"Elenor's Blog" - A review for the graphic novel, "Apocalypse"

About two weeks ago Ryan McCoy, author of Apocalypse, reached out to share his work with me. And today, I’m reaching out to share it with others. There’s something to be said about Apocalypse.

With all the “zombie saturation” out there, I was worried that end-time, living dead stories had run their course. Overdone, maybe? Move a few degrees one way and you’re telling the story of Walking Dead. Another degree the other way, we’re looking at World War Z. Move another degree and great, it’s I Am Legend all over again. I just blew through Black Summer on Netflix. I play 7 Days to Die. I think my point here is obvious. But there’s a reason why content creators are still using this particular angle to tell stories; chaos, drama, adventure, clashing characters, emotional rollercoasters–everything you need to make a story break someone’s heart is always in them. And unsurprisingly, chaos, drama, adventure, clashing characters, emotional rollercoasters–all the great elements of a good living dead story–is in Apocalypse. Ryan breathes new life into the zombie narrative, thankfully.

Apocalypse focuses on a group of people–named mostly by profession–stuck defending a house; a sort of forgotten bastion in the middle of no where that seems to draw the attention of zombies in the area. Inner-group friction runs parallel with the need to fortify. Corrupt characters make themselves known. Flaws begin to appear. In the end, religious elements come into play as long-told prophecies, visions, and supernatural events take place. Apocalypse embraces the supernatural dynamic masterfully the way that Legion does.

Without giving anything away, the group dwindles down to a man and woman. The man mentions having visions and that it’s necessary for the woman to go on. “I need to make sure you live,” he says. I read into this as some kind of omen that the woman is special and that her journey has just begun. The story leaves the reader facing the pains of a cliffhanger in the end. (Augh, the familiar, strange agony that leaves us looking for a fix and needing more.) The last scene shows an army of angels descending but it’s hard to tell whether or not the woman is really saved.

Does this mean there’s going to be a second book? Well, I hope so! It’s quite possible that Ryan McCoy intentionally sets up the story in medias res to keep the audience interested; it’s an effective writing technique for post-apocalyptic stories afterall. If a second book does come, I hope it covers what happens to the woman, the “last” survivor, at the end and how the group ended up in that house in the first place. Where’s God in all of this? How did the outbreak even happen?

Aesthetically the graphics are great (just check out the trailer). Tirso Llaneta brings the story to life in classic-comic style. I’ll note that the graphics are black-and-white, though, for those who crave the added immersion full-color provides. Also, I admit wishing that the characters had more physically unique qualities about them while I read it because I’d get mixed up. I’d think, was that the Senator? No, the Rapist. Wrong again, it’s the Bodyguard! But this just might be me looking at it in black-and-white. Regardless, Apocalypse is something to check out and possibly a gem in the making!

Follow this project at @graphicnovelapocalypse (Instagram) and @NovelApocalypse (Twitter). Learn more at https://www.apocalypsegraphicnovel.com/.

Creating a World of Anti-Heroes

Written by Ryan McCoy

May 5th, 2019

The Rapture. It has become the subject of several new stories, both on television and on the big screen. Stories about the end of times, whether they be biblical or made up, have always been a fabric of humans’ lives. Just like the subject of death and dying, humans are just as curious about what there is after life and what will cause it to come to an end, as they do about life and its meaning.

Apocalypse was meant to be an onslaught of action. The easiest way to have a high body count and especially high number of head-shots, is to make your enemy a art of the undead. But, so many zombies movies and stories had been done before, that I had the idea of having the story take place after the Rapture. The setting would become the driver in creating my characters.

Since, in theory, the only people left behind after the Rapture are “bad” people, or were bad people in life, it allowed me to explore different fabrics of humanity, specifically western ideaology. Each one of the characters is a representation of currents subjects I wanted to explore. I find it fascinating the choices some people make in life to lead them to where they end up.

I wanted to challenge myself by introducing our main characters, or “heroes” of this story in the worst possible way, and see if by the end of it, I can have the audience feeling genuine sympathy and empathy for these characters. It’s similar to the concept of “The Dirty Dozen” or “Predators.”

It’s interesting because on paper, each of these characters are horrible humans. Yet, even within the fabric of this world, their are still anti-ANTI-heroes. Meaning, even though allof these people have been left behind deservedely, there are still clearly defined protagonists and antagonists. (For anyone who may not be aware with these terms, protagonist means “good guys” and antagonist means “bad guys.”)

The choice to not give the characters first names, only labels, was another block stacked against me in terms of difficulty when it comes to the audience sympathizing with the characters. Just because you tell the audience who the good guys and the bad guys are, doesn’t mean they’ll root for them the right way. You have to give them a reason for caring about the protagonists, and that’s done just like any other exposition in story, through conflict and action and how the character deals with given conflict defines them as a character.

If you notice from the opening pages, you’ll see it starts with a group of kids. These kids all have first names and appear as innocent as a group of young adults travelling in the night, hiding from something, can be. However, what the reader might miss, is that regardless of how these kids are presented in the opening, they are still left behind after the Rapture, meaning, they must have done some seriously fucked up shit in their lives to be here!!! That’s what I love exploring about this world I am creating and I hope to continue to be able to tell stories and creating characters and weaving their stories all together, set against the bacdrop of the end of times.

Why I decided to start my own Cinematic Universe

Written by Ryan McCoy
April 27th, 2019

It was early 2016 and my friends and I had formed a production company in LA, with the hopes of attracting some video projects that could fund our desires to make some feature-length films. We invested in a bunch of professional gear and wanted to make some short films in order to continue to hone our craft. As the writer/director, I decided that I didn’t want to make some random one-off short films. I wanted them linked to a current story of mine, so I came up with the idea that they would all be prequel-type stories for a feature screenplay I had written, “Apocalypse.”

It wasn’t until we had made the second short film in the series, that my mind started to race, coming up with stories for each one of these characters. At the same time I began to have these thoughts, was the same time that all the other major studios in Hollywood began trying to launch their own “Cinematic Universes” to copy what was being done by Disney and the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe).

If you break it down, I think the move that Disney made and Kevin Fiege quarterbacked, is one of the most successful moves in studio history. They made an unprecedented move that has garnered them practically every box office record in history. Yet, the vast majority, if not every one of them, fail at telling a compelling story.

What Disney did was very smart, but nothing new or original. They were mearly copying the original idea from Marvel’s comic books, by having many compelling characters and interweaving them throughout each of the respective character’s life-cycles. Where the other studios missed the mark, and where I believe I will be successful, is they tried copying the exact same formula as Disney and tried to weave together existing IPs and still focusing on spectacle over story.

So, I decided I would also copy theDisney framework, but do it with 100% original IP and characters, set in a world after/during/before the Rapture, where I can weave these characters together and come up with my own universe of virtually never-ending story fodder. There are no usper powers, everyone is a villain by the shear nature of being”Left Behind”, and they are all fighting an un-stoppable force. I believe these things, mixed with the imagination of a kid all grown-up who actually has something to say in his writing, rather than fishing for funny quotes or great one-liners, can grow over the coming decades and become just as popular of a “franchise” or “universe” as the current trend of comic book movies that are littering our cinemas on a monthly basis.

Every one of my projects has a purpose. Some are meant for awards, others meant to make a statement, others are me trying to vent and get something off my chest. “Apocalypse,” and all of its subsequent iterations (screenplay, novella, graphic novel, short film, feature film) are for one purpose and one purpose only: the FANS.

I want to build characters that the public falls in love with the same way they fell inlove with their favorite super heroes or villains when they would stroll their local comic book shop or hobby store. I want to make something for the rest of the “grown-up” kids out there, just like me. I believe I have the talent and the mental resources to be able to provide that. All it’s going to take now is time, which I have. :)

The inspiration for my screenplay "Apocalypse," and how I wrote it in only four days.

Written by Ryan McCoy
April 15th, 2019

I was hot off the press, literally. I had just finished by (technically) second feature-length film, “Evidence.” I had paid for the movie out of pocket and was able to get it in the can for a ridiculously small amount of money. It’s in the found-footage genre of films, and to get some reviews and press going for us, I sent screeners out to as many online horror sites I could find. Bloody Disgusting, Dread Central, Fangoria, etc.

The response ranged from 5/10 to 10/10. People either loved or hated the fact that in the last twenty or so minutes, we completely jumped the shark and not only throw the kitchen sink at you, we throw the whole damn house.

one site I mentioned above really enjoyed our film, Like, enjoyed it so much, I used their quote on the poster. “‘Evidence’ is home to some of the most Holy Shit! What the Hell was that?! filmmaking we have seen in some time.” The review and subsequent quote was written by a staple in the horror community, Mr. Steve Barton, or “Uncle Creepy” as he is referred to by many.

Steve was so blown away by the film that he called me at home one day. He shared his praise with me and I was blown away that he thought it was so good. He explained to me that his site was partially responsible for putting Paramount’s eyes on “Paranormal Activity” only a couple years back. Steve asked my permission if he could reach out to his contacts at Paramount (who had bought Paranormal) and see if they would screen it on the lot. I of course said yes. A day later, the lady running that division of Paramount called me at home and invited me to bring it to the lot for a screening. I was blown away.

Now, obviously, Paramount ended up passing on the movie, but I started getting calls from all over town. People wanted to meet with me to see what else I had going on. One of those meetings was with a very high-level management and production company in Century City. I went in and met with them. They were blown away by what I was able to accomplish for such a low budget. Then the question came, “What do you have next?” I had nothing. But, I told him whatever he wanted. Evidence 2? I write really fast. And he told me something that has stuck with me to this day.

The main guy said, “Look, kid…you’ve got about six months before your light fades away. Then people will stop taking your phone calls and stop replying to your emails.” Well, it wasn’t even six months. He was completely right. I wouldn’t realize it til much later, though. After that meeting, I raced home and said, “I’ve got to come up with a script and FAST.” I was sitting in my office, staring at my wall of DVDs. There are over 1,000 of them and I have them all lined up alphabetically. I was scanning my collection, looking for inspiration, when my eyes landed on the very last DVD on the shelves, “Zulu.”

If you’ve never seen “Zulu” before, it doesn’t really hold up anymore. However, the story behind it is true and absolutely incredible. Without getting into too many details, basically the Battle of Rorke's Drift, also known as the Defense of Rorke's Drift, was an engagement in the Anglo-Zulu War. The successful defense of the mission statement of Rorke's Drift, under the command of Lieutenants John Chard of the Royal Engineers and Gonville Bromhead, followed Britain's defeat at the Battle of Isandlwana on 22 January 1879 and continued into the following day.

Just over 150 British and colonial troops defended the station against attacks by 3,000 to 4,000 Zulu warriors. The massive but piecemeal attacks by the Zulu on Rorke's Drift came very close to defeating the much smaller garrison, but were repelled. Eleven Victoria Crosses were awarded to the defenders, along with a number of other decorations and honors.

I said, “That’s it.” Came up with the idea of it taking place after the Rapture, armies of the Four Horsemen, then packed the house full of characters I thought would be interesting to explore being Left Behind.

Now, when I write, I am so focused on the structure and outline that I don’t even open up Final Draft (the program I, and practically everyone else, uses to write screenplays). But, back then, I would just open up my laptop and GO. And that’s exactly what I did.

Now, I wish I could remember those four days better, because I don’t know how the hell I was able to craft a story in such short time, where the beats to the story are nearly spot on. I’ve since done about six or seven drafts of the script, however the beats have not changed one bit. That’s pretty incredible. When I first pitched my old manager, I gave him two scripts of mine to read. The first is my passion project, “Bury Me.” The second was “Apocalypse.” We met for lunch and he told me, while Bury Me is a really great script, Apocalypse is like a hit record.

I’m a huge Black Sabbath fan. They are my favorite band of all time. For their second studio album, they had recorded all of the songs, but the label wanted them to add one more. They reluctantly went into the studio, and within five minutes, recorded the song, which became the title track, “Paranoid.” “Apocalypse” is like that for me. It’s probably going to be the story I become most widely known for, at least in the beginning.

To finish up the story with the management company, I sent them the script, got it bounced around a few other producers and companies. Always getting 4/5 or 5/5 reviews from their readers. I even had an option agreement on the table for $10,000 up front, a percentage of the back-end, they would film in Toronto, I would be paid a per diem, plus be on set everyday as a writer/producer, but Abi (who I based the main character of The Hooker off of) would not be in it and the budget would only be $1.5 million.

I debated for a bit. Talked it over with Abi, talked it over with my manager, but the thing that was holding me back is that I knew they couldn’t make this movie for less than $5 million, without sacrificing the film. They had a studio with a bunch of sets and green-screens and were going to CG the shit out of it. I have always maintained the integrity of my stories and this one is no exception. I have always pictured this movie as a western a la Sam Peckinpah or John Ford. All practical, no (or very little) CG.

So, I went back to them (actually, my manager went back to them…that’s what they do) and told them I would take the option for the $10k, but Abi had to play the lead, OR, I wanted 5x on all the money and back-end. They quickly declined.

Could I have used ten-thousand dollars then? Hell, fucking, yes. I could really use ten-thousand dollars right now! But, here I am, almost seven years later, and not only have I not compromised my story, I believe I’m bringing it to life the way I ALWAYS wanted and I can’t wait to finally bring this story to the masses and hear what everyone thinks about it, because I think it kicks some serious ass.

The Origin Story of how "Apocalypse" went from Screenplay to Graphic Novel

Written by Ryan McCoy
April 6th, 2019

It was around September of 2017. My business partner, Josh Boyer, and I were trying anything we could to get a movie project off the ground. I had written several screenpays of varying budgets, but it’s nearly impossible to attach money without talent and vice versa. I was taking meetings with anyone and everyone, just to see if a spark hit.

one person in particular I had been trying to schedule a meeting with was Richard Edlund. richard is a 3-time Oscar winner for visual effects. He did all the Star Wars films, Indiana Jones, Alien 3, amung a plethera of others. He was related to my wife at the time and it took me six years, but I finally got an hour of his time.

I met him in his office in Santa Monica for an hour. I spent the first 30 minutes geeking out and having him tell me “old school” Hollywood stories. The second half hour, I spent showing him what projects and scripts I had. I showed told him about my screenplay for “Apocalypse” and told him we had already filmed sh=ome short film prequels for it. He said something I had never thought of before, and it took me two weeks to convince myself it was a good idea, but he said, “Have you thought about turning this one into a graphic novel? A lot of producers are doing that to get their projects off the ground and some even get financing before the book is pubished.”

As I said, I initially blew it off. But, I let the thought noode in my brain for a bit. I brought the idea to Josh and he said he was on board. Now, the questionwas how do we do that? Along comes Steve Stern.

Josh and I had met with another comic artist, younger, less experienced, but she was gung-ho to do it, until she bailed about a week or two after we initially met. I found Steve online and Josh and I met him for coffee. He told us that about four years ago, he started a business taking screenplays and adapting them to graphic novels and it’s really taken off for him. Josh and I were convinced and we signed up with Steve.

There were several bumps along the way. The artist we chose would not produce any pages for a month, and we’d have to kick his butt in gear, etc. This must have happened at least half a dozen times. But, we stuck with it, and slowly but surely, we began to make progress.

Now, here we are, a year and a half later, and the book is almost complete. All of the artwork is done, the lettering is close to being finished, and the cover is being drawn as I type.

What comes out of this, who knows, but I think this is a great lesson, not only for a producer who wants to get their story to screen, but also for anyone, really, who wants to achieve something in life, that it takes time, persistance, and never giving up.