voice director/ actor
Q&A with Joel Danford: writer/director and voice of "Bluewing"I believe it was back in the fall of 1997 at a local comic book shop where I was first introduced to my all time favorite comic book hero, Bluewing. I was browsing the store when I noticed this guy sitting at a table with some others drawing comic book panels. His name was Joel Danford and he was working on an eight page short story for a local anthology (which was never produced) titled, "Liberty or Death: the Saga of Bluewing continues..". He was putting the finishing touches on it when I walked over. I asked if I could read through it. The drawings were very simplistic as was the story, but something resonated about it. There was this cheesey iconic feel to it, a throw back if you will, to a time where good and evil was more straight forward in comics. In a way it reminded of the Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai. Short, simple, fun. I fell instantly in love with it. As it turns out there was more..
Q:How did you come up with Bluewing?
A:Actually, I didn't. Back in the 7th grade I met up with a guy who was into comics kinda like I was. We had both been making our own comics for a while, ya know, just with a Xerox machine, and peddling them to friends and neighbors and that kind of thing. For a class project we had sent in submissions to New England Comics (The Tick) as part of a class project in English. We both got our ideas rejected but were told that we had some promise. So I revamped my crummy comics and my friend, Berkley Priest, came up with the generic cape-wearing, katana toting vigilante more along the lines of Daredevil and Bat-man. He only did one issue and gave it up. Years later in highschool I showed some interest in wanting to revive the character and told me I could have it.
Q:So Bluewing wasn't your idea?
Q:So what was your interest in picking up the character?
A:Well, the original comic was very simplistic and straight forward in more an old school style. Really, that's what I enjoyed about it; it was easy to pick up and get into. You had a hero who was easily identified as was the villain.. classic good vs evil exchange.. the story ends at the end of the issue and you feel satisfied as the reader. Like a quick pulp novel or like the older issues of Bat-man where you could just pick up an issue, there was a short story with a begining and an end. Great stuff.
Q:So how is your Bluewing different from the original?
A:I tried to stay as close as possible to the original premise. Berkely had this great way of regurgitating all the classic comic book cliches and archetypes in all of his comics, so I was wanting to stay true to that. Ya know, generic comstumed vigilante.. generic villians ie: ninjas, sorecerors, etc.
One major difference was that original had comedic elements more along what I was doing or say the Tick. The new name of my "company" was South Boston Comics in line with the name, "New England Comics" and I'm afraid I was the one trying to steer Berkley's Bluewing in a more comedic direction. I remember having some wild designs on the character. But Berkley had either the good foresight or the stubborness to finish it more straightforward.
While my version is closer to Berkley's vision, I deleted the comedic elements and played it off more straight-faced and almost gritty like the black and white underground comics of the time such as Razor. I also added a new element; over the top violence and carnage ala the violence found once again in the B&W comics like Razor which I always got a kick out of. I believe this gave Bluewing the "edge" it needed (smirks).
Q:So how far were you able to get with the comic?
A:I was only able to finish nine issues in addition to the original which makes for a total of ten, published in various quantities and distributed locally. This of course is not counting the eight page short story I did for the anthology. That one was never published.
Q:So do you ever recieve any fan mail?
A:Not really. But no one knows how to get in contact with me except for you and that was because we just happened to meet that day at the comic book shop.
Q:Well, I can assure you that you do have some fans out there already. In fact after meeting you and reading Bluewing, I went online that night and found some fan sites. There's even a web ring dedicated to the comic. Some of these people claim to be in different parts of the United States other than here in Dallas, but you say you've only distributed locally.
A:Wow! That's impressive! I had no idea. People trade comics. I know I gave a copy to this guy that was in the military because he said he was heading out that night to be stationed overseas and he needed some stuff to read so I just handed him a copy. As far as anyone else getting a copy.. who knows? I'm just glad it's getting around.
Q:Now down to business.. you have finished a live action short for Bluewing.
Q:What's it called and what is it about?
A:the Saga of Bluewing continues.. Collector's Bust. Bluewing is out shopping for a collector's bust of Jango Fett when he stumbles upon a shady deal going on in the back store room between an evil toymonger and an unscrupulous employee.
Q:So what made you decide to do a Bluewing short.
A:Well, there is this feature I've been wanting to do based on another failed comic book series of mine and I don't have very much money. But I'm also a control freak and I don't want to pitch it to Hollywood, I'm a real do-it-yourselfer.. or get other people to do it for me the way I want. A friend of mine, Kevin Hollaway who also plays Bluewing in the short, did a feature length "movie" as an exhibition piece to show off his directing skills. He shot his movie on a Cannon XL1 and he was supposed to use some film rendering software..
Q:To make the video look more like film?
A:Exactly. I was interested to see him follow through on it but he never did the film rendering. Still curious about the prospects of doing my feature without running off to Hollywood and getting investors.. I asked my friend Kevin if I could borrow his camera to run some tests. I had convinced myself that if the lighting was good enough that DV could pull it off. The problem with video however is that it's interlaced which is what makes video look like crap whenever there is movement in the camera. De-interlacing software is supposed to somehow fix this problem but I wanted to see for myself. So I called up my friend Henry Johns, who was a stunt guy on Walker and is a martial artist, to help us shoot some tests. Somewhere along the lines I discovered that the XL1 had a "frame" mode and I wondered if that was anything like what George Lucas's HD cameras was promissing.
So we got together with Henry and did two sets of tests. One in interlace mode and one in frame mode. My camera man was Robert Saba, who I met working on Kevin's feature, and we were both convinced. I wanted to do some more tests but this time with lighting. Robert said that would be a waste to get everything together just to do a test and suggested doing a short. To make a long story short, I went through some old short comics that I had written. I went back to the stuff I had made for the anthology that never was and that's when I came back across Bluewing.
Q:How did you decide on which story to do?
A:Orginally I was going to do the Liberty or Death story, but it takes place on top of the Statue of Liberty against 12 ninjas. Another friend of mine, Rob McCullum, suggested that I use the same idea but make the story on a smaller scale. I'm a big Star Wars fan and I occasionally collect the toys. I'm not as hard core as I used to be because I got tired of the "chase" and I really hate those "toymongers" who wait till the store opens or hang out at Wal-mart all night scoop up all the hard to find or new figures and then sell them back at higher prices. Then there's the guys that take it one step further and make some deal in the back with an associate or store manager to buy a whole load off them. That kind of shit really pisses me off. I was on my way to somewhere one night and I was thinking about that and then it hit me: "Bluewing vs the Toymonger!!"
Q:Having seen it, I think it's really great and really does a good job of capturing the comic.
Q:Now you've got a celebrity in this one. How did that come about.
A:In Dallas it's just a matter of who you know and if you help out in the film community at all then you already know people. I had helped out on a film called American Nightmare where I met Rob McCullum. I remember Rob telling me that if I ever needed any kind of actor for anything to give him a call. He works in the local scene and was apart of the now defunct Neopolitan Syndicate. Mike McFarland is part of an improve group called Section 8. I gave Rob of copy of the script and asked if he knew anyone that could help out and he recommended Mike. Mike also happens to be voice director of DragonballZ as well as the voices of Master Roshi, Yajirobe, and Pui Pui.
Q:That's pretty cool.
A:Yeah, I'm not a big fan but I think it's pretty awesome and Mike is a great guy.
Q:So what are your plans beyond this short?
A:Well, if it does well enough on the internet, we may do more and if those do well, I may see if a network will pick it up. If not, maybe it will be popular enough to at least release the shorts on DVD and find a distributor.
Joel Danford 2002
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