How I tried (and failed) to bring THE SOPRANOS to comics.
So years ago, before the days of Mrs Sodablog and our little soda kids, long before I had the fame and fortune you’d expect from a man like me, my roommates and I were addicted to HBO.
Like, seriously make sure we’re home on Sunday night, don’t spoil it or I’ll kill you hardcore addicted. OZ, SOPRANOS, ENTOURAGE, DEADWOOD, CURB—we watched it all (well, we didn’t watch SEX IN THE CITY, nor did we partake in ROME…but then, no one partook in ROME). And one night, drunk and engorged on quality storyline (and also? Hamburgers), my roommate turned my way and asked why the hell I didn’t do a SOPRANOS comic.
Now, sure— I spent hours explaining licensing and creative control, I opined on how David Chase and his minions would do it if no one else did, and how they wouldn’t let a guy with one mob-based book to his name steer the fate of a cash cow like THE SOPRANOS and on and on… But in the back of my mind, I thought: why not? I know some folks who would dig this, I know some artists that would jump at the chance. Why not reach out to a few publishers and see if they’d bite at securing the license to do a series of comics set in the magical world of North New Jersey focused on some of the secondary characters and perhaps stories based before the series?
Then it got a bit more interesting: my roommate had a connection at HBO.
Reaching out to gauge interest, we learned that HBO would take a proposal depending on cost and publisher consideration. They’d hear our ideas, but if we didn’t have a proven, successful publisher behind us, we were shit out of luck. So while my roommate drafted a business/marketing plan for HBO, I sat down and hammered out a proposal and short script over the course of three days. My idea was to put together a piece based on Benny Fazio—as played by Max Casella, or as many of you might know him, the guy that played Vinnie on DOOGIE HOWSER, MD—and get five pages assembled to show to publishers and HBO. My pal Vito Delsante hooked me up with rising artist at the time, Jim Muniz, and Jim knocked out a few pages (which for god knows what reason I can’t find in my files—the above group shot was culled from Jim’s DeviantArt gallery.
Every publisher I approached seemed interested… But there were holdups:
- Speakeasy, still in business at the time, controlled the rights to several HBO shows and nobody could figure out if THE SOPRANOS was actually part of the package.
- The few publishers I spoke with were gung ho about doing the comic, but the licensing agreement/fees weren’t ideal for the publisher to turn a workable profit.
- Finally, HBO strongly suggested they wanted to keep the property in house and as HBO is a division of Time-Warner, they made it quite clear that the only publisher they’d consider working with was DC Comics, another Time-Warner division.
Wildstorm had not yet jumped into the licensed comic book market—they were still focused on their shared superhero universe, so it didn’t enter my mind to reach out to them. The only person I could think to approach with this product at DC was a Vertigo editorial contact who, after mulling it over for a bit, explained this wasn’t a project Vertigo could consider at the time. That basically stalled any forward momentum we had, which is a shame, because I think given the right support it would have done gangbusters.
BUT whaddyagonna do, right? In any event, while I can’t locate the art Jim created for this, I though you might get a kick out of the script. It’s also pretty clear that this sample was written before the show ended…but in any event, enjoy!
SOPRANOS SAMPLE SCRIPT
By Neil Kleid based on characters created by David Chase and owned by HBO
Page 1 (4 PANELS)
EST. SHOT- OOH-FA PIZZA PARLOR - DAY
Medium angle shot of the store. Brisk Fall day, leaves falling from trees onto cars parked alongside the store. A somewhat beaten Dodge is parked in the front and in our extreme foreground is an SUV. The store has a large window that looks out onto the avenue and in it we can see the silhouettes of two men – one, small and slight, the second large and imposing.
SAL (OP): BENNY! GEEZ! LOOK AT THIS GUY!
SAL (OP): LET ME COME AROUND AND SAY HELLO.
INT. SHOT- OOH-FA PIZZA PARLOR - DAY
The pizza parlor is empty, decorated in reds and greens and festooned with Italian flags. Ooh Fa’s seen better days. The tables are filthy and a sullen looking kid sweeps up in the back. In the foreground, SAL, the portly owner in apron whites and a v-neck t-shirt, embraces BENNY FAZIO in front of the main counter. Benny is in an expensive sports jacket and slacks. Standing near them is the large man from the first panel, BOBBY ‘BACALA’ BACCALIERI, clad in a windbreaker and jogging suit.
BENNY: LONG TIME, SAL. HOW’S THE BUSINESS?
SAL: GOOD DAYS AND BAD, KID. AIN’T THE SAME SINCE YOU STOPPED COMING ‘ROUND.
BENNY: BLAME CHRIS. GUY GETS HIS WINGS AND IT’S STEAK AND LOBSTER ALL THE TIME.
Sal turns back to the counter and ovens while Benny and Bobby sit, Benny putting a pack of smokes on the table.
SAL: BOBBY, COME STAI? HOW’S THE KIDS?
BOBBY: GOOD. SOPHIA’S STARTS SCHOOL NEXT WEEK.
SAL: WHAT CAN I GET YOU? MUSHROOMS AND PEPPERS? COUPLA FANTAS?
BOBBY: PERFECT, SAL. THANKS.
Two shot of Bobby and Benny, sitting at the table. Benny smirks and looks for matches or a lighter in his jacket.
BENNY: WE COULDN’T MEET AT A GOOD PLACE? I MEAN I LOVE SAL, BOBBY, BUT WE NEVER USED TO COME AROUND HERE FOR THE FOOD.
BOBBY: I WANNA TALK AWAY FROM PRYIN’ EYES AND EARS.
Page 2 (5 PANELS)
EXT. OOH-FA – DAY
Shot of the three men as seen through the store window. A young couple walks by, huddled against the cold. A gang of African American kids (three) walks by, ribbing each other on their way to a nearby car.
BOBBY: Y’KNOW, YOU WERE TONY’S GO TO GUY UNTIL YOU GOT YOUR BUTTON LAST WINTER.
BENNY: YEAH? SO?
BOBBY: BEFORE THAT, I WAS JUNIOR’S GO TO GUY. YEARS I WIPED HIS ASS, WAITIN’ FOR TONY TO LOOK MY WAY. ONE THING I LEARNED FROM JUNIOR – WHEN THINGS GET HOT, YOU GET COLD.
Benny looks down at his inner pocket, wondering where his lighter is.
BOBBY(OP): GO TO GUYS THINK THEY CAN PULL COWBOY SHIT AND BECAUSE OF THEIR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE BOSS THEY’LL GET A PASS. BUT I NEVER DID.
BOBBY (OP): YOU, CHRIS, TONY B. I WATCHED YOU ALL PUT YOURSELF FIRST AND LOYALTIES SECOND.
Bobby reaches across to help Benny out with his own lighter.
BENNY: I’M LOYAL. AND ALL DUE RESPECT, BOBBY, LIKE YOU’RE JOE PERFECT?
BOBBY: I DIDN’T SAY THAT, BUT I’VE SEEN GUYS COME AND GO… SMART GUYS WHO THOUGHT THEY KNEW BETTER.
BOBBY: RICHIE APRILE, TONY B. WHERE ARE THEY FUCKING NOW?
Benny grins and leans back, taking a puff of smoke as Bobby, determined and angry, points down to the table.
BENNY: BERMUDA TRIANGLE.
BOBBY: HEY, I’M SERIOUS HERE!
BENNY: THEN STOP WITH THE PROLOGUE AND TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT.
Close on Benny’s eyes.
BOBBY(OP): TORCIANO CALLED ME.
BENNY: GERRY TORCIANO? NEW YORK?
BOBBY(OP): SAW YOU IN BROOKLYN. IN PHIL LEOTARDO’S NEIGHBORHOOD?
Page 3 (5 PANELS)
FLASHBACK – VESUVIO’S PARKING LOT – NIGHT
Benny, younger and wearing glasses, is pulled from his car by PHIL LEOTARDO and his cronies.
BENNY: SO? IT AIN’T A CRIME TO BE IN BROOKLYN.
BOBBY (OP): BENNY, YOU WERE SEEN NEAR THE ACTING BOSS OF NEW YORK’S HOUSE.
INT. OOH-FA - DAY
Benny leans against his chair and looks back at us (or Bobby, whose POV we’re at) while smoking.
BOBBY (OP): THE ACTING BOSS WHO BEAT THE SHIT OUT OF YOU.
BOBBY (OP): I GOT TO DRAW YOU A DIAGRAM HOW THIS LOOKS?
FLASHBACK – VESUVIO’S PARKING LOT – NIGHT
Phil and gang beat young Benny with a pipe.
INT. OOH-FA - DAY
Benny puts the cigarette out on the table.
BENNY: YEAH, I GET IT. SO HOW COME I’M NOT HEARING THIS FROM TONY?
BOBBY (OP): TONY DOESN’T KNOW YET AND I’M NOT GONNA TELL HIM.
Bobby gets up as Sal enters from the kitchen with the pizza.
BOBBY: BUSINESS WITH NEW YORK IS GOOD NOW AND NO ONE WANTS IT FUCKED UP.
BOBBY: YOU GOT A HARD ON FOR PHIL, I GET. BUT YOU GOTTA COOL DOWN BEFORE YOU FUCK THINGS UP. THAT’S WHAT I WANT. TO TELL YOU TO KNOCK OFF THE COWBOY SHIT, ONE GO TO GUY TO ANOTHER.
Page 4 (5 PANELS)
Bobby drops money on the table next to the smokes.
BOBBY: LIKE I SAID – I WAS A GO TO GUY ONCE. SAME AS YOU, SAME AS CHRIS AND FURIO.
BOBBY: KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOU AND THOSE OTHER GUYS?
Shot of Bobby looking down at Benny, pointing at himself with his thumb. Sal comes up behind him with the pizza.
BOBBY: WHEN THEY PULLED ALL THEIR SHIT I WAS STUCK WIPING JUNIOR’S ASS.
BOBBY: BUT YOU GO NEAR PHIL OR ANYONE ELSE FROM NEW YORK AND I’LL KICK YOURS.
Bobby leaves the pizza parlor as Sal sets the pizza down in front of Benny.
BOBBY: THANKS, SAL. JAN’S GOT ME ON THE ATKINS.
BOBBY: THINK ABOUT WHAT I SAID, BENNY.
EXT. OOH-FA’S - DAY
Bobby exits, heading for his car – the African American kids from page 2 are climbing into theirs.
Bobby looks in their window as he goes by towards his SUV and sees two specific kids – both in hoodies and “gang” gear, both pretty young. These are two of the kids who shot Bobby in the eye one late night.
Page 5 (5 PANELS)
Close on the kid in the passenger’s seat – shotgun side – who’s grinning and joking with his friends.
FLASHBACK – PARKING LOT - NIGHT
Shot of the kid, surrounded by three friends , looking down at us as he points a handgun at us and squints his eyes, about to shoot.
BOBBY (OP): PLEASE! NO! I HAVE A FAMILY!
KIDS: SHOOT THAT FAT FUCK… GO ON, POP ‘IM, MAN…
KIDS: LOOK AT ‘IM CRY… DO IT…
Reverse shot, now looking down at Bobby on the floor, beaten and hurt, one arm reaching towards us begging us not to shoot.
BOBBY: NO! PLEASE! I GOT KIDS!
EXT. OOH-FA’S – DAY
Bobby is stunned, standing outside the pizza parlor and staring at the kids who shot him and made him feel weak.
INT. THE GANG’S CAR - DAY
Our POV is in the driver’s seat, looking past the kid in shotgun and through the window as Bobby races towards them, pointing at them in fury as he reaches for his gun.
BOBBY: HEY! HEY, YOU, YOU PIECE OF SHIT!
BOBBY: GET OVER HERE! GET OUT O’ THE CAR!
KID: FUCK YOU WANT, POPPIN’ FRESH?
Page 6 (5 PANELS)
EXT. THE GANG’S CAR - DAY
Bobby reaches into the window to grab the kid.
KID: MOTHERFUCKER! GO! GO!
BOBBY: I SAID GET OUT HERE!
INT. THE GANG’S CAR - DAY
Bobby grabs the kid by the throat. The kid is choking but gestures to his driver friend to step on it.
BOBBY: YOU REMEMBER ME? YOU REMEMBER THIS FACE, YOU SON OF A BITCH?
BOBBY: YOU SHOT ME! YOU SHOT ME!
KID: **KKK!! I SAID GO, MOTHERFUCKER! DRIVE!
The car pulls away and Bobby falls, loosing his grip.
KID: SO LONG, SUPERSIZE!
KID: YEAH! YEAH, EAT MY FUCKIN’ DUST WITH A SIDE OF FRIES!
Bobby gets up from the ground slowly, reaching for his pistol again – In the background, Benny comes running out of the pizza parlor.
BENNY: BOBBY! WHAT THE FUCK?
BOBBY: GET YOUR CAR!
BENNY: WHAT HAPPENED TO “THINGS GET HOT, YOU GET COLD”?
BOBBY: IT’S FUCKING DIFFERENT! GET THE CAR!
Bobby stands and watches the gang’s car drive away down the avenue,