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!
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.