In the corner of the basketball gym at Stony Brook University on Long Island, there’s a man sorting through a pile of cardboard boxes. He’s trim and muscular, and the sinew of his forearms quivers when he rips open one box, then another, and begins fanning out piles of comics and hardcover graphic novels on a folding table. He’s almost lost amid the flurry of activity about him. It is, after all, Saturday at I-Con, the busiest day of a sci-fi convention that takes over the campus for one weekend every spring. This is the 30th year of the convention, whose guests of honor are usually a mix of obscure authors, artists and actors like Denise Crosby, who played Tasha Yar for a season in Star Trek: The Next Generation. For a man like Thomas Jane, setting up a table to sell comic books seems like an odd way to spend the weekend.
The star of 61*, The Punisher, The Mist and HBO’s Hung is dressed in blue jeans, a T-shirt and a pair of boots that don’t match — one’s brown and one’s green. When he turns around, he adjusts his cap. There’s Korean lettering on it that translates to “Bad Man.” He spreads his arms out wide, cocks his head back and addresses the small crowd gathering at his table.
“What’s up, weirdos?” he shouts.
Blunt and uncharismatic wouldn’t seem like an ideal way for a Hollywood celebrity to win over a crowd of storm troopers and sorcerers, but it’s apparent that “weirdos” is a term of endearment, and he counts himself among them.
He isn’t there to plug the third season of Hung, anyway. He’s headlining the booth for RAW Entertainment, a comic book and independent film studio he cofounded with renowned artist Tim Bradstreet. Jane co-wrote the comics on his table, and the jewel of the collection is Bad Planet, a sci-fi epic about an intergalactic community deciding that Earth, with its constant bickering and warring, isn’t fit to join its ranks. Earth is labeled a “Bad Planet” and its apocalypse is scheduled.
Jane dropped out of high school to pursue acting at 17. While scraping by in bit parts, he harbored a love of offbeat sci-fi and film noir that he developed as a kid. He loved comics, too, just not the traditional superhero kind. “The guys in tights having a big soap opera with each other? I just didn’t get that,” he says. And that’s why he turned down the title role in 2004’s The Punisher — twice — before finally accepting it.
“He had only seen the Spandex-white boots version of the character, and he couldn’t see himself as that,” says Bradstreet, who, along with writer Garth Ennis, helped update the character for Marvel’s gritty, realistic line of MAX comics. “Then they showed him the work that I did. He said, ‘I want to be that guy.’”
The two men got better acquainted while Bradstreet was working on concept art during pre-production for the film. After a day of promotional work, Jane shared his vision for Bad Planet; Bradstreet was hooked and RAW was essentially formed that night.