Freddy vs. Jason had taken a total of sixteen years to make it to the big screen and in that time the Friday the 13th franchise had undergone a radical transformation. Following a change of ownership from Paramount to New Line Cinema, two further sequels were produced that failed to revive interest in the series, whilst executives struggled to find a way to bring together two of horror’s most iconic stars: Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees. Freddy vs. Jason finally saw the light of day in the summer of 2003 and would eventually earn over $80m at the US box office, prompting the studio to take great interest in producing a sequel. The movie had been developed as the start of a new franchise and not as Friday the 13th Part XI of A Nightmare on Elm Street 8, so New Line felt confident that Freddy vs. Jason 2 was a possibility. Various rumours began to circulate on the internet but fans soon grew concerned when it seemed that, despite Jason’s triumphant return, the series had once again ground to a halt.
The man who would be most responsible for attempting to resurrect Jason was Keff Katz, a young executive at New Line who had fallen in love with slasher movies at a young age and had begun corresponding with New Line’s head Robert Shaye whilst still in high school. Shaye had grown up in the same Detroit suburb as Katz, who felt inspired that both Shaye and filmmaker Sam Raimi, who also lived in his neighbourhood, had become such prominent figures in Hollywood. Eventually dropping out of college, Katz relocated to Los Angeles and convinced Shaye to bring him onboard as an intern. Having followed the troubled development of Freddy vs. Jason for many years, Katz was determined to be a part of the project and soon worked his way up to an executive. Despite the less-than-impressive performance of Jason X, which was released just months before filming commenced, hopes were high for Freddy vs. Jason and the movie successfully out-grossed every single Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street film to date.
Katz had already begun to develop ideas for a sequel, something that he had been toying with since his time as an intern, and once the box office figures began rolling in he felt that the studio would be open to suggestions. With their blessing, Katz began work on a treatment which would introduce another iconic character, Ash Williams. Having first appeared in Sam Raimi’s notorious debut The Evil Dead (which had fallen foul of the ‘video nasty’ scandal in the UK during the 1980s), Ash was an incompetent-yet-likeable coward that was forced to stand up to the possessed and the living dead – referred to as ‘Deadites’ – as his friends are slowly transformed one-by-one into demonic ghouls. The role would turn Bruce Campbell into a cult star and would lead to two sequels; 1987’s critically acclaim Evil Dead II and 1992’s Army of Darkness, which relocated the story to medieval times. Katz would title his treatment Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash and submitted his concept to an enthusiastic studio.
Despite New Line’s best efforts, the project was doomed from the very beginning, with the various copyright issues and other studio politics constantly stalling pre-production. It had been over a decade since the release of Army of Darkness and the Evil Dead franchise had remained dormant, despite rumours of either a fourth movie or a remake constantly circulating. Whilst Katz had several allies at New Line the movie failed to become a reality and soon the studio had instead focused on re-launching their Friday the 13th as a collaboration with Michael Bay’s production company Platinum Dunes. This would not stop the fans, however, who would repeatedly voice their disappointment on forums and websites around the internet, proving that if anything there was an audience for the concept. Just as Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash seemed like it was dead once and for all, Katz would find a supporter within New Line who would help transfer the story to a new medium.
David Imhoff was promoted to Executive Vice President of Worldwide Licensing and Merchandising in early 2002 after his successful merchandising campaign with The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring the previous year. It would be Imhoff who would play a significant role in giving Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash a new lease of life and would allow the project to make its way to Dynamite and WildStorm, two of Americas biggest publishers of comics and graphic novels. Initially, it was Katz who was to adapt his treatment into a script for a series of comics but he soon became preoccupied with writing Booster Gold for DC Comics and so Dynamite recruited James Kuhoric, whose résumé had included the hugely successful Army of Darkness series. Whilst Kuhoric worked on the writing (with the assistance of Katz), WildStorm drafted in one of their artists, Jason Craig, who had commenced work on A Nightmare on Elm Street after completing work on Se7en: Pride for Zenescope. The two would be joined by Thomas Mason, who had worked as Craig’s colourist on the Se7en comic.
The project would receive the support of several key figures from the respective franchises, most notably Sean S. Cunningham, who had directed the original Friday the 13th and had worked as a producer on the New Line sequels, as well as Freddy vs. Jason. Katz had also sought the approval of Campbell, who had also originated from Detroit and had been the only actor to portray the role of Ash (with the exception of a popular musical that was based on The Evil Dead). Another supporter of the project was Robert Tapert, whose career had also begun with The Evil Dead and had regularly collaborated with both Raimi and Campbell over the years on such projects as Crimewave, Darkman and The Quick and the Dead. All parties agreed that the tone of the comic should remain faithful to Ronny Yu’s Freddy vs. Jason, whilst also paying homage to what they considered the classic era of both the Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street franchises, although Craig would also use John Carl Buechler’s Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood as inspiration.
Although he had been the instigator of the project, Katz decided to leave New Line in May 2007 and relocate to 20th Century Fox, entrusting his most beloved of projects to Kuhoric and Craig. Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash made its debut in November 2007 and became an instant hit with fans of the characters. Before long, the publishers had decided to follow up their success with a sequel and immediately contacted the writers and artists. Katz had discussed possibilities of another crossover with Halloween producer Malek Akkad, but he soon became distracted with his obligations to Twentieth Century Fox’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine in Australia. In order to continue the story they would be forced to rewrite the final pages, as the original version had ended with Ash killing both Freddy and Jason, before embarking on his own new adventures. Having been stricken with pneumonia, Craig had struggled to complete the sixth issue of the original series and, after attending Fear Fest 2 in Dallas, was informed on his twelve-hour drive home that he would be required to change the last page, forcing Mason to complete the redraft in time for their Monday morning deadline.
Their sequel, Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash: The Nightmare Warriors, would feature several returning characters from the Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street franchises; including Dr. Neil Gordon (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors), Jacob Johnson (A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: A New Beginning), Tommy Jarvis (Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, A New Beginning and Jason Lives) and Tina Shepard (Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood). Although wanting to do an eight-twelve issue run, The Nightmare Warriors was released as a six-part miniseries between August and December 2009, once again to great acclaim, with Fangoria declaring it as ‘highly entertaining.’ Although the prospect of fans getting to see a Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash movie is very unlikely, the comic series and its sequel proved to be an entertaining substitute that met the expectations of the fans.