SALEM’s Chris Morgan Interviewed

by Jeff

September 10th, 2007

Los Angeles – Solicited this month, Screenwriter Chris Morgan and co-writer Kevin Walsh make their comic debut with SALEM #0 hitting stores this November. A Diamond Staff Pick, the five issue series SALEM tells the tale of Elias Hooke, a renegade warrior-priest who battles both sadistic church torturers and hell-spawned minions on an all-consuming quest to destroy a real demon that haunts the darkness and preys on humanity.

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Morgan, best known for his work on movies such as SWAT, CELLULAR, THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT and most recently WANTED, took time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions about the series:

Q: You’ve had a successful career writing films – what made you want to get into comics?

Chris Morgan: I love stories, all kinds of stories, but there are certain kinds of stories I can’t tell in the film medium right now. What comics offers me is a chance to tell a story I would not otherwise be able to tell. I can create a less traditional lead character. I can do story twists that the powers that be in Hollywood would never allow. And I have an unlimited budget when it comes to the visual storytelling. With the freedom that the comics medium affords me, I will be able explore ideas that I hope will take my audience by surprise.

Q: SALEM is a 360-degree turn from FAST AND FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT. What draws you to the material you write?

C.M.: Is it? You may be surprised to learn that the climax of SALEM involves a 14′ tall witch made of brambles and thorns outdrifting Vin Diesel in a cherry ’05 Skyline…I know Vin would be down for making an appearance.

For me, genre doesn’t matter. What matters are compelling characters and how I relate to them, so I can tell their stories. Once I fall in love with a character, I’ll follow him into any venue. SALEM stared out as a kernel of an idea about a character – our protagonist Elias Hooke – that fellow writer (and good friend) Kevin Walsh and I came up with while we were working on another project. As much as we tried to focus on the project at hand, we just couldn’t help talking about Hooke and speculating on where he came from and what drove him. That cemented it. When we couldn’t walk away from it, we knew had to write it.

Q: What are you most looking forward to about working in the comic book medium?

C.M.: The surprise of collaboration. As a screenwriter, I spend an inordinate amount of time alone in front of a computer screen with only a bowl of M&M’s and a cup of coffee to bounce ideas off of. On SALEM, Kevin Walsh and I are re-teaming, and with every meeting we have, the story evolves into something more dynamic and unexpected. Collaboration makes the story live and breathe.

Q: What are you most afraid of?

C.M.: Mad cow disease. In terms of comics, I wouldn’t say that I’m afraid, per se, but maybe I am putting on a brave front because I can’t have my wife and young daughters finding me hiding in the closet screaming “Comic books! So scary!” But what gives me butterflies in my stomach is that SALEM is written more in my own voice than most of my Hollywood projects. I’ve always loved comics, and I’ve certainly enjoyed adapting them to film (WANTED). But when it came to writing my own book, I’ve discovered while writing SALEM that comics require me to put more of my myself and my own personality into the characters to make them feel real and relevant. And anytime you put yourself out there like that, it can be cathartic, but a little bit painful. Even I was surprised at how much I had in common with a 17th century New England witch hunter.

Q: What’s the main thing you can do with a comic that you couldn’t do writing a film?

C.M.: The Writers Guild of America had a contest a few years back where they asked writers to describe in three words or less what’s the best thing about being a writer. Most of the answers were things like: “Work in robe” or “Be own boss”. The winner, however, was “There are no rules.” Four words.

To me, that’s writing in comics. You don’t have to worry about CG budgets or expensive producer deals, etc. It’s all about the art and the imagination and the connection between you and the reader.

Q: Why choose BOOM! for your comic book debut?

C.M.: Just look at the team: Mark Waid. Chip Mosher. Ross Richie. Andrew Cosby. And did I mention Mark Waid? I mean, c’mon!

Chris Morgan is a screenwriter living in Los Angeles. His screen credits include Cellular and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. Current projects include the screen adaptation of Mark Millar’s Wanted, the fourth installment of Universal’s The Fast and the Furious franchise and the comic book Salem, with co-creator Kevin Walsh.

Kevin Walsh created SALEM with Chris Morgan, with whom he co-wrote the feature The Rally for Warner Bros. He has written and produced content for the likes of National Lampoon, Mondo Media, Evil Genius Entertainment and The Naked Apes comedy troupe. He has served as a senior development consultant for DreamWorks, Paramount Vantage, Mandalay and Scott Free.

SALEM, a five issue series, is written by Chris Morgan and Kevin Walsh and drawn by Mike Hawthorne. SALEM #0 will be in stores this November.

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Salem #0

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