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Inside Beckett Comics: The Terminator & Beyond By Brian Jacks, Managing Editor
The Beckett publishing name most likely arises images of sport card price guides, or perhaps the extremely popular Yu Gi Oh and Pokemon magazines. But the publisher will soon be coming to a hobby shop or Blockbuster near you, as it has recently launched a brand new entertainment division whose first release were comics based on the hit Terminator 3 movie. Recently, UGO sat down with Jeff Amano, the company’s president, and Gabriel Benson, the managing editor, to discuss the current status of the comic book division, as well as where it’s heading in the future.
UGO: Let’s delve right into the Terminator 3 books. Before The Rise takes place directly before the film. Whose idea was that to make it a prequel?
Gabriel Benson: The story was Jeff’s idea. He contacted the T3 production people and talked to them about doing a prequel comic. And then we have the writer who got the comic book going.
UGO: How did Beckett decide to go in the direction of publishing comic books, and specifically Terminator 3?
Jeff Amano: It’s something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I’ve been with the company for fifteen years now on the sports side, and I wanted to go the entertainment side. We started with the sports card price guides and then it went to the entertainment price guides – like Yu Gi Oh and Dragonball Z – and I wanted to do comics. And I got the go ahead to do comics.
We have a lot of our own properties, like our new one is called Ruule. But we knew we needed some kind of impetus to say “Hey, we’re Beckett, we do comics now!” So we were looking for licensed properties, and when we heard about Terminator I thought, “Ah, that’s perfect.” Because I love Terminator. So really, it was as simple as that. We were looking for a license, and it was the right timing so we go the green light to start and that’s what we did.
UGO: How closely did you work with the movie people in hammering out the story?
Jeff: Pretty close. I mean, Gabe is from TT Productions, and during the process of working with him we hired him to work for Beckett. And Gabe’s the one that I actually pitched the ideas to.
UGO: So how did the process occur in terms of getting the green light and then turning that into a comic storyline?
Gabriel: The ok’s were basically a process of Jeff and I working together to hammer out a story, and then Jeff giving me really great outlines and talking to the producers and getting approvals. And the same thing happened with the art, where Jeff would send me the art and I’d show it to Arnold [Schwarzengger] (?) and show it to others and get approvals for that. It’s complicated, but it worked pretty well.
UGO: What sort of input did Arnold have on the comic?
Gabriel: Arnold pretty much approved every image with his face on it. And words, and the story as well.
Jeff: Whatever he says, or whatever looks like him, he has to personally approve.
Gabriel: Yeah, but he was great. He approved 80-90 percent of everything, which was amazing.
UGO: Now you’re also working on other Terminator books. There’s Before the Rise and what else?
Gabriel: Right, and we’re doing Eyes of the Rise which is the movie adaptation, which is in stores now.
And then a month after that, in November, we’re going to have a two-parter called The Fragment, which is like a mini-movie.
UGO: And what is that about?
Gabriel: It’s about a terminator who comes back in time, and gets in a fight more or less with a bunch of mercenaries, and kind of blacks out almost. And he wakes up and doesn’t really know where he is or what his mission is. He meets John and he’s not sure if he’s supposed to save John or kill John or what’s going on. He’s trying to put the pieces of his program back together while at the same time trying to complete his mission, whatever that may be.
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UGO: Obviously the movie affected the comics. Conversely, is there any chance that the new comics may impact a future Terminator film storyline?
Gabriel: Yeah, I know the producers look at our comics. We’re almost, for lack of a better word, a testing ground I think. If we try something different and radical they’re going to see how it works. And we’re also getting feedback from them constantly for what their future plans are and how we can work that into our future storylines as well.
UGO: Will we be seeing trade paperback editions of the Terminator comics appearing in bookstores?
Jeff: Yes. Our plan is December for the first one, which will collect issues one and two.
UGO: Ok, so you have the three Terminator books that you’re doing, and you’re also starting Ruule. Tell us what that’s about.
Jeff: Ruule is kind of a Mad Max in Chinatown. It’s a dystopian future where the universe seemingly revolves around Chinatown and San Francisco. It’s kind of a gladiator and motorcycles kind of story about this teenager that is called to be the savior of his people. But there’s twist and there’s turns and things don’t really turn out the way that he expected, or that we expected.
UGO: Is this the start of a new era for Beckett?
Gabriel: Yes. We’ll have several comic book lines hopefully within the next year or two. Ruule is actually an imprint, and the first title which that image relates to is called Ganglords of Chinatown (referring to promo art). And then after that we’ll have additional Ruule stories that, while not necessarily the same story, are thematically linked. We have several of those lined up for after the Gandlords one. Including a film noir piece, a horror piece, a western… But they’re all thematically linked in some way.
UGO: Which creators do you already have lined up to do the stories and art?
Gabriel: Well, David Mack is doing the covers for the first five issues of Ruule. Ivan Brandon is writing the story from a written script from a story by Jeff. Mike Hawthorne, who did the art for the Terminator movie adaptation, is doing the art, along with Rick Remender doing the inks, and Giulia Brusco doing the colors. Pretty much a lot of the same team we brought from T3 onto that book as well.
UGO: So there’s essentially two lines to start the comic division: the licensed property line and then your own.
Gabriel: Yeah, there’s Terminator and then we do our own stuff. I mean we have a whole bunch of other in-house ideas we’re developing, as well as looking at other entertainment properties to do as well.
UGO: Are there any other licenses that have already been signed?
Gabriel: Nothing signed yet.
Jeff: No, we’re still talking about it. Terminator has been great for us in that really we haven’t gone after anything but the phone has been ringing. They’ve been calling us. We’re pretty small, but we kind of like it that way. We’re a boutique shop, and so we have to be really picky.
Gabriel: We’re never going to do 30 titles. I would be surprised if we ever do more than ten, even in our wildest dreams. Because we want to make sure everything we do we want to have as high a quality as possible.
UGO: You guys are somewhat in a unique position because, as you said, you’re relatively small, but yet you have this huge publisher as a parent company. How close do you work with the larger side of Beckett?
Jeff: Close. That division is run by my wife [laughs]. And I do all the covers for her; titles like Yu Gi Oh, Dragonball Z, and Pokemon. So we’re very closely together. It’s a division between magazines and comics, but it’s also a division between age groups. Our demographic is a lot older than hers. But certainly she’s funded our division [laughs]. Yu Gi Oh does 700,000 or 800,000 copies per issue. Dragonball Z does a little over 300,000.
UGO: That dwarfs comic books.
Jeff: Yeah, but also it’s not just funding. Because of that, they get us slots in the mass market. For example, with Terminator we did 10,000 copies in the comic book market, but we did 60,000 copies in the mass market.
UGO: What does the mass market consist of for Beckett?
Jeff: Well, for the T3 magazines they went into all mass market outlets. So that’s 165,000 outlets. That’s grocery stores and whole bit.
Gabriel: Bookstores and Blockbuster. All kinds of things.
Jeff: Yeah. Now for comics we did what’s called specially mass market. And a specially mass market is like Blockbuster, GameStop, Virgin, Musicland, Suncoast…that kind of thing.
UGO: Will you be able to tap upon that mass market reach for any of your non-licensed properties, such as Ruule?
Jeff: We’ll probably do a little less because it doesn’t have as much of a name; they want to make sure it has a good sell-through. But we’ll definitely put it in Barnes & Noble and Borders and things like that where comics are selling really well. And we’ll experiment with like Musicland and Virgin Records and places like that.
UGO: So back to Terminator 3, what did you guys think of the movie? Did it meet all your expectations?
[laughter] Jeff: (pointing to Gabriel) Well he actually worked on it for a while.
Gabriel: I worked on it for a long time, yes.
Jeff: I actually thought it was great. One of the pleasant surprises for me was when I came down as part of the pitch they had me read the script. And they had to like chain me to the chair and lock me in a vault. And I could only turn the pages with my nose, ya know. And I was pleasantly surprised. I really liked the script. I thought it was strong. Especially the ending. I thought it was very gutsy.
Gabriel: Yeah, it takes a lot of chances and does things that you don’t expect.
Jeff: Right, no compromising.
Gabriel: I think this summer where a lot of stuff was kind of predictable, it was bold and different and tried a lot of different things.
UGO: Is the next Terminator film already in development?
Gabriel: Yes, I think they’re working on it. I’m not sure where they are or what they’re going to do, but they’ve been talking about doing it for a while.
And with that, we thank the Beckett team for these exclusive insights into their publishing future. Visit them online at BeckettComics.com