Michael Schwartz on Stine, Comics, and Haunted Armor

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Screenwriter Michael Schwartz, a longtime fan of comics, has a live Kickstarter through Clover Press to launch his own comic, Armored. The horror comic follows Andy, who finds a haunted suit of armor and its ghost, Sir William. The comic is illustrated by Ismael Hernandez, and is set to have covers from Jae Lee, Nick Pitarra, Chrissie Zullo, Scott Kolins, Matthew Therrien, and Jeff Dickson. Schwartz spoke to Cemetery Dance about his love of comics, working on R.L. Stine’s Zombie Town, and what real-world influences led him to writing about haunted armor.

(Interview conducted by Danica Davidson)      

CEMETERY DANCE: What is your background in reading comics, and which ones have been an influence on you? Do you have a special interest in horror comics?

cover of ArmoredMICHAEL SCHWARTZ: I grew up reading comics with my dad decades before conceiving the idea of a kid finding a haunted suit of armor. I have collected and read comic books steadily throughout the years. The biggest influence would definitely be the original Stan Lee and Steve Ditko run on Spider-Man. Those stories from Amazing Fantasy 15 to about issue 100 of Amazing Spider-Man, with Lee & Ditko through #36 and then the amazing John Romita and Gil Kane eras that followed, were integral to me becoming the comic book fan I am today. Another big influence was Geoff Johns’ run on The Flash. That series, in particular, really pushed me to pursue writing. As for horror comics, I’ve always been a big fan. That came fairly naturally to me because of my obsession with horror movies. Clive Barker’s comics made it an easy segue from following his films into collecting books like Nightbreed in the ’90s and religiously following anything Hellraiser related. There was a period in the ’90s where I collected only horror comics, Spawn, and Hellboy books.

Can you please tell us about your background in scriptwriting, and how you worked on an R.L. Stine property?

Breaking into screenwriting is not easy. However, I was very fortunate to work at an animation studio early in my career and meet director Peter Lepeniotis on his animated film The Nut Job. We clicked creatively and began writing movies together. After The Nut Job, he was set to direct a movie called Gnome Alone and they were struggling with the story. Peter brought me on to help shape and re-write the script. Over the past few years Peter and I have written numerous movies together. Most recently, Peter was asked to direct R.L. Stine’s Zombie Town. However, the script required a major rethink for budgetary and story purposes, so he brought me on board to co-write a new draft with him.

You described Armored as a personal tale. How is the story personal for you?

I think most writers bring their life experiences to their work. On a surface level, I spent a lot of time in Europe when I was younger. I’ve always been fascinated by medieval times and visiting old castles. While I have never found a magical suit of armor and befriended a ghost, I think on a thematic level I wanted to explore the ideas of loss. Thankfully I’ve never had to go through the loss and trauma I put Andy through in the comic. The story was conceived during the pandemic and I think it was my way of coping with the loss I was seeing around me. Additionally, during the pandemic, I made a conscious decision to start re-collecting my stolen comic book collection. Boxes and boxes of comics I had collected since I was a child had been stolen and their loss really drove home for me how much I loved comics, and set me thinking how I needed to tell stories in the medium. I began collecting obsessively. I think both of these aspects are things Andy struggles with — the loss of his parents and an obsession with finding them. He must come to terms with his new reality in order to accept his new family.

What would you like readers to take away from Armored?

First and foremost, I hope readers are entertained. There’s no better feeling than reading a comic and wanting immediately to read the next issue. Also, I hope readers are able to connect with Andy on an emotional level and the journey he is on. When we first meet him, he’s built an emotional armor around himself, unable to let anyone in since the loss of his parents. As we follow him through the series, he’ll need to deal with the loss and accept it if he’s ever going to be able to embrace his new parents.

Where can people find out more about you and your work?

Best place to find out more about me and my work would be on Instagram @mikeschwartzwrites or if anyone wants to follow as I re-collect my stolen comics, they can check me out at @50centcomiccollector. Thanks so much for having me on to discuss Armored!

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