Michael Alan Nelson, writer of many books published by Boom! Studios, takes a seat in The Outhouse and talks about his work and career with Royal Nonesuch!
Below the surface of the comics industry dominated by corporate-owned superhero comics and independent publishers with long track records lies Boom! Studios, an upstart comic book company that has shown an aptitude for publishing and promoting off-beat and genuinely entertaining material through individual and idiosyncratic voices. One of the most prolific of those voices is that of Michael Alan Nelson, who made his comics debut along with the company in 2005 with the publication of ZOMBIE TALES #1. Since then, Nelson has been one of the most reliable and visible writers in the Boom! stable. He is probably best known for writing Boom!'s 28 DAYS LATER series, which serves to fill in the gap between the two films in the franchise of the same name. Nelson spoke to The Outhouse about his career, his writing process, and why arson is no way to solve unemployment.
I wasnâ€™t quite sure what to expect when the 28 DAYS LATER series was announced and started coming out, but Iâ€™ve been pleasantly surprised.
Youâ€™re not the only person that was a bit reticient about 28 Days Later. Itâ€™s one of those thing that whenever youâ€™re dealing with a licensed comic, it could be either really really good or really really bad. Obviously that's true of any book, but when it comes to licenses, it really is hit or miss. So Iâ€™m glad that people are giving it a chance and enjoying it. For me itâ€™s an absolute pleasure to write, so Iâ€™m glad that fans are happy, and of course the guys that made the film are happy because there are things that have to be approved by them. I guess Iâ€™m doing something right! Otherwise, Iâ€™d have lots of angry people trying to break down my door!
How did the gig come about?
Boom! Had acquired the license, and Iâ€™ve always been a fan of the movie, so when I found out that they had acquired the license, I approached them and said â€śHey, I really want to write the series!â€ť Iâ€™d been writing a lot for Boom! and they like what I do, but they said, â€śSorry, but thereâ€™s a short list of writers theyâ€™re looking at, and youâ€™re just not on that list.â€ť So I always make the joke that I walked into the office with a bottle of kerosene and a book of matches saying â€śGive me the job!â€ť What I ended up doing was I went home and wrote a little six-page story about Selena, just because I wanted to show everyone what I could do with that character in that universe, and how I could go about telling the story. So I finished it and sent it to Boom! and said â€śHey, look, read this, send it along to the 28 Days Later guys, and let me know what they think.â€ť Everybody read it, they loved it, and said â€śYou know what? Weâ€™ll go ahead and give you the gig.â€ť
Once I got the job, I had to maintain a certain quality of stories. There was a bit early on where I was kind of struggling with story arc ideas, because obviously everyone could read what I had done for that sample, but they werenâ€™t quite sure about the longer form, like how could I maintain it. So some of my ideas, they thought â€śuhh, that doesnâ€™t quite work.â€ť So I had to go back and rework some of my story ideas, but in the end they were quite happy with what I came up with. So fortunately I didnâ€™t have to burn any offices down. Itâ€™s not the way Iâ€™d recommend getting a job! [laughs]
How did you decide that Selena would be your entry point, and that youâ€™d focus on that character?
The guys from the film had a rough outline saying that they wanted this series to be about Selena, and about her having to go back into London. So the idea of Selena being the main character wasnâ€™t mine. It was theirs. They basically wanted it to be about her. The film was really about Jim, so when they wanted a strong, compelling character, they wanted an opportunity to tell her story, and it was their idea to make her the focal point, and it was my job to say â€śOk, hereâ€™s Selena, letâ€™s get her to London.â€ť I wish I could take credit for that, but I canâ€™t.
And it was their idea to have the book bridge the two films?
Absolutely. In fact, the series is going to run twenty-four issues, and those twenty-four issues basically bridge the gap in between the two films. The final story arc basically takes place concurrently with the events of 28 Weeks Later.
I havenâ€™t even seen the second film yet.
Itâ€™s one of those things where I was going back and forth with how much of the second film do I incorporate into that final arc. The problem that I faced was determining how much information I give the reader, as opposed to how much I let the reader sort of intuit on their own and get from watching the second film. I realize there are a lot of people who have seen the first film who havenâ€™t seen the second, so there may be some things that I want to make sure isnâ€™t confusing. Itâ€™s a very difficult balancing act because I donâ€™t want to do a retelling of the second film, but the story still has to mirror the events that are happening in the second film. Itâ€™s kind of like Rosencratz and Guildenstern Are Dead, where youâ€™re seeing Hamlet in the background. In essence, youâ€™re seeing in the background whatâ€™s happening in 28 Weeks Later with Selena and the other characters involved. Thatâ€™s my goal, anyway. Thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m hoping it turns out to be.
You mentioned the series will run Twenty-four issues, and #19 has just come out, so have you finished writing the series?
I have the final script to write, then Iâ€™ll be done. Itâ€™s strange because Iâ€™m very excited to write it, but part of me doesnâ€™t want to, because I donâ€™t want it to end. Iâ€™m having too much fun with it! So Iâ€™m like â€śIâ€™ll write a couple of pages today, then Iâ€™ll come back later and write a little bit more." Itâ€™s like having that box of candy or chocolates and itâ€™s really really good, and you only have a few pieces left, so youâ€™re like â€śIâ€™ll just have a little nibble here or a little nibble there.â€ť Or if youâ€™re a smoker, and you only have twos cigarettes left and you want to stretch that out as long as you can.
Are you reflective at all about the series or the things youâ€™ve done with it, or are you going to wait until itâ€™s finished before you get nostalgic?
I have been a little nostalgic. I think this goes for any writer, you always go back and reread what youâ€™ve written and you think â€śI wish I had done this a little differently, or said that a little differently, or done this or done that.â€ť Youâ€™re always second guessing yourself. Unfortunately, thatâ€™s just part of the job. The nostalgia hasnâ€™t really hit because I still have that final issue yet to write. And not only that, but once the script is written, thereâ€™s still the excitement of getting the art and the issue is coming out. #19 just came out, so there are going to be five more issues, so that nostalgia hasnâ€™t quite hit yet. When the final issue comes out, thatâ€™s when itâ€™ll sink in. Itâ€™ll be a happy yet sad moment at the same time.
Youâ€™ve worked with a few different artists on 28 DAYS LATER. Has it been difficult to have someone new come in every few issues?
It doesnâ€™t bother me. Everyoneâ€™s style is different, but everyone is equally talented and they bring their unique vision to the table. The way I look at it is, if Iâ€™ve done my job, and Iâ€™ve written the best script that I can, that will make it easy for everyone else to do their job. The artist can draw it their way and make it look the way they want to. I donâ€™t have any control over that. The only thing I do have control over is writing the best story I can and making the scripts understandable and sensible so the artist can know â€śthis is what Iâ€™m trying to do, trying to get across.â€ť When I write Iâ€™m very specific of what I want to see because I have in my mindâ€™s eye what I want it to look like for storytelling purposes, but I try do it in a way that the artist understands why Iâ€™m doing it. So when I say that I want a panel to be from a specific angle, or we see this but donâ€™t see that, I explain why that is, that thereâ€™s a storytelling purpose for it, so the artist can see that Iâ€™m not doing it to be controlling or overbearing, but that thereâ€™s a reason behind it and also they understand what the reason is. They look at it and say "I can see why that is, but thereâ€™s a better way to do it." Iâ€™m not an artist. The artists are the ones who have the visual acuity to look at something and say â€śOk, thatâ€™s where youâ€™re going.â€ť The artwork may be different from what came before, but thatâ€™s fine as long as itâ€™s good and it tells the story well, Iâ€™m happy. And Iâ€™ve been happy since the first issue.
Are you ever surprised by something an artist does in an issue?
Occasionally. There have been timesâ€¦anytime Iâ€™m surprised, itâ€™s a pleasant surprise. It hasnâ€™t been like â€śOh my gosh! I canâ€™t believe they drew that!â€ť There was a time earlier on, I donâ€™t want to spoil anything for readers who havenâ€™t read this far into the series, but thereâ€™s a moment when one of the characters dies. This was back when Declan Shalvey was drawing the series, and I have been fortunate to meet Declan on several occassions, and we were sitting down and talking about that scene, and he said "You know, weâ€™ve never actually seen a character become Infected," and he had a very specific vision of what he would like to draw when it came to that. So we spent a couple of hours talking about that one scene, so when I wrote that scene, I said â€śthis is that scene, do your thing,â€ť That was a complete surprise because although he had told me basically what he was going for, I couldnâ€™t picture it in my mind, so I was pleasantly surprised when I actually saw those pages. So there are moments when I am surprised, but it always has been in a good way.
I feel like writing visually is something so I hard that I have a hard time wrapping my head around it. It's always been difficult for me.
Itâ€™s tough because everything is subjective. Itâ€™s impossible to truly get whatâ€™s going on inside your head into somebody elseâ€™s head. We have true language, and with visual mediums we can get a close approximation of what it is we are seeing in our own head, but we canâ€™t do some kind of Vulcan mind meld. We do the best we can to get the idea thatâ€™s going on in our mind into somebody elseâ€™s mind. Itâ€™s tough. One of my friends, John Rogers, an amazing writer, he writes a lot of television and film and heâ€™s actually doing the new D&D comic, he says that comic book writing is the most difficult kind of writing there is, because youâ€™re acting like the scriptwriter, the director, the videographer, youâ€™re doing all this stuff. Itâ€™s very difficult to tell a story visually. When youâ€™re adding a visual element to a story, it becomes very difficult because with comics and with television and film, youâ€™re talking about a collaborative storytelling effort. Itâ€™s not like sitting there and writing a novel. Not that Iâ€™m saying writing novels isnâ€™t difficult. Iâ€™ve written one and it was very difficult, but you have more freedom when youâ€™re writing prose [because] youâ€™re controlling everything the reader sees. Obviously, thereâ€™s an editorial process, but you can spend five pages on a guy walking through a door, and you can make that interesting, but when it comes to visual storytelling, Iâ€™m not going to say you canâ€™t do it, but it becomes extremely difficult. How are you going to spend five minutes on a guy walking through a door? It can get kind of boring visually. It is tough. If it were easy, everybody would do it.
How did you start writing comics?
Iâ€™ve been writing pretty much all of my life. I went to college, got a degree in English education. When I was in college, I spent a lot of time writing prose. Everyone who was an English major had this epic fantasy novel they were working on. So what happened was I came out to Los Angeles, and I met a couple of very talented writers, and I asked for help on writing my fantasy novel, and a very talented writer by the name of Johanna Stokes read it and said I sounded I like I was trying to sound like every fantasy writer Iâ€™ve ever read instead of trying to find my own voice and my own style. So she suggested that I write something completely different, in a completely different tone, something that was truly me and to find my voice. So what ended up happening was I wound up writing a novel called Dingo. And I published it online for free because I wanted people to read what I was able to do. Fortunately, Ross Ritchie, when he was starting Boom! read it, loved it, and said â€śHey, Iâ€™m starting this comic book company, have you ever thought of writing comics?â€ť I said â€śno, but Iâ€™d love the opportunity.â€ť
So I wrote a little Zombie Tales story, and heâ€™s asked me to write for him ever since.
I was about to ask about why you chose to distribute the Dingo novel online.
Itâ€™s interestingâ€¦I had written a novel, which in and of itself is an incredible feeling. Itâ€™s really one of the gorgeous moments of my life to be able to sit at my computer and after all that work to be able to type the words THE END. It sounds kind of cheesy, but it is an incredible feeling to finish your first novel. It wasnâ€™t terribly long, but the work and the effortâ€¦it was surprising because there are so many people who spend their entire lives [saying] â€śIâ€™m going to write a book, Iâ€™m going to write a book, Iâ€™m going to write a bookâ€ť and of course theyâ€™ll write a chapter here or a chapter there and it never comes to fruition because life gets in the way. So for several months I was able to sit down and write it. That being said, the nature of the book is a bitâ€¦itâ€™s hard to classify. Itâ€™s kind of a pulpy urban fantasy, it starts as one kind of a story and then morphs into another. So I was having difficulty finding markets where I could get it published. Not to mention Iâ€™m also incredibly impatient. I just wanted people to read it. I didnâ€™t know if it was any good. Well, I thought it was good, and of course my writing friends said that it was good, but theyâ€™re my friends! I know them now well enough that if something I write is bad, theyâ€™ll say itâ€™s bad because itâ€™s about making me better and making my stories better, but at the time I was a little unsure if it was really good or not. So I thought â€ślet me put it online, Iâ€™ll post a chapter a week, and Iâ€™ll try to develop a readership and see what happens.â€ť Fortunately, the right people read it.
The first thing you wrote for Boom! was ZOMBIE TALES. Did you go from there to the Cthulhu books?
There were a couple â€śTalesâ€ť books. I wrote ZOMBIE TALES, and I wrote a short series called SECOND WAVE, and I wrote a book called EXILE, which I co-wrote with Andrew Crosby along with ENIGMA CIPHER, and then around that time is when the Cthulhu books started coming out. I think the ZOMBIE TALES books were doing so well, and we really liked the format, and we thought â€śhey, why donâ€™t we do this with Cthulhu?â€ť So thatâ€™s when the CTHULHU TALES books came out.
You spun HEXED out of the Cthulhu books.
We had been doing CTHULHU TALES, and that was a really successful book for us, so we said what if we did an ongoing Cthulhu story, and they approached me and asked me "if you had an ongoing Cthulhu series, what would you tell?" I told them my ideas, and they helped me shape it, and we ended up coming up with FALL OF CTHULHU, which is my first really big hit. During that series, I created the character Lucifer, and also The Harlot. We loved those characters so much, we thought "what if we took these characters out of that Lovecraftian universe and put them in my own." The majority of FALL OF CTHULHU is mine, but because Iâ€™m playing in someone elseâ€™s sandbox, it will always have that Lovecraftian tone to it. Feeling kind of selfish I guess, I wanted those characters to be mine and mine alone, so we thought â€śletâ€™s give them their own little offshoot story, and itâ€™s my universe, of my making, and have fun with it.â€ť So thatâ€™s how HEXED came about.
Will there be any more HEXED stories coming out in the future?
I really hope so. Itâ€™s one of those things that unfortunately, the numbers just donâ€™t support us bringing it back right now. Everyone thatâ€™s read it loved it, the problem is that not enough people have read it. Iâ€™m hoping that with the softcover coming out soon, it will get enough people interested in it and reading it, to warrant bringing it back. I have tons of stories. Iâ€™m not even close to finishing all the stories of Lucifer and the Harlot. Itâ€™s one of those things where Iâ€™m really happy with the universe I created for it, and I would love nothing more. Iâ€™m hoping that we can get the readership up enough to warrant bringing it back.
I could do my part and get the word out.
[laughs] Iâ€™d really appreciate it. Thank you!
I havenâ€™t read Dingo the novel, but is that related to the comic book?
Absolutely. In essence, itâ€™s the same story. A little over a year ago, Ross said â€śHey, why donâ€™t we go ahead and adapt your novel into a comic.â€ť I had been writing comics for a while, and I was developing a name as a comic book writer. We thought it was such a fun idea and such a good story, so we thought weâ€™d do it as a comic. It was interesting basically adapting a novel to a four-issue series. And Iâ€™ll be honest with you, as much as I love the novel, I really think the comic book is an even more fun read. The way that it all came together was really perfect. But yeah, itâ€™s the same exact story.
What kind of writing process do you have? When you get that germ of an idea, whatâ€™s the next step from there? How does it all work?
Usually what happens is Iâ€™ll get an idea, and Iâ€™ll jot down notes every now and then. Iâ€™ll be walking through the grocery store and something will come into my head, or Iâ€™ll be in the shower and Iâ€™ll think of a scene or something like that, and Iâ€™ll be jotting down snippets of dialogue or plot ideas or character designs, things like that. From there, Iâ€™ll go ahead and Iâ€™ll just write a scene. Even if itâ€™s not the opening scene of the story. If itâ€™s an important scene, Iâ€™ll write it down, or write down part of it, and I'll say "ok, that scene belongs here in the story." And Iâ€™ll build a frame around it.
Also, it varies from project to project. Sometimes thre are project Iâ€™m writing where Iâ€™m taking someone elseâ€™s story idea and fleshing it out and building a series out from that. Thatâ€™s a little different because usually I have a rough outline or an idea of a story. Every now and then Iâ€™ll have a plot breakdown, or the idea of â€śok, this is the character, and this is the world he or she lives in.â€ť On something like DINGO or HEXED, where I donâ€™t have anyone elseâ€™s framework to work from and itâ€™s all my own, Iâ€™ll basically think of some of the most bizarre, crazy ideas I can, and try to figure out a compelling reason to get to that point of the story. Once I have the story idea, most of the time Iâ€™ll get one of those Moleskin notebooks. Itâ€™s interesting because the one I have, each page has 22 lines, one for every comic book page. So what Iâ€™ll do is Iâ€™ll open up that notebook, and on the left Iâ€™ll have notes, and on the right Iâ€ťll number the lines 1-22, and Iâ€™ll have a one-line synopsis of what happens on each page, so I can break down the story scene by scene, so Iâ€™ll know I need three pages for this scene, five pages for this sceen, two pages of that scene. So Iâ€™ll shoot the story that way, so Iâ€™ll have a rough outline, and I can go from there. I can sit down and write the script.
Itâ€™s interesting how many writers have some kind of tangible object that really informs the actual writing of what theyâ€™re doing.
Obviously, every writerâ€™s process is different. I really wish my handwriting was better, and I was faster at it, or Iâ€™d do everything longhand because thereâ€™s something I like about putting pencil to paper and filling in the lines of a notebook. The problem is my handwriting is horrible. Itâ€™s barely legible. There are times when I canâ€™t read it. There are also times when the ideas are coming so fast that I canâ€™t write fast enough, and Iâ€™m terrifired of losting those ideas. It happens to me all the time. Iâ€™ll be sitting down and a great idea will pop into my head, and Iâ€™ll go scrambling for a piece of paper or a pen or something like that, and I canâ€™t find one, and by the time I do find one, the idea is gone. There have been times when Iâ€™m writing the idea down, and it keeps coming faster and faster, and by the time I finish writing, and I get ready to write that next idea, that idea is gone. Unfortunately Iâ€™m just not fast enough or legible enough to do it by hand, because there are parts that I really enjoy, so I have to do things by typing into a computer because itâ€™s the only way to get it out of my head fast enough before I lose it.
You seem to write characters that are in over their head, or in situations that are outside of their control. What kinds of characters do you find yourself drawn to? Do you notice any kinds of common trends that pop up in your protagonists or antagonists?
Absolutely! Iâ€™m notorious for being very mean to my protagonists. I usually put them through hell. A friend of mine whose read all my stuff, about a year ago he said â€śyou know, your protagonists always seem to be punished for doing the right things,â€ť which is something Iâ€™ve never really looked at before, or really noticed. I donâ€™t know what that says about me! [laughs] But I do like protagonists that get the crap kicked out of them. For me, when they finally do overcome those odds, it really makes it that much more epic, majestic. It makes their victories even sweeter. Sometimes, they donâ€™t win, and thatâ€™s ok, because I think that gives the reader a genuine sense of concern for the characters. In 28 Days Later, we start the series with a cast of seven or eight people, and weâ€™re now down to two! Itâ€™s because everyone is vulnerable. Everyone is in danger, I think what that does is, as a reader, itâ€™s difficult to read something, and no matter how hairy the situation is, you know that the character is going to make it out ok, that it doesnâ€™t really matter. That there are no stakes. I like to make things difficult for characters because I want the stakes to be high, If they do survive, and they are victorious, it makes the story, I think, even more enjoyable. But as far as what it might say about me as a person, I have no idea. I probably donâ€™t even want to know! [laughs]
When it comes to characters, I just try to think of their personalities and what kind of personalities would populate the world that theyâ€™re in. When it comes to villains, I like villains that are intelligent, ruthless, but have a reason for being that way, and who donâ€™t see themselves in the wrong. To bring it back to 28 DAYS LATER again, we have Captain Salâ€™s character, whoâ€™s hunting down Selena. Well, he has his own reasons for doing that. He does not believe that he is wrong. No antagonist looks at themselves as evil. I think that makes them moreâ€¦it makes for a full, more rounded story when you donâ€™t have antagonists who are mustache-twirling, two-dimensional cutouts.
Youâ€™re American, but you write British characters more authentically than a lot of American writers do.
Iâ€™ve been fortunate enough that my editor on the project, Ian Brill, I believe his father is British, so heâ€™s been really good at looking at things that Iâ€™d write and heâ€™d say â€śno one in England would actually say that,â€ť or â€śthat word doesnâ€™t mean what you think it means.â€ť So itâ€™s nice to have that insider perspective. Thatâ€™s something that Iâ€™ve been very conscious of. The last think I want to do is upset my British readers becauseâ€¦well, I donâ€™t want to offend anyone, but I also want it to be authentic. I donâ€™t know anyone from England, so itâ€™s hard to come up with those colloquialisms and mannerisms that are unique to their culture, so Iâ€™ve got to do a lot of research online. Iâ€™ve got a lot of websites bookmarked on British slang, and Iâ€™ve had to do a lot of research on British history like famous sports figures. Thereâ€™s a moment in I think issue #19 where Selena makes a comment about somebodyâ€¦I think the name is Pierce, who is apparently this bruiser soccer player, or football player, as theyâ€™d say. I knew that I had the idea that thatâ€™s what I wanted to say, but I didnâ€™t know who she would say that about. And I canâ€™t write in a way that it would be knowledgeable to American audiences because sheâ€™s not an American. And whatâ€™s nice about it too is it fits into who she is as a character in that she looks at Americans with distrust, so in order to keep that authentic, I need to really bring in those British mannerisms. So I have to do a lot of research, and I have Ian there to back me up and help me out, and especially when Declan was on the series, heâ€™s Irish, he lives in Ireland, so heâ€™s obviously familiar with the UK and the local mannerisms and colloquialisms, so he was able to help me out a lot too. To be honest with you, Iâ€™ve been very lucky in that aspect. Itâ€™s not because Iâ€™m very familiar with it, I just try to do as much research as I can, and Iâ€™m fortunate enough to have people behind me, and putting up with my mistakes before the public gets to read it.
You mentioned that you moved to LA from somewhere else. I always like to ask writers, especially transplanted writers, what effect their environment has on their writing, if any.
It has a huge impact. I grew up in Indiana, the middle of nowhere. My high school was literally in the middle of a cornfield. So I grew up in a very rural area. However, I also lived an hour or so outside of downtown Chicago, so I was in this weird little farmland with quick access to the city. That being said, because it was the middle of nowhere, I wasnâ€™t surrounded by a lot of people, by a lot of buildings. So when I came out to LA, it was a bit of a culture shock. LA is a unique city. Every city is unique, but LA has its own personality, a very colorful personality. It took a while getting used to that when I first moved out here. I lived with my brother in downtown Hollywood, so I got to see a lot of strange things. I remember getting up for work in the morning, 5, 5:30 in the morning, and there are cops basically arresting the tranny hookers on my corner. So from growing up on a farmland to seeing that, itâ€™s a bit of a culture shock, but it also gives you a chance to see the world, and how many different types of people are out there. Different cultures, different perspectives, and thatâ€™s been a very positive thing.
Iâ€™ve also been fortunate enough to fall in with a group of very talented creators out here, and I think thatâ€™s a big thing when it comes to my writing. Not only having your environment influence you, but also your social environment. Iâ€™m in a very creative social environment. All my friends are writers or filmmakers and that sort of thing. Itâ€™s always nice to be able to have those kinds of conversations. There are a group of friends of mine who are all writers and weâ€™ll have contact once a month and weâ€™ll say â€śhey, Iâ€™m working on this, and this is a problem Iâ€™m having, how do I solve it?â€ť And itâ€™s good to have those people that you can be honest with, to bounce ideas off of, and will give you honest answers, and are not trying to prop your ego, they genuinely want to help you tell a better story. And itâ€™s also the idea of â€śhey, thatâ€™s a great idea, can I use that?â€ť Well of course you can, itâ€™s not like â€śOh, I want credit for that!â€ť None of that. Itâ€™s all about helping each other improve your craft and be a better storyteller. Physical environment is one thing, you always have people who write about the areas that they live in, or grew up in. Stephen King is always writing about places in Maine. But your social environment in also a huge factor as well. I remember in college there are writing groups, and itâ€™s this thing where youâ€™re trying to be in a creative environment, everyoneâ€™s trying to improve themselves, and a lot of times thatâ€™s just people trying to be mean to each other or trying to puff themselves up. So itâ€™s fun to have that right creative social group that helps you get better, and you can help them as well. I think environment absolutely helps influence writers.
It helps you grow, it helps you learn. No offense to my professors in college, but I've learned more about storytelling and the craft of creative writing out here in LA just talking and interacting with my social group than I have in all my time in college. Being around the right people makes you better, and when youâ€™re better, you can help others get better. Itâ€™s just finding that right group.
Your next project is INSURRECTION V3.6, which youâ€™re cowriting.
Itâ€™s a story Iâ€™m writing with Blake Masters who created the HBO show Brotherhood, I believe heâ€™s also directing Law & Order: LA. Heâ€™s a very crafty guy, talented guy. He had this idea for a story of an uprising, an insurrection, but we have these androids that were created for menial tasks, mining, servants, basically the creation of a slave race that becomes sentient and self-aware. Itâ€™s the story of how they start this uprising, and how theyâ€™re looking for their own autonomy, to be masters of their own destiny. Itâ€™s the idea of the machines rising up, but the machines have their own personalities. Theyâ€™re individuals, theyâ€™re aware of themselves. Itâ€™s an interesting character study on what is humanity. At what point does a machine become a person, what is the definition of personhood? Not to mention thereâ€™s a lot of action and things blowing up. Itâ€™s a well-rounded story, and a lot of fun, and Blake has been incredible, heâ€™s just a really brilliant guy, with great ideas. Itâ€™s nice to be able to write a scene and have him look at it, and say â€śI see what youâ€™re trying to do, but letâ€™s try it this way.â€ť Heâ€™s also great at turning a phrase in just the right way. When it comes to comics, you need that economy of phrasing. Heâ€™s really able to take an idea and distill it down to the most economical way of getting it across. So itâ€™s been a real pleasure working with him and a learning experience.
When youâ€™re co-writing, how does that work? Do you pass drafts back and forth, or are you in the same room together?
Usually what happens is we have a rough outline, and I'll go ahead and write the scripts, and heâ€™ll take a look at the scripts, and heâ€™ll give me notes, and Iâ€™ll look at it and clean it up. Heâ€™s not familiar with the comics medium, so heâ€™s not as aware of what he can and canâ€™t do in the medium. So thatâ€™s basically my what my job is. Itâ€™s to basically to look at a scene and say â€śok, we canâ€™t have fifteen panels on a page, so we have to do it this way.â€ť Itâ€™s an interesting collaboration. Itâ€™s his story, and Iâ€™m helping him tell that story in this medium.
Where does the V3.6 in the title come from?
It comes from the idea that this has happened before. This is not the first time this insurrection has happened. Also, itâ€™s a play on the numeric bar code.
When does it come out?
I want to say the first issue drops in March. I donâ€™t know...to be perfectly honest with you, I donâ€™t pay much attention to the publishing schedule [laughs]. As far as I know, it should be coming out really, really soon. Either March or April. Iâ€™ve seen some of the artwork, and itâ€™s so good! It looks really good!
Who is the artist again?
That I cannot tell you [laughs]. I know, Iâ€™m horrible. But I was just in the Boom! Offices recently and one of the editors on the project was showing me the artwork, and itâ€™s gorgeous, itâ€™s just gorgeous. Itâ€™s gonna be a fun book, it really is. [Note: The artist is Michael Penick]
On your blog, it says youâ€™re also a musician. What do you play?
I play guitar. Iâ€™ve been playing guitar for twenty-five years now. Iâ€™m pretty good at it. Iâ€™m not a professional, but maybe someday, I hope to be. Iâ€™m actually writing a musical with a friend of mine, so itâ€™s something that I do everyday, and constantly working on. Iâ€™m not allowed to talk about it, so Iâ€™m going to be as vague as possible. Itâ€™s not a comic, but thereâ€™s something that has to do with guitars that isnâ€™t really involved with me playing guitars, but my familiarity with guitars is helping me. Like I said, Iâ€™ve been playing for twenty-five years, and I do it everyday. When I was younger, I knew that I either wanted to be a writer or a guitar player, and I ended being a writer. Who knows? Maybe Iâ€™ll be a professional guitar player too. I guarantee you wonâ€™t see me on stage as a part of a Top 40 band or something. Those days are long behind me [laughs]. There are other ways to play music and make a little money but to me itâ€™s about playing. I really love it. But I am working on a musical, and there should be more information about that soon.
Is there anything else you wanted to get out there that I didn't ask about?
I think weâ€™ve covered everything, but obviously, if you havenâ€™t read 28 DAYS LATER, read it. HEXED and DINGO are two of my absolute favorties, so please read those. I have a back catalog of stuff. I recommend FALL OF CTHULHU if you like horror. Keep a look out for INSURRECTION V3.6, and I have some other titles coming out too. Unfortunately, Iâ€™m not allowed to discuss those, you know how it goes. For marketing purposes, mumâ€™s the word, but thereâ€™s more stuff coming out. Just look for my name.
Since youâ€™re writing so much at Boom!, will you someday take over the company and start writing THE MUPPETS or TOY STORY?
[laughs] Probably not! Iâ€™m not saying that I couldnâ€™t do it, but I may not be the best choice for those titles. If you look at all the stuff that Boom! delivers, thereâ€™s a pretty dark theme to my stories, so I may not be the best guy to write TOY STORY! [laughs] Iâ€™ll definitely take the gig if they offer it to me, but Iâ€™m definitely more a part of the adult section of stories. Still, you never know! [laughs]
Written or Contributed by: Royal Nonesuch
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