Friday, February 3, 2017

An Interview with Jason Mayoh

Recently, I wrote a review of "Pinfall," the comic-book adaptation of the never-filmed Stephen King / George Romero story that was intended to be a segment of Creepshow 2.  I enjoyed the comic quite a bit, and reached out to artist Jason Mayoh to see if he'd be interested in answering a few questions about the comic.

Bryant:  This is probably a dumb question, but are you a fan of the Creepshow movies?

Jason:  In my opinion, two of the greatest horror anthologies ever made.

Bryant:  Tell me a bit about your history with those films.

Jason:  As a kid I remember staying at my older cousin's house and we rented both of them and watched them over the weekend.  I just loved the comic-book vibe to them.
  
Bryant:  How did your involvement with the Creepshow 2 Blu-ray from Arrow Video come about?
  
Jason:  Kind of a long story, but here goes...
  
I met George Romero as a fan at a convention [in 2005] when Land of the Dead came out.  At the time I had illustrated and created a five-page zombie pop-up book and showed it to him.
  
  
Pop Up Book of the Dead
  
  
He loved it and I was immediately put in touch with his manager, who informed me George wanted to write the story for it.  We went back and forth with different publishing houses, ultimately to no avail, as no publisher wanted to take a chance on what they perceived at the time to be a niche market.  At the time I was told pop-up books are a huge investment.  (Ironically I also showed Greg Nicotero back in the day, and now there is a Walking Dead pop-up book; go figure.)
  
Anyway, I was truly inspired by George's enthusiasm and continued to attend conventions he was a guest at.  I have the ultimate respect for George's career for the fact that during the majority of his career he operated on his own terms, for better or for worse, outside of the Hollywood system.  Perhaps because of that, George has had numerous undeveloped projects, including a film adaptation of The Stand by Stephen King.  Since the pop-up book I had always wanted to illustrate one of his unfulfilled stories.  Once I learned that there was an unfilmed segment from Creepshow 2 called "Pinfall," I couldn't resist!

I found an early draft of Creepshow 2 online which had "Pinfall" in it a few years ago and started working on it, on and off between various projects.  It was truly a labor of love and ultimately I had no idea if or how I was going to get it out into the public.  Really it was a challenge to myself and I viewed it as the ultimate fan tribute.
  
Also in a world where a Creepshow 3 exists, a film that has nothing to do with the legacy that King and Romero created, "Pinfall" deserved to be unearthed.
  
Along the way an Indiegogo campaign popped up in the U.K. to turn "Pinfall" in a fan film.  I reached out to them to let them know I was working on a comic book form and offered it as an incentive for fans to donate.  Unfortunately they didn't meet their goal.
  
  
  
  
I put up a few pages online and was contacted by Michael Felsher of Red Shirt Pictures.  For those who don't know Red Shirt Pictures has produced the majority of bonus features on many of Romero's films.  He informed me that Arrow Films based out of the U.K. was putting together a deluxe Blu-ray edition of Creepshow 2 and thought the comic would be an awesome addition to the package.
  
Bryant:  He was right!  [By the way, for those of you who might not know this, Felsher is the director of the Creepshow documentary Just Desserts, which was released on Blu-ray last year and is well worth your money.]
 
Speaking of Michael Felsher, have you seen Just Desserts, his Creepshow documentary?
 
 

 
Jason:  Yes, I had the foreign release [of Creepshow] where Just Desserts appeared originally; did a region hack on my DVD player just to watch it!  Great documentary; [I] donated to the fundraising campaign to get it released officially.
  
Bryant:  In making "Pinfall," did you work entirely from the draft of the screenplay you found online, or were there other materials available to you?
  
Jason:  I only realized there were multiple drafts after reading your review.  I'd love to track down another one.
  
Bryant:  In terms of the making of the comic, did you have any contact with Romero or with Michael Gornick [director of Creepshow 2]?  If so, what input did they give you?
  
Jason:  I met George Romero as a fan at a few conventions over the years.  In 2014 I attended the Living Dead Fest in Evans City, Pennsylvania, and made him a special version of the comic with my illustrations along with the original script.  I think it blew his mind a little ... after all, this was a script that he wrote nearly thirty years ago.  His first response was, "Where the Hell did you find the script?!"  He didn't recall much about "Pinfall," just that it was unfortunate that it was cut.  
  
  
Jason Mayoh at Living Dead Fest 2014

George Romero and Jason Mayoh
  
  
He stated that the comic artwork was beautiful, but he didn't know how to get it out there in the world.  He said he had lost touch with Stephen King so he didn't know how King would feel about it, but offered to help however he could.
  
I also spoke to Michael Gornick at the same event and he recalled "Pinfall" being dropped right away.  Gornick stated there was never any concept art produced, as the story didn't get a chance even at the beginning of pre-production.

Bryant:  I'd love to know what his version of "Pinfall" would have been like.  For that matter, I'd love to know what his version of "The Cat From Hell" (which was also originally intended to be part of Creepshow 2) would have been like!
  
Jason:  I think Gornick did a wonderful job directing Creepshow 2, given the material and budget he was working with.  I subscribe to the Francis Ford Coppola film school theory: that DVD commentary and bonus features are better than film school.  Gornick's commentary on Creepshow 2 and various other projects is always intelligent and insightful.

Bryant:  It really is a terrific commentary.  I'd heard it before, when the DVD came out years ago, but I listened to it again when the recent Blu-ray came out and found myself thinking that Gornick sounds like a guy whose talents have been underutilized by the film industry.
  
Jason:  I happen to have several DVDs of Tom Savini's home movies of the filming of Day of the Dead.  If you listen closely, you can hear the working dialogue between Romero and Gornick, who was the Director of Photography.  On that basis I think I used what I knew of both of their styles and used that in my decision-making process for the "Pinfall" comic.
  
I also reached out to Richard Rubinstein, who was George's producing partner at the time, and he simply stated ["Pinfall"] was cut due to budgetary restraints.  I can see why: it would have had the biggest budget with the multiple zombies, multiple special effects death sequences and a big car crash explosion.  It is also the only Creepshow tale that takes place over the course of a lengthier bit of time; all the other stories (maybe minus "The Crate") all happen over the course of one day.

Bryant:  Do you have any idea whether Stephen King has seen a copy of the comic?
   
Jason:  I tried to no avail to get a sample copy to King.  I do think "Pinfall" was a simple King sketch or synopsis, fleshed out by Romero.
  
Bryant:  It definitely does seem like it would be a mistake to think of it only as a Stephen King story; I think of it as a story they wrote together.
  
I'm curious to know how you created the comic, in terms of whether it was hand-drawn, digital, etc.  So really whatever you can tell me about that would be of interest!
  
Jason:  Yes, it was all hand drawn: traditional pencils, then inks.  I also did a round of initial thumbnail sketches at figuring out the page layouts.
  
  

  
  
Bryant:  Did you color (and/or ink) and letter the comic yourself?
  
Jason:  Yes, once the inking was finished I scanned the artwork in and colored and lettered in Photoshop.  It was a short turnaround to get all the completed pages colored for the Arrow release; if I had the time I would have taken more time in coloring.
  
Bryant:  How did you get your start as a comics artist?
  
Jason:  I have been drawing since I was a little kid, drawing was always my favorite way of telling stories.  When I was about twelve I won a contest by drawing a comic book (based on my local horror-movie host) called Dr. Mongo's and appeared on his show, Dr. Mongo's Midnight Movies, and so my fate was sealed.
  
  
Mayoh (l) on Dr. Mongo's Midnight Movies
   
 
a comic by twelve-year-old Mayoh

  
When I got much older I studied the craft intensely and put out my own graphic novel.  
  
  
  
  
This led me to work as a storyboard artist here in New England.
  
Bryant:  I was intrigued by the art from Tales of Rocky Point Park that I saw on your site.
  
  
  
  




How did that project come together?
  
JasonTales of Rocky Point Park is a graphic novel I wrote and illustrated about my hometown amusement park here in Rhode Island, called Rocky Point.  Growing up, the park was our Disneyland.  It closed around 1996 when I was in high school and sat abandoned for more than fifteen years.  Around 2005 photos surfaced online of the park in its abandoned, decayed state.  I was shocked at what the park had turned into and was inspired to try and memorialize it in my own way.
  
The book focuses on Rocky Point's mysterious history, urban legends, and accident rumors that came out of the park.  This past summer I released a documentary film version of the comic here in Rhode Island.
 
 
For more information on the documentary, visit http://www.talesofrockypointpark.com/.
 
  
Bryant:  That sounds righteous!  I've got a friend who is a bona-fide roller-coaster junkie, so I suspect I just figured out what he's getting for Christmas this year.  Speaking of movies, you've got some great storyboard credits on your IMDb page.  I'm guessing the one people ask you about most is The Town, so instead, I'm going to ask you about Ghosts of Girlfriends Past.  (I'm a Matthew McConaughey fan, even of the rom-coms!)  What sort of experiences did you have working on that movie?




Jason:  Funny you should mention those two projects together -- when I interviewed for the storyboard job on The Town, I was showing examples of my past work and I remember showing examples of Ghosts of Girlfriends Past to Ben Affleck.  He looked at them and said, "You draw a mean McConaughey!"
 
 
Mayoh and Affleck

 
a Jason Mayoh storyboard from Ghosts of Girlfriends Past

 
Ghosts of Girlfriends Past was one of my first big jobs and the director, Mark Waters, was terrific to work with.  He knew exactly what he wanted in his head and was quite imaginative.  I remember having to produce forty-something panel sketches on my first day, which was quite the undertaking when I was just getting my start.

We storyboarded numerous sequences and once we got into the flow of working together I was able to contribute ideas as well.  One scene near the finale involved McConaughey's elder bachelor uncle, played by Michael Douglas.  The scene takes place in a graveyard and Douglas's face was to morph on screen into a zombified corpse.  I loved drawing that sequence but it was cut from the film, probably too scary for a rom-com.

I also remember seeing McConaughey at the kick off crew party and wanting to ask him about Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, but he was constantly surrounded by a bevy of beautiful women.

Bryant:  I'd be disappointed if he wasn't.  Speaking of beautiful things, the cover to the "Pinfall" comic is just wonderful. 


Tom Savini loves it, too!

Jason:  Thank you.

Bryant:  Tell me about the development of that cover.

Jason:  I knew I wanted a cover that would sum up the story: zombies and bowling.  Of course, the hand coming out of the grave is commonly-used fare in the history of horror films; I just couldn't resist adding a bowling ball into the mix.  I also like the old school comic book trick of having a cover with action that doesn't necessarily appear within the actual story.

Bryant:  Some of my favorite pages in the comic were the ones where you used a nine-panel layout.  I especially like the one where you see five of the Boors in the center and at the corners, with bowling-action panels alternated between each of them; that page is mirrored in terrific fashion later with the Regi-Men.  How did you settle on using that format for those pages?

Jason:  The nine-panel frames were simply a way to move the bowling action forward in an almost montage-type fashion.  I have a tendency to want to draw bigger frames, so the nine-panels are always more challenging for me.

Bryant: It doesn't show!  You pulled those off in seemingly-effortless fashion, in my opinion.

Jason:  Another note on panels in "Pinfall" -- there is a direct homage to the original Bernie Wrightson comic adaptation: his use of the tall thin panels.  You can see an example when Reggie's head gets drilled.
 
 
"Pinfall" (Mayoh)

"Father's Day" (Wrightson)


Bryant:  Oh, cool!  That sailed right over my head!  I dig that panel, though, for sure.  Are you a Wrightson fan apart from his work on Creepshow?
 
Jason:  Yes, of course, his Cycle of the Werewolf in particular.  I recently heard he has retired due to health reasons.  I can't imagine not being able to draw; my heart goes out to him.

Bryant:  Mine, too; I donated to the Kickstarter to get a calendar version of Cycle of the Werewolf printed, and got mine in the mail just this week.  It's great to have his art in that format. 
 
 

  
Changing subjects back to "Pinfall," one question I had in mind while reading the comic was whether you had made any changes to the story so as to help it work more effectively in sequential format.

Jason:  Really only one, the death of the elder character J. Fred MacDugal.  In the script he dies at the end of the first act.  The script called for his whole body traveling down the lanes, ultimately making a seven-ten split.  I simplified the action to him dying from a massive coronary on the lanes, dropping the ball to make the seven-ten split.  I just couldn't wrap my head around trying to pull that one off in sequential panels.

Bryant:  I've got to tell you, I think that was the right decision.  That seems to me like an idea that King must have come up with, because it was the sort of thing he could have achieved very easily in prose.  I don't know how it would work in a movie, though, much less a comic!  I guess maybe he figured it was Romero and Gornick's problem to figure out!

Jason:  Interestingly, George breaks the traditional format of script writing and adds a note in the third act. I'm paraphrasing here, but it's something to the effect of "the director and producers will have to choreograph this action for best results."  Perhaps that note gave me the freedom to change that one scene knowing that if the original script got made, decisions would have been made to most effectively tell the story in visual form.

Bryant:  That's logic worthy of Mr. Spock right there.  In essence, you were the eventual director of "Pinfall," so I think your decision is both sensible and justified.  Effective, too. 
 
Jason:  I also added a little twist at the end of the book that coincides with the cover.  Originally after the Bad News Boors act out their vengeance, J. Fred Macdugal is seen in the lanes celebrating with the Boors.  I figured if he was there as a corpse to celebrate, why not throw him into the carnage too.  One last "jab" at Reggie!

Bryant:  What part of the story did you most enjoy depicting?

Jason:  Definitely the final act (spoiler alert) where the zombified Bad News Boors get their revenge on the Regi-Men.  Also developing the look of the characters themselves.  The Boors are described as Jack Davis-type drawings: apeish, cigar-smoking, blue-collar guys.  Other than the two lead Boors, Chooch and Louie, the others are simply referenced as Boor Number 3, [Boor Number] 4, and [Boor Number] 5.  I wanted to give them each a little personality.  The Regi-Men, on the other hand, were illustrated to look like yuppie clones of one another, and their leader was drawn with inspiration from singer Mike Patton of Faith No More.
 
Bryant:  You have the secondary Regi-Men speaking in tandem, almost as if they're Borg or something.  That's a great weirdo touch.  Does Romero's screenplay specify that they speak with one voice?
 
Jason:  Thank you, yes, I wanted them to be clones of each other and that is the way they talk in the screenplay, yes-men in unison.

Bryant:  Are there any plans, so far as you know, to release the comic in a mass-market format?

Jason:  I would love to, but I think that would require approval from Mr. King.  Do you have any connections?

Bryant:  I do not, unfortunately, but if I should develop any, "Pinfall" will be one of the very first things I mention to them, because I think more people need to be able to get their hands on this comic.  Including me!  I need a second copy so I don't feel like I'm laying hands on buried treasure every time I read the comic.  Are there any other Stephen King stories you'd like to adapt into comics?

Jason:  I hadn't thought about it ... but I would go for the obscure, probably a short from his early days, "I Was a Teenage Grave Robber."  Sounds intriguing!

Bryant:  Oh, man, that would be killer!  That story was first "published" in a comics fanzine, by the way, so it would be appropriate to turn it into an EC-style comic.  What comics are you reading these days?

Jason:  I have been binge-watching The Sopranos recently so comic book reading has taken a back seat.  I really enjoy the old-school EC-era books.  I also enjoy the Afterlife With Archie series and The Goon.

Bryant:  What's the reaction to "Pinfall" been like so far?

Jason:  I have seen a few "unboxing" videos from fans on YouTube; they all seem excited when they see the comic, so that is pretty awesome.

Bryant:  What's your all-time favorite horror movie?

Jason:  I would have to say Night of the Living Dead.  I remember seeing it for the first time, Halloween of 1986 -- my Mom came in my room and told me there was a scary movie on that I might like and I remember watching the whole thing in shock and amazement.  Over the years, I learned the film's history and how it was made by a group of filmmakers from Pittsburgh.  It was really inspiring to me -- being from Rhode Island I never thought it would be possible to work in films, to tell stories without being in Hollywood.  NOTLD continues to inspire me to this day.
 
Bryant:  Any departing words of wisdom for all the kiddies out there?
 
Jason:  Well if anyone out there is a fan of Romero, King and Creepshow, track down a copy of the Blu-ray; "Pinfall" is their last collaboration and as I stated before, this was done by a fan essentially for the fans!
 
 

 
Bryant:  And as one of those fans, I deeply appreciate it!  The limited edition with "Pinfall" is hard to come by and getting dearer by the day, but here's hoping the comic will appear in some additional venue so that more people can read it!  Thanks again for the comic, and for doing this interview, Jason.
 
Jason:  Thank you for doing an interview, I very much appreciate it!
 
 

12 comments:

  1. Mr. Burnette,
    Very good interview. It adds a whole other dimension to your earlier review of Pinfall. Thanks a lot.

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    1. Thank YOU for reading it! I definitely enjoyed writing it, so I hope it shows.

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  2. Wonderful stuff!

    Thanks for sharing all the great background detail. Great interview and the tip of the hat to both you and Jason for the passion that comes through here.

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    1. It's hard to imagine being more passionate about a story than fully rendering a comic-book adaptation of it. You'd have to respect that even if it turned out poorly, which is definitely not the case with "Pinfall"!

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  3. This was great stuff. It'd be agreeable if King signed off on this and got a mass release. Too bad to hear he and Romero had a falling out, from the sound of it.

    And I can't believe the Rocky Point connection. I'll have to get that trade for sure. Jason, if you're reading this, do one on the Ladd School next! If you take Rhode Island related requests.

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    1. I thought of you when I found out Rocky Point is/was in Rhode Island. Did you ever go there?

      Hopefully it wasn't so much a falling-out between King and Romero as it was a losing-connection type of thing. That happens even to the best of us.

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    2. Absolutely, many many times '86 through '96. And before 1980 a few times. (Jason, if you're reading, do you remember Jolly Charlie's up on rte 1? That one shut its doors while we were abroad, alas, but I have 70s memories of it.) Saw a half dozen shows at the Rocky Point Palladium as well. That was a great, great place. Can't wait to dig into that - I purchase anything Rocky Point related, so this would have been snatched up had I known it existed! There's a decent documentary on it, but if you've ever seen a special on a closed-down amusement park, you know how it goes/ how it looks.

      I miss it, though, for sure.

      (But the big ones from my childhood were Phantasialand and Holiday Park in Deutschland - sehr gut und jawohl!)

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    3. Oh - I just checked the credits for that documentary and see Mr. Mayoh was Art Department: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1110287/fullcredits?ref_=tt_ov_st_sm

      I should've figured!

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  4. Great interview. Awesome responses from Jason.
    Can he make prints available of the art at all? I would love to have some since the disc is so hard to get.
    Great job Bryant!
    -mikeC

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  5. Great interview but Mayoh must have read an early version of the script because I have the second draft, and J. Fred's corpse is celebrating with the corpses of the Bad News Boors at the end of the tale. I guess it's a funny coincidence...Mayoh got the idea and didn't know Romero got it first. But I loved the interview, and thanks for it.

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