Adam F. Goldberg, showrunner and writer of The Goldbergs and Schooled, is teaming up with writer/producer Hans Rodionoff for a new comic book hitting shelves today from Zenescope Entertainment. Possessive #1 kicks off Goldberg and Rodionoff's latest series, a horror-comedy with a fun and unique premise. While Goldberg is celebrated for his TV work, he's also becoming known as a comics writer from his work on Marvel #1000 and his previous series with Hans Rodionoff, Conspiracy from Zenescope Entertainment. I read and reviewed Conspiracy here at Bleeding Cool, and its relentlessly dark and character-driven script made me curious to see Rodionoff and Goldberg take on something with comedic elements. Today, as Possessive #1 releases in comic shops, I talked to the two writers about this new release.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall meets The Grudge is a wild pitch. As writers, your track record with comedy speaks for itself, so it must be fun to add some horror to the mix. Just how deep into the horror does Possessive get?
HANS RODIONOFF: My track record with comedy is actually pretty slim, but my track record with horror is substantial – which is the opposite of Adam. When we first met, we realized that we were kind of like the yin to each other's yang. I had established myself as a horror writer, but I had a love of comedy that was unfulfilled while I focused on making people scream. Adam quickly established himself as a master of comedy, but he had a deep love of horror that was forced to remain dormant while he made people laugh. There's undeniably a strong connection between comedy and horror – but finding the right balance between the two is tricky. It's easier to just go one way or the other. That's why Adam and I work well together, because we both approach story from a different angle, and if the end result makes us both happy, then we know that we've found the right balance.
ADAM F. GOLDBERG: When I was a kid, I went and saw Poltergeist in the theater, because it was written and produced by one of my lifelong heroes, Steven Spielberg, and it was rated PG, so I figured "it's a ghost movie, how scary could it really be?" Needless to say, that movie terrorized me to the depths of my soul. I slept with the lights on and stopped watching television for a month because I was certain that I would be sucked into the TV like poor Carol Anne. That experience taught me two things: first, that ghosts can be truly horrifying, and second, that as traumatizing as it was, I really loved the feeling of being scared. That's what really started my lifelong love of horror movies. But I'll answer your original question because Hans totally did not: we go deep into the horror. We do not skimp on the scares or the blood and gore. There are for sure moments in this story that would have given me nightmares if I'd read this comic as a kid. I like to imagine that somewhere out there; there's a young kid like me who's thinking, "it's a ghost comic book; how scary could it really be?"
The solicitation pitches the series protagonist, Todd, as this down-on-his-luck sort of loser. I feel like we had this huge heyday for stories about regular guys, guys who fail, and guys who have a hard time in comedy in the late 2000s, early 2010s. I miss those kinds of comedies, and really comedy movies in general, where we feel like we could be friends with the lead. Let's dig into Todd a bit – what inspires this character?
GOLDBERG: The thing is, I'm constantly drawn to normal, everyday types of characters that are really not up to the challenge, whatever that challenge may be. And then, over the course of the story, they step up and grow and become more than they were at the beginning. I like to write about unlikely heroes and heroines, people that have been underestimated and left out but who have deep reserves of strength and heart that come out when the chips are down.
RODIONOFF: We're both such huge horror fans that we watch everything that comes out that's even a little bit scary. I mean, like literally everything. Because of that, we usually find ourselves really enjoying the things that shake us out of our passive watching mode – whether it's a plot turn that we haven't seen before, or a really compelling performance, or a new kind of monster. We end up talking about what we've seen recently that we liked when we hang out, and that's kinda how Possessive started. We felt like we'd seen every iteration of the haunted house story, but we both really love ghosts and wanted to do something a little different in that space. The question with every haunted house movie ever is, "If you find out your house was haunted, why would you stay?" And one of the reasons would be if you literally had nowhere else to go… unless you wanted to start living in your car. So then we thought, what if the dude was already living in his car? A haunted house would be a step up from that – even if he had to share the place with a homicidal ghost. We also felt like we'd seen the happy family move into a haunted house and then be terrorized because they see their perfect life and happy home being torn apart. But Todd starts from a place of total rock-bottom, so being terrorized is just another level of terrible that he has to deal with, and that felt like a new bend to the Hapless Haunted House Owner character.
That's something I think a lot about, too, the "why do people stay." We as viewers always try to put ourselves in these situations, but I have ZERO ideas what I would do if I was in a haunted house situation. Say you move into a house and find out it's haunted. What do you do?
RODIONOFF: Sell. Immediately. Or let the bank take it, and then write a book about the experience and create a whole franchise. Buy an RV and travel around the country. But if you really love the house, and you don't want to leave, then I guess you have to try and figure out why the ghost is still hanging around and then help it find closure. Unless your house is built on top of a Native American burial ground like in Poltergeist, at which point I go back to my original idea of sell and hit the open road in your Winnebago!
GOLDBERG: I think there's a lot to be said for standing your ground and making the ghost leave. This is your house now, and you will not be bullied by some phantom squatter that refuses to move on to the next realm. I mean, that's easy for me to say now because I haven't actually been in that situation, but I think I would probably stand up for my family and my home.
RODIONOFF: Way to make me look like a total scaredy-cat, Ad.
I think a lot of people can relate to the idea of making a last-ditch effort to save their marriage, save any kind of relationship. In Possessive, Todd makes this grand gesture and buys his wife their dream home in order to keep the marriage from crumbling… but then it's haunted. What strikes me in the teaser for the series is that there's a bit about how the specter itself could be "what Todd needs to turn his life around." Is there anything you can give us there to tease what that could mean?
GOLDBERG: I'm all about the Grand Gesture gone wrong. It's a recurring theme with me. And as far as Grand Gestures go, buying a house is about as grand as they get, so when it goes wrong, it goes wrong in a big way.
RODIONOFF: It's like what Nietzsche and Kelly Clarkson said, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." And the ghost doesn't kill him… well, at least not in the first issue – otherwise, that would be the end of the series. Also, I think sometimes it takes a bad relationship to show you what a good relationship is.
This book sounds great. Thank you for doing this, but before I let you go – I loved Conspiracy, which you two also worked on together. The way you balanced sci-fi, truly hopeless horror, and human drama in that series was nuanced in a way that made it feel very unique. Is there any hope for more of that series?
GOLDBERG: That's really up to Ralph [Tedesco], Joe [Brusha], and Dave [Franchini] at Zenescope. They're the madmen behind that whole series, and I'm just thankful that they took us along on the ride. For sure, there are more stories to tell, and new conspiracy theories are popping up every day.
RODIONOFF: Seriously. As soon as that new Pentagon report comes out, that's like another six-issue arc right there.
GOLDBERG: No comment.
RODIONOFF: Yeah. Agreed. Can we like, redact, or erase that last answer from me?
Possessive Part 1 of 3, written by Goldberg & Rodionoff with artwork by Eduardo Garcia, is out today from Zenescope Entertainment.