments, his Schwartz was as big as mine.

4. How do you feel about the progress of "Devil Inside" so far? Including what you've received as feedback from readers?

Todd: It has been overwhelming. Folks have been so kind and enthusiastic. They have been our best advertising. The most common feedback is they want the strips to be longer and more frequent, which means we are doing something right.

Dennis: I can't believe the level of response. Yes it's free, but still, to have people come back every week and more to boot... it's nice to know you're doing something that's a labor of love and that people are enjoying it.

If you need to catch up on the past episodes of "Devil Inside", head to Todd's website now! And it's FREE!!

If you haven't already noticed, there has been quite a bit of Todd lately on TV. He has been appearing in roles in some TV shows lately - like "Dark Blue", "The Good Guys" and "Detroit 1-8-7" and was just working at the "Sh*t My Dad Says" set today.

He was also in the indie film "To Be Friends" as a romantic lead. The movie, directed by James Eckhart, was featured in the recent Boston Film Festival.

I asked Todd some questions about his experiences in "Heroes" and the "To Be Friends" movie.

The Todd Special:
1. Were you already a "Heroes" fan before you were asked to play "Replicating Man" in Season 4?

I had watched season 1 vigilantly. Fell away but then have been catching up on DVD.

2. Was there a particularly funny or memorable incident that happened on the "Heroes" set that you could share with us?

Dawn Olivieri, Hayden Panetierre and I were throwing around a football in between set-ups on the Carnival set. Hayden kept hitting the string of lights and breaking the bulbs. Then we’d look around like kids getting away with something. Those girls have good arms, they can throw a ball.

3. Who creeps you out the most when he/ she is in character on "Heroes"?

(Robert) Knepper was very intense. Then they will yell cut and he’s making jokes.

4. Why do you think you usually end up playing "the bad guy"?

I’m a character actor who is 6’2, with a deep voice and dark circles around my eyes. You do the math.

5. Tell us more about the indie movie "To Be Friends" and what it was like to play the romantic lead.

It’s a beautiful, meditation on friendship. We shot for 3 weeks on a ranch in Santa Barbara. We would shoot for 12 hours, go back to the beach house after, work on 8 pages for the next day, then have a cello lesson. It was focused and amazing. Great writer/director.

It felt good to be trusted to co-carry the film. It was a part I rarely get to play. Joelle was such a great person to be with on and off screen. Such a talent. She made it easy to do that job, to be her best friend. She was my partner in crime.

6. Did you and Joelle really had to learn how to play the cello and violin for the movie?

We had to LOOK like we could play. We were hitting the right notes but it sounded like we were torturing cats.

Look out for part 2 of my devious interview next week where I throw a mini spotlight on the talented comic artist with awesome hair - Dennis Calero!!

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