Behind the Scenes of the Latest True Blood Comic Book

By Steve Marzolf

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Comic-Con is hitting San Diego this week, and the festivities are dripping in ‘True Blood.’ Over the next few days, we’ll be bringing you an all-new trailer, cast Q&As, and much more. But to kick things off in the proper frame, we talked to Michael McMillian (who in addition to playing The Rev. Steve Newlin on the show, writes the official ‘True Blood’ comic book) and our own InsideTrueBlood blogger Gianna Sobol (who works as story editor on the books) about ‘Tainted Love’ – the issue of the comic that is about to be released as an extras-packed Legacy Edition at Comic-Con.

Gianna, you’ve been wearing a lot of hats lately – can you describe what you do as story editor for the comics?

Gianna Sobol: I get outlines and then scripts, and I give notes, trying to help to keep in line with the show.

Michael McMillian: She tells us what sucks.

GS: I tell him what’s terrible about all of his work, and then I rewrite the whole thing. And then we just put his name on it. No – I think I’m kind of the ‘True Blood’ consultant, to keep the characters and world on track.

Was there anything you’ve had to cut out because it ran up against the show?

MM: Without spoiling anything from Season 4, there were actually a couple things that Marc [Andreyko] and I had put in there that Gianna told us might actually be happening in the show. So there were a few ideas we had to rewrite so we wouldn’t step on the tail of the show.

GS: Then there would just be little things, like one scene where Jessica’s mom was yelling at her, and I stepped in to say, “You know, Jessica’s dad is really the yeller, and her mom’s kind of the silent type …” Little changes like that. I think the show is so big – and there’s so much lore and detail – what makes the comic book so cool is that it builds that world even more.

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Is it hard to find untold areas of the story that you can flesh out?

MM: That’s where I really get excited about writing it – what corners of the mythology can we bring some light to? Really, ‘Tainted Love’ is Jessica’s origin story in disguise. We never saw how she got into the trunk of the car in Season One that brought her to the magister’s trial. So I thought it would be cool to tell that back-story of how she ended up there, throughout the course of “Tainted Love.” I think there’s a lot that hasn’t been answered in the back-stories of the ‘True Blood’ characters. The challenge is finding something that the comic can go to that the show doesn’t want to put on hold for later. For example, doing something like, “How did Eric become sheriff of Area 5,” is probably something that the show would want to establish. But in terms of the night Jessica was turned into a vampire, the show gave us what was most important about that moment, and then the comic can flesh things out and usher the reader up to that moment.

True Blood is famous for its creative use of sex and gore – is it harder to get away with those kinds of scenes in a comic?

MM: We can’t. I don’t know exactly why we can’t, but we can’t. The comic is a mature reader’s book, but there’s just something that happens when you’re putting a lot of sex into print in a comic book – and this is my opinion speculating – it does suddenly feel a bit more like pornography. Also, I think rules and regulations are different for the comic than they are for the show. And it’s not like Marc and I are trying to pump it with as much sex and gore as possible – we’re approaching it from the character first. We had to put some clothes on some people in a few situations, but overall we did what we wanted.

GS: I also think it’s a medium that you have to be very economical in, so to waste a whole page on a sex scene takes away from the space you have to tell the story. Usually, the big splash pages are more action-oriented. 

MM: Also, the comic isn’t limited by special effects, so we can have extended scenes of Eric flying or get as big or over-the-top as we want to.

Have you gotten any feedback from the actors about how their characters look in the book?

MM: I think everyone’s been pretty excited about it. I know specifically that Todd Lowe was really excited that Terry was in the comic. He told me, “I saw the book, it’s so cool.” But I think the actors in ‘True Blood’ are pretty used to seeing their faces everywhere now – they probably don’t even care.

What about your very own Steve Newlin, who appears in the book?

GS: Michael’s whole desire to write the comic book is basically shameless self-promotion.

MM: That’s right. I’m killing two birds with one stone – I’m bringing Steve Newlin back, AND I’m putting myself in a comic book. Though a friend of mine looked at a panel and said, “You have a double chin in that panel, and it’s not very flattering.”