Press > Exclusive Interviews > Tone Rodriguez (Artist: Snake Plissken Chronicles) With Kim August



 
Was your work on Violent Messiahs part of the reason why you were picked to illustrate the SPC?
 
Working with Hurricane Ent. to produce the VM comics was interesting: It was the best of times, when things were great, and it would become the worst of times when things were bad. Now it's been some time since those days in the Hurricane Offices, and I believe both they and I are on good terms, but when the Snake book came about, I was unhappy with  how things were going, and I had already decided to quit working with Hurricane at that point. I just wanted to finish my commitment to the book by finishing the final issues. I think I had just started the penciling work on issue three when Jan Utstein O'Neill made the announcement that we would be taking a meeting with Debra Hill and John Carpenter.
 
At that point, like I mentioned, I was finished with them. Getting a chance to work with John Carpenter, well I wasn't going to let some wet behind the ears rookie swoop in behind me and take that gig. So despite how bad I thought things were going with Hurricane (with some of the in fighting), I decided right there that there was no way in hell that I would pass up working on the Snake comic book.
 
You had to come up with pages to show to Debra Hill in a very short time span, did you follow the script exactly or embellish what William wrote?
 
For the 'FIRST MEETING' there was no script! Heck at that point there was barely a story idea. Besides Bill would have to pitch the idea to Debra and John and see if it was something that they thought would be right for the mythos. I drew some pin-up looking things. Just about anything that I thought would strike them, and I draw fast too. So in a few days I had a few pieces that I felt strong about and it was those few drawings we took to the meeting. He (Bill) eventually did a drawing of Snake, but it was like his cartoon turnaround style he does, but I don't believe he had that for the meeting. Bill is a very slow artist and the meeting was less than a week later. Either way, I produced two or three drawings. I just dropped VM for a few days and focused on getting these done.
 
Debra played it really cool, she acted as if nothing would move her. (We heard after the meeting that she was floored by the art.) She was awesome, but John went Gaga over the art immediately. He said at that point (and I quote),"...as long as it looks this good. I don't care what the books about!"
 
One of the pieces would be the cover to the Preview Issue we did for Comic Con, the other two were character studies. After we wrapped and finished the last issue, I asked Kurt if there was any art that he wanted, he decided on those first charter studies.
 
Is it true Adrienne Barbeau distracted you while you & William were pitching the title to Debra Hill?
 
She didn't distract me really, here's the TRUE STORY. This was after our first meeting with John and Debra, a week or two, and by this time we were meeting her to give the big pitch that Bill spent the past week or so working on.
 
But you see Debra is a busy woman, and wasn't going to be able to meet at her or our office in Studio City. She said she would be leaving a meeting at FOX and would be in our area at 5 or so at the Bed Bath and Beyond store near us, so we packed up in my van and raced to the meeting, (because Hurricane Jan is always late to meetings... always. We were even late to that first meeting... thank god John was late to that meeting too).
 
So there we are meeting with Debra for the second time, smiles all around, sitting on a bench that had one of those HUGE price stickers on the side. And Bill and Jan start pitching the story.
 
Well to be honest, this is about the most boring thing to be a part of. I have been involved since day one, so I have heard this story pitch like FIVE BAZILLION times now. So its me Jan, Debra, and Bill, standing/sitting counter clockwise. I'm facing the parking lot, Debra's right in front of me, Bill and Jan on either side of Debra. Like I said, I'm about to put a bullet in my head from the boredom. So I start to people watch (and this is Studio City... The Beautiful People are all around us), and I pop back in and out often enough look as if I'm still with the meeting.
 
It's at this point I see this dark haired women walking towards us, and I'm not even pretending that I'm not looking: from the time she popped out of her car I was locked in on her. The closer she got the more interested I was in her. This isn't bullshit, for a second there it was like we had a connection. I remember it like it was yesterday: she moved so gracefully. She had a beautiful low V neck blouse. She was stunning, and all I could really see was her eyes and her smile. She knew I was checking her out.
 
It was at this time I realized it was Adrienne Barbeau, so I started to interject/interrupt in on the meeting. This riled up both Bill and Jan because at that point I guess the meeting was going ok, but Debra just had this look on her face like "What the Fuck is your problem?!?"
 
It didn't help that the beauty that was Adrienne had left me totally tongue tied, so I was a stammering idiot. So after the looks I decided to straighten up, and not say a gosh darned thing (I was kind of pissed actually.)
 
"FUCK THEM..." I figured and put my attention back towards Adrienne who was still walking toward us. Like I said before, I made it my business to let her know I was checking her out so by the time she got right in front of me I smiled and mouthed a "HI" towards her. She returned the smile back, nodded and passed right by us and walked right into the store.
 
Now remember Jan and Debra had their backs to her, Bill was focusing on his pitch so no one saw her. As soon as Bill finished with the pitch (Jan seemed relived that Debra liked the story idea), and with that they all looked at me and said: "SO WHAT THE HECK WAS THAT ALL ABOUT!!!"
 
I calmly looked them all and said "Adrienne Barbeau just walked into the store!" They all looked at me and said a combinations of "NO", "YOU'RE KIDDING", and a "ARE YOU SERIOUS!?!" Now Bill has lived in Studio City for over 10 years himself, and at this point in time has only bumped into like two celebrities and never believes me at all. So he thinks I'm full of shit.
 
Debra immediately jumps up off the sale bench and runs inside. Now that leaves me alone with Bill and Jan. They seem to think this is all baloney.
 
And after Debra comes back out of the store, unable to locate Adrienne. it starts to look like I might have been wrong. "I DIDN'T SEE HER!" Debra claims.
 
I responded with a "...Well she's in there." Bill seems the most upset, he can be such a "TIGHT ASS AT TIMES", and I'm thinking 'So what maybe I was wrong...."BIG FUCKIN' DEAL..."
 
That was up until Adrienne walked out of the store.
 
I said "...See there she is." At that point Debra and Adrienne ran up to each other and got all girly huggy huggy... 'How are you and the what are you doing here?!'
 
Actually, I'm happy that she came out when she did, another minute of Bill's ridicule would have forced me to bash his head in. That's how pissed I was that this guy to whom I spent the majority of my time with, he wouldn't believe me about Adrienne, but it went a lot deeper than that.
 
This guy didn't even try to get to know me. Whatever... That's the story about how I was distracted by Adrienne... no that's the story of "Bill and Jan just better believe me when I say something!!!
 
Maars looks a bit like the corrupt contact from the Adventures of Snake Plissken one shot. Was this a conscience nod to the first comic or just coincidence?
 
Did anyone see that comic book?

Debra even wanted to pretend that book never happened. Bill and Jan found a copy of it, but all I really remember of it was it was drawn in the style of the times. You know, back when superman was sporting a mullet. I don't really recall looking at it at all.
 
I must have see some of it because I do recall that it wasn't that great-but who am I to judge? I know plenty of people that didn't like what I drew.
 
I know a pal of mine painted the cover (Nocturnals artist Dan Brereton-Ed.), but the best way to answer this question is Will wanted to be involved with some of the character designs. He and Jan wanted Marrs to look like that. So that's all Bill.
 
I had a really creepy-looking Toad of a guy designed. More along the lines of Brain from the EFNY. movie, but Bill and Jan wanted what they wanted.
 
Also if I'm dropping some bombs on Bill, he also decided what Marrs' body guards would look like. And he introduced yet another character in the final act instead of just wrapping up the first arc. Oh, and adding the killer of all killers, he had to have that god damned blimp or airship. Those fucking things can kill any property: ask the guys that did that Golden Compass movie: AIRSHIPS=DEATH. That was Bill Too!!!
 
Heros and anti heros, which are more fun to do?
 
Come on, it's all good. If it were up to me: Anti-Heroes they get to do anything the want. As long as their objectives are met, hell with the casualties, but that's only because this is all fun and games. Heroes on the other hand...
 
You mentioned you were a little disappointed with the Atlantic City storyline and wanted to add something else to it. Looking back how would you change it, and what else would you add/take away?
 
We ran into a snag just as I was starting the final issue, like I mentioned before, I would have never add a character in the final issue.
 
I understand what Bill was going for, but I really believe that he was writing the story: got finished with issue one, go draw it, got finished with issue two, go draw it, and so on. When he got to issue four his way to handle wrapping something up, he would just add another character thinking that he would be able to wrap it up later sometime down the road.
 
But I was thinking 'What if we never get to do another arc, we need to make this thing stand alone-and as it  goes-this arc does not stand alone.
 
I really hated that last issue. It's kinda funny I draw some of the pages out of order so even after the problems I say, and both Jan and Bill decided to not change it. I was getting ready to hand in some pages for scanning, I noticed Bill had this really awesome shot of Snake running in and picking up this suitcase full of money. Payment for the car and I looked over my pages and Snake never lost the suitcase. So I'm like 'how the hell is he going to swoop in, pick this up... if he already has it???!!! What the hell!!!'
 
And like I said, all of the pages were there so I looked at them both and that's when we have that page where it gets shot out of his hands by Marrs. Mostly because I really liked that swooping in page (the page I'm referring to is the second to last page... where Snake is running and has just picked up the suitcase just before he hops on the copter).
 
What I suggested was: he gets to the boat, we bring him aboard and when we get him deck side, we the viewer notice that all the men onboard are wearing those roses that that new character that Bill created in issue two had his men wearing (...notice the balding mustache guy in the blimp... he's wearing one).
 
So the readers are now involved, the readers are all in on it. We know that Snake is in danger because we had this Rose guy in issue three that was supposed to be important. Now at this point we would have never needed to introduce the Billionaire (screw him... he's dead below deck) cause we would then figure out Marrs beat Snake here. Maybe on the helicopter!!! that we ended up putting on the boat, this would have made more sense to me. I would have drawn a bigger helicopter to hold a half a dozen men... and this would have given us thirteen pages to put together a better final issue.
 
We could have still had the fight... maybe Snake with the help of our damsel in distress, Jackie O., would take care of the six or so guys. We could have still done the crane gag. We could have done anything to cause the fife, helping to destroy the car. Snake would still beat the bad guy.
 
He didn't really need to drop him off the crane. It would have been better if he ended up killing himself through his own mistakes, but it could have been much better and I know Bill loves his story.
 
He probably wouldn't have changed a thing. One of the biggest things missing was the "government isn't working right" stuff from the movies... where were our USPF (United States Police Force) faceless government police. Those guys should have been all over the story considering this would have taken place in the USPF jurisdiction. Bill let his political views blur his objectivity on this story.
 
I really wish I could have done this with Joshua Dysart from the VM books. He would have done some fucked up stuff I would be bitching about now, but I know I would not be bitching about the final story.
 
Was there a particular scene or event you wanted to do but couldn't since the book was cancelled?
 
The book wasn't cancelled. After realizing that working with Bill and Jan just wasn't what I wanted to do I just packed up, took my crap and left. As a matter of fact, I finished the last four or five pages in my new studio.
 
So I think both of them knew that we weren't going to be doing any more books together. There wasn't anyone else. I know that a bunch of your readers would have jumped at the chance to draw these books... I did, but I just couldn't continue working with Hurricane  anymore. So it all ended. You see, Bill and Jan had a partnership with Snake world, that was Debra, John and Kurt. They could have made as many issues of the Snake Plissken Chronicles as they wanted to, but after I left they didn't have anyone to do it and they couldn't pay anyone. That's one of the reasons I left.
 
Plus this is around the time Debra started to become ill. When we first met her she was a healthy, blushy cheeked woman... looking well for her age (around 52 or close to it). She then began to drastically drop weight. We all thought she was on a health kick, that's what she told us, but it was the cancer. And without Debra heading up the project on her end, well it's no surprise that the whole project started its downward spiral.
 
Hurricane wanted to blame Cross-Gen for going belly up, but how can I take that as an excuse? I told them not to leave Image Comics. Told them that leaving would be a bad move, and not to do it. They even kept the news that they were jumping ship to CG a secret from Jim Valentino (he was running Image Central at the time) up until a week before Comic Con that year.
 
Look at that Snake Plissken Chronicles Preview, there's no Comic book Company Logo on it. It was an odd time. The only thing I was really disappointed with was dealing with Hurricane, and having all of my concerns fall on deaf ears. From the get go I should have expected it, I just wanted to do a good book.
 
If the remake happens and you guys get another shot at a Snake comic, what would you want illustrate? Would you want to stay within the 16 years between NY and L.A. or do something before or after?
 
I want to see someone do a really great job. I hope that Hurricane isn't involved in the same way I'm betting some people wouldn't want me involved. Shouldn't someone else get a chance to do something cool with that brand?
 
Who says we have a lock on what should be done on Snake? I don't believe that Bill understands the character or his world. It's not our character...
 
You guys probably have a better idea of were he should be heading to.
 
After the first issue what were the readers reactions?
 
They seemed to liked the book. I only heard a few people bitch about the book. Like I said before, I just want to do a good job... that's all.
 
Is original art still available from the SPC? And if so how can fans purchase them?
 
I still have ALL of the art from Snake. I still have all the art from VM. I haven't really set myself up to deal with people asking for pages from the books.
 
I just started a partnership with one of my very best friends to help me with commissions and handle my original art sales.
 
Her name is "Joss" to reach her and ask about pages for sale from any of my books all you have to do is send any and all requests to
 
joss@tonerod.com
 
and she can answer all of your questions.
 
Your opinion on Snake and the Escape universe.
 
I'm really happy that I was able to be a part of it. I loved getting a chance to get to know and work with Debra Hill, John Carpenter, and Kurt Russell. Snake was fun when it was fun...
 
Why do you think Snake still appeals to folks?
 
We will always root for the underdog. The guy that wants to fight the good fight. And then we want people like Snake to slither around all that pompous bullshit and do and speak his mind. It still gets results, and I think it's what people respond to.
 
Anything else you'd like to contribute or say to the Snake fans out there?
 
Take a five dollar bill put it in an envelope and mail it to the HERO INITIATIVE. Help current and former comic book creators:
 
The HERO Initiative
11301 Olympic Blvd., #587
Los Angeles, CA 90064
http://www.heroinitiative.org/
 
Who We Are and why you should donate
 
In late 2000, a consortium of comic publishers came up with the idea to create a financial safety net for comic creators, much in the same fashion that exists in almost any other trade from plumbing to pottery. By March of 2001, the federal government approved The Hero Initiative as a publicly supported not-for-profit corporation under section 501 (c) (3).
 
Since its inception, The Hero Initiative (Formerly known as ACTORA Commitment To Our Roots) has had the good fortune to grant over $200,000 to the comic book veterans who have paved the way for those in the industry today.
 
The Hero Initiative is the first-ever federally chartered not-for-profit corporation dedicated strictly to helping comic book creators in need. Hero creates a financial safety net for yesterdays' creators who may need emergency medical aid, financial support for essentials of life, and an avenue back into paying work. It's a chance for all of us to give back something to the people who have given us so much enjoyment.
 
I love this charity. And if anyone can help, that would be great. Thank you all, this was fun...
 
Thank you for your time, Tone.
 
More about Tone Rodriguez here: http://www.tonerod.com/