Interview: Shawn French (Escape From Jesus Island)

EFJI4 cover
This week FDTC writer Adam Holtzapfel had a chance to chat with Escape From Jesus Island writer and creator Shawn French about being a self published comic and more.
Adam Holtzapfel - How did you come up with the idea for Escape From Jesus Island?
Shawn French - I had just finished watching the first Jurassic Park film in the theater and heard a story on the radio about some folks who claimed to have found the Shroud of Turin. I was still in the movie theater parking lot and just started laughing hysterically, picturing this story that was basically Jurassic Park, but with cannibalistic mutant Jesus clones instead of dinosaurs. One stormy night, the Bodies of Christ get loose and run amok.

I sat in the parking lot, laughing like a lunatic as I wrote up the first draft of EFJI right there in my car. At the time, I was a stand-up comic, and I did an Escape From Jesus Island bit onstage for a year or so before dropping it.



The concept stayed with me, though. Beneath the goofy premise, I knew there was something waiting to be uncovered. I spent the next 20 years tinkering with it, trying to figure out the story. I wrote it as a comedy short film, a feature-length comedy, a horror short, a horror feature, and a graphic novel before finally settling into the best medium, an episodic comic book series.



I think the biggest Holy Shit moment of my creative life was realizing EFJI’s connection to Revelation in the Bible. In EFJI, Christ and Antichrist are twins who have a deep bond from being raised together in this nightmarish cloning factory. Brothers who have known from an early age they were destined to battle to the death one day with the fate of humanity at stake.



AHMortimer Glum does the art for the series (which really compliments the writing), how did he get involved with the project?



SF - All those years of trying to figure out the story on my own, and it turns out the key was Mortimer Glum. Things finally fell into place during our year of pre-production. Several of the most iconic characters in the series weren’t even in the original scripts. Characters like Inquisition and Mother Superior, who I can’t even imagine this story without.



While I was working on blocking out the story in an 8-issue arc, Morty was creating the island and the host of mutants that inhabit it. I then assembled the Antichrist’s crew and finished the story using his creature designs.



Mortimer and I originally met when he designed the cover art for a horror flick called The Wrong House I wrote and directed back in 2008. I was trying to decide on my next project and desperately wanted to shoot a live-action Jesus Island movie, but it would require a bigger budget than I had access to. We got to talking and decided to partner up to bring this freak show to life as a comic.




The Wrong House wrap





AH - How has dealing with Wisdumb Productions been versusmtrying to go through a publisher like Boom or Image?



SF - There were a few reasons we decided to put it out on our own (as Wisdumb Productions), most revolving around creative control. We knew the premise would be extremely polarizing and that any sane publisher would probably try to rein us in a bit. We also knew that our creative approach was the right one for this story, and that once we got a few issues in, potential publishers would be able to understand what we were doing and why.



Now that we’re established, we’ll likely start testing the waters with a traditional publisher in 2017. It’s exhausting doing everything on our own.



AH - What comics influenced you as a kid?



SF - Mad Magazine was the first comic I loved. I read and reread their movie parodies dozens of times, sometimes while watching the movie they were mocking. It was my first introduction to comedy writing.



The first traditional comic I obsessed on was Savage Sword of Conan. I had already plowed through every novel, so the comics initially started as a way for me to get more Conan stories. The more I read, the more I fell in love with comics as a storytelling medium.



AH - How did you get involved as a sponsor at the Days of the Dead Make Up/Fx Competition?



SF - We met Chris Blair (Suicidal) through the comic. He created a costume for one of our characters, Inquisition, and we got to be friends. I’m a horror filmmaker myself and I’ve played monsters in lots of bad independent movies you’ve never heard of, so an FX challenge is right up our alley. It just seemed a natural fit. I suspect anyone who loves horror enough to enjoy a kickass FX competition would probably dig Escape From Jesus Island.




1-4 covers





AH - You recently did crowdfunding for the collected edition of issues 1-4, how was that? Do you feel the crowdfunding community is overcrowded?



SF - We got off to a great start on our most recent campaign, then the election happened and destroyed us. Social media turned into a flaming hellscape and it became impossible to get our message through that noise. So we had to scrap plans to compile 1-4 into a trade paperback for right now, but we still hope to find a way to do it down the line. The landscape has become a whole lot more crowded as of late, but crowdfunding still works fine so long as you don’t launch your campaign at the onset of a civil war.



AH - Last but not least, what’s your top 5 movies of all time?



SFConan the Barbarian (the soundtrack is my standard background

music when writing EFJI)

From Dusk Till Dawn

The Shining

Fight Club

Kill Bill