David Dastmalchian grew up in Overland Park devouring superhero comic books and dreaming of being in the sort of fantasy, science-fiction and horror movies that enraptured him.
“Would I get to be an actor? I hoped and I prayed,” Dastmalchian said in a recent phone interview from the set of “MacGyver,” the hit reboot of the 1980s and ’90s action-adventure TV series, in which he portrays master assassin Murdoc. “Now, every time I walk onto a set of a movie or a TV show that I’m working on, I can’t believe that I get to be part of this world.”
Still, something else strikes the Shawnee Mission South High School grad as more surreal than being part of such celebrated comic book-inspired films as “The Dark Knight,” “Ant-Man,” and its sequel, “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” and such comic-related TV series as “The Flash” and “Gotham.”
“I just never imagined that I would walk into a comic book store and look on the shelf and see a comic that I created with my name on it,” Dastmalchian said. “And I have gotten to do that.”
In October, the four-issue monthly miniseries, “Count Crowley: Reluctant Midnight Monster Hunter,” made its debut in comic shops — thanks to key early support from “MacGyver” producer Peter Lenkov.
“I said, ‘Peter, I need your advice,’” Dastmalchian recalled. “‘I have this idea, and I think it would make a really neat show or something, but I’m not sure what to do with it.’ So I started telling him about Count Crowley, and he said, ‘David, I love this. I want to help you.’ And he ended up bringing it to the guys at Dark Horse Comics, and they said they loved the idea.”
With art by Lukas Ketner, Dastmalchian’s comic focuses on small-town TV news reporter Jerri Bartman, who’s relegated to replace her station’s suddenly missing “creature feature” B-movie horror host, Count Crowley. But she gets more to worry about than her drop-in broadcast status when formidable supernatural evils begin to rear their horrid heads.
In November, Dastmalchian visited Kansas City to meet with fans and autograph copies of “Count Crowley” at Clint’s Comics, whose former satellite store at the now demolished Metcalf South Shopping Center was where young David first immersed himself in the fellowship of comics.
“Comic shops are these wonderful places, where we can come together and we can develop friendships and feel safe,” he said. “And we can go and get lost in the worlds of incredible comic creators. That’s something I’ll always be grateful for.”
However, the ongoing era of blockbuster superhero movies based on comics source material has recently fielded strong criticism from such legendary filmmakers as Martin Scorsese (“Goodfellas,” “Casino,” “The Irishman”) and Francis Ford Coppola (“The Godfather,” “The Godfather Part II”). The gist of their complaint: Superhero movies don’t live up to the transformational power of cinema and are merely a visual thrill ride.
Their comments made Dastmalchian “really sad,” he said, “because I respect and I love their work so much, but at the same time I feel like they really missed the mark. Superhero movies are not just escapist, bubblegum, throwaway entertainment. They can be something really wonderful and relevant and important.”
Take 2008’s “The Dark Knight,” the second installment of director Christopher Nolan’s much-praised Batman film trilogy. The cast includes Dastmalchian in his first movie role, as one of the Joker’s henchmen.
“(‘The Dark Knight’) nailed every single element that you would love in great comic book movies,” Dastmalchian said. “And not just in great comic book movies, but in just great movies, great cinema. I truly believe that it is a film that changed the path of movies. I think that it is one of the greatest films made. And I’m so lucky that I got to be a part of it.”