Damon Lindelof, Paul Cornell, Marc Guggenheim: plenty of television writers have crossed over into the world of comic books, many with critical and commercial success.
Blake Masters created the drama series Brotherhood, which ran on Showtime for three seasons from 2006 to 2008, and has also worked on Law & Order: Los Angeles and Rubicon. His latest venture is the science-fiction comic book Insurrection v3.6 at BOOM! Studios, set a thousand years in the future, one devoid of pollution, war, poverty and the other bad things that typically plague a society. Of course, things are never that simple for long, and when there’s a clone army uprising in the works, conflict tends to arise.
Joining Masters as a co-writer is BOOM! veteran Michael Alan Nelson (Dominion, 28 Days Later). With the first issue in stores now (preview here), Newsarama talked with both writers over e-mail about the genesis of the project, working together, and how long of a story is planned for Insurrection v3.6.
Newsarama: Blake, obviously your background is in TV — what made you want to move into comics, and how can comic books tell this story in a way other mediums can't?
Blake Masters: Comics have three specific advantages creatively: 1) they are at heart about pictures rather than words and I love that; 2) i also love that comics can go very quickly (with the turn of a page) from the operatic to the intimate; 3) most importantly, in comic you are unbounded by financial and physical reality. The only limits are what you can draw. You can get as big and expressionistic as you want, which is a big advantage when creating a world from scratch as we are here.
Nrama: On that same note, what made BOOM! the right home for this story?
Masters: My personal experience with BOOM! came from adapting their book 2 Guns for Universal Pictures and I immediately recognized we shared a taste for the same themes and same complex characters. When Insurrection came about it was a natural fit that I would approach BOOM! before anyone else.
Nrama: Blake you’re the creator of the series, and Michael, you’re on board as a co-writer. At what point did Michael get involved? And what's the collaborative process been like?
Masters: Insurrection is a story that has been simmering in my brain for some time but I had a problem: I had never scripted a comic book before. It was not a language I worked in, so I decided that I needed a partner who could work hand in glove with me to make sure that we maximized what we got out of the medium. From there, I wrote pages of stuff which I pitched to Michael and he took that material, made it his own, made it work as a comic, and from there we traded notes until we got the final scripts.
Michael Alan Nelson: For me, the process has been wonderful. Blake knows the story better than anyone so he is able to look at the script and tell if something isn't getting through quite right. This may sound difficult to believe, but I love his notes. His command of story and characterization is really something to see, especially from the inside.
Nrama: Michael, you've done a lot of work in a lot of different genres for BOOM! — how does this compare to other projects you've written?
Nelson: Iv3.6 is the first hard science fiction story I've ever been a part of (purists may disagree that this is considered Hard Sci-Fi, but we'll let them hash it out in the message boards). All the sci-fi stories I've written in the past were more science fantasy than anything. Not to mention, they had a serious horror bent to them as well. But this is pure sci-fi. And like all good sci-fi, it isn't about the science, but the story couldn't happen without it.
Nrama: Of course, with a series like this, especially with a creator from Hollywood, fans are curious if maybe the comic is a way of testing the waters to eventually try and adapt the story as a TV show or film — it's early, but is that a consideration at all?
Masters: We would love to make this a film one day, or a TV series if that works out better. But the key to me has always been to make sure that Insurrection works as a comic book first. Fan-interest willing, I would love the chance to spin out another miniseries or two set in this world, so fingers crossed.
Nrama: One thing that’s always a challenge in a series like this that takes place in the far, far future (in this case, 3000 CE), is keeping things grounded so it's easily relatable to wide audiences who may be looking for some sort of touchstones. How difficult is that to pull off, and how important is that element to Insurrection?
Masters: The first thing to remember is that humanity is humanity. Be it 3000 years ago or 3000 years in the future. People have the same longings, the same flaws, the same nobility as today. Now in the case of Insurrection we make the leap of applying "humanity" to auts (highly evolved automatons) but the overall story could just as easily be set during the roman empire.
The second thing to remember is that good science fiction is never really about the future. It's about the fears and hopes of the present extrapolated out into the future. In the case of Insurrection we play on our fears of overweening corporate power, our denial of how of totally dependent we have become on our machines, and on the way the present seems in lots of ways to be growing more sterile and anesthetized and less full of dirt and grit and fire and "life."
Nrama: Genre fiction is full of sci-fi stories set in the far-flung future. Did any film, TV shows, comics or literature specifically influence Insurrection? Or were there maybe some elements of the genre that are deliberately being avoided?
Masters: The germ of the series, funnily enough came from a David Bowie quote about how in the future people would be so engulf by technology and machines that they would want to come home and touch a piece of wood to remind them of something "real." From there I riffed onto the idea of what happens when machines become more "human" than their human masters. After that it's a mishmash of everything I've every read, thought, or done.
Nrama: An important part of the story of Insurrection appears to be the role played by the "Auts," which seem similar on the surface to other biomechanical creatures in things like Blade Runner or Battlestar Galactica. Is that a fair comparison?
Masters: Those comparisons would put us in great company but a more apt reference would be to Spartacus and the revolution of Roman slaves he led.
Nelson: I suppose a comparison can always be made any time you have a story about Artificial Intelligence, especially when the AI is housed in a machine made to look human. But where many of those other stories focus mainly on the AIs, their sense of Self, and the struggle humans have in dealing with them, we're also looking at a dystopia (in my personal view, anyway) of Corporate States and the ramifications of such a world(s). How do we define Self in a universe run, shaped, and controlled by the conglomerations lording over every facet of existence? That we now live in a world of Citizens United, I think the Iv3.6 metaphor speaks for itself.
Nrama: Michael Penick is on art for the series — what makes him the right choice for this story?
Masters: He loves to create worlds. A series like this lives and dies on the specificity of the details and the environments and that's one of his create strengths. As a side benefit, I love the angles panel layouts he chooses. He understands the ways you can manipulate the flow of a page and it's just so lovely to see what he comes up with.
Nrama: This is a four-issue series — do things come to a close here, or is it open-ended for more down the road?
Masters: We are starting with a four-issue series but if people love it, we'd love to keep going.