Blood on the Tracks: Keith Mason’s next move

It started out as a comic, and may now end up as an all-action cartoon heading to Netflix. Keith Mason tells us about the evolution of his Rugby Blood fictional hero, David King.

You can consider this article a sequel.

Last year, Keith Mason introduced us to his Rugby Blood vision.

Last time, the former St Helens and Huddersfield prop revealed to us his idea for a comic, revolving around lead hero David King and the great game of Rugby League.

Now, here’s the synopsis for the new edition, off the back of a successful launch, Mason is looking to expand his brand worldwide, and take Rugby League to places it has never been before.

“What we’re wanting to do now is produce a continuation from the graphic novel,” Mason explains.

That includes an anime series, two TV shows, an action series based on comic hero David King, and a documentary series with globally-recognised athletes that Mason hopes will be taken on by leading streaming services, as well as two further comics.

“We’re on the verge of the TV series, we’ve pitched a ten-minute pilot. I won’t say much but we’re talking Russian renegades, mysterious disappearances of David King’s family, and David King kicking arse. We’re thinking Netflix or Amazon hopefully.

“The sports doc would be based around mental health. I think people would tune in and watch it, to hear about the struggles and the adaptation to civilised life, I’ve been doing talks and seminars about the journey I’ve been on, I’ve had a really good response, but I want to interview sports stars about their experiences. Joe Calzaghe and John Hartson have agreed to be interviewed, we’re hoping to get some basketball or baseball stars too. I think it brings a totally different genre to Rugby League and it’s getting Rugby League out in different ways.

“As for the anime, I met with Robert Elstone, he liked the vision so he put me on with Lee Hicken, who is the creative guy behind Super League now. I sat down with Lee and he had exactly the same vision, something completely different. He said he could see it being on Netflix as an anime and that’s what it needs to be.”

Mason’s goal with all of his projects is to put Rugby League into new places. But he wants to open doors for the players too. Countless players, past and present, from Super League and the NRL, have already agreed to let their characters be portrayed in the upcoming comics and the anime which, as a result, would raise the exposure of the game’s athletes, too.

“The second edition of the comic will be based in New York, it will be a New York team versus a Worldwide XIII, that’s how we’ll get everyone involved who has signed up.”

“I think to have all these top players in would be fun and I don’t think there’s a graphic novel like that anywhere else. We’ll have people in the current game like Jermaine McGillvary but someone like Gorden Tallis too. For kids to see their favourite players, I think it will make them want to read it.”

For the former forward, this project allows him to give back to the sport he loves while developing and exploring new skills to set him up for the next stage of his life.

“Rugby League is in my blood and that’s why I want to do this for the game, to take it to new places. How cool would it be if we could get all these projects on Netflix, with all the current stars on there?

“The message from my story is to not give up. I had a wild childhood but still had a great career. When I finished, I struggled mentally but now I’ve rediscovered myself. With the documentary, I want to showcase other athletes with similar stories.

“It’s all really interesting for me to see someone completely messed up ride back up and win at life. The more people we see do that, the better.”

The success of his initial comic has paved the way for more projects, and it’s attracted reputable producers too.

“We spoke to Moz Dee, he was a director at TalkSport for many years, now he’s a producer. He is interested in doing the documentary.

“The anime, we’ve got someone in Japan who could do it for us. We’ve already got the story for that, it’s just getting the animation. I’m convinced that would be a sell and if we got it we’d ask people like Konrad Hurrell, all the players involved, if they would want to come and do voiceover work.

“And we’ve even got our own kits now. I was doing a talk at St Helens and O’Neills got in touch about producing the Rugby Blood shirts. So they’re out now. It was World Book Day recently and someone dressed up as David King, that was probably the most satsifying thing for me so far.

“There are things happening all the time, we’re hoping more people will get involved and we can produce all of these projects, then sell them as a package to a Netflix or Amazon.”

While Mason is continuing to build his brand off the field, he’s also got a project he’s working on, on the field.

His son, Lucas, is emerging as a star of the future, having caught the eye of numerous Super League clubs after impressive performances for Siddal.

“He’s part of the pilot but you can expect to see a lot more of him over the next decade I reckon.

“He’s a great player, he’s going to be better than me, that’s for certain!”

This feature was first published in Rugby League World, Issue 468, April 2020