INTERVIEW: Ed Murphy – author of Rough Cut Comics’ official sequel to Yuzna’s SOCIETY
– By @TheBlueTook
Rough Cut Comics’ official comic book sequel to Brian Yuzna’s biting horror satire Society will be included in Arrow Video’s new Director Approved bluray edition.
The two-disc package features a host of exclusive extras as well as a perfect-bound edition of the official 52 page comic book follow-up to the gruesome eighties classic.
Comic-book writer Ed Murphy – who created the Rose Black graphic novel series and also edits the GoodCopBadCop books which won the True Believers/Eagle Award for Best British Comic Book of 2014 – devised the sequel script, subtitled Party Animal.
The story charts the class warfare which swells between the film’s lead Billy Whitney and the upper class deviants ten years after the film’s gruesome climax and transports the story to the Big Apple. It was originally published as a two-issue mini-series by Rough Cut Comics (www.roughcut-comics.com).
Here, Ed Murphy discusses his love of Society and the origins of the comic-book project.
Q. When did you first experience Society?
“I saw it at the Cannes Film Festival back in 1989. Many of these screenings at the festival are in tiny back-street theatres in the early hours of the morning. I’d had too much drink and too much sun, and knew NOTHING about the film. But I’d been lured there by Brian Yuzna’s name. I wasn’t enamoured by the first 70 minutes and was about to leave. But when the notorious ‘Shunt’ was finally unveiled, I almost PASSED OUT. It was such a shock at the time. I wish I’d have seen it first time with a clear head. I think I watched it about a dozen times during 1989 and 1990 alone. I became a massive, massive fan. The film’s stuck with me all this time.”
Q. What was your aim when you got the opportunity to sit down and write a sequel to Society?
“The original film has an ending where you just want it to go on a little bit longer. I think people thought a sequel was going to be released in the mid-nineties. I recall the film’s British publicity man, promoting the film on its original release, saying to me: ‘What is going to happen when Billy and Clarissa have sex? That’s going to be really something, isn’t it?’ For me, I was always trying to think about a new twist to the idea of The Shunt, and I’d be looking at the sequel to stretch that idea even further.
“Of course, by the time I started thinking about a story for the comic-book, more than 10 years had passed. The times had moved on a bit, but I felt Society was one of those horror movies which had really been cemented in the minds of anyone who’d seen it. So I tried to re-create that whole setting in which something just didn’t seem right.”
Q. But how did you start to put together a sequel to a movie like Society?
“I first and foremost just wanted to try and make a strong connection between the film and the comic-book sequel. Since watching the film on its original release, I’ve realised there were some great characters which could have had stories on their own. I’ve always thought there were definitely lots of great sub-plots which a writer could develop further. The best one would be the relationship between Clarissa and her mother, but I always thought the psychiatrist was a great back-ground villain in the overall plot.
“So I knew I wanted to not only focus on Billy Whitney, but also Clarissa and her mother; and his friend Milo, who made a pretty decent contribution to the film’s story. I tried to attach emotional markers in the Party Animal scenario, which tied these people into a long story arc and I really wanted to continue these strands in subsequent scripts.”
“I remember when the film was originally released; everyone was talking about a sequel. British distributors Medusa had a stake in its success, and the idea was mooted about a story set in somewhere like Eton. I definitely believe the Society premise would be best set in a place like London or Rome, where a class system is far more rooted in the establishment.
“I know there had been a few ideas doing the rounds which didn’t involve Yuzna, but I didn’t really understand how that would I go. I know the director had his own ideas of how a sequel would go and I couldn’t imagine it working in any way without his contribution.”
Q. Did you discuss the comic-book ideas with the director?
“Yeah, I contacted Brian Yuzna in the first instance and we met up when he visited a film festival in the UK back in 2003. He had great ideas about the film’s race of upper class beings which literally fed off the poor; and we spoke about genealogy and how a race like that would have to purify themselves over the centuries … somewhat like purebreds and selective breeding in the professional dog world. He had fantastic background stories about ancient Rome and historical set-pieces where you really could imagine this cannibalistic ritual fitting in like a gruesome treat.
“Yuzna originally wanted us to adapt the film first, but I was so keen to take the story on in some new direction – an alternate timeline in a comic book world. We had a three book story arc which took things to London and Rome. But the first story, which is set in Los Angeles, actually had a tough time finding an audience. I actually regret not adapting the original film first, but we probably wouldn’t have gone on with the Party Animal story if we did.
“As I said, when we spoke ten years ago, he some magnificent ideas about how he wanted a sequel story to develop and I really tried to infuse a much of that in my own treatment. But I’ve heard how he’s really nailed down a great scenario about with female protagonist who wants to be part of this horrific society no matter what the cost. I definitely think the time is right to go back to Society on celluloid.”
Q. Would you like to revise the world of Society in comic book form again?
“I do feel it would be a challenging proposal. It’s definitely an under-rated satire which will still be relevant for a long, long time to come. I don’t know whether Yuzna’s film sequel idea will come to fruition. But for sure, there’s still a definite future in developing film properties in the comic-book format. It’s much cheaper – budget-wise; and if handled correctly, it can reach a huge audience. That’s certainly happening with Re-animator, and even things like Fight Club.”
If you, like me, share Ed’s enthusiasm for Society and want to check this awesome idea out further, then here’s the important links for you folks: