Interview with Tony Daniel
by Bob Gough, Contributing Writer

Tony Daniel's career as a comic book illustrator and writer has long provided fans with iconoclastic storylines, exciting and sexy characters and unforgettable scenarios of nightmare and intrigue. Now, as he moves further into screenwriting, his comic book work is inspiring a new generation of artists and writers. Mile High Comics caught up with Tony for a few questions about his current projects:

Mile High: Tony, congratulations on a very successful transition over to Dark Horse and launch of your newest series Silke. What's fan reaction been like so far?

Tony Daniel: The fan reaction has been great. I think a lot of people were interested in finding out more about Silke after her mysterious debut in the F5 comic series, as Abraham Silke.

How did you meet the Dutch artist Romano who is now drawing The Tenth? What is about his artwork you find most interesting?

I met Romano while in Holland. He was sitting next to me at a convention and whipped out his portfolio of work. It was amazing, and I knew right away that I wanted him to replace me on the Tenth. He's very diverse, and disciplined. He's a future superstar, I guarantee it.

I'd like to delve a little into your history as a comic book creator. What was the first book you worked on, how did you land the job and how did that experience help you in your later work? The first book I can remember seeing your work on was The Elementals. What was like taking on a book that had such a rabid fan base and was so closely associated with one creator (Bill Willingham)?

Believe it or not, many people don't know about my beginnings on The Elementals comic series for then, Chicago-based, Comico comics. I got recommend to an area friend (I live in Chicago) to the local publisher. I came in, showed my stuff and took the job right away. Most of the work never came out (13-14 issues). I didn't know much about the book or its following. I was young, cocky and eager to prove I belonged in the business, so I didn't much bother with trying to live up to the creator's vision. It was maybe a good thing for me to be that way then. It may have been too much to think about back then. It was one of my favorite books to work on. I still have a fondness for the characters.

You've very successfully staked out your niche in that corner of comic publishing that's very dark, edgy and filled with beautiful and dangerous women. What type of villains appeal to you? What type of women?

The kind of villain that appeals most to me is the one who doesn't believe he's a villain. He's on a righteous path in his own mind and will stop at nothing to achieve his goals. There are real villains all around us in that case, huh? Rhazes Darkk, the evil, invading alien from The Tenth is a man trying to revive his extinct race by inhabiting the earth with his alien order. To him, he's on a noble cause, and a noble mission. To us, he's a villain that threatens our existence.
The kind of women that appeal to me are strong, independent, ambitious woman. They have goals and don't need to be held by the hand to get there. Kind of like my fiance!

Which is more challenging? Being an artist or a writer?

Right now it is really challenging for me to be an artist. I feel that it is very difficult for me to maintain consistently the top-notch quality that I have expected from myself. That's probably the result of my new love for writing. I've been writing screenplays since last November, finishing three, and have been totally consumed with the process involved in creating a strong, believable story. It takes many layers to tell the stories I want to tell, beginning with the premise, then the characters and finally the execution. It is very complex and very fulfilling to me right now. Comic writing is another story. I can't put the time into the story or dialogue while drawing it and inking it at the same time. Unfortunately, no one has seen my best writing. My next comic series (slated for next summer) will be meticulously crafted, from the writing down to the coloring. I will need a year to complete it. To answer your question, writing (screenwriting) is a bit more challenging, but more fulfilling at this moment in my life.

One theme of your stories is desperate outsiders trying to evade almost overwhelming dark forces. What experiences do you draw upon from your own life to breath reality into those conflicts?

Well, without getting too personal, I experienced at one point in my life, (when I was 13), a very difficult time. I moved to a new neighborhood that was supposed to be "safer." I was the only new kid in school, who happened to be from the other side of the bridge. I wasn't really accepted and faced a lot of violence in the next couple of years. What was bad (my old neighborhood), I fit in well. What was good (the safer, new neighborhood) was full of hate, prejudice and lots of fighting. But by the time I got to high school, most of that went away. That time of my life still haunts me.

For readers who might not be familiar with Adrenalynn, a trade paperback should soon be available. What can you tell a first-timer to expect?

Adrenalynn is about old Russian-built cold war secret weapons (cyborgs created to invade and destroy America as weapons of mass destruction). Sabina, a young Russian orphan was taken and turned into the latest model. A glitch in her programming allowed her to "reason," so eventually she goes MIA from the program and ends up working for a high-tech unit of bounty hunters who are trying to locate the other Cyborgs. It's a story filled with action, emotion and redemption. It can't be that bad, Joel Silver of "Matrix" fame picked up the film rights and are currently working on the screenplay and will star Christina Ricci. So check it out!

F5 captures the excitement of espionage with a healthy dose of sexual tension and romance. Yet despite its large ensemble cast, each character has a deep back-story. How do you keep each straight as you are creating each new issue?

Well, I created a limited special (soon to be released as the F5 special in the next month or so), that had a background on each character. Sort of a bible for me to refer to if need be.

What's next for you? What TV or movie projects are upcoming? Any updates on the Joel Silver Adrenalynn movie with Christina Ricci that you can pass along?

Aside from what I just mentioned about Adrenalynn, F5 screenplay has recently been completed by the Douglas Brothers (or nearly completed). Alex Young at Paramount Pictures will ultimately decide what to do next. I say, let's rock and roll and start casting. I am working on the Silke screenplay and completed the first draft a month ago. I am making revisions to it and it should be ready for ICM and T.H.E. to package and go out wide to the studios with. There is already interest in the comic property, but I'm concentrating on selling the screenplay. Next, I'm working on a top secret project with fellow screenwriter, Jim Bonny, a very successful screenwriter whose sold several films to the likes of Speilberg and others. After that, I have one more screenplay to complete before beginning work on anything comic related.

What is it about Ricci that made her your first choice for the role of the cybernetically enhanced human weapon built by the Soviets?

Christina had the "look." She can be innocent looking, but at the toss of a dime can look pretty dark. The character is goth-cyber-punk in nature, and Christina is a great fit. She's also a great actress who draws in other great talents. I'm very excited with her involvement. I can't reveal much. I've learned my lesson (or have grown paranoid, you make the call). I won't reveal any information on the project until I'm done with it and have already shopped it to Hollywood or TV. Once they've seen the project, I'll put it out there for everyone else to see.

Thanks again for your time, Tony.

[Interviews with Bob Gough]


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