Syfy’s newest unscripted and highly ambitious series, Beast Legends, premieres this week and features a team travelling the globe investigating and creating unidentified mysterious animals, animals unknown to science, animals of legend. One of the intrepid team is comic book artist Francis Manapul. We spoke with Francis last week to ask him about the show and, of course, a few questions about his comics work.
POP CULTURE ZOO: How did you get involved with Beast Legends?
FRANCIS MANAPUL: I was contacted via email by the Production Coordinator at Yap Films. I thought it was for a behind the scenes gig like story boarding or design work. I came in for an interview and was told it was for an onscreen role. So we chatted and I did a screen test, and got a call a few weeks later. Funny story about my initial role on the show though. I was never suppose to leave the Beast Lab, and my involvement was very minimal. But opportunity knocked when they were shooting the Vietnamese Wildman episode and they needed someone to draw what the witnesses had seen. I guess they really liked putting me in scary and precarious situations because next thing I know I’m off on this great adventure for more than half a year!
PCZ: Had you done any TV work prior to this?
FM: Nope, nadda. Certainly not in front of the camera. Can you tell? :)
PCZ: How did you handle all the travelling?
FM: Being able to bring my work with me was key. Luckily my set up isn’t very elaborate so as long as my room had a desk I was able to make it work. I will admit though, that it was a very grueling schedule and really wears your body down. There were times when I’d come home and going through customs they’d ask me where I was and I honestly blanked out a couple times and forgot where I went. It was surreal in a way, seeing more of the airport than my home. Luckily the crew and I became really good friends and it made it feel more like the most amazing road trip you can have with your buds.
PCZ: What was your favorite place and favorite Beast?
FM: I loved all of them! Every place had something special that really sticks in mind. I had an amazing time in New Zealand, and Poland. I’d been to New Zealand before but the things we do on the show definitely aren’t on any vacationer’s itinerary. Poland really surprised me, it’s a beautiful country and the food was fantastic! For favorite beast, the Dragon was a lot of fun as it truly was our creation. The way we used so many different elements to make such a fantastic beast come to life and how we adapted it to it’s habitat was great. I’m really proud of that one.
PCZ: Were you interested in mythological Beasts and monster legends before this?
FM: I really liked Greek mythology as a kid and it had it’s share of monsters. I’ve since lost a bit of that feeling, but it was reinvigorated by the show! The possibilities are endless! So many stories to explore!
PCZ: Any possibility of collecting your Beast sketches and travel blogs as a book?
FM: Right now they have a travel blog along with my drawings at www.beastlegends.com. There are no current plans to make one. Maybe if the demand is strong enough the producers will make one along with some photo’s from the road. We really had a great adventure and it would be fantastic to see it in a coffee table type book.
PCZ: If there is a second season would you be interested in returning?
FM: It was an amazing adventure and I think it would be great fun to do it again! But it was tough balancing my comic book work with the filming schedule. I guess I’ll cross that road when I get there.
PCZ: Has working on the show had any impact on your artwork?
FM: It actually helped me grow artistically as I was able to stretch far and beyond my comfort zone as an artist. Up until the show I haven’t really drawn that many animals, and all the different mediums we used for the art projects was all new to me. But I was able to adapt to them fairly quickly and I feel like a better artist for it. I also feel like I’m infusing more logic into my drawings now, and being in the places I got to go to, I feel like there’s no better experience as an artist you can get than that. Honestly after drawing in all the weird places I got to draw in on the show I feel like I can tackle anything now!
FM: Absolutely! The Flash is one of my favorite characters in the DC Universe, and had been begging to do that book for years. So it really was a dream come true finally getting a chance to work on the book. What makes the experience even more amazing is I get to work on it with the extremely talented Geoff Johns!
PCZ: Can you talk about the designs for the Renegades in the first story arc?
FM: They’re basically the Rogues in the future. But generations removed from crime, and the Renegades are now part of the law. I just wanted to keep their design sleek and simple, and keeping in line with the original Rogues.
PCZ: Any other Flash characters you’ve had a hand in re-designing?
FM: To tell you the truth I’m not the biggest fan of redesigning. I enjoy telling stories more, and the thing about DC characters is that, their design is so iconic, to change it just feels wrong sometimes. So redesigning anybody really isn’t an initiative for me unless the story calls for it.
FM: I’d love to draw Batman some more, he’s an artists’ dream. You can play around with lighting so much with the character the mood you can create with Gotham City is fantastic as well, it’s like a character all its own. I’d also love to get to draw Wonder Woman, and Superman. I like to keep it simple and classic.
PCZ: You’ve worked with Jim Shooter and Geoff Johns at DC. What other writers are you interested in working with?
FM: Working with Geoff has been a real dream, our collaboration is so in sync. That said I really enjoy J.T Krul’s work, as I do Grant Morrison, and James Robinson’s stuff as well as Brian Azzarello.
PCZ: Any other comics in your future?
FM: Aside from The Flash, I’m also working on a black and white short story starring The Spirit written by J.T Krul. Of course you’ll also see a variety of covers from me as well on other DCU titles.
Thank you to Francis Manapul for his time and agreeing to talk to me. Watch “Beast Legends” Thursday nights at 10:00 PM on Syfy and pick up “The Flash” every month from DC Comics!