Article by Rick de Yampert, Entertainment Writer at The Daytona Beach News-Journal
If a headless biker were stalking this planet, you know he'd be riding the streets of Daytona Beach, searching for sinners to harvest. The above scenario plays out in Chopper, a new horror comic book series created by former Daytona Beach resident Martin Shapiro.
As a student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach in the 1990s, Shapiro became fascinated by biker culture. He went on to serve in the U.S. Air Force, then earned a bachelor's degree in film production from the University of Central Florida. Shapiro then earned a master's degree in screenwriting from UCLA.
Now, at age 44, he is a full-time writer and producer living in Los Angeles. He recently sold the movie rights to Chopper, as well as his action-thriller screenplay Lair of the Fox.
Chopper #1, published by Asylum Press, is on sale at World of Comics, 2133 S. Ridgewood Ave., South Daytona. Store owner-manager Steven Myers says Chopper "is not a comic book for children" and contains adult language, nudity, drugs and graphic violence.
A live-action Web TV series also is in development -- previews can be seen at asylumpress.com and chopperlives.com.
In the following interview, Shapiro talks about the creation of his horror comic-book series.
Q: What was the inspiration behind the story line of Chopper?
The idea for Chopper came to me many years ago when I was at the Daytona Bike Week festival hanging out with a bunch of bikers, getting drunk and telling war stories. I love custom choppers and the biker subculture, and I like horror movies, so, I decided to combine the two elements into a hard-core, old-school, grindhouse-style slasher film.
The headless biker thing came about from a book I read as a child -- "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." I thought the headless horseman was just the coolest thing -- scary and iconic. I figured if such an entity came back today, he wouldn't be riding a horse like in the Revolutionary days. Instead, he'd be riding the equivalent of a horse -- an iron horse, aka a motorcycle.
Q: Was there any particular incident that spurred you to tell the story of a drug-dealing cheerleader and this drug that "opens your sixth sense"?
The drug angle was just a clever, unique way to pull us into the supernatural world. Instead of being killed in your dreams like in "Nightmare on Elm Street," you're vulnerable while you're high on the drug. In that sense, it's a metaphor for the very real dangers of drug abuse. Drugs can literally kill you.
With Chopper, I wanted to challenge old notions of good and evil, and flip them upside down. People forget that the Old Testament God and Revelations can be just as brutal as any devil. Chopper blurs the line between right and wrong and forces us to look deep inside ourselves to see where we might fit in this delicate balance.
The villain in this case is a Grim Reaper-like figure, an angel of death that's irrational, single-minded and unforgiving-- the wrath of God personified. He metes out judgment against the morally corrupt and exterminates the dregs of society: drug addicts, thieves, fornicators, Satanists, whatever -- all those "evil" elements corrupting "good Christians." He believes if he kills the Devil's pawns, he'll be forgiven for his own sins in his prior life as a murdering outlaw biker, and his eternal soul will be admitted into Heaven.
Opposing him is our protagonist, Christina, a troubled high school senior who's a part-time drug dealer, which isn't easy to pull off when your dad is a cop.
In my movies and books, I tend to explore the gray areas of characters -- heroes that are flawed. Beneath Christina's in-crowd, cheerleader facade, she is dark, cynical and self-destructive due to something horrible that happened to her as a child, a crime that directly relates to the headless biker's origin. Christina is also a danger junkie -- when she starts selling a new fictional drug called Stairway to Heaven to her classmates, all hell breaks loose.
The mystical substance has an eerie side effect -- it opens your sixth sense, causing you to see ghosts. Some thrill seekers think this is the coolest thing ever, but unfortunately not all ghosts are friendly.
Soon, decapitated bodies start showing up around Daytona, and Christina's father is put in charge of the serial-murder investigation.
Q: Are you a biker?
No, not technically. In spirit, I certainly am. I don't currently own a motorcycle, although I am getting Illusion Motorsports out here in California to build me a kickass chopper, which we'll likely use for the movie.
So, hopefully, by early next year, I'll hit the road and start riding. I'll be at the 2012 Daytona Bike Week and would love to go to Sturgis next summer.
Q: What was it about Daytona's biker culture that made you believe it would be a good setting for a horror comic?
Main Street during Bike Week and Biketoberfest is just an amazing spectacle. Hundreds of Harleys lined up along the curbs as far as the eye can see. It's very colorful and cinematic. A sea of denim, leather and chrome.
It's like a Mardi Gras for bikers. Spring Break for adults. You've got hot babes and wet T-shirt contests. You have outlaw MC guys right alongside leather-clad suburban doctors and businessmen playing weekend warrior and living the biker fantasy for a few days a year before they head back to the mundane real world.
The world of bikers is a unique milieu rarely seen in movies, and doing something original that hasn't already been done a dozen times in the horror genre is important to me. There are so many recycled vampire and zombie books and movies out there in the market now. It's time for a new monster to step into the spotlight.
Click here to learn more about Chopper.
Sign up for our monthly newsletter
Join the inmates at the Asylum to get the inside scoop on what's happening in the deliciously demented world of Asylum Press. You will have insider access to exclusive behind-the-scenes artwork, extended preview pages, comic book production tips and techniques, and special discounts on books.