Vlad Yudin is an up-and-coming writer, producer, and director. His previous work includes Last Day of Summer and documentaries on rap stars such as Big Pun. Vlad is now turning his attention to the comic book business with Head Smash from Arcana Studio. Due out in 2013, the book is also being developed as a feature film. I had the opportunity to speak with Vlad after his panel at the New York Comic Con where he unveiled a new look at his upcoming project.
James Ferguson: Would you mind giving a quick explanation as to what fans can expect from Head Smash?
Vlad Yudin: Revenge and salvation, a lot of action and ass-kicking. That's kind of the summary of it.
JF: It's set in this futuristic landscape. Is it a new world or a version of our world?
VY: It can be anything really, but it's kind of like a different universe. A lot of parallels can be drawn from our own world. What if that happened? You can make the same type of argument for any city really. What if this was New York, 200 years from now? I like to call it a pre-apocalyptic society where it's not the apocalypse yet, but if everything's going the same way, it's going to happen. That's kind of the world that it takes place in. It's called the city of Ares, that's where the bulk of the action takes place.
JF: It doesn't look like there's a "Happily Ever After" type of ending with this. Is that safe to say?
VY: I think that in some ways yes, but at the same time Smash starts a movement that potentially can change and divert from that tragic ending and go on to that happy ending. He starts the movement. That's important for the story. That's what he's really capable of doing because of his power and his drive.
JF: The main character is called Smash. How did he come into this name?
VY: That's a nickname that he developed when he was growing up in the orphanage. He was always fighting and smashing people's heads in. He had to fight for survival. He doesn't start problems but he was definitely finishing the problems.
JF: The comic is being developed at the same time as the feature film. Are you involved in both ends of the process?
VY: Yes, I'm a creator of the story. Together with Dwayne Harris, who's the illustrator, and Erik Hendrix, who is writing the actual graphic novel, we're working together as a team. Edwin [Mejia] is my producing partner when we're developing the film. It's important to understand that the graphic novel will definitely be released first.
JF: How is the creative process working? Is one influencing the other?
VY: In some ways, yes. We already have a solid story we built for the graphic novel. When you're writing a script, you think about the visuals. At the same time the graphic novel will be almost like storyboards.
It's great collaborating with those guys. They're really on point. They understand the vision. That's what's important. If you understand the vision then everything else becomes simple as you go further.
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JF: You're working with Dwayne Harris on the artwork for Head Smash. Do you have much collaboration with the art side of the project? Or is that something that Erik is handling more of?
VY: We're a team, a true partnership, and Edwin as well. We're collaborating all the way through. It wasn't rough at all. It was like once we understood the vision behind Head Smash, it was easy sailing from there.
JF: Have you worked on a comic like this before?
VY: No, this is my first endeavor into the comic world.
JF: What drew you to bring the story to a comic book setting?
VY: I feel like it's a great way to introduce a character. You go to San Diego Comic Con or New York Comic Con and you see how many people are here. It's really a grass roots campaign. You have to start from the bottom up because comic book fans are really into it. You can't just release something and say "Well, here you go." You have to win them over and give them a quality product. I have a deep respect for that crowd. It's definitely my first graphic novel but I'm having a great time.
It takes time too because it's a brand new character. You're competing with brands that have been out there for so long so you have to start from the bottom up and do things like this panel and educate people about this story.
JF: Has it been difficult starting this from the grassroots effort?
VY: It's difficult in the sense that it's brand new, so you have to put a lot of effort into it. You have to definitely spend time and develop a strategy for how to do it, but it's been a great process at the same time because you see people's reactions, people understanding the story. Everybody loves the artwork. That's great to hear.
JF: Will the feature film be a straight adaptation of the comic? Or will the story be continued or expanded upon?
VY: It's going to be an adaptation of the graphic novel, but some things will be changed because the graphic novel will be released first. We have to preserve some things and keep them a mystery. Maybe even change the ending. That's something we're still deciding. Why keep it the same? We have to do something. Mix it up a little bit.
JF: You've worked in film before. Are you seeing anything different from the creative process now working in comics?
VY: Yes. It's such a strong visual piece. Head Smash is a story with a lot of different layers, but the visual component is great because you essentially have the storyboards ready for the film. You can see how the film is going to look. In a lot of places you can just take the whole scene and boom, you can see it. It's definitely much different than anything else.
JF: Do you have an idea of how long the graphic novel will be?
VY: Approximately 100 pages.
JF: This is an original graphic novel, not a monthly series, correct?
VY: We plan to do a trilogy but we're focusing on the first one right now.
JF: So there could be more for Head Smash and this world later on?
JF: You had mentioned during the panel that Smash using a kind of super serum. Can you talk a little more about that?
VY: The serum is a highly experimental drug that's invented by a secret chemist in an underground lab. The drug is giving him super human strength. It doesn't give him any super powers persay but just endurance and freakish strength. Imagine steroids times 100. There are a lot of side effects as well. It gives him the ability to fight 10 people at the same time and sustain the pain, but it gives him strong hallucinations and it deteriorates his body at the same time. It's a gift and a curse.
JF: You had shown a propaganda piece earlier today with the tagline "Join the Horde." Are fans able to join the Horde?
VY: If they want to, yeah. You can be the first member.
JF: Can you leave us with any last words heading into 2013?
VY: I want everyone to go to HeadSmash.net, that's the central location where we'll have everything going on. Arcana.com too. We're very excited to release this in 2013 and we're going to keep doing more and more of these and get more and more people interested in it. Little by little, it's going to create a movement.
HorrorTalk would like to thank Vlad Yudin for taking the time to speak with us. Look for Head Smash at your local comic shops in the summer of 2013. The feature film will be entering production around the same time.
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