|Archangels Comics Volumes 1-9|
P. Scott, A. Orjuela, J. Leder
CBD Price: $27.99
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Teach your teens about faith, prayer, and spiritual warfare with these adventure-packed, cutting-edge comics! When Justin Griffin's friends are killed in an accident, he sets out on a quest to find the answers he desperately needs. Watching and protecting him are four armored guardian angels. Can they save Justin from choosing his own death? Some graphic depiction of demons; suitable for mature readers only. Softcovers, from Eternal Studios.
We are talking with Patrick Scott, the mastermind behind Archangels. All right, take us back; it’s the late 1980s, early ‘90s, what’s going on in the comic book field that makes you think that you can do this yourself?
Well, Image Comics had emerged in 1992, and became an overnight success. Several key artists from Marvel Comics had left and formed Image, and we realized, as being graphic design students at Sam Houston State University, that we thought we could do this, and so we knuckled down and produced Archangels: The Saga (ATS) #1.
And you originally wrote this as a movie script?
Yes, I wrote it as a movie script and then I showed it to John Leger, a friend of mine, over a Christmas break. He liked it so much that he said we should turn this into a comic book. I was like, “A comic book? We don’t know anything about comic books.” And so we incorporated the help of Andy Orjuela, one of our other fellow college design students, who was very gifted in illustration, and we formed Eternal Studios. All three of us went down that road and we did the best we could with the materials and the funding that we had and put out the best quality product that we could. The rest is history.
Was your primary goal evangelistic? Did you look for something that you’d want to bring kids to Christ?
Yes, when I was nine or ten years old I saw Superman: The Movie and that was the biggest influence in my life. I thought, “How powerful that was to create that image of a superhero. Wow, that’s what we need to lead people to God so that they understand that God saves them, rescues them from whatever trouble they’re in. He’s always there, he’s on time,” - you know, Superman can be late but God can’t. So I set out to write a story that would illustrate the power of God and show that God is in control, that there are things going on behind the scenes and so on and so forth. And the decisions that people make have consequences, good or bad. I gave that to John Leger in written form and he said, “We need to work through this. This is a great premise and story - concept and art - and we need to develop this.” So we all three sat down and developed it further. It just turned out perfectly when we got together on the project. It was a great partnership.
The Bible, of course, only mentions one Archangel. What prompted you to sort of spread it around and have more that one Archangel?
Well, the Bible talks about a myriad number of angels, too many to count. We knew that Lucifer was a very powerful angel from what we understand. I read some of Billy Graham’s book [Angels]. Two of the resources I looked at were talking about the descriptions and the hierarchy of angels in heaven. I really enjoyed them and gleaned a lot of information from those books. We gave the angels personalities and I wrote into the story the angels having human traits and wanting to be human. How easy it would be to take a breath and be gone ninety years. All they know is eternity and they would want to know the finite. As so just like humans - we’re finite, we want to know eternity. And so I switched that around and it worked wonders for character definition and personality, and so the angels can have a conscience. John and I worked very hard to develop that. John Leger was integral in bringing the characters to life. Andy and John developed the costumes and all the layouts – they visualized it - so it worked out really well.
Now, there are no female angels or demons in the series. Was that a conscious choice?
Yes, it was. Through the many pastors that we sat down and talked to we decided that, in the Bible, I think that all the references that we found were masculine. There weren’t any warrior-type female angels or they just weren’t described, they all took a masculine form and so we decided to make them all male.
OK, let’s see. What did you guys have to have in place before you could take the first steps to get issue one on the stands?
We, um, it’s kind of funny, we basically did the artwork, did the coloring and then we went to a convention - a big convention in Dallas - and we showed the book to some high-level people at Image Comics. Andy got a few meetings with two of them - Jim Lee, and Rob Liefeld and some really key people responsible for Image breaking out. They were impressed; they were like, “This is an independent? Y’all did this? This is incredible!” and they were kind of looking back, “Hey, do you want to sign with Image?” We at the time kind of disagreed. We didn’t want to go with Image because we felt that they would change the message and I was very concerned that if we went with a secular company they would not let us talk about Christ in the end and have a salvation message.
John was pretty much on my side and I begged Andy. Andy wanted to go with the mainstream company, he really did. We all wanted to be successful, we wanted to be creative and, “Hey we’re with Image, we did it, we fulfilled our dream.” My dream and John’s and - although it took some convincing – Andy’s as well wasn’t to just be successful, but to be successful in spreading a message of hope. And that hope would lie in us standing firm through to the goal of doing it together and spreading the message of hope and salvation through Jesus Christ. Not monetary hope, because that’s a lie.
And none of you had done anything like this before, right?
No, it was just our enthusiasm for comics and seeing that medium tell these great stories and have this incredible action in these stagnant panels of illustrations and dialog balloons. We were just fascinated by it and it was such a great story. “How did they do that with comics? How did they captivate us with these stagnant images that don’t move?” And we loved it, “Let’s do it!” We had the power of Photoshop and that’s all that mattered. Photoshop was king back in ‘93, ‘94, ‘95 - version 3.0 was like the light in the darkness for us in design school. And then 4.1 was fun, and then 5.0 was the Holy Grail because you could undo mistakes and that’s what artists were all excited about in the design world. It turned the light on for designers.
What was the process like creating a serial comic book in the mid 1990s?
Very difficult. Funding was the biggest obstacle for us. We were seven months in between issues, and even a year and two months between two issues at one point. It was very, very difficult. We were selling like crazy but we had such budget restraints. Had we to do it all over again, we would have raised all the money up front. And that was our biggest problem is projects that are under-funded and under-capitalized struggle, and if they struggle too long they die. That was part of our problem; we couldn’t raise the money fast enough. We had great sales but we couldn’t raise the money fast enough.
Now what was the success curve like? How quickly did it catch on? What was it like being “in the wave” at the time?
It was funny because we - John, Andy and myself - are twelve-time bestsellers according to what I understand from CBA records. We’ve sold about one-million-fifty-thousand copies of the series ATS and Archangel: The Fall (ATF) combined, and, for an independent publisher, that is incredible. We can’t be listed as bestsellers because we’re a comic book. They have no genre listing for comic books. We’re not listed as a bestselling author or novelist. Here we are selling hundreds of thousands of our books and no one knows about it. And so it doesn’t help us to promote the series, to get it out there as a ministry tool and as a resource, because no one wants to do a Bible study for it. “No one reads comic books,”…are you kidding? Have you seen Spider-Man? I mean everyone reads comic books and they read them five times more.
And one of the biggest things we saw at a youth festival we went to is, and it was kind of sad but, we were giving out comic books and selling comic books like crazy. We sold like a thousand of ‘em at one of these youth festivals in Houston. And all the devotionals of the big ministries, the big non-profits, all their devotionals - their Bible studies, all their impact stuff - the garbage cans were full to the brim because of everyone taking those free books and throwing them away. People would look at them and toss them in the trash. And these things are like 150 pages thick, in full color, and people were throwing them away. Our books were rolled up and put in their back pocket so they could read them later when they got home. It was amazing.
We went through the first book, ATS #1 sold 12,000 copies through Diamond [Comic Distributors, Inc., the largest comic book distributor serving the USA and Canada], which was incredible for us. We were like, “Whoa!” And then book #2, we sold 9,000 in Diamond, and book #3 trailed off at about 6,300 or 6,400, somewhere around there. But what happened in the Christian market was exponential, and it was amazing. We were all excited to get an order of 250 copies from Spring Arbor and we went, “Wait a minute, wait a minute - we just spent $18,000 printing a book and we just got an order for only $200. Oh, no!” We were in trouble, so we had to go raise more money to stay afloat for another six months. Then the order came in the next month and it was for 400 copies. “Well, good, it’s a little bit more,” and then our investors were like, “Okay, this has got to change quick, guys, or y’all are gonna be in trouble.” The next order was 750, and they were like, “We see a gleam of hope here,” and then the next order was 2,000. And that’s when we were like, “Hold on, this is gonna hurt,” because we knew we would have to pack all these books. We were in the garage at my Mom’s house.
And so the next month’s order was for 5,000 and the next order for the next month was for 10,000. We were just blown away. And that’s when it capped - it capped at 12,000 for ATS #1. We had all the distributors send in their orders and it was like 12,000 books in one month. And Spring Arbor at the time was ordering 5,000 a month, preordering 5,000 of issues four, five, six and seven before they were even published, which had never been done before. We were just like, “Wow.” We went to our investors because we still had trouble raising the money. Each book required about $34,000 to produce and, although we were getting great orders of $7,000 or $8,000, the investors were a little worried that they’d spend $30,000 and then only $10,000 or $15,000 would trickle in and then they’d lose $15,000. It was a tough sell, but we basically worked as hard as we could and then the company kind of got fractured after issue #3. Andy took a position in another company. He got offered a great position he could not turn down; it was what he wanted to do, with his whole heart. It was as one of the head designers at a Japanese animation company in Houston, and so he left to go take that position.
And that’s when Scott Sirag, the primary artist for the rest of the series, came in?
Scott was in California working with Arnold Schwarzenegger on the movie Jingle All the Way - he was the art director - and we met with him. He was this funny little skinny guy, and he’s just a hoot. He was like, “Man, I’d love to work with you,” but he wasn’t a Christian, so we prayed about it and we talked to him and we said, “Hey, you’re going to be doing a Christian comic book.” He’s like, “I’m totally cool with that. I’d love to help you guys.” And through the process I think we ministered to him. His mother almost died, like, three times and we prayed with him over the phone for hours, and he was like, “Man, I really appreciate you guys. No one would do that, none of my friends, no one would do that with me.” And when he called, he’d call us at, like, three in the morning, me and John, and we’d talk to him and pray with him. It was awesome. It was a definite witness for God. And he helped us, and God used him to help us. Definitely.
The series was originally going to be seven issues and you guys spread it out to nine. How was that decided?
That’s story writing. (Laughter) Me and John, we sat down and we’re like, “Okay, I’m sorry, don’t kill us, but we can’t end this with issue eight, or even issue seven.” We couldn’t do it, it was too much story. We tried, we tried desperately but we didn’t want to betray our fans and do issue eight because issue eight has only eighteen pages of art work. And so we were like, “No, no, no, no, we can’t do this,” so I went home and I sat there and one night I rewrote the entire ending. And I came back and showed John and he’s like, “Oh, that’s awesome.” And so we sat down and I said, “Look, we should do this and this and this and then at the end they throw their graduation caps up.” Well John was like, “No, that’s not enough.” John rewrote the last page. It took two weeks for him to write one page but it was such an important page, and we wanted this page to be so good. We were laughing because we thought that John’s rewritten last page was great, with them throwing everything in the air. The angels went off to a new mission, which would tell people, “Hey, there’s gonna be more to come,” and then Nicole and Justin’s story was unfinished but yet finished. They indicated their interest in each other and their affection and we thought it was a great ending.
Some people might be mad, but there was an alternate ending to that series. Nicole and Justin were supposed to kiss but we had a ministry that will remain unnamed tell us that that would be bad, that it would be lustful. (Laughter) Yeah, it was funny. We wanted them to kiss but people just told us not to and we kept getting this horrible feedback from people not wanting them to kiss so…
It didn’t really need it either. I mean if you’re having them kiss then they can’t talk. Unless they’re using telepathy or something.
Yeah, that’s true. Well, I mean in one of the panels we could have made them kiss, or at the very end we could have made them kiss.
Right. I think it works much better the way it is.
It did and it turned out great.
In the series we never get to see the counselor who’s on ‘the council’ the second level down from Lucifer or whatever. What’s the deal with that council, how do they fit into the hierarchy that you guys planned?
They are part of the future stories called Archangels: Tears of Faith (AToF). And that will be developed hopefully within the next year . We’ve been writing and I’ve got about four or five chapters of a novel done with Theodore Beal, the coauthor of ATF, the prequel. And we wrote a whole new hierarchy into AToF and I love it. I mean we really worked hard on it and we developed a whole new council and what they mean, what they’re trying to do to make God a liar. It really works out well. It’s a great story, and we actually pick up eighteen months after ATS with Avery Bows who is a detective still. He hasn’t retired but he’s a Captain now so he doesn’t go out on missions, he assigns people.
Still mainlining the Pepto Bismol?
Yes, he is, from behind his desk. Tess comes back to visit him in the story and she says some things don’t change, you know, because he’s not retired. And he’s like, “What brings you here?” And she’s an FBI agent now in the missing children division. And so the whole thing builds up to where they’re investigating a missing child and it unravels the whole ‘council’ and ‘The Shrouded One’, and the main focus of that story is ‘The Shrouded One’. You begin to understand who and what he is as the story progresses.
On your website and in print there’s been mention of other series and other products that are apparently in production. Can we go quickly through those?
Archangels: Legacy is that still a….
Yeah, that’s a go. We’re still working on that, we don’t have a release date for it yet.
All right. Life Wave?
Yeah, that’s a go, that’s kind of in the distance. That’s probably about 2010.
The Stronghold, I’m talking to John about doing that and he has to free up his schedule to do that. He’s interested in doing it, but yes, that is a possibility in the future, very soon.
Now, Eden 1944 or Eden: Lost Garden? I’m finding two different names for this one.
Eden: The Lost Garden is the name we’ve gone with. That is definitely in the forefront as well as Timestream: The Remnant is in the forefront. Those two will probably be the first two that we start. Eden: the Lost Garden will be the one that we start first. And then, for Timestream, I actually have about six pages of artwork already completed on that but we’ve redeveloped the story and Focus on the Family was very interested in that series and we’ve been still trying to work with them to where they don’t think its so fantastical. They’re a little worried about a time traveler going through and changing time. They just want it to be safer. No offense, they’re used to Adventures in Odyssey and VeggieTales kind of stuff. It’s very difficult for them to branch out into teenager stuff, so it’s uncharted territory for them.
What about Archangels animated stuff?
That’s kind of hit a road block. We did have negotiations with Twentieth Century Fox. We thought we had worked everything out and then it just fizzled, it just went away. We thought that they were really onboard and were excited, and we were excited, and we went through several rounds of negotiations and then they just never called us back. No offense to them - we need to build our fan base again, build up the comics excitement in the CBA market and get that momentum going again and then I think they will definitely revisit that or someone will come along and do it.
Now, for the record, the big bad guy in ATS in alternately written ‘Balera’ or ‘Ballera’ in the series? Which is it? One L or two Ls?
It’s Balera, one L. Balera. Overlord Balera.
Okay, we have a couple of minutes left. Can you give me in a nut shell what Andy Orjuela and John Leger are doing?
Sure. John Leger is a web designer. He’s actually a web architect from what I understand with a design firm in Houston. He does work for them. Andy Orjuela is a designer at a firm too. I do not recall the name; they’re both in head design positions at firms. They’re doing really well.
Thank you so much for taking your time with us today.
Thanks so much. I appreciate it.