Horror fans may know Steven T. Seagle and Teddy Kristiansen from their work on House of Secrets, but they've worked together on a number of projects, including It’s a Bird and the recently released Genius. I had a chance to catch up with the both of them at Comic-Con and learned about the real life story that inspired Genius, their creative process, and their thoughts on a Genius movie:
Where did the idea of Genius come from? Was this something you had been thinking about for a while?
Steven T. Seagle: Teddy and I worked together on It’s a Bird, which was semi-autobiographical. It was about my family’s struggle with Huntington’s Disease set against the sci-fi element of a perfect physical being. It was about disease making you a less perfect human and the idea of Superman, who is undefeatable and perfect. That kind of fired my rage over that character and made me despise him as a kid.
When we set out to follow that up, we wanted to keep a character that was larger than life and keep autobiographical elements, but do a totally different book. My wife’s grandfather, Max, worked for the Atomic Energy Commission. He knew one of THE greatest secrets of the 20th century, which I can’t tell you what it’s about, but it was a sci-fi-relevant thing. What he knew was a game changer.
Did you get Max to tell you this secret?
Steven T. Seagle: I thought to myself: “How did this not come up before?” I decided that I’d invest my time trying to break Max, so he’d tell me what he knew. If you knew the moon landing had been faked and you knew where the sound stage was… that’s the kind of thing he knew. I spent a couple of weeks trying to get him to tell me and I couldn’t break him at all. It made me mad because this big thing would be lost to the sands of time forever. Maybe six people knew this, at most, and he was probably the last one alive.
Then I started to think that he did us a favor. Maybe it weighed on him so heavily that he took it to the grave so he wouldn’t burden someone else with it. Genius is about that idea. Are there ideas that are so dangerous and threatening to life as we know it, that they should stay lost?
Can you tell our readers about the main characters in Genius?
Steven T. Seagle: We took what Max knew and replaced it with a guy named Francis, who was Einstein’s bodyguard in Pasadena in the 30’s for a couple of weeks. In our book, Einstein tells Francis a theory, but our lead character is Ted, a physicist. Ted is going to lose his job because he can’t produce anything and has lost his mojo. He finds out that Francis knows Einstein’s lost theory and tries to get it out of him to save his wife, kids, job, and everything he knows.
Teddy, can you tell me about your creative process with Steven? Do you find it challenging to visualize what he wants to share with the reader?
Teddy Kristiansen: It differs from story to story. On Genius, Steve wrote a part where we’re told the secret and I had to find a visual way to tell the secret without telling it. I can’t reveal what I did, but it was a fun process to try to tell something visually. It’s up to readers to see if we pulled it off.
When writing something like this, I’d imagine a lot of research was required. How long did it take you to write Genius?
Steven T. Seagle: I tend to have two work methods. Sometimes, I’ll have an idea and won’t know what the book is like and that will take a year. Other times, the book shows up complete. For, It’s a Bird, I thought of that while I was in Teddy’s bathroom. I really had no idea what the book was about, pre-piss, and I had a whole book minutes later. Genius was the opposite. I wrote thirty pages really quickly, and then I had to stop to structure and do some research. It took me about nine months to write the script, start to finish.
Do you have any interest in working on a Genius spin-off or seeing a movie/TV adaptation?
Steven T. Seagle: We’ve already had people talking about a movie for it, but Teddy and I work in graphic novels. We do other stuff as well, and I’m not against translating it from one medium to another, but comics have their own vernacular. The reader controls the time and the gap of information between panels. You can create much more hardlined contradictions between words and images than a TV show or movie would allow you to do.
When we work together, we want those things to be functioning on a very high level. The Einstein secret in the comic book is a purely comic book storytelling problem/solution. It might work in a film, but it was executed with the idea that it’s comic book for sure. That’s how we work on it, and if something else happens with it, that’s great, but I don’t think it’s a great way to produce good comics.
Teddy Kristiansen: If you start thinking like that, you start putting limitations on the comic. It’s best if you can work with the wide limits of what the comic book language can actually do.
Learn more about Genius and keep up with Steven T. Seagle's Man of Action Studios by visiting the following links:
Man of Action Studios: "Man of Action Studios, the bi-coastal entertainment company started in 2000, created the megahit Ben 10, a three billion dollar boys' action empire that has been called the most successful superhero launch of the past decade. Man of Action Studios consists of creators and acclaimed comic book writers Joe Casey, Joe Kelly, Duncan Rouleau and Steven T. Seagle. The quartet collectively worked on the largest franchise characters in comics from Superman to X-Men before refocusing on creating worlds/characters for their own original comic books and graphic novels published through their Man of Action imprint at Image Comics. They also created cult favorite series Generator Rex for Cartoon Network, are executive producers on the international series Gormiti, Sam-Zag'sThe 7Cs, Spinmaster's Bakugan franchise, and Nickelodeon's Monsuno and they are co-executive producers and writers for Marvel's Avengers Assembleand Ultimate Spider-Man on Disney XD. Upcoming films based upon Man of Action creations include New Line's The Great Unknown, Officer Downeand Big Hero 6, announced as Disney's first animated feature based on a Marvel property featuring the team of characters created by Man of Action. Follow them at their not-so-secret headquarters on the Web at http://www.ManOfAction.TV. Facebook:http://www.Facebook.
Genius: "Ted Marx works hard at his career as a quantum physicist. But lately the demands of his job have begun to overwhelm him. Then Ted makes a startling discovery: his wife's father once knew Einstein and claims that Einstein entrusted to him a final, devastating secret—a secret even more profound and shattering than the work that led to the first atom bombs. If Ted can convince his father-in-law to tell him what Einstein had to say, his job will be safe. But does he dare reveal Einstein's most dangerous secret to those who might exploit it?
In their comic book Genius, acclaimed duo Teddy H. Kristiansen and Steven T. Seagle have created an exploration of the heights of intellectual and scientific achievement and the depths of human emotion and confusion."