The 1979 movie The Warriors was an instant cult hit, with millions of fans who have thrilled to the adventures of the Warriors, a street gang who had to beat down every other gang in New York–and escape from 20,000 police officers–to make it to the safety of their home turf: Coney Island. But what happened next? After a 30-year wait, everyone finally gets to see the next chapter with The Warriors: Jailbreak from Dabel Brothers Publishing.
While creating a sequel to a movie with a following like The Warriors might be intimidating, Dabel Brothers–and fans–are lucky to have three Warriors fanatics on the job: Erik Henriksen, Todd Herman, and Herb Apon. I was lucky enough to be initiated into their gang and got the inside scoop on how they came up with The Warriors: Jailbreak and where they plan to go from here!
TFAW.com: Hi guys, thanks for meeting with me!
Herb Apon: Thanks for doing this for us, Elisabeth.
Todd Herman: Anytime, Elisabeth!
Erik Henriksen: Yeah! What those guys said!
TFAW.com: What’s your history with the movie The Warriors?
EH: Y’know, it’s weird–I actually hadn’t seen it before maybe three, four years ago, when a fellow movie geek I work with recommended it to me. We were talking about movies from the ’70s, going back and forth: “Whoa, you haven’t seen this?” “Are you kidding me? You never saw that?” One of the films that came up that he’d just watched was The Warriors, and he recommended it in strong enough terms that I rented it a few days later. And I thought it was f#@king great. Not only does the film embody a lot of what was really awesome about American cinema in the ’70s, but it’s also just a kickass movie. So I really dug it, and then when the possibility of me maybe working on Jailbreak came up, I went back and watched it again, and found myself liking it even more that time. So at that point, it was just a question of doing whatever I could to convince them to hire me.
HA: Well, my mother took me to the midnight showing of The Warriors when it first came out. I was eight, and the next day I was standing on the corner of Burnside and Vista wearing an old suede vest with the Warriors logo crudely painted on it and no shirt on. You could say the movie had a lasting effect on me . . .
TH: My parents wouldn’t let me see The Warriors when it came out, so I had to sneak a viewing of it later when it was on television in the middle of the night. I was probably about 8 or 9 years old. The poster had intrigued me for years–it looked very rock ‘n’ roll, and the Baseball Furies looked like Kiss, who I loved! And just from the poster it looked like a world without parents, which I thought sounded pretty great at the time. I still have drawings I did of the characters when I was probably in second or third grade, and I’m not sure if I did those before or after I saw the film . . . !
TFAW.com: What made you decide to develop a sequel to the movie in comic book form?
EH: As I understand it, Dabel Brothers already had the movie adaptation in the works, and they knew once that series finished up, people would want the story to continue. Todd and Herb, since they’re both ridiculously huge Warriors fans, already had some really killer ideas about where the story should go, and it was then that I got brought on to actually sit down and write the thing. I’d been wanting to write comics for a long time, and so when the possibility of not only working on a comic, but working on a Warriors comic came up, it was pretty much just like, “Okay. Yes. Yes, please. Yes. Where do I sign up? Yes.”
HA: Todd and I have been watching my crappy old dubbed VHS copy of the film together for years, and I always thought it was a no-brainer to do a movie adaption and then tell new stories, I had actually done some sample pages years before and went to Dark Horse to see if they could get the rights, but the timing was off. There was talk of a remake, and Paramount was not interested in a comic at that time. A couple years go by and our old friend Rich Young is doing the adaption at Dabel and wants to get together to talk to us about a sequel. Todd and I had tons of ideas, and I thought the book would have to be a anthology, short stories about the different gangs, but Erik somehow wove almost all of our ideas into a one amazing storyline.
TH: Well, two things, specifically. One, we were approached by Rich Young to see if we had any ideas, most likely because we’ve known Rich for a number of years and have always been very vocal Warriors fans–there’s pictures of Herb and I on the Internet at parties dressed as Baseball Furies. And two, there were two films I watched with my friends when I was young and we’d all sit around and say, ‘”Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could make comics based on the mythology from these films?” those two films being The Warriors and John Carpenter’s The Fog [ed. note: Herman also realized this dream!].
But on top of that, there was a point in the early ’90s where Herb and I would watch The Warriors at least once or twice a week, I think his children’s babysitter left it in his VCR one night and had copied it off television or something, because I don’t think it was yet available either on DVD or VHS. And every time the film would end, the first thing I would think about was what would happen to Ajax? Would he die in jail? Was he a Warrior anymore, or had he betrayed them? It just didn’t make any sense to me that they would abandon him, and I felt very strongly that after the film ended, the Warriors’ immediate focus would be on trying to help out their friend and comrade, if that were even possible . . .
TFAW.com: What’s the main plot of The Warriors: Jailbreak?
EH: Well, as Todd said, one of the things these two noticed in the film was that there’s a pretty major character–one of the Warriors, Ajax–who just kind of disappears from the end of the movie. We see him get arrested, and presumably hauled off to jail, but that’s the last we see of him. So based on that, I bet you can guess who’s the focus of the comic’s titular jailbreak.
So the jailbreak stuff is obviously a major part of the comic, but we’re doing some other stuff, too, that’s just as important, if not more so: Swan’s still learning how to be the leader of the gang. Rembrandt is starting to grow up and realize what it really means to be a Warrior. We get a look at the sort of spot Swan and Mercy are in, and that factors into things. So those are all big parts of the comic as well. Alas, despite our original idea of naming the comic The Warriors: Several Interesting and Interconnected Storylines, the verdict from the people in marketing was that The Warriors: Jailbreak sounded “significantly less crappy,” whatever that means.
TFAW.com: Would a reader need to see The Warriors for Jailbreak to make sense, or is this a stand-alone story?
EH: It’s a stand-alone story, but it definitely wouldn’t hurt to see The Warriors before picking up the first issue. Jailbreak’s story is pretty self-contained, and everything that the reader will need to know in order to enjoy the book should be in there. But that said, there are a lot of little touches and cameos and references that we’ve put into the book, and those who have seen the movie will have, I think, a richer experience than those who haven’t. It’s very much a continuation of the movie, so it relies on what happens in the movie in that respect, but hopefully it’s enough of its own thing that people can read it for what it is, without needing to know every little thing about the movie.
HA: It’s a great story on its own, but knowing the film makes it that much better. That is actually my goal, if I help just one poor lost soul find and watch this film, then my humanitarian work is complete . . .
TH: You don’t absolutely have to see the film first, but it’s kinda crazy not to, and really it’s gonna make a lot more sense if you do. You’ll want to go back and see it by the end of this series if Jailbreak is your first exposure to The Warriors.
TFAW.com: Which characters from the movie are in Jailbreak?
EH: Oh, man. A ton of ’em! I don’t want to give too much away–not because I don’t want to tell you, but because if I do, Jailbreak’s editor will come after me with a baseball bat–but I don’t think it’d be too much of a shocker if I tell you that obviously, Swan and Ajax play major roles, and Rembrandt’s a really important character too, as is Mercy. We tried to fit in everybody that Warriors fans would be looking for. We’re also introducing a couple of new Warriors who haven’t been seen before, and there’s at least one super-important, brand-new character that I’m really excited about.
HA: All of them, and some new great characters as well.
TH: Pretty much everyone from the film who did not die, and even then Fox and Cleon make cameos. Except Luther, Luther and his gang are decidedly not in this story.
TFAW.com: Have the characters evolved at all? Did you make any changes to them?
EH: If we’ve done our jobs right, all of the characters in Jailbreak should still feel true to who they were in the movie. But anytime somebody has a new experience, it changes them–and there are plenty of new experiences for the Warriors in Jailbreak. So by the time Jailbreak ends, I think all of our major characters are gonna be in very different places than they were at the start of the comic.
HA: That’s the great thing about this book–it really feels like a continuation of the movie. All the characters are evolving, finding their new roles in the gang, and in the world.
TH: I wouldn’t say we make many changes to them other than try to fill in more of their backstories. We took away Swan and Mercy’s happy ending–we didn’t want to make it quite so easy for them to just walk into the sunset like they did at the end of the film. I think as well there’s an added focus on Rembrandt. He’s probably the one who is both the conscience of the Warriors, and we see the most of his personal life. He’s the most conflicted about what his role in the Warriors is. I think other than breaking Ajax out of jail, this story is about Rembrandt defining to himself what it means to be a Warrior.
TFAW.com: Which is your favorite character from the movie, and which is your favorite character in the comic?
EH: My favorite character in the movie is Masai, the guy who becomes the leader of the Riffs after Cyrus gets assassinated. My only reasoning for this is one simple fact: That dude is a total badass. He’s in charge of a gang that knows karate, he’s scary smart, and he wears an awesome pair of aviators. Masai’s pretty unf#@kwithable.
My favorite character in Jailbreak turned out to be Mercy. I didn’t expect her to be my favorite character when I started writing the book, but by the time I’d written the first scene that she’s in, I’d realized I’d grown really fond of her, and I found I was really looking forward to writing her scenes from there on out. She brings something to the book that’s very important–I’m not sure what it is, exactly, but I know the book benefits enormously from her being in it, and her scenes are some of my favorites in Jailbreak.
HA: I just can’t pick from the movie, I love them all, but I find myself loving Rembrandt more and more in the comic, he really is coming into his own in this.
TH: Oh, for me it was always Ajax, both in the comic and the film! His character was at odds with the rest of the film, I thought. He was almost written like a villain, yet he was a Warrior, and a challenger to Swan’s leadership. I found myself over the years attracted to his contradictory nature and that he was probably at once likeable, unlikeable, and ultimately his own worst enemy, yet you rooted for him anyways. Plus, James Remar is just a terrific actor, one of my favorites.
TFAW.com: Erik: What was it like writing a sequel to a movie (that started as a novel) from the 1970s, especially a movie with a cult following like The Warriors?
EH: Basically, it’s about 90 percent an awesome, I-can’t-believe-they’re-letting-me-do-this sort of feeling, with about 10 percent of an oh-sweet-jesus-if-I-f#@k-this-up-they’re-gonna-murder-me sort of feeling.
When it comes to sequels, the ones I dig the most are always the ones that don’t just rehash the original but twist it a bit–stories that acknowledge and respect what’s come before, but then head off in a whole different direction. So it was definitely a challenge to break down the film and think about what worked about it and what didn’t, and figure out what we wanted to keep from the film, and what we could throw away, and what we could tweak a bit, and what we could bring into the Warriors’ universe that’d give it a new feel but also fit into what’s already there. Luckily, Todd and Herb and I are big enough fans of the film that I knew we probably wouldn’t go too far off the rails–it’s not like we were going to do something like “Gotcha! Turns out Mercy’s been a Cylon all along!”–but all the same, I was also eager to get some stuff in Jailbreak that people wouldn’t expect, and that would justify Jailbreak existing, would justify telling this new story and asking readers to come along for it. So to do that, while still remaining true and respectful of what’s come before? That was tricky.
And yeah, the fact that there are so many people who love The Warriors as much as they do is a little bit intimidating–the first few days I was writing, I kept having these terrifying visions of pissed-off dudes wearing pleather vests and holding switchblades banging on my apartment door. Thankfully, the two biggest Warriors fans I know are Todd and Herb, so I imagine they’d get the memo if an attack were ordered on my apartment. I hope one of them would tip me off and send me a message or something to, like, not be home when the attack was gonna happen. You’d tell me if that was gonna happen, right guys? Right? Guys?
TFAW.com: Erik, were there any surprises when you were mapping out all four issues? Did the story take any unexpected twists or turns, or did you have a clear idea of what you wanted to do?
EH: Well, by the time I came onto the project, these guys already had a general roadmap for where they knew they wanted to go with the series. They had a lot of really great ideas, and the broad strokes were already there, so I just needed to punch it up and figure out how to make it work, more or less. By working on an outline that covered all four issues and really plotting everything out before I even started writing the first issue, I was able to totally delude myself into thinking that once I sat down to write the thing, everything would slide right into place and all the characters would do just what I wanted them to and the whole thing would be brilliant and amazing and the only thing I’d have to worry about was whether they’d pronounce my name right at the Eisners.
And then I actually sat down and started typing and everything fell apart. Characters started doing f#@ked-up things that I didn’t ask them to do, issues started bleeding into each other, storylines started growing freakish little extra limbs that at first I thought were just vestigial and harmless and kind of cute but then they kept growing and they took over and then I didn’t sleep for four months. And then it was done.
TFAW.com: Herb and Todd, you two shared art duties: how did that work?
HA: Originally, we were going to split the art 50/50 and each of us would do half the pencils, but Paramount was worried that the read might get confused, so we came up with Todd doing layouts and I doing finished pencils, and it’s been great. Our styles are very different, but we’re really bringing some great stuff out of each other. Todd is a great artist, and his storytelling is fantastic, so the whole thing has been a blast.
TH: Herb and I have been best friends for many, many years, and we both knew we had strengths we could bring to the book, me being more interested in the storytelling and the subtlety of the acting. Herb’s great at that stuff too, but he also excels at the minutia of the Warrior’s world, the graffiti, the dirt, the costumes, the back-alley feel of the backgrounds. Plus he seems able to put his stamp on every single Warrior he draws, even when we do a panel with over 100 characters. Plus, I was doing full art chores on a couple other books when Jailbreak started, so I was only too happy to let Herb make me look good!
TFAW.com: Did you try to match the look and feel of the movie and the actors, or is this more your own interpretation?
HA: I have tried to find a balance between the two. I want people to be like “That’s badass Ajax,” and I want them to recognize the characters, but I want them to be our versions of them.
TH: For my part, I just wanted to emulate the widescreen Western quality of the film, the close ups of eyes and faces. I wanted the acting and body language to do as much storytelling as possible, without dialogue whenever needed.
TFAW.com: Are there any visual elements from the movie that didn’t work for the comic, or were there elements you felt worked better in the comic than in the movie?
HA: The movie is a comic, everything about it, and our comic is just a natural progression of the film. I do wish we could have worked in the DJ–she’s so cool in the film, but musical montages don’t really work in comics.
TH: I think The Warriors works just great as both a comic and a film. The costume design in particular is so striking in the film that it always makes for interesting viewing and then is tons of fun to draw. Plus, the action in the film was so well choreographed that we had our work cut out for us to at least try to match the sheer brutality of the violence in the film’s fight scenes.
TFAW.com: So, is this a dream come true for you guys or what?
EH: Oh, definitely.
HA: Quite honestly, yes.
TFAW.com: Do you have plans to continue the story of The Warriors after Jailbreak?
EH: At this point, I don’t think any of us know yet. In some ways, that decision’s out of our hands, since it’ll be Paramount and Dabel Brothers who’ll determine whether or not they want us to do more new Warriors stories–but ultimately, it’s up to the fans, since how well Jailbreak sells will determine whether continuing the story is something that makes sense for Paramount and Dabel Brothers to pursue. I think right now, Herb and Todd and I are so focused on getting Jailbreak done and in people’s hands that it’s pretty hard to imagine launching into a whole other Warriors book. But . . . I will say that I was sure to end Jailbreak in a way that definitely leaves a few doors open for future Warriors stories, and I’ll also say that I may or may not have some notes on my hard drive about where the comics should go once Jailbreak’s done.
TH: We know exactly where The Warriors should go after this, both in big and small ways. At that point it will simply be up to the Dabel Brothers and Paramount giving us the green light to continue, and I think I speak for all of us when I say that we’d like to continue to do so, very enthusiastically!!!
TFAW.com: Where do you imagine the characters from The Warriors would be now, in 2009?
EH: I can only imagine that if they were around in 2009, and they found out that Herb and Todd and I were getting paid to tell stories about ’em, they’d want a cut. Some tribute money. And knowing how they usually negotiate such things, I guess my answer to your question is that I’d like to imagine them far, far away from Portland, where they can’t throw any Molotov cocktails into my Jeep.
HA: I can’t speak for the others, but I think Ajax would be the bouncer at my favorite karaoke dive bar, and he would drag me out by my head every time I’d try to sing Cher’s “If I Could Turn Back Time,” and rightly so . . .
TH: Good question! The Warriors universe seems like another place and time to me, either in the not so distant future, or another reality entirely. I think if they actually existed they’d either be dead before any of them reached 30, or New York would have to be closed off to the rest of the world like in Escape From New York, I don’t see anyone or anything ever taming The Warriors!
TFAW.com: Thanks again guys!
TH: Thank you, Liz!
EH: No problem. Thanks Elisabeth!
Make sure to check out our 10-page First Look of The Warriors: Jailbreak #1 and pre-order issues #1, #2, and #3! So what do you think, dear readers? Did anyone check out Dabel Brothers’ The Warriors Official Movie Adaptation? Are you planning to buy The Warriors: Jailbreak? Post your comments below!