Martin Kove Takes Comic ‘Prodigal Son’ to Kickstarter & Plans a Series
Sep 18, 2023
The Big Picture
Cobra Kai star Martin Kove is taking his love of westerns to the next level — he’s making a western comic book called Prodigal Son with his son, Jesse Kove. The father-son duo has launched a Kickstarter campaign to bolster the Prodigal Son fanbase and to give readers the opportunity to be part of the comic themselves. On top of that, the Koves reveal plans to turn the Prodigal Son comic into a TV series, a series that already has some “real interest” behind it.
You only need to spend mere seconds with Martin Kove to pick up on the fact that he’s one of the biggest western fans on the planet. He watches them, has been in them, and even effectively infuses his non-western characters with qualities from the genre. On top of that, Kove is driven to share that passion with others and broaden the genre’s fanbase, and he’s doing just that via a western of his own, a project that he’s working on with his son, Jesse Kove.
The pair teamed with Thunder Comics on a western comic book called Prodigal Son. Martin Kove developed the idea with writer-producer Don Handfield who co-scripted the comic with Clay Adams. The story sees a 12-year-old boy riddled with heartbreak, guilt, and rage after becoming the sole survivor of a Grey Devils Gang massacre. Desperate to kill every last member of the gang, the boy teams up with the mysterious Man in Black, someone who’s also determined to end the Grey Devils once and for all.
The Koves first launched the project last year at New York Comic Con, but now they’re taking things to the next level in a number of respects. They’re starting a Kickstarter campaign in an effort to bolster the Prodigal Son fanbase, and even give readers the opportunity to get involved in the making of the comic themselves. But things won’t stop there. They’ve also got plans to turn Prodigal Son into a series, a series that Jesse Kove insists is the real deal; “There’s some real interest.”
Check out my chat with Marty and Jesse Kove below to learn more about Prodigal Son’s journey thus far, what will make the story stand out from westerns you’ve seen before, their goals for the series version of the story, and loads more!
Image via Thunder Comics
PERRI NEMIROFF: The last time Collider covered Prodigal Son was at New York Comic Con last year. Can you run through what’s happened from October 2022 to now?
JESSE KOVE: Since we debuted at New York Comic Con, which was incredible, we must have had, I don’t know, 500 to 1,000 people buy the comic book. At least 500 people I’d say came in, bought the comic book and they took pictures with it, and it was just a huge, huge debut, very successful. So, since then, we’ve been working really hard on it, polishing off a lot of things that we wanted to, getting feedback. We’re getting ready to put it out in the next few weeks.
What kind of feedback have you taken and applied?
JESSE KOVE: A lot of people are excited about it. They want to know more about the story. When people first got the Ashcan at New York Comic Con, they kind of just got a taste of what it was gonna be. And so, you know, a lot of notes in-house, also feedback like, “Where are the rest of the characters gonna go? Who are these guys? Let’s dive deeper.” And we wanted to make sure people liked it! [Laughs] Which they do. I think what’s also super exciting is eventually we’re trying to turn this into a series which is all going really well at the moment. Obviously we’re at a temporary stop at the moment, but it looks like we’ve got a pretty good green light here. Shades of green going into this. So it’s all really exciting.
Oh, I’m gonna come back to that series, but first another question about developing this idea further over the last year. Is there any particular character whose arc has become more creatively fulfilling to work on than you ever could have imagined? Someone where, at the beginning, you didn’t think they were going to be a favorite character, but now that you’ve fleshed them out further, their journey is especially exciting?
JESSE KOVE: Go ahead, dad. I know you’re excited about all these characters, including your own.
MARTIN KOVE: Well, you know, the story is about a 12-year-old boy and an old gunfighter set in his ways, and they move together to find a gang that’s been very violent and destroyed this boy’s family. And, oddly enough, there’s a big twist at the end. Jesse plays the head of the gang. I don’t think there’s a transition for Jesse. I think he is just dark, and every time we turn the page, his character gets darker.
But the character that makes the most transition, because the purpose of this was I wanted kids to have a hero, a great western hero to believe in, and they don’t have them now. They have Marvel comic books. This character in Prodigal Son, my character, and the boy evolve with a high level of moral fiber and share a lot of stuff. By the end of the fourth issue, these characters have become different people, and they’ve bonded. And at the beginning, it’s just an irascible old gunfighter set in his ways who wants to kill Jesse, and the boy wants to kill Jesse. The kid doesn’t know how to behave like my character, the Man in Black, and I learned a lot about his values as a human being, and he learns a lot about mine. So I think both characters make great transitions.
And there’s a woman in this story too, and she really evolved. Very much like Emily Blunt’s character in a recent series. Emily Blunt was brilliant by the last few episodes. At the beginning, you thought she was just a sophisticated English woman riding horses with a Native American in the old West, and then she turns out to be as good as a gunfighter, you know? As good as Crazy Horse of the Sioux with the bow and arrow, with spears. It’s quite interesting to see the transition.
So I think both characters. It’s really a dual answer. It’s both these two characters. They evolve.
We’ve done all the scripts, all the issues, the literature for all the issues, and the artwork is what’s different than the Prodigal Son that you saw. This is a more broad scope in the art. I wanted something like Mobius did for an old comic book out of France called The Adventures of Lieutenant Blueberry, and I wanted really detailed art where you can feel Monument Valley, you can feel the grit of the west on the faces of these characters. I wanted to make a little movie of this and, you know, we’re getting it done ultimately as a series, but the bottom line is I wanted the kids to feel something from these comic books that they don’t get from Marvel or DC.
JESSE KOVE: Also, I pulled up the stats. We sold over 2,000 comics at Comic Con. We had 2,000 people that came through to our tables.
That is the beauty of debuting at an event like that. I love the vibes there!
Image via Thunder Comics
Before I get to the series, you have a Kickstarter launching on Monday. What specifically are you using that Kickstarter for?
JESSE KOVE: We wanna just basically get support from the public. We also just want to get people excited at the same time. It’s such a great outlet and a great place to debut something like this, just like Keanu Reeves did for his stuff. I think it’s exciting for people to get involved in a way that we’re allowing people to with different tiers and all this stuff with their support, My favorite thing is that if someone can support in a certain way, they can actually be part of the comic, which is always great. Literally have their likeness put into the comic book, which is really cool. And I just think that that’s usually the most exciting thing for fans is when they can kind of be a part of it. I think that’s always great. It’s kind of like you dress up for a Marvel thing, you can kind of get involved that way with Prodigal Son as well.
So you’re gonna do the Kickstarter campaign, when you meet your goal for that, what is the next step? What is the next goal that you’re gonna look to achieve with this material?
JESSE KOVE: Through the Kickstarter we wanna build a fan base as well, and we want them to engage directly with us and get the IP up there. But the next phase I think would be seeing what else it can turn into, like we were talking about a series, you know, the next phase of where Prodigal Son will go. It’s also like my dad’s love letter to the western, and the west. It’s something that obviously he loves and if we can do a series as well as the comic books, I think my dad could leave this planet knowing that he did that, that he did justice with this.
MARTIN KOVE: Kevin Costner does it. He turns every movie into a western. I did one with him and we were friends for a while, good friends, and I would like to do what he does, but I’d like to just do it once. [Laughs] I’m getting older so it’s kind of hard to do five westerns in a row, but to create a hero that I grew up with for the kids of today would satisfy me a great deal. And the IP, to own the story and have it in comic book form, which is such a world that I don’t know very much about. I’m learning a lot about it.
And this Kickstarter, I was amazed. I just saw it last night and I’m amazed that it brings in the support and the interest of so many people because it’s allowing you to become a member of the production team. You can buy a T-shirt, have dinner with me, have dinner with Jesse, get your own covers, various different covers. The collectors know about this. I’m a little naive to all the angles, but to get people to be part of this project through something called Kickstarter, it’s something that we didn’t have when I started acting. It sounded like you were begging for money to make a movie, and that’s not the purpose of it, because we already have big-time interest in doing this as a series. It’s so hard to get a movie made that goes to the theaters that it would be a collaboration with a streamer and studio, which is what we’re lining up.
JESSE KOVE: And on top of that, the four issues that we have will be combined into a graphic novel and then turned into a series. You know, it’ll be our own 300.
Image via Thunder Comics
What are you able to tease about the status of the series and your goals for it?
JESSE KOVE: Well, to tease, we can happily say there’s real interest in turning this into a series. We’re not just blowing smoke here. There’s some real interest. Obviously what’s happening now in the industry, we can’t really go forward at the moment, but there’s a lot of interest and we’re really excited about that. And using the comics as a template is also really cool and easy, gives a great visual for people to see what it can be. And then obviously having the fan base tied into it, it’s just kind of this great package that people are already enjoying. We’re not even off to the races yet and it’s got all this interest and excitement behind it.
MARTIN KOVE: You see, the partners, they’re terrific. We have partners in Chris [Lemole] and Tim [Zajaros], and Don. Don Handfield has done several comic books, and he’s a writer. I wrote with him these four scripts always with the intention to make them like movies, like a series where you have the opportunity to make things more sophisticated because a comic book is a kind of one-dimensional deal, and if you’ve got good artwork, you get a little taste of what you would do with it as a visual, what you would do with it as a series. But the material, the written word has got to be as sophisticated as a movie script. And that’s always been my intention. You can go only so far with the comic book and the literature in the comic book. It’s always very basic, but ours is more intelligent.
Ours is more than just basic Batman and all the other heroes. It’s more intelligent and sophisticated, so it’s easy to lend itself into a series. Because in a movie, you could only see a character for two hours and figure out what he was about, and [perhaps] he was labeled a villain. But in a series, you see all the colors that this character has because it’s 10 hours, several seasons. You get a chance to see the maturation of characters when you see a series and that’s what’s so attractive about this. We can take it from a comic book into a really, really good efficient story about these characters, these people, and it’s not been done before.
It’s only been done with special effects and Marvel heroes. It’s not been done in a genre that from 1921 to 1967, one of every three movies coming out of Hollywood was a western. So it is an overexposed genre, so how to become really innovative and not repetitive to stories we’ve seen with Clint Eastwood and John Wayne and Gregory Peck and all that. It’s a challenge, and I think we’ve done it. That’s my intention, to make it important enough so someone’s not gonna say, “Oh, it’s just another John Wayne movie. Oh, it’s just another shoot ‘em up.” I want to take it further because kids are so hip these days you have to really be strong with your material.
What I experienced as a guy who knows all about every western, and that’s what we watch, the amount of input that the writer had, the screenwriter, was far more effective than what I was creating as the broad strokes, as a 12-year-old with a monster of a 60-year-old. And Don was able to drop the little touches, drop those little gloves through the characters, and infiltrate the woman. I didn’t have a woman in my original plan. It’s brilliant what he’s done because he’s a writer because he can read between the lines.
It’s like an actor doing your homework. You do your homework by doing backstories and going between the lines in a script and creating your character in a more interesting fashion. That’s what working with a writer was like in a genre that I thought nobody knows more about it than me, you know? And I learned this cat applied the basics of screenplay writing to these characters that I thought were well-rounded already. And that’s why this will make a difference compared to your average illustrated comic book.
I’ll end with two more questions for you guys. First, is the plan for you two to star in the series when that comes to fruition?
MARTIN KOVE: Unquestionably.
JESS KOVE: Yeah.
I was hoping that would be the answer to that question.
Image via Thunder Comics
A bigger question for you, Marty, to close this out. You are a western expert. You’ve seen everything. It’s your favorite genre. Tell me one particular thing about Prodigal Son that you’ve never seen in any other western out there that’s gonna set this apart from everything else that exists in the genre.
MARTIN KOVE: There’s an ultimate bonding. John Wayne bonds with Montgomery Clift, and you know, John Wayne’s stuck in his ways and Montgomery Clift is an adopted son. You’ve seen the bonding in a form that’s not as sophisticated as it needs to be in today’s times with the kids that can watch a movie for 20 minutes and they know what’s gonna happen by the end. The audience is so sophisticated now in the genre that was deemed very difficult to make movies for because everybody had seen all of them, and they were quite repetitive. They weren’t new. The stories weren’t new.
So now you’ve got an in-depth study of a 60-year-old monster, a gunfighter who led himself down the path of evil for the wrong reasons, and you’ve got a 12-year-old naive child who just wants revenge and has to learn that it’s not really fruitful. And how you do that so that kids would adhere to that – because we don’t have any heroes for these kids today, and we’ve got to make sure they understand through our comic book and our TV series that it’s admirable to have this moral fiber of a tough guy, but it’s just as admirable to cry when you have to cry.
I always use the adage “cry at supermarket openings.” It’s really okay to do both and that’s what I’m struggling for, is to bring that out so kids get that moral fiber and exchange it with a man who you think is set in his ways but have nothing to do with children and causes and feelings. From the beginning, he’s out there trying to kill Jesse. From the beginning, they’re both out there, and the maturation process changes that, so that’s what I’m shooting for.
JESSE KOVE: I also think it’s really cool for people to see, which I don’t think has been done, I don’t remember if it has, and correct me if I’m wrong, but in the series, my dad and I would go directly head to head against each other. So I think that’s a very cool angle for people to see.
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