Acclaimed writer Mike Costa stops by the Spoiler Lounge to have a chat with our man on the streets Casey T. Allen about Lucifer, quarantine and so much more!
Find Mike online:
“Drinks and Comics with Spoiler Country!”
Did you know we have a YouTube channel?
Buy John’s Comics!
Support us on Patreon:
Theme music by Good Co Music:
Steve, our alcoholic robot, typed this up for you.
Mike Costa Interview
[00:00:00] Casey: All right, everybody. welcome again to another episode of spoiler country money, ms. Casey Allen. And today we are talking to screenwriter to comic book writer, Mike Costa. Mike, how you doing, man?
Mike Costa: I’m doing good. I mean, as good as anybody it could be doing in the weird situation that we’re in as of this recording, but, pretty good.
Casey: So, so you’re out of LA right now, correct?
Mike Costa: Yes. I’m in LA right now. That’s right. Yeah.
Casey: Okay. how has, how has it affected you in particular?
Mike Costa: Well, I, so my day job as I call it is that I write for a show on Netflix called Lucifer that maybe some of your fans have seen, never heard of
Casey: that man
Mike Costa: ever.
so I’ve actually been working on that show since, since the very beginning, which has been, I mean, if you’re going to have to have a day job, it’s a pretty good day job to have.
Casey: that is awesome.
Mike Costa: Yeah. It’s ground floor. Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. Since day one. So that’s been really great, you know, watching the show that never should have existed beyond like probably five or six episodes, [00:01:00] you know, get renewed for several seasons and then get canceled and they get brought back from the dead and then it’s just, it’s, it’s been a crazy experience.
But, but the reason I brought that up is because we were, I was working on that show this past season, which was our fifth season and we had just. Finished, writing the season when all of this started going down, we were still in production. We were shooting our final episode when the plug got pulled and, everything had to be shut down.
So we actually. Did not finish shooting, the last week of what, what would be the final episode of the season? So whenever we can all go back to work, that will have to be completed, but long story short, I would be on hiatus right now from that job anyway, because I’m sure most of your listeners know when you’re a writer on a TV show in between the seasons.
There’s like a three or four month period sometimes where. Everybody just has a break. They call it hiatus. So I would have not been working anyway. So unlike, you know, a lot of people, I’m very, very lucky that this [00:02:00] has not affected my, my work. And you know, when you’re writing comics, you can sort of still work from home, even though the longer this goes on, the more the comic book industry is.
Being faced with uncertainty. And there are projects that I think are starting to go away, but that also hasn’t happened to me. So one of the things that’s been a great benefit, is just my luck of, you know, not being in a job that was specifically interrupted by this, but I can only imagine, you know, people that.
Have nine to fives and have to go to work. And they, you know, they can’t, and they can’t the money that they had and, and, that, or they’re working from home and they have kids and, you know, I also do not have kids, so I’m just sort of hanging out with my girlfriend at my apartment. It’s other than like a couple of trips, we were planning on taking this.
Isn’t all that different than what we may have been doing anyway. I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s too bad. We can’t, you know, we’re not like seeing friends of ours and stuff, and we are sticking to like the social distancing where we’re, you know, staying in most of the time, [00:03:00] but, but really. It has not been as disruptive as it could have been.
Cause this whole city, like, I’m sure most cities, but people listening is shut down. Like there’s, you know, it’s like a ghost town. It’s real crazy.
Casey: It’s wild. Cause I’m, I’m still working. But, I work in a, I work for a company that makes medical equipment. So like, if you’re getting a surgery and need a flexible endoscope used inside of you in some capacity, we build those.
So they’re kind of, you know, necessary to have, I’d go to work at, five 30 in the morning and it’s usually there’s some traffic. It’s like no traffic now is so weird. So we’re driving in and, and even more so coming home when people, you know, regular people are actually usually out and about.
Mike Costa: Right, right.
Yeah, man. Yeah. We actually, cause you know, all the movie theaters are closed here as well. so my girlfriend and I [00:04:00] actually went to a drive in movie last night. Cause those are still open because you can, you know, you stay in your car. So that was the first time that we had gone out and like going out other than to, you know, get groceries in like a month and a half.
Mike Costa: a weird.
Casey: being, being a married dad with two kids, like it, at least you let you, you can get out a little bit. my wife and I were like, we need a date night, so. cause yeah, these kids are going to Mark for dressing.
Mike Costa: Yeah.
Casey: so, so what did y’all go see last night,
Mike Costa: we, the, driving theater was playing a double feature of the Raiders of the lost Ark and Indiana Jones in the last crusade.
So we were showing they were showing other movies as well. They were showing like trolls world tour, and birds of prey, which you had already seen. So it felt like Raiders was like the one to see.
[00:05:00] Casey: Nice. So, you, you write comics and you, you write for film what started first?
Mike Costa: It was comics actually. the way it happened was, I was, so I moved out here to LA I’m originally from Detroit.
I grew up in Detroit, and then I went to college in Chicago. I was a Midwest kid, and then I moved out here right after I graduated college in 2003. Because, I grew up reading comics. My dad was actually a big comic book collector. He was a big Marvel fan in particular. So comics were a part of my life since I was a kid.
He had a huge collection and I would sit in the basement and read comics. And, and then when, when I was in seventh grade, my dad sold. His collection, not most of it, he kept a couple of things. He kept all his whole comics cause of the Hawkins, his favorite character. He kept all his Valiant comics cause he loved those.
And it was like a single publisher that he had every book of. And I think he wanted to keep those and for that reason and and he kept all his grew as well. Cause [00:06:00] . but he sold everything else. And then we ended up buying a new house. We moved and, but I didn’t have my comics anymore. I mean, I still bought comics myself.
cause at that point I was already collecting, but you know, I would spend hours in the basement reading, his back issues, like one of the big things that, that really got me into reading them, even though my dad had been collecting them all my life was, When the, the first series of the Marvel trading cards came out.
I don’t know if you remember those. It was probably 91. but I helped him cause he would buy the big boxes that the stores would get. He would just buy a box of that and then we’d bring them home and open up every pack and cause he was trying to assemble an entire run, you know, so I would help him go through the cards and, you know, throw in, get rid of the doubles and, and on the back of all the character cards.
Of that first series, it would, you know, talk about who the characters were and then it would give like crucial issues, like, you know, like amazing Spiderman, you know, well, obviously their first [00:07:00] appearance, but then it would also give like important things that happened to them. Like, you know, the days of future past storyline or like, you know, the death of Gwen, Stacy.
And, and then I realized like my dad had all those comics, so. That’s what got me reading them. Cause I was, I would be like, Oh, I can just go read these. So, so that’s how I got into comics. And once my dad sold his collection and I didn’t have that huge database anymore, that’s when I started getting really into like movies and is, I knew I sort of needed something to replace this sort of like need in me to ha like my parents had like a letter mountain movie guide, and I remember picking that up.
And looking up some movies that I liked and realizing like the same director, like Joe, Dante directed the burbs and gremlins and, and that like fit perfectly into the, you know, neurochemical receptor in my mind that like needed to like catalog things. So then I got really obsessive early in the movie, so.
By the time I got through high school, I was very into both comics and movies and, but [00:08:00] I knew I was going to go to film school and move to LA and try and make movies. But simultaneously I was also trying to break into comics, even though I was in high school. And you know, that that’s not the kind of thing that really happens, but.
Whatever we tried. Cause I grew up with, with a guy named Ryan Brown, who is now a very well known comic book, artist and writer himself. we met in like fifth grade, so I would write little mini comics and he would draw them and we would give them to editors at the motor city comic con. And it. The big miserable Chicago Comicon that would happen, you know, all through our high school years.
So, but you don’t have to move anywhere to get into comics. So I moved to LA because you do have something there to try and get new boobies. And I was working out here. I’m still going to comic conventions, you know, I’d fly home and do motor city con and wizard world still. And I would do San Diego cause I was fine living out here and I was able to do that and, and we were doing the same thing, Ryan, and go into and he had studied under David Mazza Kelly.
So he was. You know, like really [00:09:00] far along in terms of like how good and professional key his quality of work was. I was, I think lagging behind in my writing, but what ultimately happened was I was working at a production company as like an assistant. To one of the producers. So basically my job was just to read scripts all day and like make phone calls and, you know, that’s what, that’s what assistant life is when you’re, when you’re working, working a desk, as they say in Hollywood.
And that’s also how writers tend to get started is, you know, you take a job that exposes you to the industry and exposes you to a lot of scripts and you get to be on the phone with a lot of people and you’d start networking that way. So I was trying to climb that ladder and my boss. Had a humanoids comic, I don’t remember the title anymore, but it was a humanoids book that he was interested in getting the rights to, to potentially, you know, make a movie out of it or something.
So he asked if I could find out who. Own the rights originally. And since it was humanoids, I knew that they were published at least at the time humanoids books in America were published by DC. So I called DC comics, to get that information. And [00:10:00] this was in 2007, I think. So it was just a year or two before iron man came out.
So the big movie comic book explosion had not yet happened. And I think that that is very crucial to the story because if. If you tried this, now, this would never happen. But because movies and comics were still very separate and comic books still really coveted, you know, movie attention, just some idiot like me calling from the desk, you know, like a nobody assistants.
They put me in touch with a very high up person at DC comics to answer this question, I guess they thought I was like a much more important person than I was. And at the end of the conversation, he gave me the information I wanted. At the end of the conversation, I said, by the way, I’m really enjoying 52 cause 52 was coming out at the time.
and the guy went. Well, and it blew, it blew his mind that someone from Hollywood quote was reading comics. I was like, Oh no, I’ve read them all my life. And [00:11:00] I actually always wanted to write comics and he’s like, Oh, well, I mean, send me something if you’re interested. you know, we’re, we’re looking at WildStorm proposal.
Send me, send me from WildStorm. So that’s how I got my first gig, which was, Jack Hawksmoore book is that I, I sent a couple of proposals for characters. And, they offered me Jack Hawksmoore and that was how I broke into comics. And that was my first ever paying gig writing anything ever was. That was Jack Hawksmoore.
And, from there I got, I, I met Christos gage, who is a writer who has worked doing a lot of WildStorm work at the time. I met him at comic con that year because I was invited down there by WildStorm and they used to have a karaoke party. And Chris and I sang karaoke together. And then Chris was offered.
to do a book at IDW for their JGI Joe relaunch, that was going to be about Cobra, but he was too busy to do it solo, but he had remembered me and he told me, he’s like, ah, you would like the right age. Cause Chris has, you know, maybe seven or eight years older than me, which to him means he’s an old man, but he’s like a kid, you knew these growing up.
So I figured you could do it. So that’s how I got Cobra was [00:12:00] because Chris wanted a co-writer and he just thought of me. And that was kind of how my career got started. Really was it was with Cobra. And, so I did that. It was probably two or three years of, of, of doing comics until I was writing enough of them that I could do.
Quit a day job. And I was still doing a lot of assistant jobs. And I worked as a PA on the show heroes for season three. And I got fired because I was actually working on a hero’s related comic property at the time, which they did not know about, but I was writing it at work and I wasn’t doing my real job and they fired me.
Oh, but I eventually got to the point where I was ma where I had enough Cobb of work that I didn’t have to have a day job anymore. And then I spent five or six years. maybe it was fewer than that. Now that I think about it. Cause good Lord. My career is over 10 years old at this point, which just is very.
Very disturbing to me, but, yeah, it was, it was a couple of years in, to that of just doing comics full time that I [00:13:00] tried very seriously to break into working in television because I, I had made friends with a lot of guys out here. who were writers and we all met each other when we were all coming up in the assistant world.
And that’s kinda how it happens is that, you know, you, you met network and you meet other assistants and you all kind of help each other out. And then you all sort of rise together. And this is what was happening with a lot of my friends, except unlike me, they didn’t get derailed by doing comics. They kept at it.
And we’re all at this point, like, Kind of mid to high level television writers and they were all making like 10 times the money I was making. So I started thinking like, huh, maybe I should try that again. Like try and break, break into TV. Like I was attempting to do years ago because. I had break, broken into comics before any of them had, and I, I have these very strong memories of the four of us, me and three of my really good friends sitting in one of their like super crummy apartments at this like trash picked, you know, dining room table everyone’s writing.
Cause we had like an [00:14:00] informal sort of writing group get together. And I was writing transformers, comic books that I was getting paid for. And then all of them were like working on their scripts that they were hoping would get them hired somewhere. And I remember feeling like all this weird survivor’s guilt, like, Oh, I’m the, I’m the one who made it.
And all these guys are working so hard. And, and so I wrote all of their names in, into my transformers comics. I named a bunch of characters and transformers after my writer at the time. And now, and then, you know, cut to five years later, all of those dudes are like crushing it and. Like, some of them became show runners and they’re all like making huge amount of money and tea and like getting all kinds of crazy offers to write movies.
And, and I was like, Oh, I guess they did. Okay. I guess I’ll, I’ll try and break into TV too. So that’s, that’s how I went from comics to television was I had a lot of friends that were already doing it that like. Showed me the ropes and introduced me to the right people and eventually got me a job. And that’s sort of my career in a nutshell.
Casey: That’s awesome. [00:15:00] Sorry, my, my inlaws just came to the house,
Mike Costa: just heard,
Casey: heard a knocking on the door, coming to see the new grand puppy. Oh,
how was working with Fiona staples? I see that you worked with her own Hawks more
Mike Costa: so that was our first. So Fiona had done, sort of a self published comic. she’s from Calgary. She’s actually still up there, called done to death, which, eventually got published by IDW, I think. but that she, so she had done one sort of thing.
Real quote, unquote, real comic before Hawksmoore, but Hawksmoore was her first like mainstream professional work. And it was also mine obviously. And Fiona actually came on late because we had another artist that was hired to do the book, who dropped out for whatever reason. and our, my editor, Scott Peterson, who was at WildStorm at the time, he, he knew Fiona because WildStorm was developing a comic book worker that became North 40.
So she had already been hired to do North 40, but for whatever [00:16:00] reason, the scheduling wasn’t, we need her to do that just yet. So he stuck around to Hawksmoore. So it was a project that. She wasn’t even originally supposed to be doing. and I remember meeting her, I met her at New York comic con that year.
Our first issue had just come out and I had never been to New York Comicon. I’d never been in New York actually. so my first time, but I was like, I’m a professional column of brighter now and I’m going to do New York comic con. So I like, I literally called my parents and was like, Hey, Can I borrow $400 to fly to New York.
Like I didn’t even have the money to do it, but it was like important to me to go. Cause I figured like I’m in the mix now I’m, you know, this is my, my career has begun, so I need to go there and like get, you know, network and get known. so that was my first ever convention. As a professional. I did a signing and funeral was there as well.
So we did assign them together. So I got to meet her. And at the time I was 26 or 27 and she was like 23. And I remember being so disgusted with how young she [00:17:00] was. And I was like, well, what the hell? You know, how, how can you be this good when you’re 23? Oh my God. And now we’re both in our thirties, so it’s fine.
But, but yeah, that’s where I actually met her in person for the first time. And we we’ve been, we became friends ever since. And, Yeah, she’s obviously, she’s like one of the best artists that’s ever worked in comics. I had this run, I had this run at very early in my career where I worked with her and I worked with Ramon Perez and like, I kept working with artists that went on to be so huge that I would probably never get to work with them again.
So I was very lucky early on to like work with these people that would probably never work with me. for the rest of my career, because they’re just too big. So I met, she was obviously the first person of that, of that, that ilk.
Casey: She’s re Oh, by the way, your Google has your age wrong,
Mike Costa: so, Oh, does it, what does it say on
Casey: your 52?
August 18th, [00:18:00] 1967.
Mike Costa: Even the correct date and my birthday’s in January. No, that’s not right at all. I, I was born, I I’m 39. I’m not even 40 yet.
Casey: That’s totally. I was going to say you’re, you’re just like a year older than I, so yeah. Yeah. but you were, you, you kept, I kept hearing you say like different like dates and how, how young you were.
And I was like, he’s not really 52. He can’t be,
Mike Costa: I have to fix it. I mean, I don’t even know how I would fix that. I know where they would get that date from who knows.
Casey: Yes. I mean,
people like, see your pictures, my man, he’s holding
Mike Costa: up real good. That’s a pretty good 50 to
my Twitter profile, by the way is a portrait that Fiona drew of me. and that is now 10 years old. So, I’m keeping that up though. Cause as far as,
Casey: Oh hell yeah,
Mike Costa: for sure. [00:19:00]
Casey: it’s so weird. like, you know, you, you get, I’m 38. I ran into somebody from school the other day and it’s just, it’s so weird seeing people you grew up with.
Mike Costa: Yeah.
Casey: And you don’t feel that old until you
Mike Costa: see.
I’m sorry, go ahead. I was going to say, I mean, like I said, I don’t have kids, but obviously most of the people I grew up with do, and most of my friends that I’ve made in Los Angeles, since when, obviously we met, we were all in our, you know, mid to early twenties and now they all have kids and you know, it’s just weird thinking like, Oh yeah, They’re all dads like Ryan, Ryan Brown, who I literally grew up with since I was in fifth grade, he has a son now.
He just had his first baby about six months ago. So like the idea of all of my friends, like the friends that I grew up with, you know, watching movies in the basement now our dads, cause I don’t feel [00:20:00] bad cause I, I still, I could still mistake myself for being, you know, 20 whatever, which is probably sad.
Yeah, the bad, but it’s true.
Casey: I still plug it in. I still have a good hairline, so,
Mike Costa: well that’s
Casey: exactly, exactly. Yeah. All this other stuff, like, you know, motivation and you know, actually doing important stuff. Nah. Still get the hair.
Mike Costa: Right.
Casey: So man, it seems like you, you. Who got in at a really important time in, in both comics and film, because all this stuff was kind of coalescing.
People were finally starting to take comics serious as a medium and as, in Hollywood seems to kind of see it as, as an IP farm in a way,
Mike Costa: which. I mean,
Casey: there’s nothing wrong with that. I don’t think,
Mike Costa: well, I don’t, I don’t mean to, [00:21:00] I don’t want to be a contrarian, but I’m going to get a little political now because go for it.
This is actually a, a sore spot for me. Like, I, I understand what you’re saying, which is that obviously comic comics have a higher profile now than maybe they have in a very, very long time, possibly ever. But I think the second statement you made is the more true one, which is that film. And a larger immediate entities kind of see them as IP farms.
And I, I don’t actually think that comics are given credit as an art form unto themselves. I think that they are largely seen by their corporate. owners as yeah, like the R and D department for their gigantic four-quadrant movies and, and, you know, lunchbox decals and bedsheets and, and amusement park rides.
Like I, especially what’s going on with the industry now where. You know, I, again, I don’t want to be too gloomy about it. And who [00:22:00] knows by the time that this podcast is actually released everything I say might have been proven wrong and I’ll sound like an idiot, but I do think this is a very dangerous time for comics in particular, because they are ultimately still a small business and.
The entire industry is largely supported by independent retailers. And the longer that those retailers stay closed and a lot of them are right on the Razor’s edge. And the more that, whoever that is going to have a significant effect on the, on the future of the actual comic book publishing industry, it may well have to sort of transform into something that is not recognizable as to what it is today, which doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing, but I.
Do think that it says something that the industry that created, you know, literally the highest grossing movie of all time. And then what, like five or six of the next 10 is so precarious that a shutdown of like four weeks [00:23:00] can potentially create or the entire industry it’s. The comic book sales just don’t really reflect the actual amount of cultural penetration that that comic book ideas have, have, achieved.
And I think that that’s largely because the parent companies of these publishers don’t have a lot of interest in. finding new ways to get them into people’s hands. They just are enjoying the IP that they create. And there’s a whole larger conversation about like the compensation models of what people in comics are, you know, making which, like I said, I have a day job I write for TV.
TV is one of the most egregiously overpaying jobs that you can have as like a human being. I mean, there’s like headphone manager. And then like, in terms of like the, the amount of work that you do when the amount that you’re paid. TV is a pretty lucrative business to be in, but comic books are, is not. So I am very lucky that I have financial [00:24:00] security based on another job, but like a lot of my friends and also me before I did this, you know, working in comics is a tremendously precarious financial situation.
Like you just, you do not get paid very much and your, your, your business can go away. You know, for no reason out of nowhere and the one thing that makes the industry so great. And the thing that sort of also, I think, keeps it in this prison is that everyone who works in it, they’re only there for love of the game.
They’re only there because they love it so much. That it’s, that it’s what they want to do. You know, despite the fact that it creates a tremendous amount of, you know, financial anxiety and, and uncertainty and all of these things, like nobody gets into comics to be rich or to be successful, or to be famous even in the comics because you love comics.
So it’s an industry that is particularly concentrated full of people who. You know, love it and live and breathe it. And, and that’s what [00:25:00] makes it one of the most wonderful and exciting places to be. And that’s why, you know, if I became the most successful Hollywood writer of all time, I will still never leave comic books because I love it that much as well.
And it is like in my blood. And it’s my favorite thing in the world. I liked comic if I had to choose. Whether TV and movies went away for me or comics, I would, I would pick, I would stay with comics. So it is something that people love very much, but that love has, you know, a dark side, which is that like, people will do it for very little compensation and it allows the people in charge to maintain.
You know, these very low, basic wages for, you know, creating properties that then go on to net billions and billions of dollars. And it’s a very strange, you know, ecosystem there. I don’t have a solution to that. I don’t know if there ever is a solution. I’m just honestly glad that these companies still continue publishing comics because [00:26:00] there is this sort of like doomsday argument that someone’s going to draw a line through a, you know, an actuarial board and say like, why are we publishing these things?
I’m glad that they still exist. And I’m, and I’m glad that everyone who works in them and I’m talking about the editors as well. I’m not just the creative people, but like, All the editors and Marvel, all the editors at DC, all the people in the small publishing and IDW, like all of these people, it is a family and I’m not criticizing any of them.
It’s sort of the larger structure of the corporate ownership that, that makes it so difficult and puts such a squeeze on the industry. And it really, it really bums me out. The, the industry was so much more robust, you know, back in like 1990. Whatever before the bubble burst. I mean, obviously, maybe it’s not that rubber’s robust because it was able to be destroyed by this simple bubble burst.
But at least the people involved in the industry were being compensated commensurate to like the, The, the, the product that they were creating [00:27:00] and the influence on culture that they were having. And now that’s really just not a thing anymore. It’s it’s, it really is just sort of like the R and D department.
Like you’re the guy that invented the self-locking door in the car and the car company sells, you know, $5 trillion worth of cars and you get your 60 grand a year paycheck. And that’s just how it works.
Casey: So I see, it seems like
Mike Costa: the
Casey: larger companies are handling things rather. Shortsightedly like Disney and I’m talking like Disney and, at and T Warner, I guess, or there’s so many comics, you know, on the big screen, on, you know, on streaming services, on television.
These stories are all based off of it for, for the most part. Some of them are based off of, you know, directly from the comic books. Why are they not making [00:28:00] comics more available to a casual reader that would come across it at the movie theater people love going to the theater to see like the huge Marvel movies have those things out at the, at the theater.
Mike Costa: Well now, well, now I’m going to backpedal a bit and I’m going to, undermine a lot of what I was saying, because I think also though there is a lot of responsibility, a responsibility that has to be taken for the people within the industry, ourselves in that it’s not the easiest thing to get into it.
It really isn’t. And. I’ll tell, I’ll like here’s a 100%, you know, like personal anecdote. My first ever comic that I, that I did with Fiona was Jack Hawksmoore, but the actual title of the comic was secret history of the authority, Jack Hawks. More right now, if you’re a comic book collector and you’re particularly familiar with the WildStorm universe at the time.
You understand what that means? Because there was a secret history of the authority mini [00:29:00] series a few years ago that was written by Mark Miller and drawn by and John McCray. And, and like, this is obviously just like supposed to be, it can remind you of that. So you pick that up because it’s similarly getting into the backstory of these characters that when they were created and how much backstories, all of that stuff, but.
I, you know, that was my first comic. So I had a lot of people, people in my family, people who were my friends who didn’t really know anything about comics and didn’t have a relationship with them asking me, Hey, how can I buy your comic? And the answer is, well, you have to go to a comic book store, which there might not be one near you, but you have to find one that you have to go to one and then you have to say, I want this comic secret history, his secret history of the authority, Jack Hawks.
We have to remember all of those words, because if you just say like the authority or secret history of something that could be in a lot of different things, and then you’re not going to know which one is the right one, because you don’t know, all, you know is like the title that you might be half remembering and you know, my name, but like [00:30:00] my name is not something that the person in the store is going to know because I’m brand new.
So it also, I spent, you know, a couple of years ago I was writing a book called web warriors, which is one of my favorite things that I’ve ever worked on. And I love that comic. And it’s like a, I mean, it’s a highlight career highlight of mine. And I couldn’t have had a better experience working on a comic, but I could have had a better experience in telling people how to buy it because it’s the same thing.
People will be like, how do I get your comic? And I’d say, well, you gotta go get the web warriors comic. But it’s a Spiderman comic, but it’s not, the Spiderman is not in it. And it’s kind of about the spider verse, but it’s not the spider verse movie and it’s not the spider verse a comic because that comic was actually a crossover between all these other comic books.
And if you’re a normal person, this is complete nonsense to you leaving aside the fact that even if you remember exactly what the comic is called. And how do you know, do you have like a picture of it? You go to the store and say, Hey, can I get that? They’ll be like, Oh, well we have issue at three. And then you’re like, Oh, well, [00:31:00] okay.
I guess I’ll take issue three and then you’re reading it. It doesn’t make any sense. Cause it’s the third issue. You don’t come back for issue four or you do, but then you miss your five and then it’s like, well, what’s the point? And then you, you know, everything in the industry has this very high bar to clear in order just to get people to understand the comics themselves.
Whereas when the new Avengers movie comes out, you just go see the new Avengers movie and yeah, of course. You’ll be a little lost if you’re watching end game and you’ve never seen another one of these movies before, but those movies are also very available. You know, you can, you can rent them where you can stream them.
You’re familiar with what they are. It’s not like insanely complicated in order to penetrate these stories or these ideas. Whereas. Buying comics is a very, it’s just, it’s just a lot of work for the person. And the industry has eventually grown more and [00:32:00] more complex like that because comics are now being written by the third or fourth generation of people who grew up reading comics.
And so comics more than anything are about other comics, unless it’s something like, you know, saga or Southern bastards or, you know, these great creator own works that are. That are, you know, themselves totally holistic and sealed off. And that’s all you have to buy is that, but even that can be a high bar because if you want to go in and, you know, even saga one of the bestselling creator owned series of all time, your store might not have the second or third volume.
They’ll probably have volume one, but they might not have volume three and four. And you know, if you, if you have a hard time finding those, then you might fall off and, you know, lose track of where you are. And it’s, it’s, it’s not an easy, medium. To, interact with if you’re a casual fan. So I don’t necessarily blame, you know, Disney or time Warner for things like that, because those were problems that existed before they took over.
And to your point, by the way, [00:33:00] Of why don’t they sell these comics at that movie theaters? That was actually a conversation that came up, with a, I don’t, I don’t want to name names just for fear. This isn’t like a bad story, but just, you never know what the political situation is, but there was a very, there was a very highly placed person at DC comics that, I had that exact conversation with like somebody who was like in the top of editorial and they laid out all of the ways that, that.
Is difficult to impossible, which is like, first of all, the way that comics are actually even published, they do not stand up on their own in the way that a book does that you can put it on a standee, right? when a comic is on the shelf with a lot of other comics, but the way the comic stores do it and they put bags and boards in it or whatever, that’s fine.
But like, if you have a display at a movie theater, it would necessarily have to be small and there can only be so many issues on it. And those floppy issues, they fall over. You know, it’s not the same as having like a paperback book out there. That’s a sturdy thing. Yeah. It’s just not, it just [00:34:00] falls apart.
It looks bad. Theaters. Don’t want things like that.
Casey: Second of all. Oh, sorry.
Mike Costa: Second of all, like, well, what titles do you decide to put out there? And what’s the distribution model because you know, up until recently diamond had a stranglehold on all of that stuff. Now we’re in these weird uncharted waters where DC is actually pursuing other.
Distribution models. This is getting into some really esoteric things that maybe your, your listeners, aren’t all that
Casey: interested in go, go into those waters. We were into this stuff,
Mike Costa: but yeah, so I, as some of your listeners, probably know, you know, comic books were literally controlled by a monopoly of distribution, a company called diamond distributors, which is out of Maryland.
and for the last several decades, If you publish a comic book, the only way to get your comic book into stores across the country was to go through diamond distributors. There was not another company that would do that for you. And so you could only get your book into stores that diamond had a relationship with, but diamond doesn’t have relationships with places like movie [00:35:00] theaters.
So. You would have to either create a new mechanism to, in order to get your product into those movie theaters, or you’d have to like work with diamond to petition them, to make it. And then diamond would have to come up with a side deal. That’s worth their while to distribute to like Lowe’s theaters across the country.
All those things are just so complicated and difficult because. It’s really just a specialty niche market for hobbyists, you know, in the same way that like a tabletop gaming is, you know, where it’s, it’s, it’s dominated by specialty stores. it’s never, it was, it’s no longer a mass market thing. The way that it was, you know, when our parents were kids where every drug store.
You know, sold comics on a rack and every new Stan had them and you just buy them and they were disposable. Cause you’d read one issue. Yes I do too. I I’m I’m, I, I am not one of the per people that has a spinner rack in their home, but I am envious of the people that do. But part of it is, you know, the, the, the direct market changed [00:36:00] everything.
The direct market, meaning when comic books started being sold to specialty stores, rather than just on newsstands, it changed everything because it, it focused. I’m not saying anything that’s like. That most people don’t know, but it focused the readership in such a way to people who were, you know, not casual readers, but more obsessive collector types.
And then the way the stories were generated started to reward those kinds of readers. So, you know, even, even in the 1990s, when I was still, when I was first buying comics, any individual issue of amazing Spiderman. Was a single story on itself. Yeah. There was stuff that carried over and there were plot lines that ran from any issues and things like that.
But like Spiderman met a bad guy, fought the bad guy, either won or lost in that individual issue. And if you miss the next issue, it wasn’t that big a deal. You pick up the one after that. And it’s a satisfying experience, reading a single comic book, but comic books or even Spiderman comic books, even the what should be the most accessible, you know, kid friendly.
[00:37:00] Everyone should read this comic. They’re not written that way anymore. I, and look, I have written. Major Spiderman comics. I don’t write them that way. I’m not, I’m not like saying I’m above this or better than it. It’s the way the industry works now. So it’s very hard to capture an audience, when. You have to know what’s going on and you have to read.
I mean, I, luckily I’m still in the good graces of Marvel and I still work with them and I love those guys over there and the editorial team in Spiderman in the spider offices. And, and they will call me up sometimes and offer me a character and say like, well, here’s somebody, we haven’t, we haven’t had a book on a while.
How would you feel about doing this? That’s how I was offered venom a few years ago. When I, when I first did venom. And
Casey: worked with, I mean, Ron Lim, and I
Mike Costa: know what a team absolutely. I mean, it couldn’t be better. That that is another career highlight for sure. But when that happens now, even I who read comics have to be like, okay, well give me a week because I have to catch up on what the hell, like where [00:38:00] was the last, the last thing that happened to this character.
And I have to track down all these books now. Thank God. It’s so much easier because so many things are available digitally, but. Even that I’m like, where was the last time venom showed up? Like what happened when venom was in the guardians of the galaxy? I have to read all that stuff. And then what happened after that?
And then, you know, these characters that I want to use, like scorpion when’s the last time we saw him and it’s, it’s a lot of research that I, myself, as somebody who’s very comic literate have to do. So I, you know, the, the, the, the bar to clear for an outside person is, is high.
Casey: Oh yeah, man. I really just want them to.
You remember going to pizza hut when you were a kid and they give you like the little tiny, X-Men comic. Cause that was when the X-Men animated series came out. And it’s just a little, just a goofy little, you know, quick comic stuff like that, man, I think would. Just like little giveaways, I think would be amazing to [00:39:00] get you.
You need to keep generating new readers.
Mike Costa: I agree
Casey: to keep introducing kids to comics and, and there’s some, it they’re really trying hard in some areas, but falling really hard in others. it seems like most of the, The expanded Spiderman comics are written for,
Mike Costa: for
Casey: people like late teens to, to, you know, adult, which is fine, which is great.
I, you know, it makes it fun for me, but, when I was a kid, you know, I w it, it seemed like it was a little bit more accessible as a, as a young. As a young kid
Mike Costa: accessible in, in what the stories were, but it also the subject matter as well. And I, you know, like I said, I, none of this stuff is prescriptive.
I’m just saying it’s a, I mean, maybe it’s makes it even worse because it’s not like I have a solution for any of these problems, but, but part of it is what you’re saying is absolutely right. Like comic books are largely written for late teens [00:40:00] and up. Audience, even character, you know, characters like Spiderman and like mainstream Marvel heroes.
And I don’t know if like, if that’s the best idea, because even when I was writing them, one of the great things about web warriors was that I felt like I was writing a book that my eight year old niece. Can read and enjoy. And when I took over and phenom, I’m going to assume that one or two of your listeners, what are the few people that like, that have like a deep knowledge of my work, scholarly knowledge and my work on that book.
But if you’ll, if you read it from the beginning, there comes a point where it really turns into just sort of a fun superhero book. And that was largely an intentional. Move by me. Cause it’s, I mean, it’s a horror book in, by its very nature because of the man struggling with like a monster that’s like attached to his body and like poisoning his thoughts.
So that’s something you kind of can’t get away from. It’s baked in, but he’s fighting, you know, like a dinosaur people in the sewers and I was, and there’s like [00:41:00] a devil dinosaur, with moon girl, guest starring and stuff. And I did all that very intentionally because like my feeling is if I’m writing a mainstream superhero title, that should be fun.
It should be fun beyond, above all other consideration, because that’s how, that’s your only chance of really getting new readers. If you have a creator on book, then make that book, whatever you want it to be. But like that, but, but yeah, the, you look at the spider verse movie and it’s so good at that.
It contains so much joy and, and sort of the Marvel movies as well. They’re so fun. And unfortunately, I think a lot of mainstream superhero books are losing that. that sense of what’s fun because there’s this, there’s, there’s this push towards seriousness that’s been going on for the last couple of decades.
That writing is only good if it is serious. And that, you know, the comics of the bronze age and the eighties were kind of silly and disposable, which, you know, by and large, they were, [00:42:00] but it doesn’t mean they have to be bad. So yeah.
Casey: Do you ever feel that, people take you less seriously as a writer because you, you also write comics.
Is there ever like a stigma with that?
Mike Costa: That’s a very interesting question. actually, no, I I’ve never encountered the, the in fact the truth is the exact opposite where when I’ve mentioned to people that I write comic books, people get very excited and they’re like, Oh, that’s so cool. I think that might be a function of living in working in Los Angeles where, you know, most of my circle are people who are writers and they are writers for movies and television.
And first of all, people who write for movies and television. It’s a larger pool of people, more familiar with the comic book world than not, you know, it’s not like I’m working at a bank. My, my sort of colleagues have a much more, broad understanding and familiarity with comics [00:43:00] than probably another sample of, of, the population.
And then also. You know, like any job people get burnt out and disillusioned with it. So the grass is always greener so that when I’m talking to other writers and I mentioned, I ran my write comics like, Whoa, man, that sounds like fun. You know, because like the writing that they’re doing. It, they they’re experiencing it as a professional and there’s parts of it that aren’t fun.
And what sounds like fun, just doing another kind of writing. So I, and the same thing happens with like the executives and people that I take meetings with. There’s always this sense of like, Oh, that’s so neat. You’re doing something else that isn’t in this industry. but. And the truth is I do. I do get that, that reaction from quote unquote, normal people as well.
People who, you know, don’t work in entertainment, but also people who don’t work in entertainment are largely more likely to be like, Oh, and just not have any reaction at all, because they probably are thinking like, I didn’t know that was a
[00:44:00] Mike Costa: I didn’t know that like adults do stuff like that.
Casey: So you got
Mike Costa: to you,
Casey: you wrote several, miniseries with, with venom.
do you have any more stories planned for venom? It seems like you really, really had to have an act for the character.
Mike Costa: Well, thank you. I mean, I, I think that Donnie Cates, the current denim writer is taking that character to stratosphere at Heights that I never. Even imagined my goals for venom were always much more modest than what Dani is doing.
and I, so I feel like that character belongs to Donnie now, as much as it belongs to anybody. And I think Donnie is in no. is, is not giving that character up anytime soon. So not that like, well, I had ideas, but now Don is in charge. So I don’t honestly, the truth is I told my venom story that I, that I meant to tell.
I started from the very beginning. Once we reintroduced Eddie Brock, I, my intention was to make it a dysfunctional love story and to make it, [00:45:00] about being in a toxic relationship that neither party can escape from. and, and that was the interesting character dynamic for me and the resolute, the, the ultimate sort of like, not resolution, but like, the, the end of that arc for me was having a child together.
So that’s why I ended with the first host, which it’s like the old boyfriend comes back and simultaneously you’re dealing with like the ultimate result of your relationship, which is like a new life. And so honestly, my venom run was exactly what I intended it to do. And look at Marvel called me tomorrow and said, Hey, Do you want to do something to prevent them?
It’s not like I’m washing my hands with the character and I’m done with it. I’ll never work for him again. But I told the venom story I’ve meant to tell, and I feel very happy with like, it’s everything that I wanted to do with the character. And now, you know, it’s been amazing watching Donnie come in.
Following me and just turning the character into like this cosmic focal point of the entire [00:46:00] Marvel universe, which is something that I would never have thought to have done. So it’s, that’s one of the things I also think is really great about mainstream comics with the big two is that you are working in this continuum with all of these other creators telling stories of these characters and.
You know, you leave the book and somebody else comes on and they’re doing something completely different with the character that you never would have thought of, but still is a story representing what that character is. And in that sense, there’s really no other medium where that kind of thing can happen.
and I think that that’s one of the things that makes mainstream comics so wonderful and unique. And it’s one of the things that I hope. We never lose. And it’s, you know, the idea that like Spiderman has been published for 50 years and will continue to be published hopefully for the rest of my lifetime.
And there are literally tens of thousands of people that have worked on that character. And it’s just like one ongoing. Cave painting, you know, that like multiple generations are contributing [00:47:00] to, and it’s this massive tapestry of, it’s it, there’s something very beautiful about that that no other medium gets to have.
And so I really fully embrace that. And when I leave a book, I unless it’s like, you know, because the book had to be canceled because it wasn’t selling, it’s selling well, I, I fully embrace whatever the next person does and say, like, look, I told my story, I’m excited to see what the next story is.
And there’s a lot of sniping and social media and places of like, you’re undoing what the previous writer has done, or you’re betraying this character somehow. And I’m not even talking about like, For my work, I’m saying in general, this is an attitude that a lot of people have, or like this current writer who’s working on.
This is, you know, is betraying the character. Or I don’t believe in any of that. Like, no, you’re just getting the version of the character from this writer and then the next person will come on and you’ll get their version. And that’s what it’s all about. And. You know, you, you can’t hate the player or the game
[00:48:00] Casey: when people start like bitching about stuff like that, I’ll just wait for like a year or two.
And then our team will take it over. Especially if it’s like a mini series or something. They’ll do something they’re not gonna, they’re not going to completely break the toys before they put them back in the toy box.
Mike Costa: I have been, I have been the guy who has been on the receiving end of. This person is ruining the legacy of these characters.
He is destroying everything that makes them great. I hate him. I wish he would die. And I’ve also been on the end of. the person who followed me is doing that. And my work was the real, you know, so I’ve seen both sides of it and they’re all equally nonsense.
Casey: So speaking of, you know, writing for characters that people are.
Hugely emotional about and have a huge attachment to you have written not only, GI Joe. Yes. but you, you’ve also done transformers and [00:49:00] you’ve took to critical acclaim, on both of those.
Mike Costa: So
Casey: tell me. When you do a licensed property like that,
Mike Costa: how,
Casey: how do you go about that? Because it seems like there’s, you have a lot of people kind of, editorial and all kinds of other stuff that you can’t do.
Mike Costa: So,
Casey: is it fulfilling as a writer? And how do you make that fulfilling as a writer when you have so many restrictions on you?
Mike Costa: Well, I’ll tell you, these are, this is a very good questions. because you’re, you’re, you’re talking about something that is very real. and the first half of my career, I did a lot of licensed books.
I did obviously GI Joe transformers, but I also did a mini series based on a video game. And I did a couple of other tiny pieces here and there based on toy lines and something based on arcade game and all kinds of detritus that made up the first five years of my career when I was just trying to like, you know, [00:50:00] Get as much work as I could to, to quit my job and live.
and the, the, your, your basic premise is correct. When you’re working on a licensed book, you’re kind of serving two masters because you’re serving, you know, your editor and publisher, but then you’re also serving ultimately the license holder be that Hasbro or Mattel or a claim, or, you know, Whoever, you know, so that can be difficult, especially when, I mean, I wrote some trends, it seems to get into turtles comics as well, so Nickelodeon on them.
So yeah, you, it can be difficult when the license holder either doesn’t understand or doesn’t care about what comics are. And then, you know, you’re really sort of in a box and it just comes down to like, well, what. Do you want me to write? Because all the stuff you, you clearly don’t want me to think too hard for myself because you have like a very strict corporate plan that you’re working off of.
And that has happened [00:51:00] to me. That is real, and it can happen in licensed comics. And I’m not going to talk about the companies that happened to me with, because I’m being politically. savvy, but
Casey: I want you to keep working, don’t throw anybody under the bus or call them assholes or whatever. Right.
Mike Costa: But I’ve also had the other side of that coin, which is an incredibly collaborative and hands-off experience.
And that was working with Hasbro on both transformers and GI Joe with awesome. We had a licenser Hasbro and a, publisher, I U w which first was with Andy Schmidt was my editor. And then John Barbara was my editor. And both of those guys. we’re super awesome at their jobs that were great editors that were supportive of creative and wanted to tell interesting, compelling stories with these properties.
And we also had a corporate partner, Hasbro, who there’s a guy in charge of their licensed, publishing. His name was Michael Green. I’m sorry, how he, I always make that mistake. It’s Michael Kelly. Cause his name is so Irish. That [00:52:00] I associate, I can kind of
Casey: see like a four leaf Clover in his hat.
Mike Costa: I do. Yes.
Michael Kelly, who, was the same way. He was really, really, interested in telling cool, interesting stories and pushing, and my, you know, my GI Joe work for people who are familiar with it. It really pushed the envelope in terms of like what a mainstream comic would do with like the darkness of the story, much less a comic based on a 20 line.
So it got a lot of attention because of that. And that’s, like I said earlier, it sort of launched my career because it got so much more attention than a GI Joe comic might otherwise get. And it wasn’t just because of the story I wrote, but it was because the publisher and the licenser or both.
Supportive of that story. And, that was there. Couldn’t be a, I’ve been better collaborators on that. And I would work on GI Joe again, in a heartbeat. I would work for Michael Kelly at Hasbro in a heartbeat because he really cared about telling good stories and not about protecting corporate IP. and also, you know, I have to be a good collaborator as [00:53:00] well.
And I can’t, you know, be pitching stories which like fundamentally insult or undermine. The property, because then I’m not doing my job either. Just like I wouldn’t pitch a Spiderman comic where he like casually murdered someone because that is not who that character is. So you still have to sort of stay within the continuum.
But, but yeah. So I guess to give you an unsatisfactory question, it can be difficult, but it can be great with, but that’s sort of the truth of like any kind of comic when you’re working for a large corporate publisher, which is. Either of the big two now, which is a lot of interests tied up in this. So you just have to hope that the people that you’re working with care more about telling the story than they do about.
Protecting corporate IP. And the good news is that is largely true of both of the major publishers. And it is true of many other licensures as well, particularly Hasbro. So, yeah,
Casey: so yeah, one [00:54:00] IDW is, has really been just killing it with their licensed properties and getting people who. Not only know how to write for those characters were just good writers in general and also just good teams in general.
Good. You know, letters, colors, artists, all that stuff. and it’s really hard. I remember when I was a kid getting the GI Joe comics, that Marvel didn’t, they were really good, but you would also get, get like the other licensed comics that, that weren’t so good. You would see the cartoon, you’d be like, Oh yeah, I’m going to check this out.
And it was just awful.
Mike Costa: Yeah. I mean, I think part of the reason that Hasbro in particular was so great to work for was that they knew they had a legacy of comics that was sort of separate from other licensed properties because the GI Joe comic in particular. Is so legendary because of Larry Hamas work on [00:55:00] it.
And like, you know, his silence, snake eyes issue is like considered like a truly classic comment. Yeah. So, and then there, there are transformers, comics have a legacy all of their own, especially once they had Simon Ferman come in and you know, those comics were, are so well thought of, unlike kind of any other comics based on toy properties.
So they already had this sort of. I don’t want to say necessarily responsibility, but at least at least a sense of the legacy of these things. They already existed in the comic book space as like quote legitimate comics. Whereas, and it’s the same thing with teenagers getting into turtles, which obviously became we’re starting as comic books.
But, you know, you work on like a video game property or another toy property. And, you know, there’s no foundation of comics within that. Ultimately they’re just trying to penetrate the complex market to like raise awareness of their main property. And there might not be as much interest or understanding of what makes a good story in comics [00:56:00] or, you know, so
Casey: yeah, translating it across mediums because you have two separate mediums.
And when I see a, a well done video game comic, It’s a, it’s always so weird to me because that’s something that you, you take an active role in, in, enjoying the video game part. And with the comic you’re, you’re kind of a little bit more of a passive, participant. In the thing. So it’s always really interesting when it’s, when it’s done well.
Mike Costa: And I appreciate, you know, licensers that at least attempt to engage. I mean, usually they, they engage a hell of a publisher, which then hires actual accountable people. But so it’s not necessarily after the licenser, but there are definitely licensers. Who’ve just. Tried to get the people that have worked on the property and other incarnations did some write the comment as if it doesn’t matter.
And that very seldom works for the exact reasons that you’re talking about, because it’s just simply a completely different medium that, you know, if you don’t have the grammar for it, you can’t really [00:57:00] work in it in a legible way. And it always shows.
Casey: Yeah. Yeah. So, so you, you are writing and doing other stuff for the, for the Lucifer show?
Mike Costa: Yes. Yes.
Casey: And that’s been a wild ride.
Mike Costa: Yeah, it’s a fast,
Casey: but I mean, you started off on what was it? Fox.
Mike Costa: Yeah, so we, yeah, we started off originally on Fox and we did three seasons on Fox and, we ended our was so, you know, like I said, like the premise of the, of the show is so fundamentally. Ridiculously dumb because it’s literally the devil coming to earth to solve crimes.
It’s it’s legit like a Simpsons joke. Like, like that’s a TV show that would be referenced in the Simpsons is like a silly. You know, satire of the absurd, the [00:58:00] absurd extreme of like the, this kind of person solves crimes with a cop, but that was the real show that we’re working on. So I think the thing that made the work that the show worked from the beginning was everyone involved in the show was aware of that absurdity and.
Whereas we take the emotional reality of our character. Seriously. We don’t turn the whole thing into like a, like we’re nothing matters and everything, we take the piss of everything, but we never take the premise seriously. And we make the show as fun as possible because if we tried to make that show serious, It would have been dead right out of the gate.
And we also happen to have a star Tom Ellis, who plays Lucifer, who gets the characters. So exactly right. And that’s, that’s really what makes the show work is, is him. but even so even with all that working in our favor, You know, we’re working on that season and we’re like that first season where like, man, who knows, you know, like, is America gonna want to watch this show?
Casey: I was, I [00:59:00] was almost convinced that, you know, A cadre of like bellicose Baptist would have shut it down before it
Mike Costa: sees them. Some people definitely tried, but those cadres are a lot smaller than you might think. They’re they don’t quite have the political power that they think they do.
Casey: I live in, in, in Alabama.
Mike Costa: they’re much more harmful. There
Casey: is smothering. Yes. But, yeah. So it’s amazing that you guys have the fan reaction to that show. Like those, those are characters that, in, in my early twenties I had, gotten back into comics and, had,
Mike Costa: just
Casey: bought the entire run of, the Sandman. And so, you know, you see Lucifer and Matt as a keen and.
I never thought I would see that on anything, you know, that I could like watch and, you know, just chill with my wife and sit on the couch [01:00:00] and watch. So it’s, it’s amazing that you guys have been able to do that.
Mike Costa: Yeah. Well, I think that’s the best way of. Of like, that’s the highest column that you can pay us.
Right? Because so much of the show works as a hangout. And I think that that’s one of the things that makes TV work as a medium. I mean, now, you know, in this sort of quote, second golden age of television that we’ve been in since like the Sopranos and stuff, which has now been good Lord 20 years, but this concept that like TV can be elevated and it can be like these long form narrative, enriching experiences where you’re watching these characters change.
That is all true. And for sure, but like the thing that made TV work for the first, you know, four or five decades of its existence was, they’re just people that you want to spend time with because you turn the TV on and your favorite show comes on and these are characters that you’re in essentially inviting into your home.
You know, and so you just, you, you love friends. Yeah. Because it’s funny, but because like you love [01:01:00] Ross and Chandler and Joey and Rachel, and like, these are characters that you love and want to spend time with. And I think that that’s one of the things that Lucifer succeeds at maybe more than anything else is that we’ve, you, you just really enjoy these characters and you like spending time with them and we make space in the show.
To like, have fun with them and hang out with them. And if they were just like, That’s crime solving robots like so many procedurals are a procedural, meaning like a show where there’s a crime of the week that gets solved. without any real personality, you know, that show wouldn’t succeed. The thing that makes the show succeed is exactly what you’re saying.
Like you and your wife sit down and like you enjoy watching these people and that’s, and that’s a combination of the writing. And of course the acting and the actors we have, which are, who are all uniformly. So good. And having their characters and all happen to be good people as well. And that also, I think it makes our lives easier making the show, but I think it also translates to the screen because like [01:02:00] people genuinely like each other and that helps you can see that on TV.
Casey: So, what was your proudest moment on the show?
Mike Costa: Oh, man, I should have, I should have this, queued up. Cause there’s so many stupid jokes that I have pitched that have gotten on TV. you know, was it last season? The, the walkie thing. That was a big one. There was also the actual theme song. So, you know, the Lucifer, quote, theme music is like, you know, six bars of music that only plays over just the title.
Lucifer. We don’t have like a lengthy theme, you know, TV theme or anything, but it just goes like, and, or Nan or, Barron. And that’s it. That’s the whole thing. And for awhile, I was just. Under my breath, whenever it would happen, I would just go crime solving devil.
Casey: Cause it was just done.
Mike Costa: And I did that in the writer’s room one time and people laughed and everyone started doing it.
And then other [01:03:00] people like added words to the, to the next few notes. And then we like had lyrics to the entire short little five second song. And then we got it in an episode because there’s an episode where. Lucifer Tom Ellis, who can actually play the guitar is like noodling away on a guitar. And he goes, I wrote the song and he plays it and sings it.
And it’s in an episode. So I that’s
Mike Costa: I think that maybe that might be my proudest moment. Like I can’t take credit for all of it because I only wrote the first words to that. But I do think there are the crucial words I’m solving dental and, so it’s stuff like that that makes that show so much fun to work on.
And I also think so much fun to watch because I think it’s impossible to watch a show about the devil solving crime, where he is in the show, playing the theme song and making up stupid lyrics to it about how he solves crime. It’s impossible to watch that and not. Not think that that’s funny, you know, or at least initiate what we’re doing with that.
So [01:04:00] that was a very proud moment. It also was a proud moment. I wrote an episode last season in season four. which was which we had, you know, when you work on a TV show, especially when you, when you have the same writers over the course of many seasons, which doesn’t actually often happen. Usually there’s a lot of turnover and there just wasn’t on our show, because again, we got very lucky and people really get along.
you, you start. There’s like ideas that you have for episodes that you never get around to doing. And you talk every year, you come back and you’re like, well, this year we’re going to do that episode. You know, the one where he does this, you know, the, the one where he’s on a boat or whatever, and then you just never get there because it’s never works out.
And, and from the very beginning we talked about we’re going to do diehards. At Lux, which is the first club that he owns. Well, obviously we’re doing diehard at Lux. It’s just a slam dunk. Obviously we’re doing that episode and we just would never do it. We never got around to doing it because it just didn’t work out in the story for whatever reason of where we were.
There was never a time to do it. And finally, in season four, I was like, look, this is it. I know exactly how this will work. We’re doing diehard [01:05:00] and Luxe. And we did that episode. I wrote it. And the title because the title of Lucifer episodes are also always aligned that said in the episode, the title of the episode is expire erect, which of course.
Is die hard. So I’m very proud of that as well.
Casey: So like in between being, you know, canceled it, it Fox and then brought back, you know, resurrected, brought back to life on, on Netflix. Yeah. How, how was that experience? Like how did that even get off the ground? It sounds impossible.
Mike Costa: Yes. I thought it was impossible. I, so what happened was, you know, we finished our third season and our third season in particular, it had a very aggressive, cliffhanger where [01:06:00] something that sort of fans had been waiting for for a very long time.
Happened in the last second of the, of the episode of the final episode of season three. And we left that as the cliffhanger, like, Oh, everything changes as of this second. And we did that because we were so supremely confident, we would have a third, a fourth season, you know, going into season two and even going into season three.
We weren’t really sure. They could have canceled us. We don’t know, but we came back for season three, we thought, okay. Fox is invested in this show. They’ve given us three seasons. There’s no way they’re going to cancel it now. Let’s just do this, let’s blow the whole show up. Let’s do this crazy cliffhanger and like do the thing that the, that the fans have always wanted us to do, but probably thought we’d never do.
And we did it. And then, you know, and then there’s always like, I, like I mentioned at the top of this, like there’s a couple of months where you’re waiting in between seasons before you start the next season. And a couple months went by and you know, all of us were done working, but we were waiting to [01:07:00] start season four.
And then we got the call that there would be no season four that we were canceled and all of us were just so blindsided. We were just certain, I mean, okay, I’m not going to say all of us cause there’s one writer in particular. Who’s like I did, I knew it. Of course that happened, but everyone else was like, I can’t believe it.
I, well, that’s it. The show’s dead. I mean, the show is dead. And of course, because of the times we’re living in, because you know, Shows do get resurrected every once in a while, the first thing everyone says is like, well, we, well, maybe, maybe it’s Hulu or Netflix will pick us up because obviously that can happen.
But none of us really believed it would. I certainly didn’t. I truly did not believe it was going to happen. I thought the show was dead. For sure. and then, you know, Twitter went berserk and that’s when we really found out how many fans we actually have. because we were trending on Twitter, save Lucifer, hashtag save Lucifer was trending on Twitter.
The first the, the, the, the, the announcement was made [01:08:00] on a Friday. And that weekend, immediately, that was trending. With like tweets or something. And I even seeing that was mind boggling, but even after that, I still didn’t think that we would get resurrected because like, you know, so what, so yes, 2 million people are tweeting, which is incredible.
And I would never imagine that was possible, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to get picked up because it just doesn’t work that way. But. It ended up working that way and we did, and it, and it was, and it was legitimately down to the wire. I can tell you that the day, because the way that it worked was we were officially canceled, but, the actors were still under contract until a very specific date in June.
I don’t remember what it was say. It was June six. I’m just making that up. But so they had until June 6th, To make a new deal, because if they were able to bring the show back before that date, then the actor’s contracts would still stay intact. But if they pass that date, all of the actors would be released from their [01:09:00] contracts.
And that would essentially be impossible to get them all back because, you know, they would all probably want to renegotiate and some people would want too much money and then it’d just be too much. so. We knew that if the deal wasn’t made by this day, it wasn’t going to happen. And it came down to the day of, and on the morning of the day, it was exp the actor’s contract expired.
our showrunners got a phone call from Warner brothers where they were told, you know what? It fell apart. It’s not happening. It’s done. Sorry guys. We tried, you know, it was down to the wire, but we just couldn’t make a deal with Netflix and it had something to do. It wasn’t even Netflix being obstinate.
It was because. They had sold the show internationally to all of these different platforms. And if Netflix is going to take the show, they wanted the show to be exclusively on Netflix. And so like, you know, in Bulgaria we were on Hulu or something, you know? So like all of these independent, smaller deals had to be made in order for the Netflix deal to come together.
And in the day of it looked like that wasn’t going to happen. [01:10:00] And that day we got the news look, we tried it, got it, almost got there, but it didn’t work it’s over. And then like four hours later, another phone call came in and the deal got done and it happened at the last second after we thought all hope was lost.
So it really was crazy. It was crazy to this day. I can’t believe it because on the one hand you’re like, well, yeah, it shows get picked up all the time, but like, But they also don’t, this has only happened. This has only happened to like six shows, total, you know, like us, the expanse designated survivor lawn Meyer that’s for, I can’t really think of another one.
There might be two or three more, but that’s, it’s less than 10, you know, of all of the shows canceled every year in, since Netflix has existed. This has only happened seven times. And the fact that we’re one of those times is really nuts. So
Casey: can we go from, from [01:11:00] the devil and talk about God a little bit?
God is dead.
Mike Costa: Yes, yes. For avatar. Yes.
Casey: Yeah. Yeah. So how did that come about? Because I mean, that is some massive power, you know, You’re in and I mean, you have yourself, Jonathan Hickman, CISE farrier, who I’ve talked to before. It was an excellent dude. and, some Alan Moore, I don’t know who that is, but whatever, some old dude, how did that happen?
Mike Costa: I’ll tell you how it, how it came together. Cause that’s another really unlikely story. Like so many of these stories, I guess I have some good stories about the industry. if not a good then at least like. Vaguely interesting. the way God is dead happened was so it was a publisher named called avatar, which is really kind of a one man show a guy named, Oh my God.
I was just sorry. My, my William Christiansen, sorry. My brain just had a brain fart. William Christianson who lives like somewhere in the middle of nowhere, Midwest, started this publishing company avatar [01:12:00] back in like the early two thousands and slowly built for himself. basically with like starting, I don’t think until entails into school, starting with essentially semi-pornographic comic books.
Mike Costa: he got lady death and stuff like that. And other stuff that’s even sort of more questionable than that, but, but he sort of saw the winds changing, and knew that he couldn’t publish books like that forever. And so he started approaching big alias creators guys like Allen and Garth Ennis and Warren Ellis Warren was really the first one.
Once he got worse, Warren, things really started changing and that was in the early two thousands, early to mid two thousands. And he basically said, look, you can do whatever you want. You can do whatever you want in my comics, because I am just a one man show and I will never censor you. So like, if you want to do your most violent, explicit comic here, great.
If you want to do a comic that has zero violence, whatever you want. I just want to work [01:13:00] with guys with big names because I’m a small publisher and otherwise I’d never get to work with people like you and. That was a winning strategy for him. And it put him in league with, you know, ALS guys like that.
And Warren Ellis and Garth Ennis, and Alan Moore did work with him for years and years. And eventually. He did a book with, Jonathan Hickman as well. And he got Jonathan Dury early in his career and gave him the same opportunity, which is like, Hey, do you have any crazy ideas that no other publisher will touch?
I’ll do them. And Jonathan said, yeah, I do. It’s a comic called God is dead. It’s all of like the gods of the Greek gods and the Egyptian gods and the Aztec gods and the Norse gods. And they all just get into a fight and it’s super violent. They’ll like brutally murdered each other. And that’s what it is.
And William was like, great. Let’s do it. And the way that Jonathan writes comics is he writes on more. I mean, I’m not okay. I don’t want to like make blanket claims for Jonathan because I don’t know this, that he does this all the time, but I do know that. He does often write what’s called Marvel style, [01:14:00] where he presents the writer or the artist with essentially an outline, which has the beats of the story, and then allows the artist to draw the comic, and sort of pace it out and make a lot of decisions on the page.
And then Jonathan goes back in and scripts over those pages. And I don’t know if Jonathan is like writing X-Men that way, but he definitely wrote God is dead that way.
Casey: And seems like as a screenwriter, that is crazy pants. Yeah. I mean, that way
Mike Costa: I had never written comics that way, because I just. It’s too difficult for me.
It’s it got started with Stan Lee because it was a time saving measure. That’s why it’s called the Marvel method because
Casey: he was writing like he was writing like title.
Mike Costa: Right. And it’s impossible to write that many full script. So if you, if you let the artists do a lot of the heavy lifting and then you just go in and script it, but then it also leads to a lot of things of like, you know, people in the panels just saying what they’re doing, because, because you did buy the dialogue first and you’re writing your after the [01:15:00] fact and.
but it, that works for a lot of people and it works for Jonathan. and so he wrote God is dead that way, but then what happened was it took a long time for the book to be drawn. He submitted the first six issues and it took a couple years, I think, for those six issues to be finished for whatever reason, I don’t know if it was the artist or what it was.
I honestly don’t know, but by the time that it was time to publish it and William needed Jonathan to come back and. Actually scripted, you know, put the dialogue in the mouth of the characters. Jonathan was already doing the Avengers at Marvel and he was much too busy. Marvel was grinding him. They were riding in like a rented mule, you know, like he was doing like five books a month for them.
So he just didn’t have the time to do it. But I knew Jonathan and Jonathan. Offered me the car. He said, listen, I can’t finish this. William means to publish it. I can’t stall him any longer. I can’t tell him to wait two years until I’m until I’m available. So will you do this? Will you take over and just script it for me?
And I was like, sure, I’ll do that for whatever, you know, like small amount of money. Cause it’s already mostly done. I just need to script it. So [01:16:00] he sent me his original. Scripts that he had written and there’s some dialogue suggestions in there and stuff, but I just basically took the art and I wrote the dialogue and I, I changed a lot of what he had.
I changed some of the relationships with the characters and I changed a lot of the dialogue he suggested. And a lot of places, he didn’t even have any dialogue. So I just had to make it up whole cloth. And I kind of came up with a larger sort of meta narrative surrounding it. And I just, I wanted, I wanted William to feel like he got his money’s worth because he’s paying a guy.
That he doesn’t even know to do work, that he didn’t think he’d have to pay extra pocket for. So I wanted them to feel like I was really working hard for him. So then the comic came out. And it was like a massive hit for avatar. I mean, largely because Jonathan Hickman’s name is on it. This I’m, I am not taking any credit for this.
The name Jonathan Hickman moves a lot of books. So, so the comic became a huge hit and then William calls me and he’s like, Hey man, will you do more? God is dead. And I said, well, it’s like a sort of mini series. It’s over. And William goes. Yeah, but I’m going to keep the book going and your name is [01:17:00] on it.
So do you want to do it? Cause Jonathan can’t do it cause he’s too busy. So I just said sure. And I kept writing it. And at that, from that point on, you know, I’m still friends with Jonathan, we were in touch, but like. I Jonathan only contributed those first six issues. And then that was it. His, his name stayed on the book because he created it.
But from that point on, it was just me flying by the seat of my pants, because I would essentially block out six issues at a time. And then William would call me and be like, what if, what if we did more? And I’d be like, well, I kind of blowing up the whole planet at the end of this. And he’s like, yeah, but isn’t there a way or God’s right.
So that became this crazy unlikely moneymaker for me because. it, it much like Lucifer, like it just kept going after it was simple.
but I it’s, it’s weird that you mentioned that to me because I last month, you know, when this sheltering in place thing started happening, I, for the first time, since the book was coming out, I pulled out.
My copies and I read it all I read through the entire run [01:18:00] that I is, which I never do. I have the
Casey: 48 issue.
Mike Costa: Yeah, I did. Yes. And I, I, I haven’t done that with any of my work before, but I’m working on something else and I won, I was remembering himself and this was like, Oh, this is, let’s see what this is, because also, because of the heat, in which that I read, I wrote it, I was writing it like.
Literally by the seat of my pants. Like just not really planning things out very far in advance and just writing, but it was ever coming to mind. And so I don’t have a lot of memory of how it came together because it was all in the moment. So that was another reason why I read it. Cause I’m like, Oh, I forgot about all this stuff.
And it was a fun experience to sort of rediscover it. but yeah, the Ellen Moore thing too, it just came about, because again, it was, it was avatar’s top selling book. For like two years. So, you know, like any publisher, when you have a book that sells well, you know, it’s also going to sell, well, another book with that title line.
So William put out two specials, like 48 page specials that I wrote, you know, two major [01:19:00] stories for, and then he had other people like Cy Spurrier and Kiran. Gillen and Justin Jordan and Alan Moore contribute to all of these writers that he was working with in other ways. And so that was the time that I got to write a comic book with Alan Moore.
And I’m not going to say with Alan because it’s not like we collaborated, like he wrote his story and I wrote mine, but I do know that Alan read my story because William had a very good relationship with Alan and he would go and visit Alan in the UK. And he’s one of the few publishers that Alan liked anymore.
And, William reported back to me that Alan thought my story was very good. Now William could be lying just to make me feel better, but I’m choosing to believe that that is true.
Casey: Yeah. Yeah. That’s that’s like, unlike achievements in your life, having heaven, Ellen Morgan, like good job on that. He, yeah.
That’s That’s up there, man. That’s amazing.
Mike Costa: Yes. Career highlight. Absolutely. Yeah. That’s so that’s how God his dad came together was I was sort of [01:20:00] right place, right. Time happened to do well. Alan Moore got involved and gave me a compliment. That’s amazing.
Casey: That’s awesome. So, do you have any plans for, for anything coming up?
That you can talk about?
Mike Costa: Well, I currently have a book. Well, I mean, right now nothing’s coming out, unfortunately, but we are currently in the middle of publishing, whenever stuff starts coming back, a book called stealth with, Skybound, which is Robert Kirkman’s imprinted image, which is, another project that’s sort of like, is it very unusual in its beginnings?
so years ago, Top cow, which is Marshall vestries and printed image. They would do a thing every year. They called pilot season where they would commission a bunch of first issues of different potential series and like essentially let the reader to vote on which one would continue. And the rest of them just would sort of not go anywhere.
and one of the great projects that came out of this was a book called genius. Written by, Mark Bernard and, and, Adam Glass, which is, a really great book about a military [01:21:00] genius. Who’s born in the inner city and, sort of becomes like, like leads like a, a resistance against the police.
And it’s, it’s an incredible book. but other than that, there haven’t been a lot of memorable titles that came out of this and. One year, I think top cow realizing that they weren’t getting as much attention on this as they want it. They let Robert Kirkman do all of them. So for that year, Yeah, pilot season was all rubber Kirkland comics, and one of them was called stealth and it was, it was about, a sort of hybrid Batman slash iron man type character where he’s like a urban vigilante who takes the shadows.
But unlike Batman, he’s got an Ironman type suit and, there’s a sort of a. Twist in the, in that issue that I don’t want to give away, that was supposed to be the hook for the series, but that never went anywhere. And it just was like the one issue they published, like, you know, back in 2011 or whatever year it was.
and then now Robert Kirkman actually was even before, that was probably 2008 doesn’t matter. But you know, obviously now Kirkman is [01:22:00] this big mogul and has more money than maybe anybody in comics and has his own publishing empire called sky bound. And so he wants to dig back into his old properties and, you know, find something that’s does something often, you know, we booted, so his editor at Skybound, this guy named Sean Mackowitz, contacted me and approached me about, you know, picking up stealth and.
You know, it’s sort of using Robert’s original issue as a jumping off point and doing a mini series out of it, you know, and just sort of going off of literally just taking the original issue as a skeleton and taking it from there, because if Robert had any plans for where the story went after that, I never saw them.
So I don’t know. So. Everything was sort of at that point was original to me. And it was very, it really resonated with me because the first issue was set in Detroit. And to this day, it’s such a weird coincidence because Sean had no idea I was from Detroit, but I am, I that’s where I was born and raised.
So I saw a real opportunity to [01:23:00] like, tell a story about Detroit. And so that’s how we got stealth. And the first issue came out just before, you know, the sort of shelter in place sort of started coming out. the second issue has not been released, but the entire series is done. So once we get back into, you know, comic stores being opened and the trucks rolling again, the book will start coming out again.
But, yeah, that’s, that’s the current project right now that I think issue three should be coming out. But of course it isn’t because no comics are coming out, but
Mike Costa: that’s the book that I have coming out currently. And I’ve also been talking to Marvel about, a new book. Cause I haven’t done anything for them since a venom about a year and a half ago.
But again, like. No, this all happened and things are sort of on hold. So I don’t want to mention what that is because it might change into something else who knows, but we’ll
Casey: yeah. Oh yeah. That’s completely fine. Yeah, man, I don’t wanna keep you too much longer on here because we’ve already been here an hour and a half.
I had, [01:24:00] Oh my goodness.
Mike Costa: The reasons I like doing podcasts because it kind of, the conversation lasts as long as it lasts, you know? Oh
Casey: yeah. Yeah. And
Mike Costa: I mean,
Casey: We we’ve gone over so much stuff and I’ve really enjoyed. I really want to ask you, like,
Mike Costa: where do
Casey: you go get your comics now? Cause I mean, now it’s kind of a weird time, but do you have any local shops that you want to shout out?
Mike Costa: I do. In fact I, yes I do. So I live down, I lived in Los Angeles. I specifically live in downtown Los Angeles and there is a store down here that opened up, three or four years ago. It’s called a shop called quest. which is an awesome name. And that has been my store. I pre before living downtown, I lived in the Hollywood area and I shopped at a store called meltdown meltdown was my store.
They had my Polis there, but now meltdown is gone. I like so many other stores that whole block was sold to be like a mixed use building. So, you know, this major part of, of comic book and Los Angeles history has gone, but [01:25:00] a shop called quests, came and moved into my neighborhood like right after I moved down here.
So it was sort of like the perfect situation. So that is my store. That’s where I have my pole box. Obviously it’s been closed for like a month now. And I gotta say, I, there it’s next to this little produce market. and I went and I, where I go and like, get my like, you know, groceries. Cause I don’t like going to the big supermarkets cause they’re so packed with people.
And I went to go get groceries last week and I peeked in through the windows and there were boxes like moving boxes, stacked up and I got real freaked out and I, I, I messaged them on Instagram and I was like, look guys. You’re not closing for good. Right? Cause like I said, a lot of stores cannot survive, not having business for this long.
And I really, you know, cross my fingers and pray to, you know, the living tribunal and whatever comic book gods. There are like that this store survives it. Cause I honestly don’t know. But. It didn’t it didn’t it, wasn’t fun seeing a bunch of moving boxes in there. I really hope they’re not [01:26:00] closing down for good cause that’s my store and I can walk there.
Yeah. Yeah. And it’s a great store. It is legit. A great store.
Casey: My local shop is a, it’s a combination, tattoo parlor and comic shop. And they have a ton of Indy. They do like the Marvel and DC stuff, but never really good indie selection. Oh, that’s great. And, I’m really hoping they can pull through this mess because, it’s such a great shop and the people that run it are amazing.
So, so normally I also ask like, Hey, when’s your next con appearance, but it’s not happening any time. Yeah. So. Man, it’s been a pleasure talking to you and I’ve really, really enjoyed, just kinda going over, your stories about working on, on the loose for show and on the comics. is there anything you want to say before we head out?
Mike Costa: You know, [01:27:00] I mean, thank you for having me. I, you know, I know I talk a lot. I hope I didn’t get to, to DSI. Yeah,
Casey: it’s great. I love it.
Mike Costa: I hope that, you know, I was telling some edifying stories for your, your listeners. And I guess in closing, I just I’ll reiterate what I said before, which is like comics only exists.
Through like literally the blood, sweat, and tears of the people that work in it. People who are, you know, paid very little and overworked a lot and kicked around even by their own industry. And there’s a tremendous amount of uncertainty. And I think it’s one of the last, truly like creator driven places and media.
Where you’re not, you can still get your story out there exactly how you want to tell it. Like, even when I’m working for Marvel and I’m writing web warriors or venom, that is my story. There’s very little editorial oversight that even going on in a big two book like that, but then you take a place like, you know, [01:28:00] image comics or something.
And obviously every word you write is your story because nobody edits it. And I, I don’t, there isn’t a place like that. Kind of anywhere in media and for that reason alone, I hope it survives. And by the way, this is going to be such a weird thing to say, if you’re not, are you hearing screaming in the background as I’m
Casey: telling him it’s okay, man, I just life and you know, it’s mutual.
It’s all good, man. Sorry.
Mike Costa: I was Joe Bob’s last drive in on shutter is on in the back and I thought I’d turned down the volume now. But I clearly haven’t and it’s like across the room and I know it’s all good.
Casey: My, my dog, we have a, so we have an old dog and a puppy and my old dog is in the room with me because she can’t be around the puppy.
And, they had the, the puppy out in the living room. so
Mike Costa: so if you’ve
Casey: heard any whining that, that field dog actions about
Mike Costa: any female screams of terror that you’ve heard coming from my end are [01:29:00] completely Joe Bob Briggs, and it’s his fault. So it’s premiere, the second season was tonight. So I’m going to go back to watching that after we get off here, but thank you so much for having me.
I really do appreciate
Casey: it. It’s been a pleasure.
Alright, take it easy brother. Wash your hands and stay safe, man.
Mike Costa: You too. Alright. Bye. Bye.