DF Interview: Creator Josh Blaylock talks ongoing film development for ‘Mercy Sparx’
By Byron Brewer
The female hellion Mercy Sparx has been a fan-favorite and cult classic since writer Josh Blaylock created her in 2008. A devil girl coerced by the big shots in Heaven to live on Earth and secretly hunt rogue angels, Mercy has enjoyed a number of adventures and, along the way, began to see the gray area between good and evil...forcing her to choose her place within it.
Now comes word that MGM has acquired screen rights to Mercy and the character is in development for a feature film. Nick Shafir is set to write the script, with The Picture Company and Assemble Media producing.
With all this excitement around Mercy Sparx, DF caught up to her creator, Devil’s Due Publishing founder Josh Blaylock, to do a deep dive into this latest real-life Mercy adventure.
Dynamic Forces: Congratulations, Josh, on having your longtime comic book creation Mercy Sparx be the subject of development for film. Can you tell us how all this came to be?
Josh Blaylock: Thanks! It’s still sinking in.
The Mercy Sparx film project has been in the works for a very long time, as these things tend to be. Assemble Media has been working on it for three years now and are the ones who made it all happen, and I couldn’t be happier with the team. I know that sounds like a boilerplate line for an interview, but it’s true. They really showed dedication to making it all happen and have had me involved every step of the way. Beyond that, I can’t talk about much yet. It’s all being kept extremely hush-hush, which is kind of exciting in its own way because it shows how seriously Mercy Sparx is being taken as a project.
DF: Let’s put ‘er in reverse for a bit. Tell readers about the creation of the Mercy character, and how in the comics she has changed as time has past. Who exactly is she to her creator?
Josh Blaylock: Here’s the most ironic thing of all. In 2008 when developing the first comic series, I was pretty burnt out on our Hollywood hustle and created Mercy as a comic that intentionally gave no f**ks about what a studio exec or our agency would want to see. How times have changed!
I think the ironic thing about Mercy Sparx herself is that the very essence of her character is not to change. Mercy’s always been a blunt instrument. What you see is what you get. What’s complex and layered is the past she’s had to endure. Despite all of the insanity going on around her, she insists on remaining who she is and always likely will be. That’s really evident in the new #14 issue coming out, which brings this huge epic story we’ve been building on for years to a close.
She started from a simple sketch at a convention some fifteen years ago, and from there morphed into a comic book series that would contain all of the elements that, if I were to draw it myself, I’d never get bored with.
That’s why its influences range from supernatural to punk rock to hip hop, to mythology to organized religion, and even gets into the esoteric. All with lots of humor, action, and even a bit of horror.
In the Year One miniseries I finally got to delve into Mercy’s past – both her childhood in Sheol and her first few weeks on Earth, and to bring that all back around to the larger story in the present. It’s a pretty tragic background, and one that’s all too familiar to too many people close to me throughout my life.
On the surface, Mercy Sparx will always be about a take-no-sh*t, fun devil character chasing down whatever Heaven throws at her, but at it’s core it gets into some deeper themes. Especially themes of someone caught between two large, powerful warring bureaucracies (or even just two people), who really just wants to be left alone to live their life, as well as the fish-out-of-water theme. Man, those are admittedly a recurring pattern in my work, ha.
The overall story has changed in that it started out with a very simple “monster of the week… err, angel of the week” formula, and slowly evolved into a big arc of a story. It’s essentially a team book now. I think after this, it’s time to go back to that fun, simplistic vibe for a while. These things tend to go in cycles.
DF: So what if anything can you relate about the proposed film? What other characters from Mercy’s many comic book adventures might also be involved?
Josh Blaylock: I am dying to talk about it, but right now mum’s the word. Plus anything could change – it’s Hollywood. For now let’s just say the long time readers will be pretty damn happy with how it’s shaking out.
DF: Will you be attached in any way to the development? Even if not, as a creator what would you like to see added to Mercy’s story for this other medium? And what would you hope (groaning) will be forgotten about the comics iteration?
Josh Blaylock: Yes, I am an Executive Producer on the project. What’s most important to me, as a creator, is the core concept that makes it unique, and its overall tone. The core being – it’s not a random supernatural demon hunting evil things that we’ve seen a million times before. Mercy’s a blunt instrument sent to do the dirty work of the “good guys.”
The overall tone is an amalgamation of a hundred different little things, from the background references to the fashion details on certain characters to the delicate balance of banter vs. seriousness and action vs. humor. So in other words – things that are impossible to control when you hand it over to a huge group of people to turn into a major production. That’s why it’s so important to find the right team to work with early on who will be with you throughout the process.
I’m also just looking forward to being able to keep making more Mercy Sparx comics, and a successful film spin-off is one way to make that a hell of a lot easier. I could write this character forever. I’ve been publishing comics since I was 18, so this isn’t about making comics just to get a movie made. It’s about getting a movie made so you can keep making as many comics as you want, on your own terms. Not that having a movie or TV series isn’t f**king amazing, and really fun. That’s gotta be one of the most admirable things about Robert Kirkman’s output throughout the success of The Walking Dead. Pretty incredible.
DF: Dream casting for the creator: What actress in the Blaylock Cut plays Mercy Sparx?
Josh Blaylock: It’s a really tough decision. There are quite a few actresses with the right talent and the right look to really pull it off, and I don’t want to jinx anything by putting my short list out there. For some of the other characters I have definite go-to’s. I will say for an animated spin-off series, I’d love to see Gillian Jacobs and Kyle Kinane voicing Mercy and Hank, with Dicky Barrett using his natural monster-voice talents for Mr. Suit.
DF: I understand there is some talk about making Mercy the center of her own movie universe? Can you expound on that at all? (I know it is very very early.)
Josh Blaylock: Your guess is as good as mine there!
One thing at a time! Ha. I can’t speak for the movie studio, but what I think is natural is that when you dive into the Mercy Sparx books, it quickly becomes apparent that there’s a large universe here. There are four (almost five) volumes of content including a nice fat omnibus to binge. Behind the scenes I develop out my worlds almost to a fault. If you see any small subplot pop up for like two pages, I probably have a novel’s worth of useless information about that scene that no one will ever see, but it helps me keep it in tact for later. To compare it to the work of another author I have absolutely no right to even think about doing, but which inspired me – Victor Hugo always impressed me with how he made every little minor character count. Everything was a payoff. I still love that.
I’ve been considering a spin-off or two for a few years now, either centered around the back story of Mercy’s parents, or possibly one about old-man-stuck-in-a-kid’s-body Wallace Bordeaux and his family in New Orleans. I’ve always wanted to dive more into the story of Father Donavon who has this tortured past that makes him so good at being an exorcist, having been possessed as a child. I’m only just now cracking the surface on a major character, Nahmat’s background in issue 14 of the current series. Oops! Spoiler alert. There’s a lot of content to mine in the Mercyverse.
DF: Josh, aside from this fantastic opportunity for Mercy, what other projects do you have coming in the near-future?
Josh Blaylock: For all of the sh*t 2020 has thrown at us, one silver lining (besides this amazing movie news) is that this has been my most prolific personal creative year in quite some time. ArkWorld, a story I’ve been developing on and off for a decade, finally launched this year. It’s a high fantasy saga meets Jason Bourne, centered around the origins of human civilization many thousands of years earlier than we previously believed. What I’m calling the “archeopunk” genre. It takes place in three different times in history (including the present), with loads of action and world building. www.archeopunk.com Book #2 is at the printer right now. Art by Travis Hymel and colors by Juan M Rodriguez. Letters by Micah Myers.
Today we also launched The Encoded #1on Kickstarter (and it’s being solicited through Diamond and Corner Box as well). After developing it, I brought on Mark Powers to co-write, and the art is by Jethro Morales and Juan M Rodriguez. The Encoded is one part Minority Report meets The Purge, and another part a reverse twist on the classic Man vs. Machine story. In this hi-tech future of 2055, to prevent dangerous A.I. from becoming too powerful, cities periodically have to shut down all networked, digital technology and go analog. It allows people, in a good way, to unplug, while it also creates a great time for “settling scores” off of the grid. Letters by Micah Myers. We have a killer cover by Phil Hester.
In the cue but moving slowly is the return of my O.G. indie comic The Penguin Bros. , a full-on anthropomorphic comedy-meets-superhero series. Something for a younger (but not quite Middle Grade young) audience. And a new book (but an idea that’s been gestating for 15 years) called I Turned Out Fine, where modern comic book pros have to redraw their childhood comics and characters using their modern skills, but aren’t allowed to change the dialog.
Everyone who wants to catch up on Mercy check out www.MercySparx.com!
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Josh Blaylock for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. Keep tuned to DF News and entertainment-centric media for more on the Mercy Sparx film development.
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