By Adam White
After reading the strangely prescient 7 Days to Fame, I knew I needed to chat with the mastermind behind this mindblowing miniseries. Luckily, Buddy Scalera is a great guy who generously offered his time to chat about his story, his company, and the unreal reality penetrating American culture.
ADAM WHITE: What initially drew you into comicbooks? Were you a reader or did you come into it some other way?
BUDDY SCALERA: I read comics when I was a kid. Then when I hit my teens, I sort of abandoned them. In my junior year of college, I had a college professor who talked about comicbooks in class and that got me interested in them again. After that, I was hooked.
AW: What was your first comicbook-related job? Did you always plan to be a writer?
BS: Well, I always planned to be a writer, but not necessarily a comicbook writer; I went to school for journalism because I planned to be a magazine and newspaper reporter. I sort of dabbled on the side writing some comicbook stuff, but my real focus was on journalism. Early on, I started writing articles and stuff for a movie magazine called Scarlet Street. That opened doors to magazines like Wizard, CVM, and CBG. I didn’t get serious about writing comics until I had left Wizard.
AW: I noticed on your website a mention of the ComixVision show you did for a while, which interested me — could you tell us a bit about that?
BS: “ComixVision…where comics meet television.” That was our tag line. It was a small cable access show that I did before I got my job at Wizard. It was a small side thing that actually lasted over four and a half years. Basically we did current news and information on comicbooks for a mainstream audience. It was fun and lots of young pros appeared on the show. I included a few video clips of the show on my Visual Reference for Comic Artists CD-ROMs. But now that YouTube is around, I plan to convert more of the shows to digital and make them available online.
After Hours Press came about as a result of being frustrated with small press publishers.
AW: What was your first published comicbook work?
BS: I would have to say Elvira #57-58 for Claypool Comics. There were a few minor attempts and ashcans, but that was the first real published comic work.
AW: What lead you to create After Hours Press?
BS: I had co-written Necrotic: Dead Flesh on a Living Body for an independent publisher. But when it came time to print the book, he changed his mind. So we tried another publisher and that didn’t work out either. So in frustration, I just rallied together my friends and we put out Necrotic. After Hours Press came about as a result of being frustrated with small press publishers.
AW: What inspired 7 Days to Fame?
BS: A few years back I was watching a lot of reality television shows. Shows like Cops, Real World, and American Gladiators were fascinating to me. Not just from the content, but from the idea that people would consent to appear on these shows. So I thought, “how far will this trend go?” And I came up with the idea that maybe someone would want to show not only their life but also their death on television. And the idea of a suicide on television didn’t seem all that far fetched.
The idea of a suicide on television didn’t seem all that far fetched.
But here’s the funny thing — I didn’t do anything with the story because I kept thinking that these types of shows would come and go in a few seasons. But they didn’t, they actually got more extreme with stuff like Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire? and Fear Factor. So I dusted off my old notebooks and started to write out the story again.
AW: If you had waited much longer television might have beaten you to it, so it’s a good thing you went for it. Something that TV would not have done leads me to my next question: I admired how you made a point about the general public’s fascination with fame and death without pandering to that same audience, which would have been easy to do. Did you intend from the start to avoid sensationalizing the violence or did you have some debate over it (internal or external)?
BS: I always wanted the real “violence” and “shocks” to happen off panel. I think the reader actually fills in the blanks and can make it a lot scarier than what an artist could put on the page. I figured if we did it right, people might actually think they saw the violence, when they really did not. Although these days the news and the video cameras don’t cut away from violence and death. We have a generation of people literally seeing other people die or get seriously injured in videos. I’m not sure what that will do to the way we present fiction, since people have access to violence and death right on their home computers.
AW: How did you hook up with artist Dennis Budd?
BS: Dennis Budd and Joe Caramagna were sitting at a table at a small convention in New Jersey. They were pushing their self published graphic novel Model Operandi. I really liked their stuff, so I asked if they would be interested in collaborating on my project. They were great to work with, since they both worked really, really hard to be faithful to the scripts. Now that we’re done with 7 Days to Fame, we’re going to re-publish their graphic novel Model Operandi through After Hours Press. They did the book in a totally different style, and I think people are really going to love their story and art. Joe Caramagna is the inker and letterer and he also writes the story. Dennis Budd’s pencils are really smooth and amazing. I have high hopes that Model Operandi could be our first big breakout hit.
AW: As far as I’m concerned, 7 Days to Fame is your breakout hit. I thought each issue felt more eerily real than the last — did you ever have a moment when it felt more like journalism than fiction?
BS: Actually, I was mostly focused on tapping into the emotional growth and conflicts between the characters. You read the story, so you know that a lot of the actual suicide stuff is happening in the background. This is mostly a story about how people do things in their career that they know is wrong. It’s very hard to walk away from big money and big success, even if you know what you are doing is morally questionable or even illegal.
It’s very hard to walk away from big money and big success, even if you know what you are doing is morally questionable or even illegal.
So for me, the story of the suicides was really secondary to the main story of how it affected the two people who created/worked on the show. Ironically, during the time that we were producing the series, two events on television came eerily close to our story. First, one of the boxers on the reality show The Contender committed suicide after losing a bout. And second, Danny Bonaduce tried to commit suicide on an episode of Breaking Bonaduce. The Danny Bonaduce one was particularly disturbing, since he is already rich, famous, and does not have any physical “illness.” He’s a very smart, very rich guy with a family and you have to wonder why he would want to kill himself. And that’s something that I try to explore in parts of the story.
AW: Do you think we’ll ever see a 7 Days to Fame type program? Is it just fiction, or an inevitable reality?
BS: I think SOMEthing of this nature is an inevitable reality. Maybe not specifically a weekly suicide broadcast, but I think that the most shocking is yet to come. And in all likelihood, it will come through the Internet, not necessarily over broadcast television. There’s been some really shocking stuff on television in the past few years, and not just from reality TV. I’m talking regular television, the news, the Superbowl, everything. Somewhere, there is someone on this planet with a video camera and an idea who is going to show us something that is just “too much.”
AW: What do you think about reality TV?
BS: I like a lot of it, but there’s just so much, I can’t catch it all. This year was really busy with the comics and my book coming out, so I didn’t really keep up as much as I would have liked to. I catch reality shows
Somewhere, there is someone on this planet with a video camera and an idea who is going to show us something that is just “too much.”
when they are on, since they generally don’t require your undivided attention. This year I watched a few episodes of shows like The Apprentice, Super Nanny, American Inventor, and a few others. The reality shows are really well-produced and fun to watch. I used to watch stuff like Fear Factor, Breaking Bonaduce, The Osbournes, and The Simple Life. A lot of people think that reality TV is just junk, but I would have to disagree. There’s some really interesting, compelling human drama out there.
AW: Why is it that the media and the public are so obsessed with fame? Is it interconnected, or one feeding the other?
BS: The media glamorizes famous people. They make their lives seem larger than life, almost mythical. Most people believe that fame and fortune would make their lives infinitely better. And if you watch shows like MTV Cribs, it’s easy to think that.
Most people believe that fame and fortune would make their lives infinitely better.
Or if you read People or Us or other celebrity magazines, you can easily see how much fun life seems to be when you are famous. And the more we read, the more the media will sell us. Look at how many of these celebrity magazines are on the stands. How many shows are devoted to it on television, how many books and websites and whatever are tied into the cult of fame. We can’t help but think that these people are like modern day gods, and we gobble up their mythic adventures, even if the stories aren’t true. So fame and fortune is an elusive goal that many people believe is a panacea for their problems. I’m sure there are some elements of fame that are just incredibly fun. But then there are probably some equally annoying elements like loss of privacy, anxiety to perform, and media scrutiny.
AW: Have you had any offers from people wanting to be on 7 Days to Fame? (Y’know, from those types who can’t separate reality from fiction?)
BS: Don’t even joke. There are some very, seriously disturbed people out there who have trouble separating reality from fantasy. And suicide is really a disturbing concept. It was a difficult topic to write about, since you really have to dig deep to understand how suicide affects the surivivors. Everyone who reads this should remind themselves that 7 Days to Fame is a work of fiction published in a comicbook, not a handbook for life.
AW: Actually, that was the point I was hoping you’d make. I think the problematic separation of reality from fiction stems from this public obsession with Fame, and both your story and answer scrutinize that problem in a very real way.
Back to the book though, and in regards to the content, were you satisfied with the final product, or were there things you would change in hindsight?
BS: Hah, no writer is ever satisfied. No matter what I write I always look back and kick myself for not writing a
No writer is ever satisfied.
scene or something better. If I could go back, yeah, I would fix ten things in each issue. But once it’s printed, you’re sort of stuck. Unless you’re George Lucas and then you can keep playing around with scenes thirty years later. But seriously, yeah, there are things that I wish I had done differently. In fact, I planned this story to be five full issues, but I needed it to fit into three issues. So I made each issue longer and ended up trimming out some scenes. But ultimately I am happy with the final product, but a lot of that has to do with how well the artists told the story on the page.
AW: What can we expect to see next from you and After Hours Press?
BS: We have a fair amount of stuff coming down the pike. First, from me, you will see a new photo reference project called Comic Artist’s Photo Reference: People and Poses. It’s a 144 page book and CD-ROM combo with over 1,100 all-original photographs. CD-ROMs will really like this new book, which comes out in June.
And in August we have Impossible Tales, which is a mind-blowing new series from Darren Sanchez that is part Jurassic Park, part Indiana Jones, and part Adam Strange. It’s a two issue miniseries for people who like good, fun summer action movies. I don’t want to give too much away, but if you like science fiction that is grounded on Earth, you will love what Darren has done. Impossible Tales will be presented as two-issue story arcs that will explore different science-fiction and adventure themes.
And like I mentioned, we will also have Model Operandi by Dennis Budd and Joe Caramagna. That will be an 88-page graphic novel with girls, guns, and lots of crazy fun action. It’s sort of like the television show Alias, but faster and funnier. We’ll have that on the shelves in September.
We’re also looking at some new projects. We need something that will knock people out — I always say that we’re looking for the next Hellboy. So at the summer conventions, we’re going to be hunting for something unbelievably brilliant to add to our publishing line. We’re hoping to expand After Hours to include comicbooks that have a mainstream look and feel. There are some great indy publishers out there creating good alternative visions. We’d like to produce books that look and feel like they could have been published by Marvel, DC, or Dark Horse.
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That’s great to hear, as long as you are referring to the good books put out by those companies (but I kid!). Looks like there are a lot of great projects upcoming from After Hours Press, so be on the lookout for those and make sure to check out the previews on the respective links. Meanwhile, if you haven’t read 7 Days to Fame then shame on you; go get it right now and make sure your retailer knows about this great series that may have gotten buried under the crossover sludgepiles in Previews.
Seriously, those of you that read these interviews, columns, and reviews need to be vocal to your retailers when you find something you like, because they may not even know about it (which is why you didn’t either, until I came along).