Comic Book Creator – The Hollywood Reporter
While filming Dune in late 2019, Oscar Isaac mentioned a passion project to one of the film’s key producers — Mary Parent, vice chairman of worldwide production at Legendary Entertainment.
It was not a sci-fi blockbuster — a genre Isaac has come to dominate in franchises like Star Wars and Dune — nor was it a prestige series in the vein of HBO’s Scenes From a Marriage, which he executive produced and starred in alongside Jessica Chastain.
It was a comic book. About a cop who walks around with a bullet hole in his head.
The result of that conversation is now upon us. With the publication of Head Wounds: Sparrow, from Legendary Comics — the publishing arm of the Burbank-based production company behind films like Dune and Godzilla vs. Kong — Isaac, 43, further diversifies his professional resume.
No longer is he merely an A-list movie actor and executive producer and star of hit series like Marvel Studios’ Moon Knight. He’s now also a comic book creator.
Not that he’s the first. There is in fact a long tradition of successful actors using their clout to get comics made. In 2021, Keanu Reeves co-wrote his first comic, Brzrkr, put out by the indie comic publisher Boom! Studios. A decade before that, Samuel L. Jackson co-wrote Cold Space — also from Boom! — which told the gripping tale of a space outlaw who looked an awful lot like Samuel L. Jackson.
The appeal is obvious: Beyond the thrill of getting their hands ink-stained and seeing their names splashed across the cover, in an era in which comic books have become Hollywood’s go-to source for bankable IP, why not skip the middleman and create your own?
Head Wounds has its origins in Lantana, Florida, about halfway between Boca Raton and West Palm Beach. That’s where Isaac made two friends at Santaluces Community High School, Bob Johnson and John Alley, in the early 1990s. The three teens became fast friends, hanging out for hours in the trailer parks of nearby Boynton Beach.
“We started a band together,” says Isaac, flanked by Johnson and Alley, in a recent Zoom conversation with The Hollywood Reporter. “We would write music together, we’d perform, we’d make movies together with my dad’s video camera.”
After high school, Isaac auditioned for Juilliard on a whim and got in. (Chastain was in his class.) “And when I moved to New York and we went all our separate ways, we always kept in touch,” he says.
About six years ago, Johnson was diagnosed with stage IV non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He was told by doctors it was incurable.
“I wasn’t real keen at first on taking the chemo,” Johnson says. “I put it off for years. Then they told me I had six months to live.” He started the chemo and it proved effective. “But all the while,” he says, “I was forced to look at myself.”
Johnson would lean on his friends through his cancer battle. “The way he describes it was this ‘invisible wound that no one else could see,’” recalls Isaac.
The three latched onto that idea and spun it into a narrative centering around a New Orleans detective who gets shot in the head yet lives. (There are supernatural elements at play.) He spends most of the mystery with a visible bullet wound in his forehead, like an extreme version of Jake Gittes’ bandaged nose in Chinatown.
After the conversation on the Dune set, Parent introduced Isaac to Napton, who has been with Legendary Comics since 2014. The imprint was launched in 2010 by Legendary founder Thomas Tull.
“Thomas was a huge comic book fan,” says Napton. “That should be no surprise, considering Batman Begins was the first movie Legendary was involved in. He loved the artform.”
The arm has survived the sale of Legendary in 2016 to Wanda Group — at $3.5 billion, the largest acquisition ever of an American media company by a Chinese firm. Joshua Grode, Legendary’s CEO since 2017, is also a comics fan, says Napton.
“Our mandate is to create original comics and graphic novels like Head Wounds and also do tie-ins to our movies and our television series,” Napton says. King Kong, Dune and Enola Holmes (produced by Legendary for Netflix) have all seen their universes expanded in the pages of Legendary Comics.
Napton read the outline for Head Wounds and immediately saw potential. He paired the trio with Brian Buccellato, a seasoned writer who worked on Batman for D.C. Comics, and suggested a half-dozen potential artists. Isaac chose Christian Ward — an award-winning illustrator known for his cosmic style and use of acid-bright colors.
In the end, Johnson and Alley received a “story by” credit, while Isaac received a “developed by” credit. But it’s Isaac’s name that appears above the title, with “Oscar Isaac Presents” featuring prominently at the top of the comic’s cover.
There have been no talks yet to turn Head Wounds into a feature project, but another comic — D.C.’s Ex Machina (no relation to Isaac’s 2014 film of the same name), about a superhero who becomes mayor of New York City — was optioned by Legendary in 2020 as a potential vehicle for Isaac, under the new title The Great Machine.
“We’re still figuring it out,” Isaac says of the project, which doesn’t yet have a script. “It’s a huge, amazing story. Finding how that translates [to the screen] is the question.”
In the meantime, Isaac is taking a break from film and TV to get back to his stage roots. He’ll appear opposite Rachel Brosnahan in the Lorraine Hansberry play The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window, set to run at the Brooklyn Academy of Music from Feb. 4-23, 2023.
“And that’s kind of it for the moment,” he says. “I took some downtime to be able to do other things, like be here with my friends and put [Head Wounds] out into the world.”
Beyond that, however, anything is possible — including the possibility of climbing back into the Millennium Falcon.
Asked if he would consider reprising his role of Poe Dameron — either in a Star Wars feature or as a Disney+ series — Isaac smiles and says, “Yes, I would consider it.”
“I also would,” adds his pal Johnson. “If he would consider it, then I probably should.”
Then all three friends burst into spontaneous laughter.