Thursday, October 14, 2010

Retired Extremely Dangerous - Cully Hamner talks RED

RED and Other Astounding Tales

As a fan of the comic, I was excited and a little apprehensive going into this panel. I wanted to know more about the movie but worried the movie, now with additional characters, was going to take away from what made RED so great.

I had thought the panel was going to be crowded so I left the panel I had been in, Intro to Animation Voice-over Acting with Stevie Vallance, a few minutes early, hoping to slip into the panel before RED. That panel was the Spotlight on Ne-Yo. Imagine my surprise when nearly everyone left after Ne-Yo was finished and the room was empty. Where were the hoards of people rushing to get a good seat? At the beginning of the panel there were, at most, a dozen people in the room. I was disappointed by the turnout.

The people who were going to be talking were Ben Abernathy, the editor of the comic, VP and General Manager, Hank Kanalz, and one of the men who brought the world of RED to life, artist Cully Hamner. I think they were a little surprised by the lack of people but once they started talking, it didn't matter.

Cully was asked how RED came into being. He explained how he and Warren Ellis had wanted to work together but never got around to it, and finally around '02 - '03, Cully whipped up a brief treatment of a story and sent it to Warren, asking what he thought. Warren responded by saying he was just going to get in touch with Cully because he had something else in mind. It was RED. After that, everything fell into place pretty quickly and they went to work.

A few of other interesting points:

  • According to Ben Abernathy, they liked the idea of a small miniseries and the three issue format of RED was something they were going to try with other stories/projects. I don't know if that ever really happened.
  • RED was the last project Cully worked on which was hand lettered. Lettering was done by John Costanza.
  • RED is currently in its third printing.
  • Cully is working on the prequel to RED, called Red Eyes Only. It tells the story of why Moses decided to retire. Cully knows it's late; he accepted the blame for it, but it's because he's putting his guts into it.
  • The reason for RED's unique three panel cover is because Cully felt that Warren Ellis' script was so movement oriented (it is!) he didn't want to use a single static image, and instead, opted to use three sequential  panels. 
  • They talked about the prequel comics that came out for the movie. Each one gives some background to the other characters. The art styles work very well for each individual character. My favorite comment during this was Cully saying the comic about Morgan Freeman's character was written so you could practically hear Morgan Freeman narrating the comic using his "Shawshank Voice."

After everyone had talked for a little bit, they showed an extended trailer for the movie, found out what RED stands for (see title), and then opened the floor up to questions. Some highlights were:

  • Was Cully surprised by the actors who were picked? More like flabbergasted. He said each week he'd get a call and another big name would be attached to the picture like Bruce Willis or Ernest Borgnine. He could believe such star power wanted to be a part of it.
  • When he draws, does he think about what he's working on could be eventually turned into a movie? No, he thinks cinematically but in terms of doing the comic justice. He never thinks past that. As Cully put it, "I'm a comic book guy." 
  • How involved was he with the movie? (This was one of my favorite stories) Cully wasn't involved and at the time of the panel, had not seen the movie, but he did visit the set in New Orleans. When he got there he saw that the RED trade paperback was all over the set, being used for references, and on the back of all the set chairs was his art and logo. They even sent him his own canvas chair backing with his name and the logo on it.
  • Did Cully have anyone in mind when he drew Moses? Warren Ellis had dinner with Patrick Stewart one evening and remarked to Cully how impressed he was by how hard and fit Patrick was. So Moses is part Patrick Stewart with some Sean Connery thrown in and little bits and pieces of other guys Cully didn't mention. He said when he draws he tries to pull from faces he's familiar with and goes from there. 
This wasn't the most exciting panel I went to during Comic Con but I really enjoyed it. Cully Hamner is a very interesting guy and I could listen to him talk about his process for a long time. By the end of the panel, there were more people listening but again, I was really surprised by how few people were there. I also wanted to yell at the people who had been there the whole time and kept asking Cully questions about the movie, even after he said he had not seen it.

The movie looks like it's going to be a lot of fun. It has a stellar cast and it appears as if they kept the tone of the comics. It opens tomorrow, October 15, and I hope many of you go to see it.  - wysefyre