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Author found place in comics
Local writer’s ‘The Surrogates’ hits big screen
the surrogates 5 es
Robert Venditti shows the character that Ving Rhames will play in the upcoming movie version of his comic book series. - photo by Emily Saunders
Local comic book writer Robert Venditti said his interest in illustrated literature stemmed from a childhood desire to be an artist.

The 35-year-old Forsyth County resident said he bought how-to books and instruction manuals on drawing back in grade school, before it “became apparent that I was terrible at it.”

“No matter how much I tried, it was very obvious to me early on that I didn’t have it in me to be an artist,” Venditti said.

His aspirations of creating art soon shifted to penning stories.

“That’s why I got into comics,” he said. “It dawned on me that I could write a story that somebody else could draw ... it’s as close to my original kid dream of being an artist as I was going to get.”

Venditti’s career as a comic book author has been successful. A film based on his series “The Surrogates,” published by Top Shelf Productions, is slated for wide release in September.

The Touchstone Pictures production stars Bruce Willis in the role of a policeman investigating a series of murders. The science fiction film is set in a futuristic world of robotic human clones.

Venditti advised Hollywood screenwriters Michael Ferris and John Brancato during the process of adapting the comic book into a movie, which was filmed in Boston.

While writing science fiction has been the ticket to much of his success, Venditti said he’s “not a big sci-fi writer.”
“The idea I had was a sci-fi idea, so that’s what I went with,” he said.

The Hollywood, Fla., native earned a masters degree in creative writing at the University of Central Florida. His original plan was to publish prose fiction such as short stories.

But his interest shifted to comics in 2000 while working at a bookstore, where he read them with much interest.
Venditti’s curiosity led him to knock on the door of comic book publishers Top Shelf Productions, a Portland-based company with an office in Marietta.

“I volunteered to pack boxes in their mailroom, just as a way to meet people and help out how I could,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting them to publish my stuff or anything, but when I showed them a script I’d been working on, the publisher became interested.”

Top Shelf Publisher Chris Staros of Marietta said Venditti was “an aspiring writer and wanted to have somebody who knew the business to help him get in, so I was his gateway.”

Staros said Top Shelf didn’t typically publish science fiction at the time, but when he saw the “The Surrogates” rough draft in 2002 he “realized it was such a fantastic story, and didn’t want to let it get away from our company.”

Film industry representatives later saw similar promise in the story. Venditti said having his comic become a full-blown Hollywood film is “the biggest compliment.”

“Once you see the level of people involved and the fact that they want to devote all this time and energy to something you created yourself, it’s just amazing,” Venditti said. “I’m totally stoked about all this.”

Venditti said visiting the movie set in Boston was a positive experience. He got to meet Bruce Willis and other actors in the film, which is under the direction of Jonathan Mostow, who also directed “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.”

“I knew they were all fans of the story, so I just stayed out of their way,” Venditti said. “It’s my first book, so what am I going to do? Go in and demand they do things a certain way?”

Venditti said he is humbled by the experience and is happy with how far “The Surrogates” has come.

“My whole purpose in writing the book was just to get a publisher ... just to get something tangible I could hold in my hands,” he said. “It has gone way beyond anything I’d anticipated and I welcome all of it. I feel very, very fortunate.”

Venditti became a Forsyth County resident in 2006, when he relocated here with wife Shawna for her job.

He continues to pen comic books from his home office and works as a full-time staff member with Top Shelf Productions.

“Rob’s been such a great employee over the years,” Staros said, adding that Venditti is “a talented writer, who can take something complex and make it look simple and digestible.”

“That’s the testament of a true writing talent,” he added. “Somebody who can do something that works on a highbrow level and for the common person at the same time.”

E-mail Frank Reddy at