Eight Sides, One Center… One Revenge

Scott Griffen writes for Bleeding Cool:

Octagon_LOW_18DEC2013In early 2004 I was sitting in a little shack with a barely working heater, a gun on my hip and an empty magazine inside of it, checking vehicles into a military facility in Colorado. Nothing happened there so I spent all my free time drawing up new ideas. My friend saw what I was doing and asked me to make a character named after him.

"You want a superhero named Jimi?" I asked.

"Hell no. I want a villain. Something weird and nasty," he said, then spat into a recycled soda bottle. "But name him Jimi."

"Yeah, lemme see what I can do," I said, figuring nothing would come of it. But ideas started rattling around and I started trying to make some sounds that fit well together. A few hours later I radioed to him.

"Jimi Simian. How you like that?" I asked.

"You made me a monkey?" He didn't sound happy.

"An evil chimp … like, a mob boss," I said.

"Monkeys can't be mafia because they're not Sicilian," Jimi said. And credit to him for knowing that.

"So maybe the mob boss is paralyzed and he uses the monkey like a prosthesis, to get around and extort and junk and stuff."

"Eh, I guess …"

I looked at the radio in my hand. "I'll put a radio transmitter on his head and he can wear a zoot suit," I offered, now actually liking the idea.

"Okay, but make him a gorilla so he can kick ass!" Jimi was getting excited now.

"Why not both?" I radioed back.

"Get off the net, you morons!" our boss barked through the radio, but by that time Jimi was walking over to my station to see what I was drawing. He liked the initial sketch.

"Yeah, that's it! Make it happen!"

Sky_Marshal_Propaganda_Poster5-01Later that year I deployed to Joint Task Force-Guantanamo to work on the newspaper. A year of living with five others guys in a small metal box – smelling their farts and hearing their snores – led to chronic insomnia. There's plenty to do in Gitmo, but the problem is that after four months you've done it all. Boredom becomes a way of life that leads to bad decisions which leads to jumping off a roof into a baby pool.

To occupy my time I dusted off the sketchbooks I'd brought with and came across the pulp heroes I'd designed when I lived in Scotland (this would be before I got tossed in an airport jail and kicked out of the country). They were a good fit to go up against someone like Jimi Simian, the kind of world they could all exist in. I've always loved the classic pulp characters like the Shadow and Doc Savage, and I adored the vintage serials as a kid – heroes with jet packs and cool outfits. Pretty soon I was brimming with ideas for characters.

GS_CropI decided on The Octagon as the name for my collection of villains for two reasons: eight cool villains would be a big, time-consuming challenge and all the other shapes – heptagon, nonagon, dodecagon – sound stupid. Ideas came pouring in from all over. Frank Mullet was a persona I used at Halloween to spectacular effect. Torso popped to mind after a nightmare about a guy with bullets for teeth. Anna Conda started as a sketch of a guy named Snakeskin … Bunny Bonaparte and the AeroStallions … The Crowe Bros …

I still needed a hero for the villains to crush. I'd decided on a supporting cast, but I needed a central protagonist that could command not just the heroes but also the rage and ire of the Octagon. I came across a drawing I'd done of a character my best friend had created as a throwaway when we were at the Joe Kubert School together.

MT-ROTO-01-01LETTERS-LOWMany thanks to Terry Anderson of the Scottish Cartoon Art Studio for giving me the character, because without Silvershade there just wouldn't be a Midnight Theatre.

The deployment ended and I went back to work, always planning on doing more with Midnight Theatre. But as a military photojournalist I was sent away on missions a lot. I was in Slovenia when Hurricane Katrina hit and I only had enough time to attend my cousin's wedding before jetting off to Louisiana. More missions followed and I ended up back in Gitmo. Home from there and …

You get the idea.

I spent all my free time in between missions working on Midnight Theatre. I designed the characters, I wrote their backgrounds, I plotted their lives, I kept filling sketchbooks and files, I wrote the first story and I still liked it six months later. Life continued to intervene until finally my old friend, Will Dvorak, contacted me and asked me to join up with his company, Wicked Studios LLC. Things started to happen …

Progress was being made but life kept happening – a lot of it. Something was always happening to me that got in the way.

Then the idiot bell went off. It was on me to make it happen.

Now I have a chance to make it real. I've made the time and opportunity to dedicate myself to the book. All those things that kept happening to me were getting me here, to the place where I can finally make it happen.

Sky_Marshal_Griff-01We're up on IndieGoGo now and making it happen. I truly hope you'll join us on the adventure. The Midnight Theatre is an exciting place and it never fails to be entertaining. Check out the trailer for MIDNIGHT THEATRE: REVENGE of the OCTAGON at our indiegogo site. We've whipped up some pretty cool, unique awards that include 'sky bonds' showing your support, posters, Sky Marshal propaganda art done in your likeness and – for a lucky few – having a continuing character named after you. Comments and questions are more than welcome. I'm checking up on everything regularly so I will get back to you! We're brainstorming ideas for new awards to fit into those gaps in the reward levels and we have 'unlocks' if we can make it happen.

And make sure you mention Bleedingcool.com in the comments if you decide to participate. I'll knock 10 percent off your reward price and throw in a free 8 ½ x11 print for joining us to make it happen!

MT_ROTO_LowYou can find more Midnight Theatre production art at voirdire99.daportfolio.com or check out my whole gallery of stuff at voirdire99.deviantart.com. I'm on twitter and on facebook.  Wicked Studios LLC has a blog.

And the books got jet packs! I made that happen!

About Dan Wickline

Has quietly been working at Bleeding Cool for over three years. He has written comics for Image, Top Cow, Shadowline, Avatar, IDW, Dynamite, Moonstone, Humanoids and Zenescope. He is the author of the Lucius Fogg series of novels and a published photographer.