Brendan Columbus, son of writer/director Chris Columbus (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Gremlins), is making his own genre splash onto the scene.
The writer is making his debut in the pages of iconic genre magazine Heavy Metal with the comic Savage Circus. Savage Circus, a collaboration with artist Al Barrionuevo (Batman: Hush Returns), tells the unfortunate story of a fictional town, Basin Bay. “It’s Christmas Eve in a small mining town in Ohio,” Columbus tells SYFY WIRE. “A town set upon by the most dangerous animals in the world."
A circus train, carrying a ferocious menagerie collected by mad ringleader Lewis Savage, has overturned on the only road in or out after a crash with a recently stolen armored car. It’s a bad day to be Deputy Brady Harrison. With no power, no communications, and animals on the loose, it’s looking to be a blood-red Christmas.
The first part of the comic will premiere in Heavy Metal’s 300th issue, out this summer, and continue through Issue 309 before being collected into a graphic novel. Columbus and Heavy Metal CEO Matt Medney tells SYFY WIRE that the plan is to “have the graphic novel out by [San Diego] Comic-Con 2021.” That’s possible, Medney confirms, because the magazine will shift to a monthly release schedule — from its current pace of six times a year — starting in September. The comic and graphic novel will act as a proof of concept as Heavy Metal and Columbus aim for a Savage Circus film adaptation down the line. If the projects develop a large enough fandom, the Heavy Metal team hopes to get it in front of film executives and make their pitch, though they're aware that's still a ways away.
But it would bring the comic creation full circle from its origins. “Savage Circus started as an original script I was writing right after I got out of college,” Columbus says. Trying to make his first sale, he wrote an “insanely big 'Amblin' take” in his own spin on an ‘80s-style movie. Name-dropping Gremlins, Shane Black, and John Carpenter alongside the gory ‘80s Topps trading card series Dinosaurs Attack!, Columbus is clear that this story was a fit for the genre magazine. But it was perhaps “too big, too crazy, [and] too violent” to be an original blockbuster right off the bat in an industry devoted to IP. In came Heavy Metal.
“I had the idea this thing would never sell. It was more of a calling card showing I could do big action set pieces, funny dialogue, good characters,” Columbus says. “But I loved it! So I sent it to some of my friends and my buddy Dylan Sprouse ... and he has a Viking comic ...”
Sprouse passed along the idea for Savage Circus, and the magazine called Columbus for a meeting. “I was supposed to get on a plane the next morning, but I heard I was gonna meet with the Heavy Metal guys, so I was like ‘F**k that,’ just ran over and met with them,” the writer explains. “As soon as I met with Matt [Medney], it was a match made in heaven.”
Columbus is “over the moon” to have the first part of the comic debut in the landmark Issue 300, which is still set to arrive the same week as San Diego Comic-Con, despite concerns it might be canceled or pivot to an online presence. Part of the same new wave of talent as Dan Fogler, Columbus is what Medney calls the “New Hollywood” that he hopes to introduce to the comic world starting with Issue 300, which Columbus says will “melt people’s brains.”
“The creativity and the way in which he tells stories is so concise and yet expansive — it’s rare,” Medney says of Columbus. “You don’t really find those qualities in writers where they can both create an expansive world while being focused on a really specific task. Brendan is a master at that. That, for a script, is great. But for a graphic novel it’s even better, because it allows the imagination to run rampant.”