Following the recent conclusion of their critically acclaimed Sons of Anarchy series, BOOM! Studios recently announced that they would be heading back to Charming this August with SONS OF ANARCHY: REDWOOD ORIGINAL, a brand new ongoing series from writer Ollie Masters (SNOW BLIND) and artist Luca Pizzari (RED SKULL).
We’re huge fans of both the TV show and the BOOM! Studios series here at the Big Comic Page, so we absolutely jumped at the opportunity to sit down and have a chat with Ollie and Luca about what to expect from a series that tells the story of what happens when Jax Teller, 18 years old and fresh out of high school, decides to prospect his dead father’s — and his current stepfather’s — MC, the Sons of Anarchy.
BIG COMIC PAGE: Thanks so much for your time, guys. Ollie, can you tell us a little bit about how this project came about? Was it something you actively sought out, or was it offered to you?
OLLIE MASTERS: It was brought to me. I’d finished Snow Blind with BOOM! and was looking to do something else with them. They came back with SONS and I just jumped at the chance.
BCP: And Luca, how did you become involved?
LUCA PIZZARI: Funny thing, I actually tested with BOOM! for their first original SoA comic some years ago. The editor at that time, Jasmine Amiri, seemed to really like my pages but in the end my involvement didn’t go through, can’t remember if because of scheduling issues or because in the end I wasn’t a good fit for the look of the book they had in mind at that time. I kept in touch with Jasmine through the years and recently she informed me that they were looking for artists for this new series and she remembered how she liked those early pages, so she asked me to test again for it, I did some character sketches and as they say, second time’s the charm ;)
BCP: Were you both fans of the show prior to landing this gig?
MASTERS: Yeah definitely. My brother got me into it and I was already a huge fan of Sutter’s work on The Shield so I dived right in.
PIZZARI: I have to confess that, even being aware of the show and knowing that it would appeal to my taste, I never got around to watch it, mainly for a lack of time and the fact that when having to deal with constant work deadlines, I tend to choose not to commit to watch long shows, coz the impossibly of catching up regularly makes following them season-by season frustrating and disjointed. when I was hired for the book I thought I might use the opportunity of finally sitting down and see what it was about, and I have to say I immediately regret not doing it sooner!
BCP: For those of our readers who may not have heard about it, can you tell us a little about the premise behind REDWOOD ORIGINAL? We’re dealing with a much younger Jax Teller, right?
MASTERS: Yeah. We begin with Jax prospecting to become a fully patched in club member.
It’s about Jax proving himself to the club and in a lot of ways to himself. We want to show how he became the person we see in that first episode.
BCP: Without giving away too much, what we readers expect to see from the series as it progresses?
MASTERS: Like you said, I don’t want to give anything away but you’re gonna see some gun deals go bad, drug fueled desert parties and SAMCRO kicking ass.
BCP: You’ve been working closely with SOA show creator Kurt Sutter on the series. How hands-on has he been with the direction of the story?
MASTERS: Pretty hands on. He gives us notes on all the story lines and scripts. And before we started he gave us some ideas of where we could go with the series and what the younger versions of the characters would be like. But despite that, he still wanted to make sure we had the freedom to do our own thing.
BCP: Similarly for you, Luca, how much freedom were you give with the design of the visual side of the series?
PIZZARI: Contrary to Ollie, I haven’t directly heard from anybody from Fox or the creators of the show. Every feedback I had was filtered by BOOM! editorial, specifically Dafna Pleban and Mary Gunport. They have been very supportive and attentive to my comments and suggestions, and made the process very streamlined. I confess I was a bit apprehensive of having to work on a book in which visual likeness to actual actor is undeniably an important factor, because I was afraid it meant I had to make concessions to my style in favour of realism, if that makes sense. But as I said, Everybody was very open to my interpretations of the younger characters, and we worked a lot to come up with versions that would be recognisable without being carbon copies of actors’ publicity photos. So, to answer your original question, I guess I found I had more freedom than I first thought, so YAY! :)
BCP: Did you make any intentional changes to your artistic style in order to fit in more with the established Sons of Anarchy aesthetic?
PIZZARI: This kinda overlaps with the previous answer, really. The first thing I had to do was forcing myself to step back from what had been done before: I am such a HUGE fan of Damian Couceiro’s work on the book that I was afraid that, working in that same visual environment, I would end up unconsciously channeling a lot from him. Ideally I’d always my work to stand on its own visually, for the better or worse, and I was very relieved to see that Dafna and Mary wanted the same thing. We talked a lot about how to build the world depicted in the comic, in terms of style and mood. I knew right from the start I wanted to tone down the more “mainstream-superhero” vibe I have been working in so far, and the moment I decided I was going to approach the story as a pulp crime fiction, I was head over heels about channeling from a more old-school vibe of cartooning, infusing it with a good deal of noirish mood and framing – thinking of people like Alex Toth, Chris Samnee or Marcelo Frusin.
BCP: Was there anything either of you wanted to include in the series but weren’t allowed?
MASTERS: I wanted Jax and Opie to go to Mardi Gras! They’d party in New Orleans and get into it with a NOLA biker gang. That got turned down but I can’t remember why.
PIZZARI: Not yet, ask me again in a couple months ;)))))
BCP: With other fan-favourite characters appearing alongside Jax, how did you go about stripping them back to their younger selves, given the fact that they’ve been so heavily established by the TV show?
MASTERS: Some of it came from Kurt himself, in the initial notes, he gave us some ideas on where he thought the characters would be in this part of their lives.
For me it was a fine line between keeping what made the characters so great in the show and showing a different side of them. Like I said before, I’d look at where the character was in that first episode, then work back from there. See what made them become that person. See how far I could move away from who they become but with an idea of how to organically get them to where they need to be.
With the younger characters, there’s a lot more room to change. Most of us are vastly different to who we were at 18/19 but with the older characters, they’re more set in their ways so there’s less room for change.
BCP: Any plans to delve any further back into the SOA history? Speaking as a fan, a story based around John Teller’s life – and death – would be really interesting.
MASTERS: No plans so far! But if I got the chance I’d love to delve into that era.
BCP: Dream scenario – if the pair of you could collaborate on any other Television property, Sons of Anarchy aside, what would it be and why?
MASTERS: I don’t know about Luca but I’m a huge fan of the Fargo tv show (and obviously the film) so would love to do something in that world. Or maybe give Hannibal the extra seasons it deserved!
PIZZARI: I would DIE to do something horror/supernatural, maybe an American Horror Story book, or a -and I’m talking about an absolute dream here- a prequel to the first series of True Detective set in the Louisiana swamps, about how the King In Yellow’s cult came together in the first couple decades of the 20th century. Anybody listening to this? :)
BCP: And finally, if you could each say one thing to a reader who wasn’t sure about picking this one up to convince them, what would it be?
MASTERS: Bikes, guns, drugs and violence. What else do you need?
PIZZARI: To complete Ollie’s PERFECT summation: rock ‘n’ roll! Don’t forget about that rock ‘n’ roll attitude! ;)
BCP: That says it all, I think. Thanks again for your time, guys. We can’t wait until we get our hands on this one in August.