The following is an interview with writer/producer/SPFX make-up artist Paul Salamoff, who is the creator and author of Discord, a sci-fi comic which details the demise of Earth’s greatest superheroes, only for them to be resurrected in the body of one man. In conjuction with the launch of a Kickstarter campaign for Tales of Discord, a five-issue prequel series to Discord, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor Barbra Dillon talked with Salamoff about his notable credits in film, TV, and comics, the inside scoop on Tales of Discord and Tales of Discord: The Completed Series, and how his love of all things geek enabled him to refurbish the TARDIS console from the 1996 Doctor Who made-for-TV movie.
This interview was conducted on May 7, 2012.
For a special treat, be sure to check out the Tales of Discord teaser trailer (and Kickstarter campaign) following the interview!
Barbra Dillon, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor: First and foremost, you may officially be the hardest working man in the business! Special F/X make-up artist, writer, producer, and film executive are just a few of the titles that you have held over the past twenty years. With all of these professions under your belt, what inspired you to add comic book creator to the list?
Paul Salamoff: I love to write. It’s when I’m most happy and most in control. Obviously making a movie is a collaborative art form and unless you are a true auteur, your vision is going to be distilled by the time it makes it onto the big screen. I found as a comic writer, other than the artist I was collaborating with, I was able to get my true vision, my true voice across and still in the context of a visual medium. That is very exciting to me as a writer, because all I really want at the end of the day is to see my words come to life.
BD: A number of the projects on which you have worked, including Vincent Price Presents, Alien Siege, and repeated presentations of the Saturn Awards, have focused on the sci-fi and horror genres. What drew you to theses genres, and do you foresee yourself staying with these audiences?
PS: I enjoy writing in many genres, but I’ll forever be a Science-Fiction/Horror guy, because they are the genres that excite me the most. They are filled with the most possibilities and allow me to explore the human condition and the world around us in unique ways.
I’ve been a Sci-Fi fan for as long as I can remember. I saw Star Wars in the theater when I was 5 years old, and it completely floored me. Fortunately, my parents were very supportive of my interests, and together we would watch Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, Star Trek, Space: 1999, and Doctor Who to name just a few.
I grew up in Natick, MA (not too far from Boston), and there was Creature Double-Feature on Channel 56 and The Movie Loft on Channel 38. Between those two I was introduced to Godzilla, Roger Corman, Universal Monsters, and just about anything shrunk to miniature proportions or grown to monstrous size.
I also started to read a lot and discovered Asimov, Vonnegut, Clarke, and Adams, as well as King and Barker. They were my first introduction to horror. This soon led to Lovecraft, and I realized the true possibilities of the genre.
As a writer I’m attracted to themes, and Sci-Fi and Horror allow you to be subtle or hit-you-over-the-head obvious. Both can create amazing stories filled with wonder and dread. Due to this my interest in genre film, TV, and literature has never waned.
BD: Most recently, you released the graphic novel Discord, which details the demise of Earth’s greatest superheroes, only for them to be resurrected in the body of one man. Do you feel that this story is geared more towards fans of superhero comics, sci-fi fans, or both?
PS: At its core, Discord is about how we define ourselves. When I initially conceived the idea, it was inspired by the desire to tell a unique story within the superhero genre. As it began to percolate in my brain, I kept on being drawn to sci-fi concepts, because it occurred to me that an interesting juxtaposition of the theme was also how the world perceives us. I thought a fascinating concept would be that the aliens that put the main character back together are benevolent creatures that look monstrous. This is a direct metaphor for Discord’s situation. He’s a nice guy who looks like a monster.
BD: With so many well-known superhero stories from the likes of Marvel and DC, how does Discord redefine heroic stories?
PS: They say that there are only so many stories, so when you find a fresh approach, it can be quite exciting. I feel that as a writer I tend to write slightly to the left of genre anyway. What I mean by that is I don’t get caught up in the genre tropes. I let the stories naturally unfold and ultimately blend in other genres. That to me is interesting storytelling and can make it new and unconventional.
I don’t exactly remember where the germ for Discord came from, but I had already been writing comics and had the desire to tell an unconventional superhero story. I think I had the Frankenstein-ian image in my head: the idea of a superhero that was made up of other superheroes. And, I wanted him to be the good guy!
Discord is a story about themes in the guise of a superhero story. On the surface it has all the familiar tropes, and I make no bones about that. But, what it does is turn them on their ear by presenting a “what if?” scenario that is truly steeped in tragedy. Imagine if this happened to the X-Men or the Avengers. How would the world react? How would the surviving member of the team deal with the loss of his colleagues and his own powers? And, how would the family and friends of his fallen teammates react to him?
So, that got me excited, and I started developing the themes I could explore. Such as “loss of identity and self.” (I’m a big David Cronenberg fan, so I like that theme.) Also, being “defined by one’s powers.” If you had one power and it was a more defensive power, but now you had many powers and they were mainly offensive powers, how would that change you. I also liked the idea that “you don’t need to be a hero to step up and do the right thing.”
These are very powerful ideas and none of them have easy answers. I made sure that the story I was telling was emotionally truthful and had a consistent emotional through line. Even though the main character comes to realize that the various body parts retained their powers, this is not about a super-superhero. This is about dealing with tragedy and how you overcome adversity.
The plot is unique, so the consequences are new.
BD: The graphic novel features art by Giuseppe D’Elia, with whom you worked throughout the Discord series. What can you tell us about the creative process of working with D’Elia throughout numerous issues of a story?
PS: Harry Markos at AAM/Markosia introduced me to Giuseppe, and I was just blown away by his artwork. The amazing thing is this was all done over the internet. I’m in Los Angeles, Harry is in the UK, and Giuseppe is in Italy. I have still not met Giuseppe in person, and we’ve worked together for almost 2 years now.
When I first envisioned Discord, it was a lot more dark and oppressive, but I saw a certain brilliance and teaming with an artist like Giuseppe. His art leaps from the page and has a vibrancy that makes the characters come alive.
It’s almost like a counter-intuitive approach to the material, and it really works because I feel it makes you connect to the characters better.
I have also always maintained that this is a story that uses superhero tropes and turns them on their ear. Well, if that’s the case, then it needs to have the look and feel of a superhero story, so it completely blindsides you when things take a unique turn.
I couldn’t be happier with Giuseppe’s artwork, and, from Page 1 to Page 99, I was constantly blown away by his ingenuity in bringing my words to life.
BD: Fans will be excited to know that you are working on a prequel to the series called Tales of Discord, featuring the first issue, Tales of Discord: Iridian. What can you tell us about the first issue and what surprises are in store for fans of the series?
PS: Because of the success of Discord, AAM/Markosia had discussed a sequel, and I already had a very definitive idea for the second chapter that is going to truly stun readers. I knew the sequel story while I was writing the first graphic novel, so there are things set up for it in the first story.
With that said, I was getting a lot of great feedback from the fans, and one thing I heard consistently was how much they liked the members of Team War Hammer, and it was a shame you only got to spend such a limited time with them before they got killed.
I realized there were certainly stories to tell about the team before the incidents of the first graphic novel, but I didn’t want to derail the work being done on the sequel. So, I got the idea of doing one-shot prequel comics, and I would use different artists for each one with Giuseppe drawing certain pages that take place in the present day. This way he could focus on the sequel.
These Tales of Discord will not only give the reader a look into the different personalities of each member but will also lay the groundwork for what’s to occur in the sequel. What excites me most about these is that they are NOT origin stories. They are character dramas that really get you into the psychology of each one of them. People who have read the script for the first one about Iridian were really surprised (in a good way) by the story. Without giving too much away, it deals with her coming to terms with her sexuality, as well as how her girlfriend Theresa came into her life. How you feel about this relationship is vital for the emotional turmoil that is going to take place in the sequel.
The five issues will be:
TALES OF DISCORD: Iridian
TALES OF DISCORD: Solaris & Moonshadow
TALES OF DISCORD: Sinew
TALES OF DISCORD: Massive
TALES OF DISCORD: Chromatic & Moiré
BD: When we can anticipate the release of the series?
PS: Even though this is completely sanctioned by AAM/Markosia, I am doing this prequel series as a creator-owned side project, so I’ve just launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the entire 5-issue series. I’ve got a lot of fun incentives for people to donate to the cause, even including having a character named and/or look like you.
At the moment it looks like Tales of Discord: Iridian (with art by Diego Molano) will be available in July.
BD: Aside from your work in graphic novels, I would be remiss with our Who-niverse readers if I didn’t I ask about the status of the TARDIS console that you refurbished from the 1996 Doctor Who television movie starring Paul McGann. Do you still own the console and do Who-niverse fans ever request to see it?
PS: At the end of last year, I along with two of my friends (Brian Uiga and Bob Mitsch) spent months refurbishing the TARDIS Console, so we could show it off at the annual Gallifrey One Doctor Who Convention in LA. This last convention was special, because it had the entire cast of the TVM including the producer, Philip Segal. I allowed fans to actually have their picture taken with the console that included interactive lights and sounds. I was just asked by Shaun Lyon, who runs the con, to bring it back for next year.
Speaking of Philip Segal, he was so pleased with the restoration of the TARDIS Console that he recently invited me to his home and gave me items from his Doctor Who collection, including the Doctor’s bag (with props) and an original sonic screwdriver prop. He also gave me one of the staffs from the Eye of Harmony and a stunningly beautiful Doctor Who chess set made in 1993 by the Danbury Mint.
He felt I would make sure that these pieces are preserved for the fans. As a lifelong Doctor Who fan and owner of the McGann TARDIS Console, I can’t express in words how much it means to me that Phillip would intrust me with these items.
BD: Being that we focus on all things “geek” at Fanboy Comics, would you care to geek out with us about your favorite comic books and graphic novels?
PS: I was a voracious reader, so it seemed a natural progression to steer towards comic books. I was more of a Marvel than a DC fan. I think it originally started with their art, but then became about the complexity of their characters and stories.
I don’t know why but I gravitated to the more obscure or less popular Marvel titles like West Coast Avengers, The New Defenders, What If?, Marvel Team-Up, The Thing, and Marvel Fanfare. It was probably because I could start at the beginning of the story instead of having to jump into a dense mythology like Spiderman, X-Men, or Fantastic Four, etc. or maybe because I felt like I had personally discovered something great. I also collected most of the Marvel Limited Series that came out in the early 1980s. Titles like Wolverine, Vision & The Scarlet Witch, Cloak & Dagger, and of course Secret Wars 1 & 2. I was also a huge fan of Warp Graphic’s Myth Adventures series (based on the Robert Asprin book series) and the early Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I still have the original printings (except Issue #1, which is the 4th printing) of the early issues including the one shots of the characters.
As far as graphic novels go, Watchmen is by far my favorite book, because it tells an unconventional story with conventional ideas. I’m also a big fan of Mark Waid’s body of work. Irredeemable and Incorruptible are just fantastic stories and like Watchmen push the boundaries of the genre. I also enjoyed Kingdom Come and the possibilities of Potter’s Field.
BD: What is the most important piece of advice that you can offer to comic book fans, young and old, who aspire to work in the comic book industry?
PS: You’ve got to do it for the love of the medium. Unfortunately there isn’t a lot of money to be made in comics, but as I tell people all the time, you shouldn’t just do things for money. I still get a thrill every time a get a new page from an artist or the first time I get to hold a printed comic that I wrote. There’s nothing like it.
BD: On that same note, which creators have inspired your work?
PS: I’m honestly inspired more by movies and books. I have over 1400 DVDs in my collection, and I practically watch a movie every day. I find filmmakers like David Cronenberg, David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, Atom Egoyan, and Ridley Scott to be profoundly influential in what I write. They are very effective craftsman, and they typically offer unique ideas or new visions when telling their stories.
In the world of literature, I love Kurt Vonnegut and Stanislaw Lem. They are my two favorite authors. I am also influenced by Douglas Adams, Clive Barker, Stephen King, and Arthur C. Clarke to name only a few. Discord was obviously influenced by Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein.
Ironically, many of the ideas I have gotten over the years have been from real-life events that I have put my own unique spin on.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about Discord, Tales of Discord, and your other work?
PS: I know it’s cliché and corny but “Writer’s write” and that’s what I consider myself: a writer. I love to tell good stories that endure and make you excited to turn the page. I write for myself as much as I do the reader, and I feel lucky and privileged to have a medium that allows for this. So, I hope that when you read my comics and graphic novels, that you’ll see they’re written by someone who truly loves what he’s doing and wants to make you think as well as be entertained.
I hope you will visit my website and join my blog:
And, please join my Facebook Fan Page:
And, here is the link to the Tales of Discord Kickstarter Campaign:
I truly appreciated all your support!
Interested in learning more about Tales of Discord? Check out the following teaser trailer, and be sure to visit the Kickstarter page!