Mike Allred is an interviewer’s dream. Aside from the artist’s long and storied career, which includes the creation of one of alternative comics’ most enduring characters, Madman, and a successful and groundbreaking run on Marvel’s X-Men spinoff, X-factor/X-Statix, Allred is more than happy to expound at lengths on nearly any subject with which he’s confronted.
This goes double for the matter of Madman’s long-awaited cinematic adaptation, which has been in production purgatory for almost as long as the character has existed. In this third of four parts, we ask Allred about the genesis of the project and, perhaps unsurprisingly, talk a bit more about that whole Gwen Stacy thing.
At what point was it clear that you really wanted to make a movie with Madman?
Oh, that was day one [laughs], with the first series at Tundra. They were publishing The Crow at the same time that Madman debuted, so we got all of this excitement with what was happening with The Crow film, throughout the production, and Brandon Lee’s death, and then the release of the film, which really is an amazingly beautiful movie, considering how much it had going against it. It kind of predates what John Woo later brought to film. Anyway, at that time, there was a lot of stuff going on, and also, Kevin Eastman, the Tundra co-publisher, is a co-creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and that got turned into a successful franchise, so right out of the gate with Madman and Tundra, there was a lot of interest in it being a film, and we got interest from 20th Century Fox. And that was odd, too, because I got a letter from them saying, ‘thank you, but we’re going to have to pass.” I was like, ‘what? I never even talked to you people’ [laughs]. I kept that letter as a rejection letter that I never solicited
But Kevin lost interest in publishing, and Tundra kind of evaporated. Denis Kitchen’s Kitchen Sink Press picked up some of the loose ends, and I was free to go where I wanted. At that time, Bob Schrek, who was the marketing director at Dark Horse, had become one of my very best friends, and brought me on. They launched it beyond the success of Tundra. And Mike Richardson, who, as everybody knows, is really into playing into Hollywood. I had a manager approach me. The next thing I knew, I was taking these meetings down in Hollywood, on a regular basis, and trying to flush out what was real
Being a lifelong movie fanatic—movies and music and comics have been my lifelong passions. I had a break with comics for a while, and it was reigniting that childhood passion with comics that came about because I saw the music in the artform. I could pull those two elements into something for which I had all of the tools that I need. Me, as one individual, could put music into the artwork and music into the stories. With the exception of Laura’s colors, I could and have done this completely independently. That’s why it’s surpassed music and movies as my primary desire
From right at the beginning, when there was interest in a movie, I was all for it. But I also wanted to make sure that I was going to have some kind of a say in it. I wanted to make sure that it wouldn’t be something that I was ashamed of, that it would be something that I was proud of. If we’re talking about successful adaptations, I would consider The Rocketeer successful. And Hellboy I think is successful. I think Sin City is the most successful, in terms of it’s translation from comic books onto the big screen, and it was a huge success at the box office. Less so with the Batman films. All of them made big money, but as big a fan as I am of Tim Burton, until recently, they always made this huge mistake with the costume where he can’t even move his neck. If Batman wants to look up, he has to bend his back at the waist. It’s always been awkward in my mind, when Batman should be this agile character, and here he’s stuck in this big rubber suit. With these new films, they’ve finally got it right, where he can move his head. The head is separate from the neck. These are things which—going from this completely wide approach, I paid real close attention to what I like and what I don’t like. There’s a lot I like about the X-men films. I really thought the Spider-man films did lots more good than bad. But I would have approached it the way the comics did, where Gwen Stacy was the first love interest, and realized the tragedy of her death.
Would you really want to relive that moment, Mike?
Weeeell…but here comes Mary Jane, to ease the pain. But in retrospect, I’ve kind of embraced that. Keep in mind, I challenge anyone to point to a moment in mainstream comics that was that devastating. Lois Lane never had her neck broke, for instance. For a little kid, that was brutal and way over my head. As an adult, I see the power in the story. That’s the approach I would have taken with the Spider-man films, but overall, I liked the look of it, the feel of it. Sam Raimi really did it right.
So anyway, with Madman Comics, that’s when Universal picked it up, and I’d be sent down there for meetings. I was toying with the idea of directing it myself. I’d worked in television for years and was convinced then and now that I know the difference between a good movie and a bad movie, and with the right tools and support, I can make one. But I was steered strongly away from that.
[Concluded in Part Three.]