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Exclusive interview: John Carpenter & Anthony Burch talk new Joker comic

For those of you that are new to the "horror game" as it were, John Carpenter is kind of a big deal, to say the least. After the passings of Wes Craven, Tobe Hooper, and George A. Romero, Carpenter is arguably the last living true Master of Horror. From creating the iconic character of Michael Myers back in 1978 along with Debra Hill in his film HALLOWEEN to helming such classics as ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13, THE FOG, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, THE THING, CHRISTINE, BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, PRINCE OF DARKNESS, THEY LIVE, and IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS (to name a few) Carpenter is beyond a legend of the genre at this point in time.

A month or so ago we passed along word that DC had announced that the legendary filmmaker was teaming up with Anthony Burch (BORDERLANDS 2) to write a 40-page one-shot Joker comic book titled The Joker: Year of the Villain #1 (GET IT HERE) featuring art by Philip Tan and Marc Deering. It's scheduled to hit on October 2, and recently I had the pleasure of sitting down with Carpenter and Burch and talking all things The Joker, comics, and movies. As you might imagine, sitting down and talking shop with Carpenter and Burch was a dream come true and I thank all the movie gods for the opportunity. 

You can check out our full killer interview below!

Was this a project that you pitched or was the idea of a one-shot Joker comic brought to you?

John Carpenter: DC contacted me and said, 'Would you like to do a one-shot about the Joker?' I had worked with Anthony before on Old Man Jack our Big Trouble in Little China comic so I immediately contacted him and said 'Do you want to work on this?' And he said, 'Hell yes.'

Anthony Burch: Of course. I can't turn down an opportunity to write for the Joker. So off we went.

The Joker is the top comic book villain of all-time. What was your first encounter with the character that sparked your love?

John: Well since I'm the oldest I'll go first. It was back in the '50s when I started looking at comic books. There he was. Loud. 

Anthony: For me, it was growing up with Batman: The Animated Series and Mark Hamill's Joker. Like, 'Wow this guy is really fun but also really scary.'

As far as on-screen portrayals of the Clown Prince of Crime, who's has been your favorite?

John: I liked Cesar Romero from the TV Show. I thought he was ridiculous. 

Anthony: Yeah, Heath Ledger's hard to fight. I was going to say Jared Leto as a joke but then I thought that would be too mean, so no, Heath Ledger.

You guys have worked together on the BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA comic book. What is your collaboration process like?

John: Wow. I don't know. Anthony, what do you think? You do all the work and I receive all the applause?

Anthony: Yeah, I think that's a perfectly apt way to describe it. And I hate applause so I can handle it.

[John and Anthony laugh]

Anthony: Nah, usually what it is, is John and I shoot the shit and talk about video games for like two hours, and then we'll occasionally talk about something story related, and then we'll sort of go off and review the stuff together. But yeah, it's been great working with John on Old Man Jack and great working with him on this Year of the Villain as well. And his name is bigger, so if the comic sucks then he gets all the blame. 

John, how is writing comics different than writing screenplays?

John: Well, they're both kind of scripts in a way but the whole form is different. Comic books are short. They are frozen images. The drama is still the same as all drama but abbreviated. It has to be quick. And you're looking visually at a whole new set of things such as splash pages. Movies are a three-act structure, usually, about 120 pages give or take. It's a whole different form. A whole different ballgame as they say.

Anthony, how is writing comics different than writing video games?

Anthony: Well, in video games there's a lot of back and forth with your level designers and other designers. And it's very collaborative in the terms of saying, 'Oh, shit, we moved this one block so your entire story has to change because that block isn't there and that was the main thing your characters were going after.' Whereas with comics, you get a lot more freedom on the page. I mean hypothetically it just has to be "art'd." As they say, film editing is sculpting in time and comics is sculpting in page space and layout. So you're just trying to write the layout in a way that your artist can do really cool stuff. And Phil Tan, the stuff he did in this comic is mindbogglingly cool. He took a pretty shoddy script from me in terms of 'Hey, here's how the actions play out' and turned it into something really psychedelic and cool.

What was it like collaborating with the artists, Philip Tan and Marc Deering?

John: It was easy because I didn't say a word to them. [laughs]

Anthony: Yeah we would just give them the pages and we got back inks and pencils that were like incredible and there was literally nothing we could do to improve upon them because they were so much better than I could have possibly expected.

Where did the surprisingly emotional storyline about mental illness come from?

Anthony: It was something that always interested me. I mean that's kind of one of the things that makes Batman so enduring is that a lot of them tend to be personifications of different manias or phobias or anxieties. And I mean one of the things that made Batman so enduring is your basically taking a philosophy course that has a lot of punching in it when you read a good batman comic. And so my favorite version of the Joker is Grant Morrison's Arkham Asylum, where it theorized Joker's not insane at all - but hyper sane and he knows exactly what he's doing. And we thought it would be kind of fun to tell a story about if someone is like that and can put on the appearance of being insane and make people think that he is, how does he manipulate people who actually have trauma in their past or mental health issues? And basically, radicalize them and turn them to his own devices.

Who came up with the idea of Joker and his "sidekick" dressing as Batman and Robin?

John: [laughs] Anthony.

Anthony: Yeah that was me. We kind of thought it would be fun to say, if you're living in this world where all the criminals are in charge and one wanted to go against the grain, to Joker that would mean dressing up like Adam West and Burt Ward. And John and I are both fans of the old show so we thought it would be kind of fun.

Are there any plans to turn this Joker story into a movie?

John: I haven't thought of that, but we stand ready to do whatever anyone wants us to do - as long as they pay us.

Anthony: Yep. Damn straight.

So you guys would be excited about turning this into a movie?

John: I'd be more excited to write more Joker adventures. That would be fun. 

Anthony: Yeah. It was a blast writing this and playing around in the Batman sandbox. So yeah, we would love to do more.

If there was a movie, who would you choose to play the Joker?

Anthony: You know, I said this as a joke before, but now I don't think I'm joking: Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

And what about you John, would you just go with Kurt Russell as The Joker?

John: I would! [laughs]

Anthony: Stuntman Mike was pretty Joker-esque

After this comic, what's next for you, John?

John: I'm working on the next two Halloween movies. I'm producing and doing the score.

Is there anything you can tell us about that?

John: Absolutely not. [laughs]

And what's next for you, Anthony?

Anthony: I will be watching the next two Halloween movies. [laughs]

Are there any other DC heroes or villains you would like to tackle next?

John: What do you think Anthony?

Anthony: I really like all of them. I love Booster Gold. Flash is fun at times. Maybe a team up with Lobo and someone who is the antithesis of Lobo - Harley Quinn or something.

John: And I want to go on a date with Harley Quinn. [laughs]

Anthony: [laughs] She seems just your kind of type. 

John: My kind of girl. 

John, do you have plans to direct another horror movie?

John: I might...We'll see. I have to pick my shots these days because I'm in my 70s and you don't want to work too hard. So we'll see. We'll see what comes up.

Are you planning a new album?

John: Yes, we have a new album in the works. 

Anthony: Oh, cool. I didn't know that. 

John: Yeah. It's... we're taking our time with this one. We'll release the Halloween albums next year, and the year after that. So there's a lot of music coming out here.

Is there an update on the rumored Prince of Darkness TV series over on Shudder?

John: No update. But it's potentially... we'll see. It'd be fun to do.

Finally, what advice do you have for young people trying to break into the business?

Anthony: I guess for me, I made my own dumb web series and that sort of blossomed out from there. If you can make your own stuff - you can shoot a movie on an iPhone now - maybe someone will like it if you can get around the right people or find the right audience for yourself over on YouTube. 

John: Perfect advice. Make your own movie. Make it great. And then people will see that it's great, and they'll hire you. It's the perfect way of doing it.

***

And there you have it, folks. That was our interview with the Master of Horror himself John Carpenter and Anthony Burch on their upcoming Joker comic book, The Joker: Year of the Villain #1. It's scheduled to reach stores on October 2, 2019. Thanks for chatting with us, guys!

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