Michael Schwartz has turned his screenwriter’s eye to comics with Armored. It’s the tale of an orphan boy who discovers a haunted suit of medieval armor. Spooky supernatural events ensue.
Schwartz has written film projects including the upcoming R.L. Stine’s Zombie Town with Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase. Armored is his first comics project, and it’s drawn by Ismael Hernandez, lettered by Ferran Delgado, and edited by Eisner-winner Chris Stevens.
It’s set for five-issues with covers by artists Jae Lee, Nick Pitarra, Chrissie Zullo, Scott Kolins, Matthew Therrien, and Jeff Dickson. The project is being crowdfunded on Kickstarter by Clover Press.
In the story, it turns out the armor which protagonist Andy finds in suitably gothic castle still houses the spirit of the knight who wore it once upon a time.
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Fear Street and Goosebumps and Zombie Town creator R.L. Stine took a look and had this to say: ““A fun read and a great new twist on old-fashioned horror. I have only one question: What happens next?”
Aykroyd, who penned the horror-and-mythos rich comedy Ghostbusters also offered some praise: “Michael Schwartz writes a fear-packed, suspenseful, youthful adventure with a twist that entices us to continue reading more to come.”
Wicked Horror: Comics and movies are similar in that they’re both visual storytelling mediums, but they differ in many ways. Your first issue really unfolds in a wonderfully visual narrative, but what challenges did you encounter in shifting gears from screenwriting to graphic storytelling?
Michael Schwartz: When crafting the story about a young boy who finds a haunted suit of armor into a comic book, the one aspect I really had to wrap my head around was the amount of detail I needed to put into the script. I’ve grown so used to writing screenplays where I leave out camera angles and set design details that the director will ultimately decide upon. In comics I really needed to make sure every detail, including the number of panels and what each looked like were accounted for. Once I wrote the first few pages, I started to really enjoy the storytelling process with writing comics. It’s more control than I’ve ever had in my stories prior to that point.
Wicked Horror: You were a comics fan early on, right? What was your entry point to comics and graphic novels?
Michael Schwartz: I’ve been a huge fan of comics since I was a toddler. At a very early age my dad would read me comic books every night. I vividly remember him reading me Amazing Fantasy 15 all the way up to issue 100 of Amazing Spider-Man. Once I was old enough, my dad got me my own pull list at our local comic shop and the first three titles I had there were McFarlane’s Spider-Man, Silver Surfer, and The Hulk. But when it came to wanting to be a comic book writer, the most influential comic by far was Geoff Johns run on The Flash. Something about that run with Scott Kolins just clicked for me.
Wicked Horror: We understand you had your comics collection stolen. What happened there, and how did you deal with the heartbreak?
Michael Schwartz: Some days I’m still dealing with that heartbreak! Haha. My wife and I had just had a baby, so we were sleep-deprived, and the one night our son slept more than 2 hours, someone broke into our garage and cleaned it out – which included 20+ boxes of comics I had collected from childhood until adulthood. It was devastating. At first I told myself I would never buy another comic, but I don’t think a comic book fan can ever truly walk away from the medium. I actually became obsessive about trying to find out who stole them. There was even a night I had the baby in a carrier and saw someone wearing shoes like ones that were stolen from my garage. I started to follow him, with the baby still on me. It was nuts, and obviously, led nowhere. Ultimately, I funneled that obsession into re-collecting, which is more productive, haha, and has been a total blast. Not only am I revisiting some of my favorite comics from over the years, but I’m discovering a lot I’ve never read before.
Wicked Horror: So, you had a background and understanding of comics at the outset. Did you also have an interest in medieval history or how did the notion of a suit of armor come about as a centerpiece?
Michael Schwartz: I’ve always had an interest in medieval history, but never a proper education in that time period. Growing up, I spent a lot of time in Germany, and was obsessed with the castles there. Those trips and that history stuck with me. A couple years back, I was actually re-watching an old ‘80s cartoon called Visionaries when the bud of the idea hit me. I think the creation of Armored really is an amalgam of my time spent visiting museums and castles in Europe and a lot of the horror movies and cartoons I’ve consumed over the years.
Wicked Horror: Did you do any additional research in to armor and castles and the other iconic elements that emerge from the Middle Ages?
Michael Schwartz: From the outset I purposely chose not to make Armored historically accurate. I really wanted it to feel like a Lovecraftian fantasy. While I did do some basic research on certain aspects, I kind of wanted to create a weird and fantastical time period that the ghostly knight Sir William comes from. While he seems like a knight that could have existed in the 13th century, I didn’t want historical accuracy to get in the way of creativity when creating the world in which Sir William comes from.
Wicked Horror: How did you go about working with the artist, Ismael Hernandez, on armored? Was there a close collaboration? Did you get any surprises in how he brought your ghostly knight or your orphaned teen protagonist Andy to the page?
Michael Schwartz: My editor, Chris Stevens, brought Ismael’s art to my attention shortly after he finished editing the first script for Armored. Ismael’s art was so different from the comics I read on a daily basis and I quickly realized what an absolute talent he is and what he could bring to the book. Before jumping into the art on the first issue, Ismael spent a lot of time designing the characters. We went through a few iterations of the monster and the armor, but the rest of the characters he nailed on the first pass, including Andy and the ghostly Knight. Many times Ismael will design a character for the comic and it’s even better than what I imagined. He brings so much emotion to all the characters that you feel like you know their whole story before even reading a page.
Wicked Horror: Any thoughts on the rest of the process? Tell us about the team on Armored.
Michael Schwartz: I’ve really found working with an expert editor like Chris Stevens to be hugely beneficial. He’s an Eisner-Award winner and his talent for this stuff is unparalleled. Not sure I could have made Armored without him, and I really do feel lucky with the team on Armored. It began by working with Chris who then introduced me to Ismael, who I think is on his way to becoming a superstar artist. Chris then brought on Ferran Delgado for lettering and his work just blows me away! It’s amazing how it just complements Ismael’s art perfectly. From there, Chris introduced me to Nick Pitarra and I couldn’t believe he wanted to be the main cover artist on the series. His work on Jonathan Hickman’s The Manhattan Projects and his own book, Ax-Wielder Jon, are just unreal. The detail he puts into his art is incredible. He’s someone I’ve admired for years, so I felt honored when he wanted to be involved. Then to have such incredible artists lending their talents on covers, from the legendary Jae Lee to fan favorite Chrissie Zullo to superhero icon Scott Kolins and my good friends Matthew Terrien and Jeff Dickson, I am a lucky guy to see ARMORED in their hands!
Wicked Horror: You’ve been working on some cool film projects. Can you tell us just a little about those and when to expect them?
Michael Schwartz: My most recent film is R.L. Stine’s Zombie Town and it comes out October 1st on Hulu in the US and Paramount+ Internationally. It’s a really fun entry-level kids horror film and based on Stine’s novella of the same name. I grew up on “kid-friendly” horror movies like The Gate, Monster Squad, and House (1986), so to be able to write a horror movie my 8 year-old daughter and 5 year-old son can watch is a dream come true! I work very closely with the Zombie Town director, and we’re currently pitching a kids animated horror film that I couldn’t be more excited for. I also recently co-wrote a live-action horror movie with a first time feature filmmaker. We’re currently in the process of gathering the funding. Horror is in my veins so I’m sure you’ll see more horror projects from me in the future.
Wicked Horror: Do you see yourself continuing to shift between film and graphic storytelling?
Michael Schwartz: I absolutely hope I’m fortunate enough to continue writing for both mediums. Working in film is my bread and butter, but writing comics has always been a dream of mine. As long as Armored resonates with readers, I hope to continue writing that series and producing new series I’ve been developing.