Tuesday, July 01, 2008


Unsurprisingly, everyone who knows has been hassling me about the details of my HEROES set visit.

At this point, some of you might be asking, "Wtf?!"

<- The final coloured artwork for ROOT & BRANCH.

A little background... I recently drew the three part arc for HEROES written by Ollie Grigsby and Zach Craley called "ROOT & BRANCH". What made the creative process of Root & Branch unique was that I was in communication with Ollie and Zach while I was drawing it (I think we hunted each other down on Facebook and then wandered into emails from there). They answered questions, made invaluable suggestions and together we created a synergy that fueled my drawing. While we spoke about the book we also got chatting about other things. I found out that Ollie had spent a great deal of his childhood in Melbourne, Australia going to a school a 5 minute drive up the road from me!

Our conversations culminated with Ollie inviting me to the HEROES set last Friday.

<- Line art work for Root and Branch.

As an initial caveat I will say to not expect any spoilers here. I'm not discussing a thing, for two reasons. One is that I love my job and I'm not risking it for anything. The second is my real answer; there are so few things that are truly brilliant and will have a lasting effect on us, (and HEROES is one of them) why spoil them? Also, cameras weren't allowed on the set so I wasn't able to take many photos. But I will try to paint an accurate picture of what it was like.

It was 2:45pm when I finally found Sunset Gower Studios. I was half an hour late! Why the hell would I be late to the HEROES set? Just as I was leaving I got a phone call from Lauren (my editor) asking me if I could help her out and draw a cover for a comic for the new HBO series TRUE BLOOD. Hell yeah! Emails ensued and layouts had to be done. That and traffic explained my tardiness.

Making my way through security I parked my car where I was told and wandered around aimlessly looking for the mysterious HEROES production office. I asked the bemused people working at the massive studios where I should go, and eventually found myself right where I started - outside the unmarked HEROES production office, a narrow four story building. But the lack of signage didn't last long.

<- Grey toned art work for Root and Branch.

The thing that hit me as I walked out of the elevator into the seemingly empty production office is the incredible amount of pride the staff have for the show. Magazines, articles, photo clippings, posters, prints and print outs adorn almost every vertical surface only giving way to plants, hinges and beautiful, massive canvases of Tim Sale artwork from the series. The burning railway image took my breath away.

I see the names on the door as I find my way to what looks like some sort of waiting room. A number of doors led off into various rooms. A huge plush office in warm browns catches my eye. A large leather backed arm chair for a visitor blocks most of my view into the inviting room. I notice the name on the door, and my eyebrow arches, "Tim Kring" it says. "I'm here, I'm really here!" I think.

I utter a cautious hello. I wanted to announce my presence as soon as possible, I didn't want to get kicked off the studio lot nor end up in Guantanamo Bay. A voice from a nearby office replies. A lithe man with a shock of sandy blonde hair, red tshirt and jeans comes out and introduces himself as Zach Craley. What great luck! He introduces me to DJ, the production assistant he was chatting to.

Zach takes me upstairs into a large conference room. A large square table sits in the middle of the room running almost wall to wall. But what dominates the room are dozens and dozens of hand-written speech cards stuck to two large whiteboards on two walls of the room. They are flanked by sketches and other design images. It was the writing room. Inside was Ollie the HEROES script co-ordinator, a tall, relaxed guy with glasses and straight brown hair. Ollie pointed to his own corner of the room where he spends all his time wrangling writers and scripts. Ollie introduces me to Harrison and Chris who had also written graphic novels I had drawn. I mentioned I felt like the town bike. Everyone's had a ride.

I ducked off to the bathroom and couldn't help but grin from ear to ear. A huge teetering volcano of comics mounted precariously beside the basin has exploded comics onto every horizontal surface.

When I got back Ollie started one of the greatest tours I've ever been on.

The first bit was one of two major highlights for me. Ollie took me upstairs to meet the writers.

Here is where everyone was! First up was Chuck Kim who co-ordinates the online comics. I regret not having more time to chat to Chuck as he seemed like a fun, really switched on sort of guy. He was deep in conversation with another gentleman but he took a couple minutes of his time to speak to me. He asked me to let him know when I'm free next and I said I always make myself free for HEROES.

When I stepped into the next room I think I did a double take. Sitting behind a large desk was comic book superstar, Jeph Loeb. As I stood there in the doorway agape, a nerf dart impacted into a collage of HEROES images clipped from magazines on the door behind me. Jesse Alexander apologised and shook my hand with a big grin as he collected the dart. Aron Coleite, the new writer of the Uncanny X-men shook my hand and I thanked him profusely for getting me the gig with HEROES. Aron beamed with energy and looked great having dropped a lot of weight. Joe Pokaski was seated on a couch around the corner to the right and smiled, "You know we read the boards and the 9th Wonders fans really love you."

I was stunned, "I guess all I can say is that there are better artists and worse artists than me on the team, but at the end of the day, I think I can confidently say that none of them care more about HEROES than I do. And I guess that comes through in my art and my posts."

We chatted for a bit and when Ollie mentioned we should be going, I asked the four guys if they would indulge me a fan-boy moment and if I could have a picture with them. They said only if it ends up on Facebook. So here's me with my writing heroes:

Ollie asked me if I wanted to go see what they were shooting now. I was stunned! We went on set and I met Adam Armus (Producer and writer of that episode) overseeing a scene in the Bennet house with Sandra Bennet (Ashley Crow) talking to a woman whom I will not identify. One of the things I have to explain is how thoroughly, meticulously and convincingly detailed all the sets are. It was a pleasure to walk around the Bennet house set (I was mainly sequestered to the living room and garden) and see how the production team had solved a hundreds of tiny problems.

Adam was lovely and we had such a fun chat. He explained what was happening and patiently answered all my questions despite being only halfway through his 12 hour day. The intern (another Zack) offerred me his seat so I could watch the scene on the monitor as it was played out. What a buzz!

From there Olllie guided me through a multitude of sound stages and sets. Unfortunately the Deveaux rooftop was dismantled at the time, but Isaac's loft was relatively intact with its huge nuclear mural on the floor. I marveled at the Primatech corridors and the level 5 cells. Bob's office was overwhelming in its meticulous attention to detail including files and folders on dozens and dozens of people with godsends.

Then came my second highlight. As we came across another set I noticed that this one was densely populated. I stood in a hallway looking through into a room and could swear I recognised the man standing in the next room. It was Zachary Quinto. Sylar himself. He was talking to someone who had their back to me. When she turned around I recognised the petite blonde as Hayden Panettiere (Claire). I was shocked and elated at seeing these two. Then from around the corner walked Jack Coleman (Mr Bennet) to complete the trinity! They proceeded to block out a scene with the director and crew. I asked Ollie if I could go closer and he shrugged a confirmation. I edged around and joined the rest of the crew. They proceeded to play out a very, VERY interesting scene that made me break out in a huge grin with its implications.

I was so into it I barely noticed that they had all left. Literally, one second they were there and the next they were gone. I don't know how to explain it. I saw their heads across the parking lot and I regret not stalking them for a photo, but I was restrained by the veneer of trying to act like a professional.

Buzzed, I had seen everything I could possibly want to see. I profusely thanked Ollie and Zach (who had joined us later) and set off from the set. Before I left I asked them about getting future access to sets that are included in the comics. The possibility of being able to shoot reference of the actual HEROES sets would be an incredible opportunity and take my artwork up another level. They couldn't see why not and said they would float the idea to everyone else.

EULOGY: I was also regretfully informed over the weekend that comic book superstar, Michael Turner passed away from cancer at the age of 37. Michael embodied the 21st century's new wave of dynamic, powerful art sweeping across the comic book scene. I found Michael a fascinating artist as I disagreed with every technical choice he made, yet I loved his work. It was a juxtaposition that left me captivated by his brilliance. One of our brightest stars has gone out too soon and we're left to bask in the incredible legacy he left us.


Willow said...

Oh. Mah. Gawd.

(wet 'em)

Can I be you? :D

Anonymous said...

You saw that Zach, Jack and Hayden filming a scene together, you walked around the Bennet house and you met Adam Armus. You are a lucky man!

'ROESian said...

Whoa! Thanks for the insight into our favorite show. What a fun opportunity.

CurlyMarie said...

I have died and gone to vicarious heaven.
That post was the next best thing to being there.
Thank you for sharing. I'm so excited for you!

Kelly J. Compeau said...


I'm hyperventilating...

Dude, a tour of the Heroes set is like taking a day trip to Heaven or Xanadu (the pleasure-dome, not the roller disco). Seeing what you saw, meeting the people that you met...ugh, I am SOOOO jealous. I may be writing comics, now, but I am first and foremost a screenwriter. Who do I have to kill to get an assistant's job in that writers room?

Seriously, give me a list. They'll be dead by morning! :-)

Glad you had such an amazing time, Jas. And also thrilled to hear that you'll be doing a cover for a True Blood tie-in comic. I'm really looking forward to that show.

thepoohguy said...

That is very cool. Even as I type I wonder who could have been at the Bennet house.

Not to mention a cool scene with Hayden, Zach and Jack. Awesome!

SArmy Natalie said...

OMG... excuse me while I squee!

What a fantastic and insightful blog! You truly are our man in the field!
So happy that you are being treated well out there.

*SArmy fangirl moment* You saw ZQ in the flesh!!!!! *thud* Hahaha.

Flawedprefect said...

There is an old Aussie expression which so perfectly sums up my envy of you at this point. It begins with "You Lucky B..." but the ending I can't say, because minors read this blog.


Ororo_Munroe said...

So cool!! Lucky boy! XD

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