Grant Morrison's 'Sinatoro' Getting the Comic Book Treatment From Black Mask Studios (Exclusive)

'Sinatoro' is part of an ambitious Phase Two slate from upstart publisher Black Mask Studios
Courtesy of Black Mask Studios

Grant Morrison’s long-gestating film passion project, Sinatoro, is getting the comic book treatment from Black Mask Studios, the upstart transmedia and publishing company founded by comic book writer Steve Niles, production shingle Halo-8's Matt Pizzolo and Bad Religion guitarist and Epitaph Records CEO Brett Gurewitz.

Sinatoro is actually leading off a massive phase two slate for the company, which launched in early 2013 and found success with books such as Ballistic, from artist Darick Robertson and indie filmmaker Adam Egypt Mortimer.

“Last year was a test to see if our approach to this — with non-traditional type of books, and using alternative distribution methods — would be effective,” Pizzolo told Heat Vision. “Comic book stores were way more supportive on these eclectic books than we thought. And [the] direct-to-fan website worked very well. It was only because of the success of the slate that we were able to quintuple the slate.”

Black Mask also pulled connections to the music scene, sold comics in record stores, and had apparel in Hot Topic stores as part of expanding its reach to non-traditional audiences.

The new slate is anchored by heavyweight Morrison but features Black Mask’s hallmark: new voices, sometimes from the fringe. And for the first time, some of the company’s founders are getting behind the laptop to create comics as well.

Read more Grant Morrison's Lost 'Miracleman' Story to Be Published 30 Years Later

Morrison initially wrote Sinatoro as a screenplay for a movie that was to be directed by Ballistic's Mortimer. The script, a modern take on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, proved to be a massive and ambitious undertaking, with the world and characters growing beyond the scope of a single film. While Morrison tries to figure out how to work a manageable take for an adaptation, the iconic comic author decided to use the comics medium, and Black Mask’s transmedia approach to worldbuilding, to tell his story.

Artist Vanesa Del Ray is partnering with Morrison for the comic, which tells of a necronaut who is sent into the afterlife to save Earth from destruction. The story has influences from the Western genre, and classic American highway Route 66 also figures into it. The book is scheduled for an April 2015 release. (Mortimer, meanwhile, will still be involved in Sinatoro's transmedia ventures.)

Niles, the co-creator of 30 Days of Night, is making his Black Mask debut with The Disciples, which reteams him with Christopher Mitten, a frequent artistic collaborator on Night and Criminal Macabre. Plot details are being kept secret but it’s a ghost story in space. May 2015 is the planned release date.

Pizzolo has a couple of projects, and not just in comic form. Godkiller is an ongoing digital series that will also launch alongside a comic. It stars Davey Havok, the singer of rockband AFI, Justin Pierre, singer of Motion City Soundtrack, plus Danielle Harris (the Halloween movies), Nicki Clyne (Battlestar Galactica), and genre veteran Lance Henriksen.

Pizzolo is also writing Young Terrorists (art by Amancay Nahuelpan) which focuses on a “daughter of an assassinated globalist kingpin who breaks out of an internment camp and leads her fellow escaped prisoners in a battle against an elitist conspiracy of shadow governments, megabanks, and military juntas.”

Other books include:

Space Riders, from writer Fabian Rangel Jr. and artist Alexis Ziritt, is a psychedelic space opera about a disgraced man named Captain Peligro who is seeking redemption and a body count worthy of his vessel’s namesake, the Skullship Sante Muerte.

Our Work Fills the Pews, a look at our society via an America that interns subversives, homosexuals, Muslims, Jews, the poor, the mentally ill and women in camps. The story centers on a gay black man who, as a bounty hunter, hunts escapees but finds a conscience when he comes upon an 8-year old. By Vita A. and Matthew Rosenberg and artist Yasmin Liang.

X-‘ED is a sci-fi thriller about a next-gen form of psychiatry: subliminal hitmen injected into your mind who hunt down and kill the demons that haunt you. From newcomer writer Tony Patrick and artist Ayhan Hayrula, it’s described as an cross between Hitman and Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind.

Rock and roll story Last Song, which tells of the rise and fall of a band called Ecstacy and how they change music and people’s lives, for better or worse. Fun fact: writer Holly Interlandi and artist Zoe Chevat first met at LA’s Meltdown Comics, leading to this collaboration.

Read more Grant Morrison's 'Multiversity' Release Date Finally Set

Mayday, from writer Curt Pires and artist Chris Peterson and having shades of Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas and Pulp Fiction, centers on a washed-up, drug-addicted screenwriter and a transgender bartender who stumble onto a Satanic cult's plan to sacrifice people all across LA and bring on Armageddon.

Initially begun as a Kickstarter campaign, Toe Tag Riot from Matt Miner and artist Sean von Gorman is about a punk rock band cursed to become zombies whenever they perform their music and use their zombie superpowers to rid the world of racists, homophobes, misogynists.

We Can Never Go Home is a super-powered spin on the teenagers in love and on the run story.

Transference, from writer Michael Moreci and artist Ron Salas, tells of special agents who use a secret form of time travel technology that enables them to send their consciousnesses back in time and inhabit other people's bodies. Things get complicated when the team leader's past is altered to reshape his life in the present.

Some books from Phase 2 have already quietly come out. Last week, Critical Hit and Last Born hit stores. Last Born is written by Patrick Meaney, the filmmaker behind many comics-themed documentaries such as Grant Morrison: Talking With God, Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts, and The Image Revolution. Now he gets to take what he leaned after spending countless hours hanging with comic creators and tell a “speculative science adventure about the nature of chaos in the universe and a ragtag group of civilians rising up to protect humanity.”

The books are expected to be published starting late October with Godkiller, and continue through June 2015.

This Wednesday comes Pirouette from Mark L. Miller and artist Carlos Granda. The book tells of a young woman trying to escape her cruel and monstrous adoptive circus family.

Beyond the comic front, Black Mask is working with the creators of Image Comics’ Five Ghosts on transmedia translations of the hit series, which just got set up at Syfy.