Q&A WITH PAUL RUDITIS
Read our exciting interview with Paul Ruditis. First of all i want to thank Paul for doing this for us. Secondly i want to thank GlennVP for helping me polish and choose the questions and also i want to thank all of you for submitting great questions and especially: David, ForeverCharmed, TDeath, Mr. Jay, ComicFan, RBN, Courtney, Diego A. DV, Storygirl83, Kody, Chloefan03 and Megawhatz
1. In “No Rest for the Wicca” Paige got a new charge, so she’s obviously still working as a Whitelighter. But is she the
Whitelighter of her sisters as well? If not, will they get a new Whitelighter any time soon?
PR: I don’t know that The Charmed Ones are working with a Whitelighter at the moment. Up until recently things had been so quiet that Piper and Phoebe probably haven’t had that much of a relationship with the Elders. It’s not like they look for reasons to spend time with them. I suspect Paige probably fills the void as their link to the Elders, serving as their Whitelighter in an unofficial capacity with all the powers and responsibilities that would entail. But no, I don’t imagine that she has been officially named their Whitelighter.
2. A lot of fans have been wondering why you chose the names Kat and Tamora for Paige’s twins and Prudence Johnna for Phoebe’s daughter. This leads us to our second question, how do you choose the names and the appearance of new characters?
PR: As for their appearance, that’s often a combination of what I write in the script and what the artists come up with on their own. It depends on the character. Some I include very specific notes on, while others I just indicate whether the person is male or female and a maybe give a general age. Beyond that, the artists have different approaches to drawing the characters whether established characters or new ones.
Regarding the names, I never considered Paige a traditionalist who would name all her children after people in her life or carry on the history of the “P” names. Particularly since she didn’t grow up with that tradition. I spent a lot of time trying to get into her head about this decision and came up with two names I think she and Henry might choose.
Now, someone did send me a private comment suggesting they thought I just dropped in some names of my friends or my cats. Well, aside from the fact that I don’t have a cat, I would never do something like that. It’s disrespectful to the characters. I take the Charmed mythology very seriously and put a lot of thought into every choice I make. The name choices have meaning to Paige and Henry, but nothing that’s really story-worthy. They’re simply names that they like.
That said, I feel like I now have to explain something regarding Prudence Johnna since one of you is going to make this connection some day. My initials are also P.J., which you would know if you saw one of the books I’ve written as P.J. I considered not giving her the nickname P.J. because of that fact. However, I needed her to have a nickname. By the second issue of the comic book I was running into the challenge of differentiating between her and her late aunt in dialogue. I almost felt obligated to call her “Baby Prue,” which I don’t like. I needed a nickname everyone could use since I don’t see Mrs. Winterbourne, for instance, calling her “ladybug.” (If I should ever have to write that scene.) Giving her a middle name derived from Grams’ maiden name, Johnson, provided a natural nickname that was too perfect a solution to pass up. Especially since I do see Phoebe as someone who would carry on the traditions of the Warren and Halliwell line.
3. Magic School’s exterior has always been kept secret on the show, and most fans probably thought of a castle such as “Hogwarts”, but in the comics we see that it has this Asian look and it seems to float as well. What made you decide these things?
PR: I love this question because the answer is a great example of the collaboration that goes into the comic book. I was excited to show the exterior of Magic School for the first time in the comics. It was a great chance to tie the comics into the TV series and yet show something new at the same time. That said, Magic School in the comic book looks nothing like I ever imagined it. It’s really more of the artist’s vision, which we reached after a few round of revisions where I had the opportunity to comment.
My initial thought on Magic School was that it could look like anything at all on the outside. Sure, we’d seen a particular design in the few rooms and halls in the TV show, but that endless hallway in the first episode with Magic School suggested to me that we have endless possibilities for what the rest of the school could look like. I feel like the Elders would have designed a space that would suit whatever needs the students could have. This opened up the possibility of different looks throughout the building. I didn’t think it had to be logical. That we should focus on the magical. At the same time, we wanted the artists to let his imagination go wild and create a space that could not exist in the natural world.
The initial sketch the artist sent through was more of an earthbound structure than I’d envisioned. The final architecture style pretty much matches that first sketch, but it looked like a building any human could have built on Earth. It was initially placed in a very cool inaccessible ravine, but I’d hoped for more. I had the chance to give some notes, and the next stage of art evolved into the entire building floating and a levitating tower. But I still felt like we could’ve taken it further. It was our chance to create a standout art piece with a limitless budget. But at that point we were pressed against the deadline so it became more about what we could add to enhance the building rather than changing too much. I suggested that the artist include some other magical embellishments to pump up the visual, such as adding a mythological creature and, well, many of you know some version of that story by now.
4. Why did you decide to bring the Source of All Evil back as a Golem?
PR: That grew out of a series of decisions, starting with the desire to bring back a villain that tied the comics into the TV series. The Source worked for a number of reasons. The TV series opened with The Source pulling the strings in the early seasons. I liked the idea of it appearing as if The Source was doing the same thing in the opening comic books only to learn that he was being manipulated instead. I also thought it would be helpful for bringing in any new readers that aren’t as familiar with the TV show. With a villain like Zankou, you have a certain amount of explaining to do with the character’s history. With someone named “The Source of All Evil,” you can pretty much define the villain with his name alone.
Making him a Golem was one of the easier decisions of the comic. The TV series showed people possessed by The Source and how it affected them so that the story became about the person possessed and not The Source. I didn’t need The Source to be the story here. I wanted him to have the focus, but I wanted it to really be about Neena and the subtle manipulation she used on everyone around her to get what she wanted.
5. Piper got a new power in “Mortal Enemies”. Many fans have already called it Molecular Acceleration, but did you have another name in mind?
PR: Not really. I think once you start naming magic or examining it too closely it stops being fantasy and becomes almost science fiction. For me, that makes the magical aspects of the story less interesting.
The magic does need to work in logical manner. It needs to grow out of the character and the world, but specifying between “molecular acceleration / manipulation,” “geokinesis,” “thermokinesis,” “pyro-blah-blah-blah” isn’t my focus in the storytelling. I do understand why you all want to know. I appreciate that you enjoy pulling apart the Charmed universe and examining it in microscopic detail, but that’s not where my interest lies. Piper slowed things down to freeze them and she sped things up to the point they exploded. This is something in between. Not necessary a “new” power but an evolution of the power she already has. You can call it what you like. I’m calling it George.
6. Will you keep any of the show’s traditions, such as the destruction of the grandfather clock, the closing of the front door at the end of each season, etc.?
PR: Well now, you’re just going to have to wait and see. Certainly those who have read the behind-the-scenes sections of the two Charmed episode guides I co-wrote know that I’m aware of the traditions of the show. It’s just a matter of working them in. If there’s a battle in the Manor, I don’t see why the clock can’t break, but I’m not going to write a scene into the comic book just so I can break the clock again.
7. Henry has a hard time dealing with the fact that he almost strangled Paige to death, even though he knows that he was influenced by magic. Will you be coming back to this in a future issue?
PR: Well, there is an issue coming up called “Oh, Henry.”
8. Is there anything you can tell us about the next five issues?
PR: Why just the next five issues? That’s a random number to throw around. I will say that I surprised myself as I started writing the next arc. A fairly notable guest character returned that I didn’t actually realize was going to come back until I was writing the first issue. The story evolved in a way that made perfect sense for this person to be involved. It’s a person I haven’t gotten many questions about. Possibly no questions, actually. Hopefully it’s someone you will all enjoy seeing. Marcio captured the likeness perfectly in the first issue we see this person. I found it especially impressive since the issue was on a very tight deadline.
9. Where does the initial idea for a story begin and how does that idea develop into a finished issue?
PR: Well, there’s a question that will take forever to answer. Okay, let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up…
Every idea starts in a different place, but usually I begin with a “What if” question. This leads to a series of other questions. “If I do this, then what would happen?” “How would this person respond?” The stories all grow out of some personal place for the characters. I don’t just want a random demon to show up for no reason. The story has to impact The Charmed Ones’ lives in some way.
After the idea gets approved, I write the script, which then goes to Zenescope and CBS and then the real fun begins. CBS gives their notes, which have been pretty minor so far. Then the script goes onto the artist who starts laying out the issue.
The artist sends in the drawings a page or two at a time and I get to make comments (along with Ralph and Raven) about anything that needs to be changed. I try to contain those comments to the factual changes like explaining that even though the front door of the Manor is technically a double door, we only really ever see one side of the door open.
I look at the comics as an artistic interpretation of the series, not always a photo-realistic piece. I think we have to allow for some creativity in the style. That’s not to say that we don’t take accuracy seriously, because we do. But some things, like the way Piper’s powers are shown, aren’t necessarily going to translate directly onto a comic book page.
Once enough pages are approved by the editors and by CBS, the colorist can start working. I still don’t entirely understand all that the colorist does, but it’s so much more than just slapping some color on the page. Milen throws around terms that I’d never even heard of. The colors go through the same process of approvals as the drawings.
Then the letterer starts laying out the dialogue, captions, and sound effects. Lettering in itself is an art form, controlling the visual flow of the story. It’s one of the more fascinating aspects of comic books that I’d never given much thought to before. Again, this overlaps with the drawing and coloring at times because deadlines are tight in comic book publishing. If we waited for each stage to be done before the next stage started, we’d never get the book out.
At every stage I may have to make tweaks to the dialogue because the artist has a better idea for a visual than the one I’ve written into the script or he or she simply can’t draw the page the way I wrote it because I threw in too many panels or too much activity, or any number of things. Once the page is drawn, it’s easier to change the dialogue than the art. The script really is just the template. That part, I admit, has taken a bit of time for me to get used to. The artists do a brilliant job at recreating what I write, but every stage needs to be adaptable to the real world issues involved in printing a comic book to make for the best overall story possible.
10. How much of a say do you have when it comes to the art? Especially the coloring aspect of the comics.
PR: More and more everyday. I expect to be running Zenescope within a year. Okay, that’s a joke. Mostly. My role in the comic book has changed dramatically since we launched the comics. Zenescope learned pretty early on that my knowledge of Charmed was useful beyond just the writing and by issue 4 I started to receive a co-editor credit.
As of the next arc, I’ve gotten even more involved in the editing. I still don’t take part in the business decisions of the comic book, but I am more involved with the art approvals. But this is a collaboration where everyone has a voice. The artists know far more about their craft than I could ever hope to, so while I do have more of a say in the artwork, it’s still very much a team effort.
11. Is there anything you regret doing in an issue, story wise or art wise, something you wished you could have changed?
PR: I don’t have any “regrets” about the artwork. It would be rather rude of me to “regret” anything my collaborators did. I only have regrets about my writing in any case where I got something factually wrong. That’s not to say that I never wish I could go back and change things. I don’t know a writer alive who doesn’t want to change almost every word he or she has ever written. It’s pointless to look back like that unless you use it to color how you do things in the future.
Okay, okay, you twisted my arm. There is one thing I would have changed if I’d had the level of input earlier in the series that I have now. The potion bottles would have been floating in the stew Piper was cooking at the end of issue 1, not stacked in front of the pot.
12/13 We’re getting closer to issue 12, the final issue of the comics for now. Can you tell us if there’ll be more issues or is this something that has not been decided yet? If the comics should continue, will there be a hiatus between issue 12 and issue 13?
PR: I hope you don’t mind, but I combined your questions for numbers 12 and 13 because they have the same answer. I’m very glad that you asked this question because I think there’s a lot of confusion out there about the comic book and how we’re approaching it that can’t easily be addressed in the 140 characters on twitter.
First off, you all have to understand that there is no magical number 12. There never was, so far as I know. Zenescope is approaching this as an ongoing monthly comic book that will continue until it doesn’t anymore. (And we are working very hard to get back on that monthly schedule. Thanks for bearing with us in the process.)
As best I can tell, this confusion may have originated with the fact that Zenescope sells a subscription for a year’s worth of Charmed comic books. Since a year has 12 months, that means 12 issues. But that’s just a subscription. I don’t believe it was ever intended as an “announcement” of 12 issues. Certainly, that’s not how my conversations with Zenescope have ever gone.
So, yes, I’m hopeful that it will go beyond issue 12, but I’m also hopeful it will go beyond 13, 14, and 15. Just as I was hopeful we’d have an issue 4, 5, and 6. The Charmed comic book line will continue until the sad announcement comes that it will be no more. Not the other way around. It could be number 12. It could be number 67. I personally focus on the issues as I write them and as they are released. Worrying about what’s coming down the line causes unnecessary stress.
That’s not to say that I don’t PLAN for what’s happening down the line. Of course I plan ahead on the issues. But when the day comes with that sad announcement that the line is cancelled—hopefully far in the future—I won’t leave you hanging. If I’m ever told an issue I’m working on is the last one, I will find a way to wrap up the story. Unless the comic book suddenly ceases publication without warning or I get fired or something else unplanned happens, I will provide closure.
14. Have you ever contacted one of the show’s writers, whilst working on an issue, to help you out with something?
PR: Not the writers. I don’t know any of them. I do know a couple people that worked on the show in a behind-the-scenes/office capacity and I run ideas by them to get their opinions or ask them questions about points I may have forgotten. They’ve been a great resource for the comic book.
15. Have you gotten any comments on the comics from the cast and crew from Charmed?
PR: Aside from a couple times the cast has mentioned the comic books on twitter, the only comments I’ve gotten are from they friends I mentioned above. But they are completely biased and totally untrustworthy. They love everything I do.
16. How did you feel, and what did you think when you saw the first issue as a finished product?
PR: It’s always exciting when a book of mine comes out, but seeing the first comic book that I’d written—or co-written—was definitely something new. Since issue 0 was more of a traditional book with artwork, the launch of issue 1 was the one I most anticipated because it was my true first comic book.
It was especially great that the issue came out at San Diego Comic Con. The first time I got to see it as a finished product was at the Zenescope booth where I was able to see it along with the fans. I actually saw it after many of the fans at the convention already did. I enjoyed talking with them about it and seeing the excitement of the people that hadn’t even known there was going to be a comic book before the convention. It was also special because I got to meet Raven and Milen in person for the first time. There was a lot tied into the release of issue 1 beyond the comic book itself. It was a good weekend.
17. On Twitter you are followed by a lot of Charmed fans who you ask you questions about the comics every day. What do you think about this interaction that you have with your fans? Does it influence any of your decisions when you’re working on the stories?
PR: This whole social networking thing is a bit of a double-edged sword. I’ve always made it a point to stay away from fan boards for TV shows that I’ve written books for. They’re a great place for the fans to come together and discuss, which is wonderful for fostering a community for the show, but those sites can be just soul crushing for a writer. I love your site because you’ve always got the scoop, but I do my best to avoid reading the comments.
The Charmed comic book is really the first major project of mine that’s come out since being on twitter and facebook. It’s been a wonderful blessing and a bit of a curse. I love the interaction. I love that you guys aren’t afraid to tell me what you like and what you don’t, but I never really let it influence the writing. You all have such diverse opinions about the show that if one group wants the story to go one way, just as many people would want it the other way. I personally prefer it to go someplace you’d never expect, which is why I despise spoilers. But I do understand that enhances the experience for some of you, so feel free to keep talking them up among yourselves. Just please don’t be offended when I choose not to respond to certain questions or have a little fun with you. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: don’t take me too seriously on twitter. Ever.
An actual problem that has grown out of the social networking is that people keep sending me story suggestions. This is something that happens more often on facebook email, which is part of the reason I suspended my account there. I’ve received a number of proposals for stories people want me to tell. I know the motivation for this is entirely innocent, but even looking at these ideas can get me in legal trouble. Telling me that you really want Cole back in 140 characters on twitter isn’t an issue. (I mean, who doesn’t want Cole back? Actually, you might be surprised.) But a long email laying out an entire storyline is automatically deleted. So, if you all wouldn’t mind keeping your future storyline discussions among yourselves it would make the whole social network experience much more engaging on my end. (Also, for those of you that have sent me story ideas, please don’t think I’m singling you out here. You are not alone.)
It really is great to interact with the readers. The community aspect that has evolved with these comic books is invaluable. It makes me feel like we’re not just creating these comic books for some anonymous people out there in the world. It’s also amazing to know that we’ve got readers in so many different countries, particularly since it’s difficult to get the comic book outside the U.S. That’s the most exciting part of the whole project as far as I’m concerned.
18. The Charmed comics are the first comics you’ve written. How has this experience been for you so far and would you like to write more comics, outside the Charmedverse?
PR: It’s been a real eye opener. There’s an incredible amount of work that goes into a comic book. That’s not really a surprise, but it is impressive to witness all the juggling of the artwork and coloring and lettering in how it all comes together. Comic books and graphic novels are experiencing a bit of a surge in the young adult market right now, which is where my primary interest in writing lies, so I would definitely be open to doing more comics outside the Charmed universe.
19. If the Charmed comics would get a spin-off series, and you would be the writer as well, which character would you like it to focus on?
PR: I’d like to go into the future and show the next generation of the Warren line. That would be a fun way to extend the Charmed universe. Especially now that we know the family is more than just “The Charmed Sons.” But to be clear, no one has any conversation with me about a spinoff. I’m just answering your question. Don’t anybody go starting any rumors.
20. And to finish: Is there anything else you would like to say to your fans?
PR: I really am thrilled to be part of the Charmed community. You guys are so important to the comic book, you don’t even know. (Beyond just the fact that you buy them.) But remember, I am by no means the final word on all things Charmed. You can all feel free to interpret our story however you’d like. Interpret the series in whatever way it affects you individually. Not everything has to have a right or wrong answer even if the story plays out a way that contradicts your interpretation.
I’d also like to give a special shout out to Kostas and Glenn for pulling together this interview. It’s been really great to answer your questions in more than 140 character bursts. We must do this again sometime. Say, maybe after the next arc?