Mark Verheiden is where he is today because of talent and a Who’s Who of Hollywood can’t wait to work with him. From comic books to screenplays, his work is original, intelligent, funny, and inherently relatable. Mark’s the esteemed creator/writer of such Dark Horse classics as “The American,” and the comic adaptations of “Aliens,” and “The Predator.” He’s the screenwriter of the blockbusters “Mask,” “Timecop,” and “My Name is Bruce.” Mark’s excellence soon transitioned him to Executive Producer/Showrunner and the challenges of the writer’s room. Mark never looked back. He’s worked on “Smallville,” “Battlestar Galactica,” “Caprica,” “Daredevil,” “Falling Skies,” “Ash vs Evil Dead,” and “Swamp Thing” to name only seven. He is a mentor and a friend and was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions.
Ladies and gentlemen, Mark Verheiden!
I’m curious as to your beginnings and what comic books or books inspired you to become a writer?
MV: I loved Marvel comics as a kid, and they were a big inspiration. And I was totally inspired by the horror films of my childhood, especially Universal and Hammer. But looking back, I think I was most inspired by my father, who was an electrical engineer for the power company (PGE) in Portland Oregon. He enjoyed his work, but his proudest work-related achievement was getting dozens of articles published in various engineering professional magazines. I think that somehow imprinted on my grade school mind.
And your first writing assignment/job?
MV: My first professional “sale” was an article for the late, great Cinefantastique magazine, where I profiled Portland filmmakers Will Vinton and Bob Gardiner, who had won an Academy Award for their animated short “Closed Mondays.” My first produced screenplay sale was the very non-union “Terror Squad”, which was totally rewritten by someone else but actually produced. And my first comic book assignment, per se, was “The American” for Dark Horse Comics.
What made you decide to pack-up and move down south?
MV: I moved to L.A. on January 1983… Oregon was in a recession and the only way to pursue my dream was to get to la-la land. Fortunately, I had supportive parents and a landing pad with my pal Paul Chadwick, creator of the comic character “Concrete”, who let me crash on his couch for far too long until I found a day job.
Did you always plan to transition to screenwriting?
MV: I actually moved to L.A. to do screenwriting, and I optioned a couple scripts before my friends at Dark Horse invited me to try something in comics. So I actually transitioned from film to comics and then back, doing both for awhile…
What was your first produced screenplay and how did you get the job?
MV: The aforementioned “Terror Squad”… I got it because my Oregon friend Matt Harrison had also moved to L.A. and was doing editorial work with a producer/director named Peter Maris. Maris was looking for scripts and Matt suggested me. Long story short, I “sold” Peter an original script called “Stalker” for $500, and he liked that enough to hire me for “Terror Squad,” which I did for the princely sum of $3K.
Let’s talk about your relationship with Dark Horse. How did you become involved with them?
MV: I was part of Oregon comics fandom in the 70’s, as well as the ”Central Mailer” for an Amateur Press Alliance called Apa-Five, a fan publishing group I started in 1971 when I was 14 (!). Through that I met the aforementioned Paul Chadwick, as well as Frank Miller (yes, that Frank Miller), and a little later Randy Stradley and Mike Richardson, the founders of Dark Horse. So, of course I pitched them something (“The American”) and happily they published it!
How does writing for Dark Horse differ from the larger companies?
MV: When I was writing comics for Dark Horse, there was a tremendous freedom, not only on a creator owned book like “The American”, but also when I did “Aliens” and “Predator.” It was a really great time to be doing comics. Books were selling hundreds of thousands of copies and royalties were great. I remember thinking at the time that this couldn’t possibly last… and I was right! I also did a lot of work for DC later on, writing both Superman and Superman/Batman, and while I enjoyed those experiences over all, there was a lot more editorial oversight.
It seemed in no time at all, you were producing. Describe that transition?
MV: Writers in television are mostly de facto producers as well. As I’ve forged on in TV, I’ve found myself rising to the position of “showrunner”, which means I deal with all aspects of making the show (budget, hiring, casting, editing) while also writing and directing the creative direction of the show. The difficult part for me is that all those other duties can pull you away from the writing. But if you really want to make “your” show, you gotta take it all on.
How did you become involved in the reboot of Battlestar Galactica?
MV: I joined BSG early in season two after getting a call from executive producers David Eick and Ron Moore. David has worked with me on a Darkman direct-to-video movie in the early 90’s and remembered me, and I was just coming off Smallville. At the time I didn’t even know BSG had been rebooted, but I binged the entire first season over a weekend and it blew me away. Working on Battlestar was an incredible experience, one that will be very difficult to replicate (though I keep trying!)
You have a long relationship with Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi. What is it that keeps drawing you back to working with them?
MV: Basically, the movie “Evil Dead 2” is partially responsible for my career. It’s one of my all- time favorite films, and Bruce is one of my favorite actors. My obsession with ED2 led circuitously to Raimi and Rob Tapert producing my first studio feature, “Timecop”, and in the 2000s I wrote “My Name Is Bruce” specifically for Bruce. Needless to say, showrunning season three of “Ash VS Evil Dead” ticked another entry off my bucket list, which was to write the Ash Williams character. I’m a lucky guy,
Which un-produced project would you want to revisit someday? (Besides Beer Run?)
MV: Besides “Beer Run”, of course, I have an original science fiction pilot that didn’t get set up a few years ago, but I hope may find a home one of these days. I don’t actually have that many dust bunny scripts. I have a lot of unproduced features, but I was paid for them and don’t own them.
Let’s plug Swamp Thing. It’s getting great press and reviews. What drew you to the project?
MV: Let’s see. First, it’s Swamp Thing, one of the best comics of the 80’s or ever. Then it was a chance to work with James Wan and Gary Dauberman (writer of “It”). I wanted to do a horror show that hewed closer to the tone of the original series, and I think we did that.
I really love Original Art Friday on Facebook. What inspired you to post and write about your favorite art.
MV: I realized I’d amassed a pretty big collection over many years of buying at comic book conventions, too much to display but too cool it just let sit in portfolios. So O.A.F. gives me a chance to revisit some of the pieces and share them with interested others. Plus, I love love, love original comic book art…
Tha shows and we all enjoy seeing it as well. Will you ever return to your weekly blog, “Famous Mark Verheiden’s of Filmland?” There are a lot of us who miss it.
MV: Maybe… I dunno… after writing all day sometimes the last thing I want to do is write some more. But maybe that’ll change!
Finally, any advice to any writers out there?
MV: My advice to new writers (specific to TV or screenplays): write samples. Be in Los Angeles. Network. And while it may seem like an impossible climb, always remember that if you give up, it’ll never happen.
Thank you, Mark!
Okay, Ravagers, thanks for stopping by and see you next week!
Welcome back, Ravagers!
Another week gone and we are left with nothing save another outstanding review for “Son of Ravage.” This is from Reader’s Favorite here’s what they have to say:
“Son of Ravage is a work of amusing action and adventure fiction written by author J. P. Linde. In a story set in 1980, a seemingly deadbeat nobody is about to discover the epic legacy of his bloodline, and perhaps the hero that he should have become all along. Protagonist Barry Levitt lives an unfulfilling suburban life until the grey comes shattering down all around him and the surreal and brutal world of his illegitimate father, The Ravager, is revealed. So begins a bizarre journey filled with evil villains, pulp heroes, witty banter and plenty of adventure, all with our unwitting hero at its center.
Author J. P. Linde writes with both love and humor to convey this retro reinvention of the pulp fiction genre and its many bizarre characters and plot twists. Fans of the genre are certain to pick up on so many stylistic details and references from American pop culture over the last sixty years or so, all of which is held together by the glue of a central team of characters somewhere between the A-Team and the Goonies. Laughs abound on their weird journey, facing colorful enemies from comic books and spy novels alike, and the use of dialogue is particularly effective in moving the plot along and cutting up large action sequences with pithy remarks and plenty of pathos. Overall, Son of Ravage is a delightful departure from the boring world of the standard narrative, bringing back retro, surreal adventure with both style and artistic flair.”
Reviewed by K.C. Finn
Thanks K.C.! Your official Tanktop tee-shirt is in the mail. Speaking of collector’s items, the henchman apparel is beginning to make the rounds. Rumor as it, the nefarious tee was spotted at the Alameda County Fair in the livestock ring. Don’t believe me? See for yourself.
Speaking of the Tanktop tee-shirt contest. You can’t win without filling out the comment form on this here website. And, if you don’t have the patience to wait all summer, stay tuned for a very special announcement.
And now here’s your second clue regarding our very special guest next week on jplinde.com. Mark Verheiden! What? Oh-no. Well, too late now. Yep, the esteemed writer of such Dark Horse Comic classics as “The American,” “Aliens,” and “The Predator” will be joining us right here in the next blog. Mark was the screenwriter of “Mask,” “Timecop, and “My Name is Bruce.” He was Executive Producer and Writer for “Smallville,” “Battlestar Galactica,” “Caprica,” “Daredevil,” “Falling Skies,” and, most recently, “Swamp Thing.” Mark will be answering some questions about his long career and on writing and general. He’s one of the nicest and most talented man in show business and I can’t wait to hear what he has to say.
Until next week!
First things first: A special shout-out to Albert and Danny of Outer Planes Comics & Games for making the reading and book signing of “Son of Ravage” a huge success. We sold a lot of books and ran out entirely of our exclusive line of Tanktop tee-shits. To all of my family and friends who showed up to offer moral support, my heartfelt love and appreciation. I couldn’t have done it without you. Now, as Aaron Montes is so fond of saying, "onto the next one!" Stay tuned!
A few more reviews of “Son of Ravage” are straggling in.
“You know that feeling when your strapped into the front seat of a rollercoaster about to go over the edge? That’s how Son of Ravage begins. A thrill ride that doesn’t hold back… Full of laughs, references, and cliffhangers - this crazy and witty story was hard to put down.”
“From page one I was hooked! It's just a great read and I hope there are more!”
“I loved the book so much! I've been a Doc Savage fan for 45 years and this is the best pastiche I've read. The pure Pulp Mayhem of the plotline was something to behold!”
Keep spreading the word. “Son of Ravage” is the comedy/adventure read of the summer.
Speaking of special reads, a very grateful thank you to Pacia Linde and her guest blog last week. It received lot of great comments and I can’t wait to see what she’s planning for us next.
Good news, Ravagers! Another run of Tanktop tee-shirts are on their way! The cost is $20.00 plus shipping and handling. As soon as I have them available, I will get the information up. I do want to stress, supplies, as well as sizes, will be extremely limited. Shirts are available in Small, Med, Large and X Large only. Hang in there, I will keep you posted.
We need to start getting our little comic/adventure opus in libraries. The process is easy. Just visit your local library website and click on “suggest a title.” Most websites have this feature. Usually, there is a short form to fill out. It’s as easy as that. Once you’ve accomplished this monumental feat, send me a note and I’ll post our victory for all to see!
Another great way to order “Son of Ravage” is from your neighborhood, independent bookstore. Not sure who and where it is? Allow me. Go to indiebound.org and type in “Son of Ravage”. The book will appear and to the right will be a box for your zip code. Type in those five little magical numbers and a list of close, discerning bookstores will appear. Click on the store and fill your cart with our delightful little opus. Why should Amazon have all the fun? Right?
But if you want a collector’s Tanktop tee-shirt, you’ll still have to go through me. And speaking of awesome tees, the summer Tanktop tee-shirt extravaganza giveaway is up and running. You’ll need to fill out a comment on this here website. The contest runs all summer so what are you waiting for? What happens on jplinde.com, stays on jplinde.com. Good luck!
A VERY SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT. In the coming weeks, I will be announcing a very special guest interview to jplinde.com. Don’t want to give too much away, so I will drop a hint:
“When I'm in office it's going to be just like the 80's. The top 10% will get richer and the other 90% can immigrate to Mexico where they can get a better life.”
Got it? Some of you just might. For the others, I will drop another clue next week. Stay tuned!
Finally, Happy Father’s Day to Rock Ravage and all of the fathers, fictional or otherwise. I hope you are having a great day with friends and family. It’s a little late now, but “Son of Ravage” would have made a great gift. Oh well, there is always next year.
Alright. I’ll admit it. I love Riverdale. And I don’t mean that I love Riverdalein an “oh, this is fun. I’ll watch one episode with a healthy restraint” kind of way, either. I love it in a devouring, hilariously incongruent for a woman nearing thirty who is fully aware that she is not part of the target demographic kind of way; an obsessive, binge-watching, spoiler-avoiding, merchandise-buying, deeply invested in a deeply flawed storytelling kind of way. I discuss it in the overly serious and reverential tones that people usually reserve solely for prestige television. I am a woman unironically obsessed with the Southside Serpents, in all their ripped flannel glory, looking like extras from Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders.
Archie comic books have been published since 1941, a staple of quaint mid-century Americana, and have basically followed the same formula for much of that time. I remember reading the comics for a brief time as a child and the stories usually fell along the same lines; that of Archie and his unresolved love triangle, Jughead and his unresolved hunger, and Betty and Veronica and their dueling animosity and friendship. The show, however, takes a decidedly different route. Riverdaleoperates from the basic premise that every moment must shock. Everything else, with the exception of aesthetics, is irrelevant. Basic cause and effect and linear narrative is abandoned, but in the most glamourous and endearing way possible. What is often left are a series of shocking moments and carefully curated pop culture references all set amidst a backdrop of perpetually misty landscapes and a world of lurid neon that would make Douglas Sirk jealous.
Riverdale includes copious references to themes or characters developed within the comics, including Jughead’s insatiable love of food and his dog, aptly named Hot Dog. These are sprinkled liberally throughout the show as an homage to the source material while also leaning the show towards the mid-century aesthetic of the comic books. Many scenes in the show serve to further assert this. Think, a traditional neon-lit diner, a Rebel Without a Cause-style drag race, and a performance of “Jailhouse Rock” by the high school cheerleaders. But there the similarities end. The sensibility of this iteration is more indebted to Twin Peaksin that an investigation into an ostensibly innocent, all-American town exposes the depravity existing just under the surface. Aesthetically, it’s a mishmash of glaring neon, noirishly complimented by excessive fog and Jughead’s somber narration, highlighted by gothic grandmothers reminiscent of some kind of deranged Tennessee Williams matriarch. The show’s writers pick its pop culture references with as much or more care than it’s plotlines, where a constellation of references serve as a shorthand for the relative hipness of a character in a deeply superficial universe. For example, a thing, such as “Bitter Sweet Symphony” by the Verve is referred to as “the song from Cruel Intentions” in order to insert the show into a long history of campy, overwrought teenage cultural touchstones as well as offering the character, in this case Veronica, a kind of cultural cachet, a fashionable pseudo-awareness of the world that is equally hilarious and thrillingly relatable to the audience. The writers strive to infuse each moment with these seemingly endless cultural references, including all the songs the characters sing, the books they read, the episode titles themselves, which all have significance to the characters and their development. One striking example exists in an episode entitled Bizzarodale. Cheryl Blossom, an out lesbian dating a young woman named Toni Topaz, talks eagerly of going to Highsmith College after high school, a place clearly named for the suspense pulp writer, Patricia Highsmith, also a lesbian. Throughout the episode, characters casually mention the titles of her more famous novels, namely The Talented Mr. Ripleyand, more importantly, The Price of Salt, a lesbian pulp novel notable for its positive depiction of a lesbian relationship that ends happily (contrary to other lesbian pulp of the era, generally more exploitative and, ultimately, moralistic in tone). Additionally, characters in this episode can also be seen carrying Valerie Taylor pulp novels, The Girls in 3-Band A World Without Men, which are important for much the same reason as Highsmith’s Price of Salt. These are not insignificant or flippant references, they bolster the characters, give them depth, and clearly appeal to nerds like me.
I am aware, as a self-proclaimed connoisseur of the teen drama genre, that here is something totally unique and truly bizarre. A world where teenagers run speakeasies, go to war with mob bosses, and form masked vigilante groups in an effort to expose serial killers. A world where all disbelief must be more than suspended, must be boxed up and hidden on the shelf to gather dust for the duration of the series. In a way rare to any form of narrative storytelling that I have so far encountered, Riverdale’s faults seem to also serve as it’s strengths: storylines that are dropped when they become an inconvenience, plot points with increasing levels of absurdity and irreverence, manic pacing, all of which somehow contribute to the sheer joy of watching this show.
Started the long weekend with this little mini review from Mark in the great Pacific Northwest:
“Reading “Son of Ravage.” Great story with fun, quirky, character development.
Kind of a “Carl Hiaasen” feel but west coast based. Great way to spend the long weekend!”
Mark goes on about considering it for his local book club. Wow. Obviously a very discerning group of literature lovers. Where do I sign up? Let me know and I will gladly bring the box of wine. Seriously, thanks Mark! One caveat. If you do have a SON OF RAVAGE themed book club, please send info and pictures. I promise to post them right here.
Let the countdown begin! Seven days until I stand before a crowd of thousands at Outer Planes Comics & Games and declare to the entire world that I am the actual, living, breathing of son of Ravage. Gotcha again. Not really. Unfortunately, I will not be declaring any unexpected birthright. Not this time, anyway. But I will be reading from SON OF RAVAGE with as much dramatic excitement as humanly possible. Does that count? Hopefully we’ll get someone to get take video of the whole event so we can share it right here. Stay tuned. I will be back the following week with a full report on the “Son of Ravage” Book reading and signing at Outer Planes Comics & Games. We’ll even share a few pictures.
If you read it, they will come.
Before I get all caught up in the whirlwind of the event, a special shout-out to Albert and Dan at Outer Planes for all of their hospitality. Always willing to try new things, they have been fantastic partners in this endeavor! When people ask me, why a comic books store, I tell them; SON OF RAVAGE is a comic book…without the pictures. Give it a read it and you’ll know by the first chapter what I am talking about.
Next week also marks the debut of a very special guest blogger here at jplinde.com. My daughter, Pacia Marie Linde will be bringing all of her wit, wisdom and literary prowess to the virtual table with her particular take on a little show we call “Riverdale.” If you haven’t watched this hour-long piece of modern Americana, you should. Half “Twin Peaks,” half “90210,” this little gem of CW network is a ripe topic for a discussion. So, stay tuned. It should be fun!
Just a reminder, my episode of “Stop Me If I’ve Heard This” featuring Art Krug and Susan Rice is still available for download. This is not your parent’s book plugging podcast. There be laughter here. Lots of laughs and a bit of info about the much-anticipated sequel to my little opus.
Almost forgot. Next week a new contest begins. Tell all of your friends, relatives and arch enemies that starting June 1stuntil the end of August, you can enter to win a Son of Ravage tee-shirt. That’s right. One lucky winner will be receiving apparel featuring the logo and villainous henchman Tanktop. Click on contact on the top banner and enter your information along with the words, “tee-shirt.” One lucky winner will be drawn at random at the end of the summer. Good luck to all of you. And, as usual, no wagering.
Well, that’s about it for now. See you next week!
In 1981, J.P. Linde co-wrote and appeared in a one-man comedy show titled “Casually Insane.” Shortly after, he joined the ranks of stand-up comedy and performed in clubs and colleges throughout the United States and Canada. In 1989, he made his national television debut on “Showtime’s Comedy Club Network.” He wrote the libretto for the musical comedy “Wild Space A Go Go” and co-wrote and co-produced the feature motion picture, “Axe to Grind.” “Son of Ravage” is his second novel.