Exclusive: Bat-Writer Brian Buccellato On His Creator-Owned, Kickstarter-Funded Sons of the Devil

Detective Comics writer Brian Buccellato is down to the wire on his Kickstarter campaign for Sons of the Devil, a new, transmedia experience that sees the writer tackling the same concepts in both comics and film.

Hot off an acclaimed run on The Flash and having just seen his passion project Foster collected for the first time from OSSM Comics, Buccellato's Sons of the Devil is a personal project that looks at the fallout from a Charlie Manson/Jim Jones-style cult leader who is separated from the children he fathered with members of his community. 

Years later, though, he's looking for those kids again -- and the discovery that you've got living family isn't much comfort when that family is a deranged cult leader who's trying to kill you because he believes he's working for the Devil.

Buccellato joined ComicBook.com to talk about Sons of the Devil and Foster.

ComicBook.com: The first thing that struck me when I was looking at both Foster and Sons of the Devil is that you're at the top of your game at the work-for-hire level. Do you think it's indicative of what's going on in comics that it seems like this is now the time to do creator-owned, whereas in the past it's often been that you don't take time out of your schedule to do anything except work-for-hire while you're still hot?

Brian Buccellato: I think both are true. I think the culture of creator-owned right now is clearly on the upswing -- I don't know if it's reached the apex, but hopefully it's not going to be on its downward trend.

The opportunities for creators and creator-owned and getting maximum eyeballs on it is as good as it's been in a long time so I think 100% there's definitely opportunity for creators. But I think that any writer has their own material.

Work-for-hire is awesome and amazing and getting to work on The Flash, getting to work on Batman or any character that has history -- you can't help but geek out on it and be honored to be a caretaker for those characters...but creators, writers, artists, we all have stories and we have stories that are our own, that are personal to us, that have nothing to do with mainstream comics sometimes. So why wouldn't you want to take a swing at it?

I tried publishing Foster two years ago -- I published five issues, a very small run, and the printer that I was using went out of business so it was no longer cost-effective for me to do it myself. I almost made it through the end of the arc and maybe had I waited a little bit longer, because I did it sort of around the beginning of the New 52, maybe I would have gotten a few more eyeballs on it. Maybe I would have gotten it through to Image. But I took a swing when I decided that I had a story that I was hot to tell, and I made it through six issues and now it's finally being collected and I'm really proud of it.

ComicBook.com: It's interesting becuase in my mind, when you guys were announced on The Flash, I thought they were swinging for the fences with that book. So it's interesting to me that Big Two success is still so important for creators who have established reputations.

Buccellato: Well, let's be honest: even the lower-rung Big Two books sell 10 to 12,000. The indie publishers, even guys like BOOM! or Dynamite, unfortunately those books tend to sell half of those numbers. So if you want to foster and create your own fan base and cultivate your own littel kingdom, working for the Big Two allows you to reach out to way more people, you know?

ComicBook.com: I'm always interested by how Kickstarter works for established talents. You guys are basically exactly on pace to get funded -- is it disappointing not to be one of those guys who come out of the gate and blow the goal away?

Buccellato: In some ways, it's nervewracking to have to go through the process but I'm also a realistic person and I know where I stand in the community of writers. I have a name insofar as people who read DC books know who I am but I'm not Mark Waid, I'm not Geoff Johns or Scott Snyder. All you have to do is look at my Twitter. I have like 5,000 followers; bigger-name guys have tens of thousands, 75,000 or 100,000 followers. I know where I stand, so I'm not surprised that we didn't sell out the day of. I know who I am, I know my place currently in the great scheme of things. I think I set a realistic goal and I'm marching towards it; we'll see what happens.

ComicBook.com: Can you give us your elevator pitch for Sons of the Devil?

Buccellato: Sons of the Devil explores the cult of personality; specifically it explores the type of charismatic, real-world evildoer that could control other people and get them to kill -- that could amass followers to do their bidding -- but told through the perspective of the son of one of these horrible Manson, Jim Jones-type cult leaders.

So really I'm exploring the cult of personality through the sons of such a person and really the sort of plotty pitch is a cult leader believes he's made a deal with the devil and if he sacrifices 99 souls, the devil will be reborn through him. The day he's going to do this sacrifice one of his followers finds out what's going on; she escapes with six infants, all of which he's the father of. The sacrifice goes down but without the six infants, he doesn't complete his bargain with the devil.

Fast-forward 25 years, he returns to finish the deal so he has to find his six sons who were whisked away into the foster care system and he's got to sacrifice them. So it's basically his hunt to find his sons and kill them and obviously our protagonist is one of the sons and it's his journey as somebody who has come through foster care who didn't know where he came from, who has all these negative feelings, learning he has a family and then learning he has a father who wants to kill him.

ComicBook.com: You've got a through line of some very odd families here.

Buccellato: Parenthood is really important to me; I'm a father. Whereas Foster was me specifically targeting the male need to protect your child from the physical harms of the world, like is my child safe, the monsters, the dwellers in Foster are metaphors for all the evils that are out there in the world and all the things that can hurt your kid. When I was working on that, I said, "What's the worst situation a parent could be in? Monsters want your kid. Well, what if it's even worse than that, what if the kid is half monster?"

So you've got to teach your child humanity while protecting them from the monsters who want to kill him.

But the idea of family and nature vs. nurture is something that's really intriguing to me. I write about redemption, I write about character an dall these things are at play with material like Sons of the Devil. Biologically, you're the son of an evil person. If you have six people who are all the children of this evil person but they've all had different upbringings, one may have been lucky and gone into a nice home and had a very happy upbringing. Another went from foster family to foster family.

For me, it's intriguing to explore how that affects people. And I'm not even trying to make any grand statement about it. I'm not one to judge. There's two sides to every coin and there's a lot of gray in this world but for me, learning through writing is what I try to do. I want to explore these things and see where they go.

ComicBook.com: When you were working with Toni to develop the look of Sons of the Devil, did you have specific actors in mind for the parts?

Buccellato: Uh... [Laughs] I actually sent him a Word document where I cast all the characters and I gave four or five photos of -- not always the same actor, but actor types for each of the characters. And he based the designs off the composite photographs I assembled.

I don't want to say who I modeled them after. So for Travis, it's sort of the thinner, they're good looking but there's something tortured about their eyes, you know?

I also think it's a testament to Toni. He's this young cat that I found online. I was looking for an artist and I just stumbled across him on some website. He lives in Barcelona; I've never actually met him or spoken to him, it's all been through e-mail. I reached out to him and we hit it off so this 32-page one-shot is going to be the proving ground for our collaboration and it's going very well so far so I'm optimistic that we can continue it on into a series.

ComicBook.com: We're in a period now where everything you write is likely to get picked up as an option in comics. Everyone is having stuff bought left and right, whether or not anybody intends to actually make the film. You, on the other hand, are actually funding a film of your own to go along with the comic. What was your thinking there?

Buccellato: Well, there's two things that I love: comic books and film. So those are the things that I want to make a living doing. It's no secret that I started out learning screenwriting and doing indie films and a friend of mine, Tim Story, who did Fantastic Four and Ride Along, we're the same age. When I first got out of college, I met him by auditioining for something and we hit it off. 

So I've seen the process. I've worked and done ghostwriting on some films. I ghost wrote on Fantastic Four. I've helped him out in a number of ways. I was his assistant on a couple of films because I wanted to see the process. I know I want to be a filmmaker, that's a fact. So for me, doing something like this where it's a transmedia thing, it's not that I want to get in on the transmedia kick. It's that I want to do things that I love and things that I think I can be successful at, and I believe I can do both. On the Kickstarter page, you can watch my previous short film, which is actually an excerpt from a feature that I'm trying to get financing for.

I've written a pilot for Foster that I'm developing and the reason why I'm not focusing on that right now is that it's period and it's creatures, so it's definitely more expensive. So for me, Sons of the Devil is a way to further my career and my love of the art form and set myself up for things like Foster and stuff like that. One of the things I want to do is I want Sons of the Devil to be an ongoing comic book but I also want it to be a digital series, like a nine- to twelve-chapter series that can be collected into a feature-lenth movie. That's really the goal; it's two-pronged.

I don't know what your exposure is to the industry but it's hard to get people to give you money to do stuff that you haven't done before so Kickstarter and doing it myself is one way to prove to prospective investors or somebody who might want to actually buy the property and let me do the whole digital series that I can deliver.

That's what it's all about; I don't have any other, pretentious reasons other than I want to do what I love.