He was born in New York but he spent his childhood in Greece. He loves comics, chocolate, his wife Ruth and he managed to make his dream come true by becoming a comic bood writer himself. Many of the Buffyverse fans including me, got to know him when he was trusted by Dark Horse Comics to write Angel’s and Faith’s story for Season 9.
Let’s get to know him a little bit better!
Your origin is greek, but you were born in the States. How hard was it for you to return to Greece and live your childhood there?
We moved to Athens when I was six and stayed for four years. It was hard in some respects because I missed my friends in the US, but I made good friends in Greece as well, and we would spend the summers in Massachusetts, so I’d get to see my friends back home from time to time. I also missed all the comics, cartoons, and TV shows we had in the States, though Greek TV (which only broadcast in late afternoon and evening at the time) had some imports, like the Love Boat. The truth is, I was too young to really appreciate the opportunities living in Greece offered me. I remember once our school went on a field trip to the Parthenon, and back then you could actually walk among the ruins. I spent the entire time with my nose in a copy of Marvel Team-Up #65. Which is a great comic, but y’know, I probably should’ve looked at the Parthenon a little.
How was your life back then? Which are your most vivid memories of that time?
My memories are typical kid things…my friends, the things we did. I don’t know if Greeks still take a siesta in the afternoon, but back then they did, and my friends and I, being kids, were full of energy, so instead of sleeping we’d run around and raise hell, infuriating our neighbors who were trying to sleep.They’d throw things at us out the window. Nowadays, I enjoy few things as much as an afternoon nap. If I met my younger self I’d probably throw a few things at him. Not surprisingly, some of my most vivid memories are of comics that made an impression on me. I remember one Clean Monday, my parents took us on a road trip to fly kites somewhere in the countryside. To keep me occupied on the trip, we stopped at the Hilton hotel, and at their newsstand I bought a copy of Uncanny X-Men #139, which sucked me in and never let go.
Some of the most popular comics in Greece back then were Mickey Mouse, Popeye, Donald Duck, Comics Illustrated, Blek, Tarzan, etc. Which ones were your favorites? What did you read back then?
I used to read Tintin and Asterix comics (translated into English, but sometimes the Greek ones too). I still have them; they’re great. I also used to read the Greek Classics Illustrated. In fact, many of my older Greek relatives refer to all comics as “Klassika” because Classics were so popular. But I didn’t like those as much; not enough giant robots and dinosaurs. What I really hungered for was the imported American comics that would come once a month, in one big batch, to the local Alpha Beta supermarket. They didn’t get DCs, but they got almost all the Marvels, Of course, sometimes there’d be an issue missing, which drove me nuts, especially if it was a continued story. There were several stories I didn’t get to read the end of until we moved back to the States and I discovered comic shops!
When you think of the time back then, it’s strange how much things have changed. He spent his childhood in the greek 70’s, I spent mine in the 80’s. I really don’t remember anyone taking a siesta in the afternoon! Of course I remember us kids running around the streets, playing, making noise, mothers screaming at us for waking up their babies, old people complaining and throwing water on us, yes, it was fun! Until all day television started broadcasting sometime at the end of the 80’s and slowly computers came into our life. You won’t see anywhere children running and playing anymore the games we used to, besides maybe in the school yards.
At some point you returned to the States. What did you miss once you returned?
From Greece? Some of my friends…not much else, to be honest, I was just thrilled to be back, with all the trashy pop culture of the U.S. And I still got a lot of the benefits of living in Greece, like Greek food, from my relatives. Not that I had any bad feelings about Greece or my time there, but, you know, in America they had comic shops and Atari.
When did you decide to become a writer? Do you think you’d still become one if you hadn’t left Greece?
I don’t know that I ever formally decided. I always enjoyed writing, so when I realized I was going to have to figure out something to do with my life I figured I’d give it a try and went to film school, and it went from there. I think I’d be a writer no matter where I’d grown up, as long as someone was willing to hire me.
He attended Brown University and he majored in American Civilization. He wrote some movies, including “The Breed” and “Teenage Caveman”. In the meantime, together with his wife, he started writing for TV shows like “Law & Order Special Victims Unit” and the “Numb3rs”. He’s also written for video games like “Captain America: Super Soldier”, but his love has always been the comics.
How did you jump to the comic book industry?
My wife Ruth and I met in film school and became writing partners. We wrote a number of screenplays, including some that got produced as lower budget genre films, and we also wrote for the TV shows Law & Order SVU and Numbers. But I had always wanted to try writing comics. In 2003 I met and became friends with Jimmy Palmiotti, who very generously arranged for me to meet Dan Didio at DC while I was in New York for the shooting of one of our Law & Order episodes. I got lucky with my timing and pitched a story for a character called Deadshot that they happened to want to build up for an upcoming comic Gail Simone was writing, so they accepted it, and I had my first miniseries.
How are the people working for comics?
They’re great. I love them. They’re not in it for money or fame, obviously, they’re in it because they love comics. I’m sure there are exceptions, but the vast majority of people in comics are good folks who genuinely care about each other and what they’re doing.
The last years we’ve seen many comic book characters jumping to Hollywood movies. Do you believe you’d feel ready to write a script for such a movie? If so, which character’s story would you prefer to write about?
Well, as I said, my wife Ruth and I have written movies and TV before, but we’ve never adapted a comic book that we didn’t create. However, I think we could, because we have a pretty good understanding of both comics and film, and what works and doesn’t work in each. The good thing about our partnership is that Ruth reins in some of my more comic-booky excesses and keeps it grounded. As for characters, I tend to gravitate toward some of the less iconic characters, like Deadshot, or Amethyst Princess of Gemworld, which I think would be a terrific movie along the lines of Harry Potter. Of the icons, I think the Flash is the best of DC’s characters. From Marvel, I’d love to write a Captain America film, or Strikeforce Morituri…and, of course, a Luke Cage film set in the 70s.
Which are your favorite movies and why?
Oh, a lot of the usual suspects…The Godfather, Unforgiven…I tend to like movies with flawed characters trying to rise above their limitations.
What do you think is the source of your imagination? What inspires you?
No idea. I do think that, as a kid in Greece, living in a country I wasn’t native to, and couldn’t communicate with the other kids on the same level (although I spoke the language pretty well), I probably had more reason to live inside my own head than some kids. As for what inspires me, everything. Everything I see, read, experience. It’s all source material.
Do you have any guilty pleasures? Would you care to share?
I probably eat more chocolate than I should.
What would you advise to someone who’d like to become a writer?
Two things. One, have another way to make a living, because making a living as a writer is hard. Have something to fall back on, another skill, another trade. This is a piece of advice I give because I didn’t do it, and if I ever can’t make a living writing, I’ll be in trouble. Second, write all the time and read all the time. Keep doing it, keep improving, keep studying how others do it. Don’t wait for anyone’s permission; you don’t need it. Write constantly, or you’re not a writer. If your goal is to get paid to write, you’re gonna have a tough time and be very frustrated. If your goal is to write for its own sake, to produce work you can be proud of, writing can be very rewarding…and you might even get paid for it.
Do you have any future plans that we’ve still not heard of?
There are always projects I can’t discuss because they are still in the planning stages and you never know what will happen. I just consider myself very lucky to be able to make a living with my imagination; I’m very grateful to all the people who allow me to do that by reading my work!
I want to personally thank Christo for taking the time to talk to me. I may not always agree with his A&F story, but I am really proud of him and very glad I had the chance to get to know him. And I’m sure that that child back in Greece at the end of the ’70s would also feel very proud of his future self, if he could have seen himself all grown up.
And last but not least, I also want to personally thank Dark Horse Comics and especially Aub Driver. Without them, this interview would not have been the same, and those questions would have been so much different!