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July 19, 2011

Touring the Cosmos: Interview with Paul J. Salamoff

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Written by: mike
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Paul at the 37th Annual Saturn Awards

 

Comic Attack: Hey Paul! Glad to have you at comicattack.net and Touring the Cosmos.

Paul J. Salamoff: I’m very happy to talk to you guys and appreciate your support.

CA: You’ve had an interest in science fiction since an early age; how did this spark?

PS: When I was 5 years old my parents took me and my brother to see a double bill of STAR WARS and LOGAN’S RUN at a drive-in and as they recount, my eyes completely bugged from my head — I was hooked.

Fortunately my parents were very supportive of my interests and together we would watch Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, Star Trek, Space: 1999 and Doctor Who to name just a few.

I grew up in Natick, MA (not to far from Boston) and there was “Creature Double-Feature” on Channel 56 and “The Movie Loft” on Channel 38. Between those two I was introduced to Godzilla, Roger Corman, Universal Monsters and just about anything shrunk to miniature proportions or grown to monstrous size.

I also started to read a lot and discovered Asimov, Vonnegut, Clarke and Adams (as well as King and Barker). My interest in genre film, TV and literature has never waned.

CA: What are some of your favorite characters and stories, ones that have stuck with you throughout the years?

PS: My all-time favorite character is the wandering Timelord “The Doctor” from BBC’s Doctor Who. I have been obsessed with Doctor Who my entire life. I even own the original Tardis Console from the Paul McGann 1996 TV Movie and a Full-size Dalek replica (that I made) from “Genesis of the Daleks”. I find the possibilities are endless with this character and the stories touch on every aspect of science-fiction that I love.

I was also heavily influenced by Star Blazers (aka Space Cruiser Yamato [Ed. note: also known as Space Battleship Yamato]). I found the stories and characters very compelling and it was so different from the cartoons on American TV. Major characters died and the stakes for survival seemed real.

As I grew older I discovered Blade Runner and to this day it is my favorite film of all-time. I find that I am driven as a writer by themes (as opposed to plots) and here was a movie bursting at the seams with them. Ideas about what it really means to be human.

And of course Star Wars and Star Trek had a huge influence.

CA: From writing The Dead Hate The Living, to producing The Saturn Awards, and being a Special F/X Make-up Artist for many years, you have worked on a ton of different projects, with various credits. What were some of your favorite projects to work on?

PS: I’ve been in the Film & TV industry for over 20 years now and have worn a number of hats. I got my start as a Special FX Make-Up Artist where I worked for 14 years on over 40 films, 10 TV Series and more commercials than I can remember.

I then decided to focus on my writing career which lead me to producing and than I got the opportunity to become an Executive. I always joke that I started my career making monsters and now I am one.

I soon began working in DVD’s and video games and comic books. Believe it or not, but I still do all these things (other than FX) simultaneously. That’s what keeps life interesting. One week I could be working on a screenplay or comic and then the next week I could be producing video game marketing assets or developing projects with my production company. It’s never boring.

As far as favorite projects. In FX I’d have to say There’s Something About Mary and Ed Wood. I made the fake dogs in the former and the octopus (without the motor) in the latter. Both shows were instances where I got to do most of the work involved so I felt more of an ownership to the finished pieces. They also are both great movies and fun to have worked on.

As an Executive I enjoyed producing Starship Troopers: Marauder because it’s totally my type of movie and I really got to utilize my FX knowledge. It was also a thrill to work with Ed Neumeier as I’m a big Robocop and Starship Troopers fan.

And as a writer I enjoyed writing my first non-fiction book ON THE SET: The Hidden Rule of Movie Making Etiquette because I got to interview over 70 industry vets including Gale Ann Hurd, Wes Craven, Owen Roizman, Tom Desanto and Ron Underwood to name only a few. I also love writing the LOGAN’S RUN comic series. Having been a lifelong fan, it’s just absolutely crazy that I have this opportunity and that fans and critics have praised it including THE Ray Bradbury and William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson (the original creators of Logan).

And obviously I’m very proud of DISCORD because it’s my first original graphic novel and I truly believe I’ve written something unique and special.

CA: You have DISCORD coming out in August, but you are not new to the comic book industry. What are some other titles you have worked on?

PS: I’ve been really fortunate to have had a great many comics released over the last 4 years. My first series was Roger Corman presents BLACK SCORPION. It was a 4-issue series and I got to do a “Batman-style” redux of the character. I then wrote a number of issues of VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS. Some were even based on my short stories. I also wrote PUPPY POWER: BO OBAMA. I got some flak for that but I’m proud of it. I wrote it for my kids and I feel it has educational value. I actually got some nice reviews especially from the School Library Journal.

My real claim to fame is the LOGAN’S RUN series. The first 6-part series, LOGAN’S RUN: LAST DAY was critically acclaimed and so far the 2nd 6-part series, LOGAN’S RUN: AFTERMATH has just started coming out and it has been praised as well.

I also have a few other graphic novels in the works. STASIS a dark Sci-Fi/Horror and IN A WORLD a really crazy action/adventure comedy.

CA: Having seen so many sci-fi stories, from the classics to those of today, did you find it difficult to write an original tale with DISCORD?

PS: They say that there are only so many stories, so when you find a fresh approach it can be quite exciting. I find having a backlog of movie knowledge helps me narrow down the field quite a bit. This way I can focus on new angles to tell these well-worn tales.

I feel that as a writer I tend to write slightly to the left of genre anyway. What I mean by that is I don’t get caught up in the genre tropes. I let the stories naturally unfold and ultimately blend in other genres. That to me is interesting storytelling and can make it new and unconventional.

It’s great to be inspired by movies and I watch movies constantly for that very reason, but most of the time I get inspiration from news stories or real life. Also I feel blessed to have a very active imagination and typically have more ideas than I have the time to write.

For me it’s looking at my large library of movies and just saying to myself “what ideas haven’t I seen” or “what ideas have been done, but not been done great” and coming up with something new that warrants the time.

 

CA: Where did the inspiration for DISCORD come from?

PS: I don’t exactly remember where the germ for DISCORD came from but I had already been writing comics and had the desire to tell an unconventional superhero story. I think I had the Frankenstein-ian image in my head: the idea of a superhero that was made up of other superheroes. And I wanted him to be the good guy!

But I was convinced that must have been done before, so I called around to my friends who would know and they said there was nothing like I was proposing.

So that got me excited and I started developing the themes I could explore. Such as “Loss of identity and self” (I’m a big David Cronenberg fan, so I like that theme). Also being “defined by one’s powers”. If you had one power and it was a more defensive power, but now you had many powers and they were mainly offensive powers how would that change you. I also liked the idea that “you don’t need to be a hero to step up and do the right thing”.

So once I had this idea and the themes I wanted to explore DISCORD pretty much wrote itself.

CA: Giuseppe D’Elia really knew how to translate your ideas into the panels of DISCORD. How did you and Mr. D’Elia come together as a creative team?

PS: Harry Markos at AAM/Markosia introduced me to Giuseppe and I was just blown away by his artwork. The amazing thing is this was all done over the internet. I’m in Los Angeles, Harry is in the UK and Giuseppe is in Italy. I have still not met Giuseppe in person and we’ve worked together for almost 2 years now.

When I first envisioned DISCORD it was a lot more dark and oppressive, but I saw a certain brilliance and teaming with an artist like Giuseppe. His art leaps from the page and has a vibrancy that makes the characters come alive.

It’s almost like a counter-intuitive approach to the material and it really works because I feel it makes you connect to the characters better.

I have also always maintained that this is a story that uses superhero tropes and turns them on their ear. Well if that’s the case than it needs to have the look and feel of a superhero story, so it completely blindsides you when things take a unique turn.

I couldn’t be happier with Giuseppe’s artwork and from Page 1 to Page 99, I was constantly blown away by his ingenuity in bringing my words to life.

CA: Chromatic was the main character, the survivor. How did it come about that he was the member to become Discord?

PS: I felt that Chromatic (Warren) had the most dramatic possibilities to explore. Here is someone who defines himself as a protector. He is a chameleon and his body can change form and look. Chromatic has a number of insecurities so being able to become someone he isn’t has always kept him emotional balanced, but what happens when that change becomes permanent and what good is a chameleon when only a quarter of his body can change. Not very good at all.

I also like the fact that Chromatic has to come to terms with now having offensive capabilities. He never had the ability to really hurt enemies with his power, now he does and the question is will he be able to redefine how he sees himself.

Using Chromatic also gave me the opportunity to explore his relationship with Moiré (Emma). The Team has been missing for weeks and suddenly Chromatic shows up and he returns as this Frankenstein-ian thing. But in Chromatic’s mind he’s still the same person and he loves Moiré, but Moiré not only has to deal with his new look, but also grieve over the loss of her friends. It adds another layer of tragedy.

CA: It felt as though the members of the Team War Hammer had a lot of history behind them, only to be killed off pretty quickly. Which one was your favorite? Any plans for future stories involving them?

PS: Unfortunately because of the nature of the first story I had to keep things moving forward so they all needed to be quickly established before they’re killed. There is a flashback sequence later on in the book where we see how Iridian, Solaris and Massive were recruited into the Team, but once again this only scratches the surface.

If Discord is a success and warrants further adventures it has always been my intention to do some flashback stories of all the Team Members. I believe there are a lot of rich stories to tell.  I already now what the sequel story will be but it would be great to either do one-shot stories on each of the members or a TEAM WAR HAMMER prequel series.

I guess it all depends how well DISCORD is embraced by the comic community.

As far as a favorite? I do like Iridian because I think there are some interesting themes to explore with the fact that she is a lesbian and has a loving relationship with Teresa. Also the Xyreem fused part of Iridian’s brain and skull onto Chromatic when they reassembled him, so future stories would deal with how that affects him.

I also really like Solaris and esp. his twin brother Moonshadow. They’re both hot-heads and have a strong sibling rivalry, so it’s fun that they are on different superhero teams and still competing.

CA: Was there any particular reason for using a villain like Sinew?

PS: I wanted the villain they fight to be alien because it creates another layer to Chromatic’s dilemma. Not only is he made up of his teammates parts but also his enemy and his enemy is not even human! What will this mean for Chromatic down the line? Not to give away any spoilers but it becomes extremely significant that part of him is alien.

Also, Sinew is totally cool looking. I got the inspiration from a 70’s era Doctor Who story called “The Claws of Axos” and Giuseppe and I put our own spin on it.

I have a feeling we haven’t seen the last of Sinew or his kind (nudge, nudge, wink wink).

Sinew

CA: It was pretty chilling to see Sinew’s parts used in Chromatic’s make-up. At times, DISCORD had almost a “horror” feel to it. Not full blown gore, but a The Fly-esque creepiness. Did you intend to have this element part of your story?

PS: Having Chromatic made up of parts of his enemy came about organically (no pun intended) while I was developing the idea. It was a natural progression of the idea. It also allowed me to explore a new level of the theme of loss of identity.

I’m a big fan of both Clive Barker and David Cronenberg and I like how they approach the idea of body horror and mutation. So in a way I was able to give homage to two amazing artists that have inspired me with this element of DISCORD.

CA: Sometimes writers take advantage of having free reign with their material (nudity, gore, etc.), and sometimes they don’t. Did AAM/Markosia (publisher) give you full control over what you were allowed to show, or was there some censoring?

PS: AAM/Markosia didn’t censor us at all. I’m all for extremes of sexuality violence and gore (Boy, that doesn’t sound good), but only where it’s warranted. I feel those elements need to be moderated so they have the proper impact otherwise it just become meaningless or just plain exploitive.

There’s nudity and violence in DISCORD, but I feel it’s used discreetly and properly because the material warranted it.

CA: Outside of DISCORD, what are some of your latest projects?

PS: I have a few other graphic novels in the works. STASIS a dark Sci-Fi/Horror in the vein of Aliens and The Thing and IN A WORLD… a really crazy family action/adventure comedy.

My first novel THE SILENT PLANET is also being published this year so I’m working on that as well.

I just recently worked on the marketing for The Adventures of Tintin video game and got to interview Steven Spielberg for almost 30 min. That just blew my mind. He was really nice and the finished assets came out terrific. I even got to geek out with him about Doctor Who!

CA: Thank you so much for your time; it has been a pleasure.

PS: Your welcome.

Once again, I truly appreciate your support of my work and especially DISCORD. The early reaction has been through the roof and I hope that people will give it a chance and tell others about it.

I really love this story and especially the characters and I believe when you write something with that kind of passion it jumps off the page and grabs the reader.

 

Check out our review of DISCORD here.

 


Mike Parente
mike@comicattack.net

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