Friday, 27 June 2014

The Misadventures of Leon McKenzie: A Chat With the Comic Book Writer

Today at Curiosity of a Social Misfit, Patrick Scattergood is pleased to introduce Leon McKenzie.  The writer of the adventurous ‘The Misadventures of Adam West’ and many more has popped in to our part of the web to talk about his career, his inspirations and everything in between.

PS: Welcome Mr McKenzie, many thanks for joining us here today.

LM: Thank you for having me.
PS: As a well known comic book writer, what would you say was the turning point in to you jumping in to that world?

LM: The turning point was meeting up with an artist, waaaaaaay before Twilight was on the shelves, and he said to me “I’d love to draw something with vampires vs werewolves . . . maybe have some ninjas in there too?” and without thinking I calmly replied “I can do that.”
I put together a rough script which was heavily influenced by films rather than the actual comic books genre and then the artist took the first few pages and drew them up. when I saw the first page completed; iIwas in shock. An utter state of happy shock. My words had been turned into fully colored images and I knew, deep down, I had to have a crack at doing this.

PS: ‘The Misadventures of Adam West’ feels very different to your other work.  How did the project come about?

LM: Yeah, I usually write more serious superhero genre or straight forward horror. Ed and myself were once asked to put together a pitch for a Mr Burt Ward who liked the whole Misadventures of Adam West notion. We cobbled together some real psychedelic adventurer stuff. We liked it but Ward (or his people) didn’t. We rewrote it into a more straight-laced idea and sent it up again and they asked for a few additions and changes, we made them and then they came back with a small list of do’s and don’t’s . . . then we heard nothing. We carried on putting Fleischer together and finally word got back to us that Ward just went cold on the whole thing. Just like that. Cold. 
I was kinda gutted because there was some stuff in there that would have pushed Ward (the comic book version of Ward that is) from being viewed as the eternal sidekick to being a hero in his own right. A few days later I got a call from Ed telling me that the writer of the Adam West book had gone and we’d been asked if we would like to take over the writing position.
I said yes before Ed could finish the rest of his sentence.

PS: Did you feel star struck at all knowing that you were going to be working on a project with such a big name attached to it?

LM: Little bit, yeah. I mean it’s Adam West. He was my first Batman and I was getting the chance to handle his further adventures in another medium.
I geeked out then snapped back to the reality of writing the thing. We jumped into researching the previous issues to mine for story nuggets that we could take further but found nothing substantial enough, so we just added aspects like making the Amulet sentient and actually delving into what the transfer from fictional reality to fictional reality really felt like for Adam. Then we decided to compress the story telling.
By the time we had got all that under control there was very little time to feel star struck anymore.
West never personally reached out to us to say “What the fuck are you guys doing?? Make me a cowboy again!!” so we guessed that no news is good news

PS: What would you say is the issue of the series that you are most proud of?

LM: Every issue holds something different to me. can I cheat and say I’m proud of the entire run?

If I had to pick?

Issue Ten to Twelve. Without a doubt. We took over writing duties at issue five and it was all plotted to have this crossover at the end of our run. At the plotting stage of issue ten i had the idea to not even have Adam in the entire issue. We’d spent issue after issue building him up into this status of a dimensional skipping do-gooder but what about the influence/legacy he’d left in his wake? 
All the characters we’d brought in from issue five all team up and are fighting an impossible battle that is happening across the entire time/reality stream at the same instance. Some fiction was overlapping into fact and facts were leaking into fiction, certain characters were slowly becoming aware that they’re actual comic book versions of film/television characters and others flat out refused to accept the truth.

And there’s no Adam, who at this point was becoming a bit of an dimension skipping guru, to guide them through the ordeal.

PS: Were you worried what fans of Adam West would think of the series at all?

LM: The only thing I was concerned about was if people would accept the shift from the quite quirky and fun tales into a slightly darker toned condensed story telling. The previous writer worked on two issue story arcs and we came in and slammed it all into a single issue format to add a frenzied paced, chaotic and slightly off-centre feel to our entire run. Then we made each issue fit a television/film genre
issue 5 - Crime
issue 6 - Science Fiction
issue 7 - High School Slasher
issue 8 - Superhero
issue 9 - Slapstick Comedy
issue’s 10 - 12 - Meta Fiction

That’s not an easy thing to do; we’re changing the entire aspect of the book to have each issue tell a two tier story. Even number 9 which, on the surface, is basically an entire issue dedicated to a single dick and fart joke leads into the accidental end of an established fictional universe.

PS: You’ve also written ‘Fleischer’ and ‘Jason and the Argonauts’.  Do you have a preference as to what genre you work in at all?

LM: Honestly? Let me tell you something . . .  Fleischer was an utterly eye watering arse-ache for me at the start because I couldn’t write the slapstick silliness as easily as Ed. I once spent three weeks working on a five page section of an issue; that was painful because I couldn’t get the timing at all. So, I’m the phone to Ed and he told me what i already knew; I was over-thinking it. Something clicked in my head and i just started blurting out stuff and Ed’s screaming at me to write it all down. The idea was to let Ed do the slapstick and I’ll work on the overall plot breakdowns and add everything that makes a superhero NOT a superhero . . . Like a superman-type having baby momma drama from a wife from the future. He has a baby but without the fun of all the sex which smashes his brains. She keeps trying to come onto him and he has to turn her down because he’s a decent guy but she’s sexy as hell and he views it as her cheating . . . Cold showers for him. While that may not be funny for everybody it’s a fucked experience that Ed weaves into comedy moments.
Argonauts is far more comfortable for me to deal with because that’s straight forward “Guys-on-a-mission” type of story telling. I was asked to take over Argonauts at issue two and while some would panic at taking over a title before the thing had even really started; I'm so comfortable with that type of genre I accepted without thinking twice. I’m halfway through writing it and I’m just approaching the book as a superhero book. But with Greek Gods involved.

I’m taking steps in learning to balance the two extreme types of story telling. It’s graft but I’m loving it.
PS: What or who would you say has been the biggest influence on your writing?
LM: Biggest influence? I've learnt tricks/ideas from different writers over the years. I've sat and talked writers runs with a whole bunch of people for hours on end.
My little list of influential writers include -
Peter David
James Robinson
Gareth Ennis
Warren Ellis
Grant Morrison
Brian Michael Bendis

The top of that list would be Brian Azzerello. The man writes the ugly side of the human mind so well that I am forced to go back and reread it time and time again. Sometimes I have to put his stuff down because it's just . . . It's like "What the absolute fuck, man?? Please don't make me root for the bad guy!!!"
He's writing is so dense and unforgiving. You are submerged in the depths of the world he creates and you don't really want to say no to it. He writes and I read and scream to myself in creative envy.

PS: If someone has never read your work before, which of your titles would you start them off with and how would you describe your style?

LM: I would say start with Adam West as it's the gateway title at the moment. It's filled with ideas and narration that highlight my love for the superhero genre. Read the individual issues or read the entire run and gain a sense of an overall story arc . . . Up to you. 

The sad thing about Adam West is that it finished on issue twelve. There were plans for a spin-off with Eartha Kitt involved but for various reasons that never happened . . . Like I said; sad times.

PS: Since becoming a writer, what would say the best bit of advice you have been given and have given in return has been?

LM: Best advice I ever got was at a signing with Warren Ellis. He said, and it's so bloody simple, he said to just keep writing. Write until you get a little bit sick of it and if you want to continue being a writer then you're on the right track. 

Best advice I've ever given? 
I haven't reached the point in my fledgling career to hand out advice but once I hit my goal of writing Alpha Flight then I'll throw verbal shit out there like a prophet!! 

PS: Where can your fans expect to see you next?

LM: Under their beds.

Only Joking!!

I’m actually appearing at the Leamington Spa comic-con in October. I’ll be selling some limited edition Fleischer & The Group merchandise and I’m on a Q&A panel so good luck to the other panelists because I can bloody ramble!!

PS: Many thanks for popping in today to talk to the readers here.  Do you have any last words to leave for them?

LM: The entire world has now finally understood our geeky world due to Hollywood bringing our heroes and villains to life on the silver screen . . . WE’VE WON, GEEKS & NERDS!!


Seriously though . . . I'm under your bed. Possibly naked.

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