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NYCC 2015: Joe Grano & Clay McLeod Chapman Interview
Interview conducted by James Ferguson
451 Media Group has jumped into the comic book industry in a big way, unveiling a slate of books in a variety of genres right off the bat. Each title mixes the printed comic with digital video through the use of Touchcode Technology from T+ink, allowing readers to unlock exclusive content on their mobile phones. I had a chance to speak with Joe Grano from 451 Media and Clay McLeod Chapman, the writer of Self Storage, at their booth at New York Comic Con.
James Ferguson: To begin, can you tell me a bit about what you're trying to accomplish with the launch of 451 Media?
Joe Grano: Absolutely. We're creating new, original IP [Intellectual Property] that start in graphic novel form. What's really cool is that the graphic novel offers a print version as well as an online motion-comic version. It's like in between animation, bringing it to life with music, motion, and original scores. We're really running the gamut as far as genres go. We've got horror with Clay doing Self Storage, which is a zombie meets Storage Wars story and Bad Moon Rising with a werewolf biker gang. We've got action. We've got a True Detective-type story. We're working with some great writers too. In addition to Clay, we have some big Hollywood screenwriters. Bad Moon Rising is written by Scott Rosenberg, who wrote Con Air, Gone in 60 Seconds, and High Fidelity. Sunflower is written by Mark Mallouk, who just wrote the Johnny Depp movie, Black Mass. There's some unbelievable talent behind all this and we're really lucky.
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JF: Is this interactive component added value to the comic? Or are they separate pieces? Do you need one to get the other?
JG: It's definitely added value. All the comics are printed with this T+ink technology, which is a conductive ink. Each comic will come with its own card that you can press up to your phone or tablet with the 451 app and it will unlock all this new content like video interviews and digital versions of the graphic novel.
JF: Clay, can you tell me a little about Self Storage?
Clay McLeod Chapman: Self Storage goes off of this premise of “What would you do if you found a zombie in a self-storage unit?” It's about those guys from Storage Wars that make their very humble living going from facility to facility, buying units from whoever hasn't paid their rent. Their assets are acquisitioned by the self-storage facility. These are the guys that buy that stuff off of auction, sight unseen. This one guy, Chris, does this and he gets kind of screwed when he comes upon a zombie in one of these units. The mystery is who is this zombie and why is she in this unit while also trying to contain this groundswell of the zombie apocalypse. We've done Walking Dead. We've done the big, macro version of the zombie apocalypse, but it would be kind of nice to start with the “Zombie X” or “Patient X”, like this is the very first zombie. Let's try our hardest to make sure it doesn't go to two zombies, and four zombies, and 15 zombies. Doing that in a self-storage facility is moderately easier.
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JF: Will you get into the origin of what cause this plague?
CMC: Yeah. I'm such a sucker for those films like the Romeros or Dead Girl. I feel like you can tell a more personal story on the zombie stratosphere that doesn't deal with the epicness of it. There isn't much more blood that can be squeezed out of this stone, but that's the great thing about the zombie metaphor. It changes for each generation based on whatever the current societal ills are. With self-storage units, we've gone beyond the consumer society. This is the post-consumer society where we have so much crap and junk that we just can't get rid of it, so we put them in these units and forget about it.
JF: Who are you working with for art on Self Storage?
CMC: Oh man. Matt Timson. He's on the other side of the pond in London. I've never seen comics this pulpy and wet and tangible. There's something very palpable about his images that just blows my mind. Each issue just gets wetter and wetter and wetter, so by the end of the series in issue #6, it's going to be gross.
JF: You kind of answered my next question, but are Self Storage and the other titles planned as ongoing or limited series?
JG: What we've released at NYCC are all the first issues. Typically it will be one of six issues for most of these. Some of them could go on. I've been telling everyone here that personally, Self Storage is my favorite one.
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JF: Are you just saying that because Clay's sitting next to you?
JG: No! I love horror. I really love it. One thing we've been talking about is doing a horror anthology series with 451. In fact, Clay has contributed to this really cool radio horror anthology called Tales from Beyond the Pale, so we've talked about combining some of those stories with another cool horror anthology and trying to do our own Tales from the Dark Side kind of thing. When I was a kid, those were my favorite movies.
JF: Is the ultimate goal with developing new IP to create movies and television shows down the line?
JG: Exactly. We want to develop projects that have cross platform potential; that we can turn into film, TV, merchandise components. When it comes to the film and TV side of things, it's a totally different sell than going to a studio and handing them a script. We're creating a tangible product that lives and breathes, and hopefully we'll have a built in audience already. So when we go to them and show the motion digital versions that are almost like storyboarding with a few million views on YouTube, it's a whole new conversation.
JF: You're launching the first issues here at NYCC, but will they be rolling out to comic shops as well?
JG: Yes, they'll be available through the 451 app and all the traditional ways that you can buy comics today.
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