Fans of The O.C. will recall that Season 2 of Fox's teen soap opera found über-nerd Seth Cohen (Adam Brody) creating his own comic book, "Atomic County." Now art is imitating life as Brody teams up with Danny Bilson (father of Adam's O.C. costar and real-life girlfriend Rachel) and Paul DeMeo to pen the series Red Menace for WildStorm, an imprint of DC Comics. "As much as I love comics, writing one wasn't something I ever thought about doing," confesses the 26-year-old Brody, who will be on hand to unveil Red Menace at Comic-Con International in San Diego on Friday, July 21. "Danny brought it up, so I thought it would be fun, and it has been. I've had a blast."
Set in '50s-era Los Angeles, Red Menace revolves around a blacklisted hero named The Eagle and the superpowered youth he takes under his... er, wing. The story was hatched after Bilson and Brody started talking about the 1976 film The Front, which starred Woody Allen as a cashier who agrees to be a front for blacklisted writers. "I said, 'Why don't we just do that, but as a comic?'" remembers Brody. According to Bilson, the actor also came up with the idea of introducing a younger hero into the story. "We all contributed different parts to the idea, but in a certain way, I feel like Paul and I own the older guy and Adam owns the younger guy."
Brody laughs at this. "The funny thing is, I actually like writing the older character better, too. He's just more fun. The book I wrote had him at his lowest point, and I had fun with that, just making him kind of a loser."
Before starting work on Red Menace, all three writers spent some time researching the period, and the comic will incorporate real people (including Roy Cohn and Senator Joseph McCarthy) and real L.A. locations. "I tried to read a 500-page book about the blacklist... and I got about 100 pages in," Brody says sheepishly. "Most of the research I did was by watching movies." But Bilson stresses that when it comes to the writing process, Brody is an equal partner, giving notes on scripts and even penning the first draft to the third issue solo. "When Adam said 'I want to write my own book,' I was very impressed. He wasn't just going to lean on us old-time writers to do it. He wanted to hold up his end of this thing. Adam writing on this book is no gimmick."
While Brody admits that he was nervous about tackling his first comic script by himself, he got the hang of it after writing one page. "You have to give directions to the artist in the script, and I really enjoyed writing that way. It's kind of like writing and directing at the same time."
Even his girlfriend was struck by his enthusiasm. "Rachel told me last week that he kept reading his stuff to her and asking 'What do you think of this?'" laughs her dad, adding that-unlike her on-screen counterpart-the younger Bilson is staying out of the comics biz. "She said he was writing at 4 in the morning because he was having so much fun with it."
Red Menace is currently scheduled to run only for six issues the first goes on sale in November but Bilson says the series could continue if fan response is strong enough. In the meantime, Brody is already thinking of which superhero he'd like to tackle next. "I'd say Batman, but so many people have done that. I sort of want to reinvent a lesser-known hero, someone who hasn't been given his due lately. I also think the more mortal he is powerwise, the more fun he is. I would rather write a guy fighting hand to hand rather than someone shooting rays out of his eyes and flying around."
As far as his collaborators are concerned, he's got a definite future in comics. "He's a really talented guy," raves Bilson. "I have no problem having him in my family."
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