The Punisher

COVERBOYS

by Mark Walters

I am very lucky.  In my life I've had some great experiences, and met many cool people.  Being a comic fan, some of the most interesting people I know are creators who work in that industry.  Tim Bradstreet is perhaps one of the most impressive cover artists ever to work in comics.  You can see his work monthly on HELLBLAZER for DC and THE PUNISHER for Marvel.  He also happens to be a very good friend.  I recently had the honor of participating in a photo shoot for Tim, which was to be used for a PUNISHER cover at some point.  Little did I know that "some point" would happen very soon.  Only a few months after the shoot, Tim called to let me know that I would be appearing on a PUNISHER cover very shortly.  But before my issue would come out, I would see another familiar face on one of those covers.  Thomas Jane, who portrayed Frank Castle on the big screen earlier this year, posed for Tim as Nick Fury, to be used on the cover to PUNISHER #13.  That issue kicks off the Mother Russia storyline, of which issue #15 is also a part of.  So now Tom Jane and I have something in common.  We've both been on the cover to THE PUNISHER.  I decided this had to be talked about publicly, so I asked Tim and Tom to be part of an interview.  And without further delay, here is what they had to say....

 

TIM BRADSTREET

MARK: Let's start by talking about your initial experience working with Tom. Even though it's been covered more than a few times, describe how your involvement with THE PUNISHER poster campaign came about, and that first meeting with Tom.

TIM: After we figured out that I would be doing a teaser poster for the film I began talking with Lion's Gate about money, schedule and so forth. It was then that LGF's Eric Lieb sprung a very cool idea on me. He wanted to do at least four different poster images, which I thought was a great opportunity to do more, and it was also very clever because they got more for their money. We knew I'd be doing multiple images when we scheduled the shoot with Tom so we were prepared to shoot a lot. The original idea was for me to just show up at Tom's house and shoot it in his garage but it quickly became apparent that we had to treat the thing like a professional shoot so we rented a studio and LGF gave us everything we asked for.  Tom showed up relaxed and devil may care. I could tell immediately that he had no ego about this stuff. If I was initially a bit nervous about working with him that feeling dissipated right away. All we had to do was start talking comics. We both grew up around the same time and found that our sensibilities and tastes in the books we read were very similar. It's nice because it gives you something else to talk about other than "Gee Mr. Jane, I really thought your performance in *61 was nails."  We also talked a lot about our favorite artists, so this first meeting with Tom was not a challenge for me. It all felt fairly natural and comfortable, more like meeting someone you feel like you've known for a long time.  Because of this, the photo shoot went very smoothly. Tom was very easy to work with. I knew as we were shooting and I was seeing the shots as we went (because we shot digitally) that doing that poster job was going to be a lot of fun because we had a great model. Practically every shot looked like a possibility for one of the four images we needed.

Tim Bradstreet directs his models during a Punisher photo shoot. Photo by Scott Harben.



MARK: How would you compare working with Tom to some of the other models you've used?

TIM: Most people I work with have no experience. With those folks I just try and make them as comfortable as I can. If they relax or get into it, my job is easy enough. But sometimes it can be challenging and a lot of film is wasted. I've even had to trick certain people and shoot them when they weren't paying attention to get the shot I need. However, I'm lucky enough to have a wife that went to college and majored in theater, and who works in theater professionally now, so I recruit actual actors as much as I can. I find that actors are a lot more fearless when it comes to performing in front of the camera. That was Tom, fearless. He didn't feel silly, he felt like Frank Castle. When someone is in the character, getting the shots you need becomes a hell of a lot easier.

MARK: So THE PUNISHER #13 comes along, and you have to have Nick Fury on the cover. What made you decide you'd ask Tom to model?

TIM: I had the idea immediately upon reading the script. While I'm reading the script I'm already in "casting mode". Meaning, I'm picking out the characters from the script who I may want to involve on the cover.  Obviously I cast the parts based on the character's description in the text or based on what they already look like if they are a known character. As soon as I read Nick Fury's name in the script I knew he had to be on the cover. I've always wanted to draw Fury. I began to think about who I knew that might be able to pull it off. It's funny because I think I was picturing Tom as Nick while I was reading it. I don't think I even considered anyone else. I thought, he's got the perfect rugged and sculpted face for Fury, I'll only have to age him a bit. He also had the perfect build. It was a no brainer. I called him a minute after I'd finished the script and he said "Hell yes I'll do it". All that was left was to schedule the shoot.

Close-up shot of Tom Jane posing as Nick Fury.
 

MARK: When you saw the finished photos, what ran through your mind?

TIM: Well I knew I had the makings of a good cover. There were a lot of good "body language" shots. Just the way he stood, with this look, it commanded respect. I think Fury was easy for Tom to do because he also knows the character. It was easy for him to step into Fury's shoes. I got him in a suit because in the storyline Nick is dealing with suits and politicians, he's still the director of SHIELD but in the story he seemed to be playing the part of a corporate director, not a military figure, So we did the suit, threw on the eye patch, stuck a 9mm Baretta in his fist, and Tom took over from there. All I had to do was light it and direct a little. I got some close ups that are just way to cool. Tom's just looking right through the camera. There is so much going on behind his eyes (eye). You don't know whether he wants to kill you or lead you into battle. I hope that I can find a place to use them eventually.

Bradstreet taking a break from shooting. Photo by Scott Harben.
 

MARK: Here's an interesting question, is Tom now (in your mind) going to be your official model for Nick Fury on any future covers? For instance, if Fury is used in any upcoming storylines, is Tom getting a call?

TIM: Most certainly. It's not hard for me to throw lights in my car and drive up to LA, and if Tom is game then it's easy. I'd love to do a Fury one-shot with Tom. Or even just covers for a mini series.  I know Tom would dig it. Right now, for me there isn't anyone else I would even consider.  Since Tom has a good relationship with Marvel it's just a matter of getting him to sign off on their usage of his likeness. To us that is just paper, it's not a problem, it's a formality, you gotta keep the guys in legal happy.

MARK: How do you decide who to use as models for these covers?

TIM:  It's a simple matter of putting a face to this two dimensional character.  Some are based on actual people, whether they are famous or no. Remember Gulacy using Brando in those classic Master of Kung Fu comics in the 70's?  Or Michael Caine, or James Coburn. Gulacy was the master. With Azzarello on HELLBLAZER I didn't have scripts to work with very often so I'd skull out casting with Brian over the phone. It's very simple, instead of giving me a written physical description, I'd just say, "If you were casting this part in a movie . . . who would you cast?" If the character looks like Yaphet Kotto then I go try and find a guy that looks as close to Kotto as possible. It's an easy way to get on the same page, though not always easy to cast. I get lucky a lot. I just think like a casting agent. Now if I only I had a real casting agent's contacts and a film's budget!

Tom Jane posing as FBI Agent Frank Castle for THE PUNISHER DVD mini comic cover.

"This was just an alternate shot that was never used" Bradstreet explained, "I wanted to show Frank a bit exposed here, like he just saw some serious stuff go down. I wanted to show him exhausted and a bit burnt out.  I guess I knew when I shot it that it would never be the kind of thing Marvel would want to use as a cover image but it felt natural to run Tom through the process. It's also a shot I wanted to see."



MARK: I actually didn't get into comics until 1990. The first Marvel comic book I ever bought was THE PUNISHER, and I fell in love with the character. I've been a fan of your covers since before we became friends. Now you've given me an extreme honor. I'm going to be on the cover the THE PUNISHER #15, as a member of the Russian mob. This is too cool for me to even talk about, so I'll let you do the talking.  Describe how this particular piece came about, and what was your reasoning behind using my ugly mug on the cover?

TIM: Well beyond the fact that we shot it in Dallas, your home town . . . during a convention weekend where I was a guest at your show, as well as hinting constantly at how cool it would be to grace a cover, and following me around and inviting yourself to the photo shoot I had planned with Scott Harben (local Dallas pro photographer genius friend), I'd say the chances of you being used as fodder for Frank Castle shot up to around 95% probability.

MARK: Uh, what?

TIM: Sorry Mark, I couldn't resist. No, the real truth is that you were kind enough to come and help Scott and I during a photo shoot we had initially planned for an Activision project. That fell through so we still wanted to get together and goof off. That afternoon turned into an impromptu PUNISHER shoot. We didn't have our Punisher model but we had a coat and some bodies. I had to think outside the box and try and come up with some cover concepts that either had no live Frank model or didn't really focus on Frank's face. We shot about 6 cover concepts that afternoon. There were two with you. The one in the locker where you play a corpse, stuffed into and hanging inside (which has not been used yet) and the one on the fire escape which is the stuff we used for issue 15. I was not sure at the time that it would be used for the Mother Russia arc, but I must have been thinking about the possibility when I chose the AK-47 for your character.  Scott stood in for The Punisher sneaking down the stairs towards you. Then when I knew we would use this photo rough as a cover, Grant Goleash (my colorist/painter/collaborator) and I conceived the whole "hammer and sickle" pink silk shirt motif. That was the move that really put that cover over the top.  We laughed so hard when Grant was painting that shirt. I kept thinking Mark is either going to be happy as hell that he's going to get this cover or he will be mad as hell that we turned him into a sleazy, Russian, Euro-trash rube. I think it's safe to say that you get the joke and are not offended, to which I must say thanks for being a good sport. And seriously, thanks for helping us that day.

MARK: Actually I'm very offended.  Heh.  How did the editors react to this one?

TIM: Axel LOVED it. Like I said before, the pink shirt thing really told the story on this one. It says a lot about the fashion victims that troll around in the Russian underworld, or just the Euro-trash club scene thinking they are too cool for words when in reality they are completely oblivious to the fact that they look like complete nitwits. It tells a story of who this guy is, with his pinky rings and his gold chains. He's the kind of guy you see on the street or at a club acting like a massive jackwipe and you say to yourself, "That's a guy I wouldn't mind seeing get hit by a gas truck and tasting his own blood". So at least with me and editorial it is a cover that conveys that kind of feeling, you really wouldn't mind seeing that guy get taken down hard by 'ol Frank.

The intrepid interviewer, Mark Walters poses as a mafia style enforcer for an as yet unspecified cover.


MARK: Despite my personal feeling toward this cover, I think it's a great composition, and terrific representation of the character. Are you happy with it as well?

TIM: Most definitely. For me it has the added plus of having friends on the cover. So while it works within the scheme we have for story telling covers, it also works on a personal level. I look at it and think back to the day we shot all that stuff and all of the fun we had making all this stuff up.

MARK: We have to give a healthy nod to the greatness that is Scott Harben.

TIM: Yeah, more people should know about Scott's recent contributions to the PUNISHER film as well.  Not only did Scott provide us with a space to do that shoot described above, as well as providing me with his equipment and time, but he is also was the guy I called when I really needed a serious professional to help with the Tom Jane shoot for THE PUNISHER posters. I started to feel like that whole thing got a little big for me to deal with myself so I called Scott to see if he might be interested in shooting it since at the time I wasn't even working digitally yet. Scott had the proper equipment and expertise to see that I didn't screw that one up. LGF looked at his work and gave us a green light to fly him in. Now I must say that Scott really took no credit for those photos, or maybe more accurately, was given no credit. He was the man behind the scenes, and the truth is I could not have done it without him. He knew what he was getting into. He knew he wouldn't get paid for the shoot, and he knew that he would most likely get no credit for his efforts but he came to help me anyway. That says a lot about him. I've relied on Scott before for certain other photographic help and he has always been there for me. Why this guy isn't working in Hollywood is beyond me. He has a truly great eye for composition and lighting, the whole nine yards. He sculpts, he's a talented graphic designer, he directs. The list goes on, he's multi talented and damn good at all of it. For people that don't know the name you should check out his website.  You will probably see some work there that you have seen before. His concept design and marketing work on Castle Wolfenstein was brilliant. Mr. Harben has been a great inspiration to me and is responsible for helping me to improve my own photographic skills and knowledge. I really can't say enough about him.

Scott Harben and Mark Walters pose as yet another pair of potential Punisher victims.


MARK: So Tom is appearing on the cover the issue #13, and I'm appearing on the cover to issue #15. I'm in pretty good company! If I play my cards right, is there a chance I'll end up on any future Bradstreet pieces?

TIM: Chances are that if you know me and are in close proximity to me, you will get recruited at some point to be on a cover. I just shot some folks here in Italy at the Lucca Comics and Games show this last weekend that I'd only just met. Sometimes I just see a face and have to shoot it. A lot of that stuff will likely show up on HELLBLAZER. When I have a camera in my hand, no one is safe. I've known some people all my life that have still not been on a cover. I'm always getting flak from them since they have not been used yet. For me it's always a matter of casting. If you are right for the part you get the call. Until then they simply have to wait for that script that will open the door of opportunity. But that only applies to the folks that aren't blessed with an expressive, memorable "look".  When I discover an expressive mug I have got to shoot that person regardless of whether I have a project or character in mind. In my position you have to take advantage of opportunity when it presents itself. It already looks like you will make it on another cover since I used you as a dead body along with Harben on PUNISHER 17. Only time will tell if you get another starring role.

 

The finished cover pieces.  Click on the thumbnails to see the full-size images.  On the left, Tom Jane as Nick Fury on the cover to PUNISHER #13.  On the right, Mark Walters as a Russian mobster about to get punished.  Dig the pimped out shirt!



TOM JANE


MARK: Let's get started by talking comics. You're a big comic book fan. What were some of your favorite titles as a kid, and some of your favorite titles today?
 
TOM: I started out reading MAD as a kid.  Through that I got into the EC reprints, the TALES, the VAULT, HAUNT, FRONTLINE, WEIRD, and SHOCK.  That led to CREEPY and EERIE, which turned me onto Wrightson (Bernie), which led to SWAMP THING and CREEPSHOW, and PACIFIC COMICS.  Bruce Jones' TWISTED TALES, ALIEN WORLDS, where I discovered Dave Stevens and then ROCKETEER, discovered Bill Stout, and Corben (Richard), discovered Rand Holmes, which led to DEATH RATTLE and HAROLD HEDD, which opened up Kitchen Sink and the whole underground.  Then I was off of THE FREAK BROS., a great book called CORN FED, then ZAP and Crumb (Robert), R. Williams and by then I was totally warped, having to reaffix my eyeballs to my skull every morning.  Then I took a break.  When I came back I got into stuff like FAUST with Tim Vigil, BLACK HOLE by Burns, WANTED by Millar, Jim Woodring, Thomas Ott and a couple of books called CRIMINAL MACABRE and 30 DAYS OF NIGHT, both by Steve Niles.  And I'm cultivating a serious pre-code horror habit.  BLACK CAT, HORRIFIC, WEIRD TALES OF THE FUTURE...

MARK: Let's talk about the first time you worked with Tim. He had shot several images of you for the PUNISHER poster art campaign.  What were your thoughts about becoming a popular Marvel icon?
 
TOM: I fell in love with Tim's art for PUNISHER.  Called Marvel and asked if we could get Tim to do something for the film.  They said they loved Tim, but didn't know what to do with him, as they weren't using art on their posters at that time.  I suggested doing some promo material or a comic cover for the adaptation.  Told them the reason I had signed on to the film was largely because of Tim's cover work, the realism he instilled to the character, the grittiness.  So I met Tim at a studio in Santa Monica and we worked on what was supposed to be some promo material for comic geeks.  We got along real well, made fast friends.  Tim is the kind of guy I like right away, crazy and smart as hell.  Before I left he showed me a book of his, with some art he did from THE CROW: CITY OF ANGELS.  And there I was, as Nemo.  He'd already painted me!  We were blown away.


MARK: How did you feel about Tim's representations of you on the posters? Is it strange seeing yourself depicted in that style?  How did you feel when Tim approached you to model for Nick Fury on the cover of THE PUNISHER #13?

TOM: The poster stuff was really cool, so cool that Marvel saw the art and smartly changed their policy about art on their posters right away.  But the comic cover is the shit.  It's really flattering in a total geek out way.  I never dreamed I'd actually be drawn on a comic cover.  No way!

MARK: You've done many photo shoots before. Is there any difference in your mind when doing a photo shoot for print, and doing a photo shoot that will end up being interpreted as art?

TOM: It's cool watching Tim work.  For the cover, he came over to my house and we set up in the bedroom and just went to town.  Lot of fun, goofing around.  It's exciting because I was imagining what Tim was seeing in his head, the finished paintings.  Then Steve Niles came over, we did some Cal McDonald stuff for an upcoming paperback, and we all went to Korean Barbecue, the three of us and our wives.  A lot of fun.

Tom Jane and Steve Niles outside the Korean BBQ restaurant were they had dinner after the shoot.  Photo by Bradstreet.


MARK: After seeing the finished art, what did you think?

TOM: Well I was knocked out.  I wish I could look that cool in real life.

MARK: Would you enjoy posing as Nick Fury again if the situation came up?

TOM: I'd do just about anything Tim asked me to, long as he wasn't naked and it didn't involve gerbils or crazy glue.

MARK: You're currently working on a comic project with Steve Niles.  Tell us a bit about BAD PLANET. I understand things are moving forward rather quickly. What is the basic storyline, and what can we expect from the comic?

TOM: BAD PLANET is a sci-fi thriller about an accidental alien invasion.  I pitched it to Steve, and he loved it.  We polished the story together and IDW picked it up right away.  We just turned in the script for #1.  We have found an extraordinary artist out of Australia, by the name of Chris Bolton.  He's strapping himself to the drawing board as we speak.  For me it's literally a dream come true.  I was strung out on a lot of Vicodin, recovering from a car accident last year, when the story came to me in a nightmare fever dream.


Big thanks to Tom Jane and Tim Bradstreet for their time. Look for THE PUNISHER #13 and #15 at your local comic shop. Buy lots of copies! Also look for BAD PLANET from Tom Jane and Steve Niles, coming soon to comic store near you. Tom and Tim will both be appearing at the DALLAS COMIC CON 5 on February 12-13, 2005. For more info check out www.dallascomiccon.com

Check out Tim Bradstreet's amazing artwork at www.timbradstreet.com

Tom Jane did the voice to the upcoming video game for THE PUNISHER from THQ.  This game looks like it's going to be awesome.  Check out more on that here - www.thq.com

Mark Walters and Tom Jane

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