Top Cow's Pilot Season Evaluates THE ASSET

Have you ever been on a first date and thought ‘this could be the one?’ Good dinner, great conversation and common interests… you love spy movies, and she’s .. a spy?

That’s the story in Pilot Season: The Asset, which came out last week from Top Cow. This one-shot reveals how a secret agent can use online dating sites to target potential informants and lackies, known as ‘assets’, to help them in their job. The original pitch described it as You’ve Got Mail meets Spy Game, and it’s a potent combination of both genres and creators. Pilot Season: The Asset comes by way of long-time Top Cow publisher Filip Sablik and artist David Marquez. Marquez just finished work on the Syndrome series for Archaia and Sablik , although best known for his editing work, has written several smaller comics in the past.

For more on this one-shot and it’s place in the five week Pilot Season 2010 series, we talked with Sablik & Marquz.

Newsarama: What can you tell us about this one-shot, The Asset?

Filip Sablik: The easiest way to sum it up is it's about "a femme fatale for the digital age." How's that for an elevator pitch? I've always enjoyed mashing up genres so the idea of combining a romance with a spy thriller has appealed to me for some time.

Traditionally, spies recruit civilian "assets" to act as informants and sometimes carry out their dirty work to maintain their own cover. In the real world, it's painstaking and often boring work. You have to do a lot of research and reconnaissance to find the right potential asset and then, even if you find an ideal candidate, there's no guarantee that you'll be able to recruit them.

In The Asset, a particularly beautiful, deadly, and smart female agent named Madeline has realized that certain online dating sites do the heavy lifting for you. They already have detail personality profiles of everyone in their database, so why not just craft a matching personality to get paired with the type of person you need? The pilot issue follows Madeline on one of her early "test cases" testing out the new methodology.

 

Nrama
: This centers around getting more than what you expect from online dating sites. I know you’re happily married (Hi Danielle!) so how did you know about any kind of dark side to those dating sites? Did you guys meet there way back when?

Sablik: Hah! You ask the tough investigative questions.

When I was single, I did spend some time on an online dating site. A couple of my friends had really good experiences with it. They actually both married people they met online, so I thought it'd be worth giving a shot. I had some decent dates and some pretty miserable ones, but I met my wife through a mutual friend. The seed of the idea for this story did come partially from those experiences though.

Nrama: I haven’t forgotten about you, David. I’ve seen you do some killer action scenes in comics with Syndrome – will we get to see you do some of that in The Asset?

 

David Marquez
: Oh, absolutely. The Asset features several characters who are highly trained clandestine operatives, and we'd be remiss not to show them off. In particular, there are a couple really exciting action scenes that Filip really thought out and carefully choreographed in the script, and those were a joy to draw.  Jason Bourne better watch his back - he has some serious competition. 

But also, for a single issue this book really covers all the bases.  There are the great action scenes I already mentioned, but there are also quieter, more "acting" intensive scenes between Maddie and Doug, and a few other characters that I don't want to spoil for the readers.  So yeah: action, mystery, suspense, romance... this book has it all!

Nrama: What can you two tell us about those two central characters, Doug and Madeline?

Sablik: Doug is a young police officer in Prince George's County, Maryland outside of Washington, DC. He became a police officer partially because his estranged father was abusive and he wanted to protect others from going through what he had to endure.

Marquez: Without giving too much away, Doug is a “Nice Guy”:  responsible, morally upright, treats women properly, has great abs, and perhaps above all else, cannot stand injustice.  He's someone who I think every reader can't help but feel some attachment to and empathize with.

 

Sablik
: Madeline is an enigma. When we meet her in Pilot Season: Asset, she appears to be a beautiful, confident professional woman in DC. She recently worked for the FBI and just got out of a bad relationship. Who Madeline really is, remains to be seen...

Marquez: Maddie is, as Filip has already put it so well, the femme fatale for the digital age.  Mysterious, exotic, smart, sexy and can kick your ass wearing 5 inch stilettos (which I've been told is harder than it looks).  She's the unattainable woman that turns every man's head (and probably most women's as well, though perhaps for different reasons) when she walks into a room. 

Throw these two characters together, and the whole question of "Is this too good to be true" takes on a new, deadly meaning.

Nrama: David brings up the phrase from the press release, calling The Asset a book that’ll “redefine the femme fatale for the digital age”. That’s big chutzpah – tell us how!

Sablik: I haven't already?

I was in marketing before becoming publisher, so you can't blame me for a little bit of hyperbole. I wanted to really present an incredibly strong female character that is tougher, smarter, and more capable than the guys she is manipulating. Ultimately, whether the reader sees her as a protagonist or antagonist is up to them. I love the idea of a mysterious, sexy woman who knows how to use cutting edge technology to her advantage.

 

Nrama
: You’re working with David Marquez, who just finished up the great Syndrome book from Archaia. What’s it like getting him onboard for your biggest comics work to date?

Sablik: I'm incredibly excited to have snagged David for The Asset. I actually met him two San Diego's ago and was impressed by his work then. We've kept in touch since then.  When I saw him again in Chicago for C2E2 and saw the pages from Syndrome, I told him I needed to work with him right away.

He nailed every scene in the book, and completely understands the tone of the story. I asked him for some pretty subtle acting in the characters' expressions and postures and he came through on every count. I figure in another month or so, he won't be returning my phone calls.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention colorist William Farmer, who enhanced all of David's beautiful line work with perfectly chosen lighting and color. David and William worked together on Syndrome as well so it was a very comfortable working relationship.

Nrama: David, how did Filip initially pitch the idea of The Assetto you, David?

Marquez: Well, at the time, I had just signed on to draw the second volume of Days Missingfor Archaia and was afraid I had missed the window to work with Filip.  Thankfully the whole concept of a Pilot Season book fit perfectly into my schedule, and that was what initially got me on board.

As for The Asset specifically, I remember it clearly: You’ve Got Mail  meets Spy Game. I'll be honest and say I didn't know what to think about it at first, as this is definitely not traditional fare in mainstream comics.  But comics really need fresh, new stories that bend and defy convention, and Filip's story had such a novel take on the traditional spy thriller that I couldn't help but be intrigued.

 

Nrama
: What made it something you wanted to work on?

Marquez: Well, first of all, working on a book for Top Cow is something I've been working towards for years.  I remember picking up Cyberforce #1 way back in 1992 when I was first getting into comics, so that by itself was motivation enough.  Additionally, Filip was the first person I really got to know at the Cow, so it's a great opportunity to work with him on his own book.

As for the story, espionage is hands-down my favorite genre, and The Asset has a hook that gives the genre an interesting and very novel twist, updating it for the 21st century. I mean, E-Harmony as a weapon of mass destruction – how could I not want to draw that?

Nrama: After being one of the guys who dreamt up Pilot Season, you’re finally in the pilot’s chair yourself Filip. What’s that like for you?

Sablik: A bit surreal, to be honest. We do a fair amount of original idea development internally at the office and in the past year or so Matt Hawkins and Marc Silvestri have given me the opportunity to pitch some of my own ideas. They really responded to the idea behind The Asset, and Matt ended up suggesting we put it into contention for this year's Pilot Season event. I've written and co-written a few things in the past, but this is the first time I've had the opportunity to fully develop an original idea, so it's been fairly exciting for me.

Nrama: Seeing as how you’ve been officiating this contest for years and now are a participant, what pointers would you give for someone who wanted to win the contest?

Sablik: Don't be shy about tooting your own horn! It's all about connecting with the fans and selling them on your vision of the continuing story you want to tell. It's really quite a bit like campaigning for political office, you need to connect with the voters and sell them on your vision.

Nrama: While Filip here has been part of Pilot Season in one way or another since the beginning, you David are a first-timer and could probably give us a real good view of the thing. What do you think about the contest aspect of it?

Marquez: Regarding Pilot Season as a whole, I think it's a really smart concept - an opportunity for a publisher to take a chance with some new and different concepts that perhaps don't get enough play in the comics mainstream and see what readers engage with.

For myself, it's both exciting and intimidating. I'm up against a bunch of very talented artists, and some serious veteran star firepower like Phil Noto.  That said, Filip has given me a great story and great characters to work with, and with my Syndrome partner in crime, Bill Farmer, on colors I think our book definitely stands shoulder to shoulder with the rest. And should The Asset be picked up for a full miniseries, there's a really cool story waiting to be told.

What did you think of The Asset? Will it get your vote?  

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