A Chat with Rick, Mac, and Joe (Spring, 2008)


A Chat with Rick, Mac, and Joe (Spring, 2008)

This interview originally appeared in the Spring, 2008 edition of the World Watch One newsletter. You can find more information about the newsletter under the question Was there an official Buckaroo Banzai newsletter?

A collection of short interviews with the co-creators/writers of the Moonstone Comic stories with Buckaroo Banzai: W.D. Richter and Earl MacRauch as well as Joe Gentile, Moonstone's Editor-in-chief.
By Alan "BBI Dragon" Smith

I traveled through the 8th Dimension, or so I thought, for a virtual interview with W.D. Richter to chat about, among other topics, the process of writing for the Moonstone Buckaroo Banzai ministries.

As is his nature, I found Rick in his usual humorous mood with the occasional tone of concern over religion and politics.

W.D. Richter

BBI Dragon: I was wondering about the writing process for the Moonstone Comic scripts. Does MacRauch write the bulk of storylines and dialogue between characters and toss it over to you for input?

W.D. Richter: Mac gets an idea and writes it in as short a script form as he can. He sends it to me, and I comment. He takes or leaves my thoughts. If he leaves them, I ride down to his ranch in Texas, and we have a fist fight out by the horse trough. Whoever knocks the other into the trough first gets his ideas in the script. The script is reworked and sent to Joe Gentile at Moonstone, and he tells us it's too long. Mac cuts it. I comment. We slug it out again and send the winner's thoughts to Joe. He "adapts" it into a comic script so that artists can start the rough drawing. The rough black & whites are sent to Mac and me simultaneously, and we comment independently, sending each other what we sent to Joe, who uses what makes sense -- story clarifications, the look of characters and contraptions and environments, even thoughts about eventual colors in wardrobe. The artists then take it to the next step, and we all just keep swapping ideas and looking at the pages as they evolve into full-color extravaganzas with lettering.

BBI Dragon: At what stage does Moonstone's editing staff come into the process?

W.D. Richter: Above should explain this. It's not a "staff".. It's just Joe.

Not really changing the topic, but it might seem that way at first:

W.D. Richter: Buckaroo Banzai recommended that I read a fascinating new book called BLACK MASS (Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia) by John Gray.

BBI Dragon: I went to Amazon.com and read several reader's reviews on this book. It does look to be right up your mental alleyway, so to speak, given our conversations over the last year or two on religion and politics. I'm curious about a few things: Do you write film scripts using these themes?

W.D. Richter: I don't think of themes when I write. I think of characters in situations and let their impulses create a narrative.

BBI Dragon: So your writing of scripts is based on situations. I can rephrase things...Do the situations you base your script writing on ever venture into the extreme in politics and/or religious situations for your characters?

W.D. Richter: I certainly don't pick situations that are thinly disguised themes. By situations, I mean this person just got dumped by a lover and has fled the state by bus or a professional killer who'd rather run his own little bagel shop takes on a hit to pay the rent but winds up falling hard for his target's best girl and then space aliens abduct all three of them. THAT's a situation. What they say to each other and how they deal with it probably is influenced by their "station" in life and their political beliefs or lack thereof. I write to find out what these people are going to do.

BBI Dragon: What situations are interesting enough these days for you to spend your time writing scripts about, without giving out any secrets that is?

W.D. Richter: Just ordinary people muddling through an extreme world.

When talking with W.D. Richter you can't help but pop into religion and politics. It's a welcome topic and the man is not without his passions, concerns, and valid perspectives.

BBI Dragon: What are your thoughts on the current presidential candidates?

W.D. Richter: The point is to stop McCain, who's a fruitcake; he actually thinks that, "My friends, we're WINNING in Iraq." It's one thing to WANT to win (whatever that might mean), but to think you actually are when you're not? Just the kind of delusional (that word again) brain we need at the controls again. Hillary is one half of a pretty disturbed relationship, and we'd get the whole thing if she got elected. Time's running out for this country. China and Europe and even Latin America are all getting their shit together. We need to rejoin the world and energize America's youth. Obama. Not that he's perfect. But I think he's BY FAR the best of the group.

Back to the Banzai

BBI Dragon: Is there anything happening in the Banzai Universe beyond the next series from Moonstone?

W.D. Richter: Maybe. Can't say yet. Could turn into nothing. Might not. Might be something.

Earl MacRauch – Writer

BBI Dragon: In the short interview I've done with Rick, he gets his pokes in about politics and the Bush administration. If you have something you'd like to say, here is your opportunity as well.

Earl MacRauch: Rick and I trade a lot of e-mails about politics. We both loathe Bush/Cheney for trashing this country and everything it supposedly stands for, but I don't think either of us has any illusions that it's just those two guys or even the Republican Party that's the problem, because the real problem is systemic. Democracy is just a charade when all the candidates need money from the same people to get elected. This country really needs more choices, but that won't happen with the corporate power bloc and their mouthpiece media standing in the way. Anyone who gets very far out of line from the official political orthodoxy in this country--low taxes, big war, etc.--gets pounced on and beaten up pretty quickly. If a candidate wants to get on TV, he or she has to move to the right.

Having said that, we both back Obama, if for no other reason than the fact that he's got half a million ordinary people who send him money. With that kind of base, he can be a little more independent of big money, even say 'screw you' to some of the usual lobbies. He can, but I don't know if he will, assuming he's nominated and elected...still very much an open question.

The truth is, no matter who's President, America is in eclipse, and nothing's going to change that. Global power is moving east, out of the white man's hands, which is probably just as well. It won't happen overnight, but it's happening.

BBI Dragon: From your side of things, how do you feel about the process of writing for Moonstone?

Mac: Joe at Moonstone has been easy to work with and very supportive. It just takes a long time to draw and produce a comic and there are several in the pipeline being worked on simultaneously. What's cool, and also a little weird, is to see how each artist has a different take. Buckaroo and the characters all look slightly (or a lot) different in each comic. I'm sure as the process goes on things will become a little more standardized, but right now it reminds me of looking at Walt Disney's rough drafts of Mickey Mouse from the 1930s. And we all know what happened to Mickey Mouse, what a miserable failure he was. It's all just part of the process. Hopefully, people will find the results worth the wait.

BBI Dragon: Do you have other writing projects you work on, hobbies, something to pass the times?

Mac: I'm writing a script and a Buckaroo novel, but probably spending more time reading than writing. Lately, I'm in love with Charlotte Bronte. God, she's great. The absolute bomb. Everybody reads "Jane Eyre" in high school, but I just finished "Villette"...amazing, such texture and deep characters and just great writing. Maybe we should have a BB book club.

As for hobbies, I make really hot mix tapes. I mean smokin' hot: rock, hip-hop, salsa, you name it, all thrown together in a sound soup guaranteed to please. If my mix tapes don't make you jive, you ain't alive. Send $1 for postage and handling and if you're not satisfied, go ask your mama...

My last kid leaves for college this fall, so I should have a little more time to write, or maybe just put the cans on and be my bad self.

Joe Gentile with Moonstone Comics

BBI Dragon: From your perspective on the writing and creation process for the BB Moonstone Comic, when Mac and Rick send you scripts, what happens with them?

Joe: What happens to them…well, first I read them and enjoy! Still a huge BB fan at heart, so it’s still thrilling to be reading new adventures from the main man Mac!

After that, the truth of the matter sets in. Mac basically writes me a screen play which I have to adapt into comic format. It sounds quite simple, but is extremely time consuming. Movies and comics are close cousins, but not identical! We also have this on-going amusement of trying to figure out how many comic pages it will take to tell his new story.

You know, for a screenwriter, it’s all about “how many pages equals how many minutes,” but for comics…its not like that at all.

What could take just two sentences to say in a screenplay (i.e. “Banzai looks at Tommy with a wry smile, jumps off his horse, kisses the bikini babe with a big sweeping smooch, waves to his fans, and then gets into his waiting limo because the president just called”…this takes 2 lines in a screenplay, but easily takes more than one comic page to properly portray. So, with Mac and I, it’s been a little give and take, because even though I may want a 22 page comic story from him, what he sends me may be a lot more than that…or a lot less…

BBI Dragon: Your expansion clarifies the basic writing challenges between the two formats very well.

When a writer is working directly on a comic script, it must be a much more condensed style. It is wonderful that Moonstone has saddled up with Mac and Rick who are script and book authors, but one can't wonder if taking "Writing for Comics 101" could be helpful for everyone involved.

Joe: Thanks for everything! We DO try our best, and hopefully we succeed more than we fail…but always know that we love these characters and are trying to do right by them.

Rick and Mac…you really couldn’t ask for better licensors or creators…what great guys…genuinely.

Changing the subject just a little

BBI Dragon: Everyone has their story, their introduction to Buckaroo Banzai and Team Banzai. Please tell us yours.

Joe: I just walked into the theatre to see the film when it came out…It called to me, like a siren on a lonely beach…It was like a modern day pulp adventure…and as a HUGE fan of the Shadow, Doc, the Spider, and the Avenger, man was I pumped for it! There were, sadly, just a handful of us in the theatre, but we all loved it!

BBI Dragon: There was mention a while back of another project, a Buckaroo Banzai Encyclopedia. From what I recall, this tidbit might have been announced before all the ducks had been put in a row. Is there any news on such a project?

Joe: No news, sadly…

BBI Dragon: How is progress with OF HUNAN BONDAGE coming?

Joe: ACH! Running a little late…but almost there!

Joe want everyone to know that they still have a supply of “Return of the Screw” Issues #1,2,3, as well as these fine products at: www.moonstonebooks.com

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