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"Please, People, Read It." Michael Schwartz on Making and Selling 'Armored'

We chat with the writer about the joy comics offer him versus his cinematic creative experience.

Michael Schwartz Armored Clover Press Jae Lee

Welcome to our Creator Corner, our reoccurring interview series, where we chat with the coolest and most thought-provoking creators in the industry. In this entry, we're conversing with Michael Schwartz about Armored, the new comic from Clover Press. Listen to the unedited audio HERE.


You've heard us say this before: comics have never been better than right now. We're spoiled for choice, with each week a new series launching worthy of obsession, not to forget the numerous continuing tales already satiating our addiction. However, such a rich crop can make it difficult for creators to catch proper attention and for readers to discover fresh titles, especially when they're of the indie variety. Making the comic is half the battle, and getting it read is the other half.

Screenwriter Michael Schwartz makes his comics debut this week with Armored, a playfully sorrowful spook story about an orphan and his haunted medieval suit of armor. Published by Clover Press, the comic is told through Ismael Hernandez's extradimensional watercolors. The vibe is somewhere between The Goonies and House II: The Second Story. And if that elevator pitch makes any sense to you, then you're the perfect audience for this book.

As you'll read below, Schwartz puts everything he loves into this comic, and he's damn proud of the result - as he should be! Armored is self-financed and a gamble. His passion for the project sparks his hustle, and he's already gotten Armored into the hands of some cool folks eager to lend a plug. How did he do that? How did the first issue gain Jae Lee and Nick Pitarra variant covers? That's where our conversation begins.

With so many rad comics vying for our attention, selling a comic is more challenging than making one. Michael Schwartz is screaming from the social media mountains, "Please, people, read it." It's not desperation; it's love for the story and love for the medium. After hearing his saga, the least you can do is ask your local comic shop about Armored and give it a flip this Wednesday.

Spoilers for this week's Top of the Hump column, we've read the first two issues, and yeah, it's one of this week's best books.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.


Michael Schwartz Needs You to Read Armored

Brad: Your passion for this comic is so intense, and I find that passion to be quite admirable. Where do you find the energy to beat the grass, having also put so much energy into just getting the thing created? You can't just create a comic, you got to sell the comic.

Michael Schwartz: Yeah, that is a great question, because making it, it is hard, it's really hard. I didn't know how to make comics in the beginning, I didn't know what the process was, I just happened to have a friend that illustrated a bunch of Marvel Comics, and I sent him the script. First, I studied other people's scripts, like Geoff Johns' scripts and Tom King's scripts, and then, from there, I was like, "I think I could do it, I think I can write a script, a comic book script."

I had just been reading so much every day. I was like, "I know what I want a first issue to be; let me see if I can do it." Because my background is in screenwriting, so I felt like I needed to learn the art of writing for comics. And once I did that, I wrote the script and I sent it to my friend, and I was like, "Can you just tell me if I'm in the ballpark of the stuff you see that comes from Marvel?" And his first reaction was, "It's better than everything I've seen from Marvel." And I was like, "Really? Are you sure?" And he's like, "Yes, it's very clear, I would love to illustrate it."

He really wanted to do it, but then, he ended up taking a gig art directing Thomas the Tank Engine, so he didn't end up doing it. But then, I was left stranded, like, "How do I do this?" And it's kind of been that way every step of the way. Once the comic's done, how do I get a publisher? What do I do? So it is really hard. As to how I have the passion, still, to keep pushing the comic now and trying to get it out there?

I've written a bunch of movies, and the truth is that I wasn't there at the beginning of those movies. When I wrote those screenplays, there was a base, or with Gnome Alone, there was a 40-minute storyboard reel. That was the entirety of Gnome Alone. There was nothing else to it but 40 minutes, and they're like, "We have no movie; can you help us?" The director asked me to come on and pitch him what I would do with it. And the movie you see on Netflix is what I wrote. With Armored, it was mine from the beginning. From the ground floor. I built it upwards, even working with the artist, telling him what to change, what I wanted exactly.

With comic book writing, way more goes into it than in a screenplay. I just feel like I have more invested when it comes to the story. I have more money put into it. I have really invested a lot of money into this comic, as well. I hired the editor and the artist, every cover, I've paid for myself, it's not covered by the publisher. I'm self-producing this book, and so, not only do I love the project, but I have to do it, it's in me. Armored is a part of me.

Brad: And it must also then become incredibly stressful at this stage, now that it's done, but it hasn't met the world yet.

Michael Schwartz: Yeah, I've tried to get it in as many people's hands as possible, like yourself. I really do believe in the story, I really love the story I've come up with for the first five issues, that's the first arc. And now that it's about to be released, I'm just like, "Please, people, read it, please just try it." I'm at the point where I'm like, "Is there somewhere I can leak the PDF and just convince everyone to read it?"

Michael Schwartz Gets Armored in the Right Hands

Michael Schwartz Armored Variant Cover Nick Pitarra
Image Credit © 2024 Clover Press

Brad: You did get it into a lot of really cool hands. As you've mentioned, you've gotten some incredible blurbs for this book. What was that process like, finding the right people to read this comic?

Michael Schwartz: I didn't even know blurbs were a thing. I read comics, and I pick up comics every Wednesday, but I'm never like, "Who was helping to promote this?" I don't look for that stuff. When Clover Press asked me, "Can you reach out to some people you may know and see if they read it, that might have a name," I had just come off working on R.L. Stine's Zombie Town. I was one of the screenwriters on that. And so, I had worked with Stine over Zoom for a day, it was on and off for a day.

I just messaged him on Instagram. I didn't know how else to get him, but I had tagged him on something, and he said, "Sorry, I couldn't be on set." And I was like, "Well, he responded to me on Instagram before, maybe he'll respond to a direct message." And I said, "Hey, would you read the first issue of my comic? It's called Armored. And all he sent me was, "Sure," with his address. And I was like, "Wait, I don't have it printed," but I'm not going to say, "Hey, dude, can you read a PDF?" It's RL Stine, right?

Brad: Right!

Michael Schwartz: So I had Clover print up a copy and ship it out to his address, and then, it was like, I don't know if he's going to read it. They shipped it, I don't know when it arrives. And then, out of nowhere, I just get this lovely message from him that's like, "Michael, I thoroughly enjoyed the comic; the art really added to the atmosphere." And then, he's like, "Here's my blurb." And I was just like, "This is incredible." And likewise, with Dan Aykroyd, I don't know Dan personally, but I was with him on set for four straight nights on Zombie Town, and I thought maybe his assistant could just ask him if he'd be interested. And his father wrote this book about ghosts, I don't know how familiar you are with Dan, yeah.

Brad: I am very familiar, yes.

Michael Schwartz: Yeah, okay, and I had met Dan and his dad at a signing, and his dad's book, it's been really influential in my creativity process. I write a lot of things about ghosts, and so I go to that book a lot. And there's a character in issue six of Armored, that we're just on to the second arc now, and it's kind of based on some of Dan's dad's stuff, or his grandfather's stories from that book. And so, I reached out to him and said, "Hey, your dad's book was so influential, and there's pieces from that in here. I would love for you to just check out the first issue, it's got Ghostbusters influences, there's ghosts in it."

And then, his assistant just said, send me the PDF. That's all she said. And again, I was having a miserable day, and all of a sudden, I get a one-word response from the assistant, here's Dan's quote, and it was this quote that showed up in my inbox. It blew me away, I was like, "I cannot believe two childhood heroes of mine actually liked it enough to give me a blurb." And then, more recently, I've reached out to a lot of comic book creators that I'm just huge fans of, and I have to say, not every one of them has the time to read them. I've reached out to a lot, Brad -

Brad: I believe it, I believe it.

Michael Schwartz, Armored and the Business of Blurbs

Armored Michael Schwartz Interior Pages
Image Credit © 2024 Clover Press

Michael Schwartz: The list is so long. And don't even get me started on the list of creators who I've wanted to do covers that just haven't responded or just weren't available. The list of people that don't have time to read it is massive, and so, the few that I've gotten - Geoff Johns Johns has lent support to the book, Francis Manapul, who I've become friends with, has given me a blurb, Tim Sheridan, Jeremy Adams. All of them have read it and just have given me such good feedback.

Brad: The business of blurbs is fascinating because I think it is something that, as readers, we don't really pick up on for a very long time. But then, when you start to see the sausage getting made, you start to see that there's a lot of politics behind it, there's a lot of hunger for them, there's a lot of desire for podcasts to be blurbs on books [nervous laughter]. I speak from personal experience. They have an attraction, especially to those who are more comics curious than anything else.

Michael Schwartz: Yeah, yeah, the other thing I've noticed where it helps is even, if I just mention my book to someone, it helps having a Jae Lee cover, and it also helps saying, "Oh, look what R.L. Stine said, or look what Geoff Johns has said." Otherwise, I think I would be ignored, and I have to say, rightly so, because there are so many indie books out there. I get, as a filmmaker, people sending me their indie books to check out, and because I am a comic lover, I will check them out. But I get people on LinkedIn saying, "Hey, can you read my comic?" And I actually will, because I love comics, but I can imagine a lot of filmmakers being like, "Another indie creator?" Because there's a lot of them. How can you stand out from the rest?

Brad: Yeah, I think the Jae Lee cover in your case, I mean, when you showed that to me at WonderCon, I was that guy like, "Oh, a Jae Lee cover, you say?" That's a certain stamp of approval.

Michael Schwartz: Yeah, for me, too. When my editor said Jae's on board, I was like, you're kidding me. I still remember picking up WildC.A.T.s Trilogy and being like, "Who's this dude?" I wasn't collecting his Namor stuff back then, but man, when that book came out ...

Brad: Yeah, you sit up, and you take notice of his work. When we spoke at WonderCon, though, we were talking about your passion for comics, and I'd like to dig into that a little bit and really explore what making ARMORED does for you that working in Hollywood land doesn't.

Michael Schwartz, Armored, a Little Aladdin, and Excalibur

Michael Schwartz Armored 2 Nick Pitarra Variant Cover
Image Credit © 2024 Clover Press

Brad: So, let's talk Armored. Why is this your first comic story? How did we get to the tale of Andy?

Michael Schwartz: I had this idea, I don't know for how long, probably around 2018, of just a boy finding medieval armor haunted by a ghost. I didn't know if it should be a screenplay, a TV show, nothing felt right. At one point, I had pitched a version of it to Jackie Chan - or I pitched it to some producers that were working with Jackie Chan. They said he was looking for animated movie ideas, and I was working for an animation studio at the time in their development department. And they immediately said, "No, Jackie Chan doesn't like ghosts." ,So I was like, "Okay, great." And what's funny is, the story I pitched, it's issue six; you're going to see what that movie would've been.

Brad: Oh, cool.

Michael Schwartz: In like, six pages, I do a retelling of this other character's story, and that's what the movie would have been. But over time, I wanted to do a comic, and I felt like this was it, because it has a bit of horror, it has some super heroics, it has everything I kind of like in comics. It's got a mystery, I love mysteries in any art form, but to me, I love it in comics. Anytime, it's like, well, who's Spiderboy? We need to find out who it is. I need to know.

Brad: The first issue has such a fun structure, where we open with the story of Myles, who seemingly perishes in the opening of the comic, and then we jump to the story of Andy, who is then adopted by Myles' parents, who are still very much in the grieving process. That whole relationship dynamic is incredibly compelling and unexpected.

Michael Schwartz: I always try to make sure that the theme of the story relates to the content. And so, for me, the content was about this boy finding a ghost, so it has to deal with death of some kind. And I always knew that the boy's parents would be missing, and the same with the Jackie Chan story, the girl's parents were missing. And so - there, I kind of ruined a little bit, the second arc. I really was trying to emphasize this is a story about overcoming loss. I had to go there, essentially, with the story. And it's creepy, they just lost their son, and they're going to replace him with another boy? There's something really weird about it. It is tied into the mystery, right? It's like, Why does he have the armor? Why is he being adopted? What does it all mean?" Even death, it's like, "Why?" It's the question of why we never get answered sometimes.

Brad: You also have to give a full life to your ghost. And your ghost being a medieval ghost has a language all unto his own. It kind of reminds me a little bit of when I would read Thor as a kid. That outdated language - I would imagine - is quite a challenge for you. But it gives him a full life and kind of accentuates some sadness, oddly.

Michael Schwartz: Yes, he's out of time; he doesn't know anything. By issue three, he sees a train, and he thinks it's like a giant worm that he fought back in medieval times, this fantastical medieval times he lived in. And I did want him to be the comedy of it. Early on, I would pitch it as, it's Aladdin meets Excalibur. I saw the ghost as kind of the Genie. But I did want to give him a language that wasn't normal, I thought it would be funny.

But I'm not a Shakespearean writer by any means, and I was like, how am I going to write this guy? I need to just do the Thor thing, but I need to do it my own, I need to give it my own spin. And we've had so much back and forth, me and my editor, trying to figure out, what is it, exactly? And as the series goes, we're pulling back a bit more. You'll see by issue five there's not as much of that. I went heavy on one, and I think it starts to peter off as it goes, because I'm like, I can't sustain this, this is so ridiculous.



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