What's up, Skybounders!
For my first go at 7 Questions, I got Clone writer David Schulner to spill his guts.
For those not in the know, Clone is a sci-fi story about Dr. Luke Taylor, whose perfect life is interupted when he finds an identical version of himself, bleeding out on his kitchen floor. And this guy's not the only clone in this world… and they’re all after Luke's pregnant wife and their unborn child!
Where did this story come from? Let's hear David tell it...
1.) Your grandfather, Jack Kamen, was an illustrator for EC Comics. Were you allowed to read his comics as a kid?
Jack didn’t become my grandfather until I was 18, when my dad remarried. He was in his late sixties then, maybe early seventies, but still acted like a kid. Even before he came into my life, I remember the art he did for the Creepshow movie so vividly. That little boy deliriously devouring a slasher comic book while a horrible ghoul looked over his shoulder. He made the boy more terrifying than the ghoul, which was a stroke of genius. Anyway, my dad loved Jack’s art even more than my new step-mother. He had the entire house filled to the brim with his art. People being decapitated with chain saws. Mad scientists creating voluptuous (complete understatement) women from discarded bodyparts. Now when I bring my kids over to visit there is a lot of explaining to do.
2.) You started off your career as a playwright. Was your trajectory always to end up in tv/ comics?
No. By the time I was 14 I basically wanted to be Arthur Miller. I wanted theater to be the national art form. And for playwrights (me) to be the voice of world change. I was aiming high at 14. But I soon learned there was only one Arthur Miller. And the theater was supplanted by film and TV. But the new generation of playwrights like Sam Shepard and David Mamet did film and theater. So in my 20s I wanted to be like them. Then Ed Zwick (Thirtysomething) read a play of mine and asked me to write for his TV show Once and Again. And that’s basically how I got into comics. The amazing folks at Skybound read some TV of mine and said, “How would you like to write a comic?”
3.) Do you fear there’s a Schulner clone lurking somewhere out there-- are all your fears driven by irrational science fiction?
That’s funny. My fears are pretty banal. Like one of my kids will wake up at 5am and won’t go back to sleep.
4.) Is that where the idea for CLONE originated?
I’m very interested in identity and how we create our identity. How people see us vs. how we see ourselves. Luke is going to become a father. And that is going to change his identity. Being confronted with a clone of himself, who is vastly different, changes the way he sees himself. The show I’m doing for NBC right now, Do No Harm (shameless plug), is a modern day update on Jekyll and Hyde. So you can see I’m very preoccupied (or just severely limited as a writer) with the different people that live inside all of us.
5.) What’s the process of breaking a story like CLONE versus your TV writing and playwrighting?
Very similar. But only because (see above) I'm very limited as a writer. I'm sure there’s a better way to do it. But I’ve never written or studied comics before so I don’t really know how else to approach it. What I know, and applied to this comic, comes more from TV than playwrighting. TV is story boot camp. Whereas if you look at the great plays of the last century, they are chiefly explorations of ideas, characters, themes, moments in history. You don’t think of the plot turns. The story. But TV is All. About. Story. The twists and turns before the commercial breaks. The cliffhanger. I wanted the comic to read like a runaway train. And to do that you need story. A lot of it. I tried very carefully to pick the moments when we could slow down to land the character moments but then ramp back up again with more twists and turns.
The challenge for me was the literal turning of the page. There are 22 pages! That’s 22 times someone could put down your comic and walk away. Decide not to turn the page. Which to my mind means I have utterly failed. In TV you have a commercial break 6 times an episode. And you’re working really hard to have a great twist before the commercial so the audience comes back. I tried to do that 22 times! Which is insane! But since I’m such a novice I didn’t know of any other way to do it.
6.) What’s it like collaborating with artist Juan Jose Ryp?
It’s been amazing. He’s been a fantastic collaborator. Even when he shouldn’t have been. Remember, there was a steep learning curve for me. Like, Grand Canyon steep. I kept wanting to change things after they were inked. Which is, how should I say this?... Idiotic. In TV I'm changing the story around in the editing room. Right up until we air. I had to learn to be a more careful storyteller. Because once Juan inked something he did not have time to go back, change it and re-ink. But he did for me. Several times. Before begging me to stop changing things.
7.) Given the choice to clone anyone in human history, who would you choose and why?
Great question. Einstein? Martin Luther King? Gandhi? Someone who changed the world for he better. Even though you could debate Einstein, couldn’t you? Imagine if those amazing people were still alive today. What would the world look like?
Clone hits comic shelves everywhere November 14th.