Comic creator Andrew Foley talks “Cowboys & Aliens” adaptation

Edmonton Journal: Edmonton comic-book writer Andrew Foley sat in a downtown movie theatre last week as his own name scrolled past in film credits that included Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig and Jon Favreau.

“It was actually more prominent than I was expecting,” Foley said Monday of his movie credit. “It’s not something that gets scrolled through really quickly with all the assistants and the rest of it. I believe it was after the stunt men.”

The 41-year-old freelance writer, who continues to work three shifts per week at Happy Harbor Comics, co-wrote the original graphic novel Cowboys & Aliens that inspired the film, which opened Friday.

The western sci-fi mashup set in 1873 is directed by Favreau, who also directed the Iron Man movies. It stars a cranky-looking Ford alongside James Bond actor Craig and Olivia Wilde of the movie TRON: Legacy as well as the TV dramas House and The O.C.

Foley was invited to Los Angeles to see Cowboys & Aliens at a special movie screening Wednesday.

“I received the invitation Tuesday morning and there was no plane ticket attached,” he said.

Foley opted instead for a free pass from Happy Harbor Comics that got him into a screening Wednesday at the Empire Theatres in the Edmonton City Centre mall.

“I quite enjoyed the film,” Foley said. “It’s better (than the comic). I mean, it pains me to say that.”

A large number of people were involved in making the comic, “to the point where there were too many cooks in the kitchen,” Foley said. A lot of changes the screenwriters made for the action-adventure film were changes Foley would have liked to have made himself in the original comic, he said.

Box office numbers have been disappointing though, Foley said.

“It’s not performing very well at the box office at the moment. It’s made more money than I’m ever going to see in my lifetime but, at the same time, it was running neck-and-neck with The Smurfs last time I checked.”

Foley has mixed feelings about the project and his association with the film. “It’s helped my Hollywood career,” he said. “Overall, it’s been good, for sure.”

Foley hopes recognition for his Cowboys & Aliens work helps him promote other projects he holds more dear.

Foley’s book called Done to Death is coming out in September. The collaboration with Calgary comic artist Fiona Staples is a dark, satirical take on the vampire genre, which includes a storyline about a book editor so sick of getting bad vampire manuscripts that she starts killing the writers.

His graphic novel, Parting Ways, was published in 2005.

“Everybody knows about Cowboys & Aliens. Parting Ways is the one that’s been easily the best-received book I’ve ever done, and Done to Death is the one I’m most proud of.”

Foley was hired by Platinum Studios Comics to co-write Cowboys & Aliens with bestselling American author Fred Van Lente. Platinum Studios published the graphic novel in 2006 with plans to sell it for film, Foley said.

Star Trek and Transformers screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman later wrote the movie script.

Foley didn’t really think the movie would get made though, until the list of Hollywood heavyweights interested in the project kept mounting and Ford finally came on board.

The movie was in development for a long time, said Suzette Chan, features editor with the monthly comics industry webzine Sequential Tart.

“For sure, I’ll go see the movie. Andrew says it’s better than the comic,” said Chan, a regular customer at Happy Harbour Comics.

“I just really admire Andrew for sticking to this and staying in Edmonton … He’s doing it from up here and working very hard at it, slogging away, and still loving comics and selling comics to people. I really admire that.”

Happy Harbor Comics owner Jay Bardyla said his shop has been promoting Cowboys & Aliens for months, excited at Foley’s role in the project.

“It’s a pretty big deal,” said Bardyla, who went to the theatre last week with Foley. “It’s not too often that someone from Edmonton produces something that gets this kind of level of worldwide recognition.”

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