David Campiti

Founder of Innovations Comics  


David Campiti with his daughter Jasmine

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your interests in general.

I'm 48, married, I have three kids - Bill, Kat, and Jasmine. Jasmine is 20 months old, Bill is 21 years, and Kat is 17 years. Quite a spread. My wife is an artist and a lingerie model - she's appeared twice in GHM magazine, plus been in Femme Fatales, Play, Mirror, and other magazines. She writes and draws a series called BANZAI GIRLS and is drawing AVALON HIGH for TokyoPop, which is written by novelist Meg Cabot of The Princess Diaries. I love movies and reading.

 

When did you discover you had a talent for writing in the comic format? How is writing in that format, different from other styles of writing? Have you done any professional writing in fields other than comic books? Do you have a background in art/graphic design?

I'd wanted to write comics ever since I was a teenager, so I wrote dozens of scripts that were never published, to learn my craft. I sold my first comics scripts in 1982 and was freelance writing for Superman at DC Comics by 1984. I graduated with a degree in Communications and had a great rapport with artists in the advertising field, so it wasn't a stretch to get from there into packaging complete books and, later, into publishing. I've written advertising, Public Relations (including for the United Way), magazine articles, book chapters, interviews, and lots more. My most recent thing is a chapter in the book ON WRITING HORROR, released last month, about writing for horror comics.

 

We understand that you founded Innovation Comics. Tell us what was involved in starting your fledging business?

In 1987, I wrote a business plan for a comics publishing company, and it worked - Innovation opened its doors in October 1988. It was the usual thing of finding investors and building a company.

 

What was the most challenging aspect of creating Innovations? Of keeping it running?

In the earliest year, it was forging a company identity so people knew who we were. That happened when we worked our way into becoming a licensee of novels and special projects -- Beauty and the Beast, Anne Rice's novels, Dark Shadows, and so on.

After that, it was trying to top ourselves each year, which we did. But by 1993, I moved on to start Glass House Graphics, my studio & agency. I work with over 100 artists and writers all over the world, handling everything from storyboards to comics, from web design to videogame concepts.

 

Can you explain briefly how a comic book is created? The story, the drawings, the dialogue, the inking, the color.

A licensed comic such as BEAUTY & THE BEAST was a special case -- we were only permitted to adapt the shows, so we received - sometimes -- a shooting script and a videotape of the episode. Then I would adapt the material into a comicbook script, panel for panel. That was given to the artists, who would draw it (or paint it), then it was lettered, and so on. It's sort of an assembly-line process with each talent in the process doing his or her job. For a licensed property, every step is approved by the licensing company. In the case of BEAUTY & THE BEAST, that was Republic Pictures and Ron Koslow.

 

What was your part in the production process when it came to B&B?

Everything, practically. I negotiated the license, worked with the licensor, adapted the scripts, edited the book, wrote the letter columns and text pages. Mike Deodato, the artist, was my "find" from Brazil. He's gone on to be one of the most popular artists in the comic book business, drawing such books as Spider-Man, The Hulk, and The Avengers, even Wonder Woman and Batman.

 

Whose idea was it to do a Beauty and the Beast comic?

Mine. Fortunately, the licensing company was agreeable.

 

What drew you to the Beauty and the Beast TV series as a subject for your comics? Were you a fan of the show?

I knew someone who was really into the TV show, so I watched a couple of episodes and was entranced by it. Fabulous show. Then when I realized that Mike Deodato could paint the book in a soft, airbrushy style evocative of the show, I knew we could do a good job on it.

Was B&B in any way different from the comics you usually produced, and how? We fans have a soft spot for the romantic side of the story, which is not exactly what pops in mind thinking about comics.

Different? It was different because we were only ADAPTING the TV shows instead of doing new stories. When I wrote the DARK SHADOWS comic book, for example, I would review episodes with a fine-tooth comb, so to speak - and I would write new stories that explained logic and continuity errors and made the existing stories even better as a result. I carefully wrote stories that fleshed out and complemented what the TV series had done. I wish I could have done the same with BEAUTY & THE BEAST.

 

Why did you choose to recreate the existing episodes of Beauty and the Beast, rather than writing new stories with the existing characters? Is that typical of a certain genre of comics?

No. NEW stories would've been typical. But as I understood it, the licensor wasn't entirely happy with the two new BEAUTY & THE BEAST graphic novel stories that First Comics had published, so they were only open to us adapting the existing scripts. BEAUTY & THE BEAST is kind of rare in its adapting the TV shows in their entirety into comics form.

 

comic covers comic covers

How did Mike Deodato Jr, the artist for the Beauty and the Beast comics, come to your attention, and why did you choose him for the B&B comics?

He was one of a bunch of artists whose work we were reviewing from Brazil. He stood out as the most talented of the bunch. In his samples was an airbrushed painting of a werewolf chasing a beautiful woman through an alleyway. "Hmmm...soft airbrush...a furry monster...a beautiful woman." It wasn't a big stretch to comprehend that (another that or just add 'his') one image had all the elements for BEAUTY & THE BEAST art.

 

Originally how many issues based on Beauty and the Beast were planned and what happened that only six comics were published?

I left Innovation in March of 1993 to found Glass House Graphics. Though only 6 issues were published, I had completely written at least nine issues. A cover for #7 was done, but I don't recall any interior pages being completed. Innovation published #6 in December of 2003, I think, and they closed their doors before the next issue was substantially drawn. Those scripts are in a file in my basement somewhere.

 

We've heard that there is a piece of cover art that was finished for the seventh issue. Do you still have it and can you share it with us?

Yes, I'm happy to share it with you.  

cover

 

Click on the picture to see a full-size image of the cover.

 

 

 

 

Were those comics a good selling product? As far as you know, was it only the fans of the show who purchased the comics or did they appeal to a wider market?

We sold an awful lot of books to a female readership and a gay readership - which "wiser heads" at the super-hero companies claimed didn't exist for comics. I was happy to prove 'em wrong. BEAUTY & THE BEAST sold well and would have done far BETTER had we been permitted to create new stories.

 

When you think back on the Beauty and the Beast Innovations Comics, what do you remember most?

How Mike Deodato kept getting better each issue. Every time I show people his work on that project, I pull out issues #5 and #6 to show.

 

Do you still have any connections to Beauty and the Beast attend conventions or correspond with any of the creators, writers, cast or staff from the show or with the show's fans?

I hear from a couple of the fans on occasion, and someday I'm hope someone'll give me a Christmas gift of the whole series on DVD.

 

If the opportunity arose to do another Beauty and the Beast series of comics with the shows original characters, would you like to be involved?

YES! No question. If someone wanted to continue the adaptations, I have several unused scripts to get 'em started. AND I would especially love to do new stories with those wonderful characters.

 

Were your other Innovations comics also artistic recreations of other types of existing work or did you work with others on original story lines?

Dark Shadows, Lost in Space, Quantum Leap, and all the others were NEW stories. In the case of Lost in Space, I even brought in Billy Mumy and Mark Goddard - Will Robinson and Major Don West - to work on stories with me. The only other adaptations we did were novels and certain movie adaptations.

 

Tell us how you search out your artists/illustrators? What are you looking for?

Four things: An ability to draw well, an ability to tell a story in pictures, an attractive style editors are willing to buy and a professional attitude that includes constant and clear communication.

 

Is it important to match an artist's style to the type of comic?

Of course!

 

How did you decide which literary-film-tv shows would make good comic tie-ins?

Gut feelings. To hell with market research. Innovation proved all the market research wrong. I had people telling me, for example, Anne Rice's The Vampire Lestat, a 400-page novel being adapted as a 400-page comic story, painted, serialized across 12 issues and two years, would fail miserably. It was our biggest success.

 

You've been a writer and co-writer for a wide variety of comics. Is there one that stands out in your mind and for what reason?

HERO ALLIANCE, because it was my first creator-owned super-hero property and broke a bit of new ground. LOST IN SPACE because it was a property everyone said was dead, and I figured out how to make it vital again. EXPOSURE, because I got to do X-Files-type stories which I love to do.

 

Which of your comic book series do you like best and why?

It's always the NEXT thing I'm working on - which in this case will be THUNDERSAURS, coming out late in 2007, an all-ages series involving a brother, a sister, and a world of dinosaurs and deadly trolls and a mysterious underwater race. It's all great fun, and beautifully drawn by Tina Francisco, a discovery from the Philippines.

 

What do you like to hear from someone reading your comics? What would you consider your greatest compliment?

"I'm looking forward to reading your next issue."

 

Today you oversee offices in various countries, coordinating art from nearly 100 revolving talents worldwide. Is there anything you miss about running a smaller company like your Innovations Publishing?

The only thing I miss is not working on BEAUTY & THE BEAST, LOST IN SPACE, DARK SHADOWS, and HERO ALLIANCE. I don't miss the spreadsheets and investor meetings and everyone trying to second-guess my plans.

Do you ever get the itch to write again?

I've never stopped writing.

 

David Campiti with Mike Deodato and Will

Do you have any advice for people who might want to get into the comic book market, either as a writer or an illustrator?

Yes! Visit my website.  I've devoted a huge section to helping talented people break in to the business. I've included sample plots and script for writers to study; I've uploaded all sorts of artistic information and advance on preparing portfolios, specific samples, even information on scanning and coloring techniques.

 

What is it about the comic book/graphic novel media that appeals to you strongly enough to make it your career?

It's a miniature version of movies - without the incredible budget. You can tell any kind of story in comics form, just as any kind of story as a film. It's a matter of learning the process. 

 

What are you working on now?

I've worked on THUNDERSAURS for the past year, and I write lots of things for our clients. And, of course, I'm finally writing THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO CREATING COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS, based on the Seminars I teach all over the world.

 

Do you have anything you would like to say to the readers of this interview about yourself, Beauty and the Beast, your work or to fandom in general?

Thanks for reading and enjoying.

 

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