What happens when you put an Olympic athlete against a 21' Great White shark? A gripping story, as it turns out.
Launched earlier this month from Big Picture Comics, Tim Daniels and Ricardo Drumond's The Atoll puts a new spin on the killer-shark sub-genre by adding athleticism, sport, and revenge. The title was one of several optioned for a movie last year in an early acquisition by Hitman producers Adrian Askarieh and FJ DeSanto.
With the first issue now on stands and #2 due out in February, Newsarama spoke with Daniel about this twist on the epic sub-genre, the characters involved, and how it's all owed to a father introducing a young son to killer sharks.
Newsarama: Tim, what can you tell us about The Atoll?
Tim Daniel: Abducted Olympian Story Helms is pitted against a 21-foot Great White shark by the name of Majesty, in a bloodsport death match for the sake of entertaining a remote audience of billionaires. The Atoll is one twisty action-thriller with a Hard-R, Grindhouse revenge slant.
The main inspirational ingredients are The Most Dangerous Game and of course, Jaws. I’ve seen some mention ofHunger Games already, and maybe it has to do with the fact that in preparation for her bout with Majesty, Story must first successfully endure a number of “tests” administered by a ruthless pit boss in order to earn armor and weapons.
Featuring new-to-comics artist Ricardo Drumond, with beautiful colors by Burning Fields Joana Lafuente and letters by Adam Wollet.
Nrama: This isn't a simple shark story – it’s a water arena battle a la Gladiator. What can you tell us about this pit that Viktor has set-up?
Daniel: Viktor is indeed a pit boss and the bouts conducted at his facility are broadcast all over the world for entertainment and wagering purposes. That’s all he’s been willing to give up about himself and his responsibilities thus far.
Structurally the arena is a purse seine net conjoined with a massive floating barge which houses cells, quarters, an armory, and a production control room of sorts. The entire facility it ringed by an electrified barrier. The arena both drifts and is self-propelled and never in the same spot. Needless to say, to find it you’ll need to know the secret handshake. Just make sure you watch your fingers!
So yeah, appears that Viktor’s a creative type. A real craft fair type of guy. Someone likened him to a bit of Bond villain in a sense. He’s always pontificating, never too shy about sharing his particular world-view with Story, which is simply - you’re either predator or dead. While he’s definitely over-the-top, and seriously fun to write, there’s a purpose to his method.
Nrama: So how does Story and Chase get wrapped up in all of this?
Daniel: What we know so far is Story and Chase’s boat is blown-up somewhere off the Australian coast. Story was abducted. Chase left for dead.
Nrama: Reading the first issue, this is thoroughly adult both in blood, body count and sexuality. What did going this route allow you to do as a writer?
Daniel: Watched an HBO show lately? I mean, the material they are presenting is everything you describe above and then some. My previously published titles such as Curse, Burning Fields, Skinned, and even Enormous, all more or less stayed within a PG-13 parameter. But with The Atoll, I’m telling a story where people get their thing on by essentially feeding humans to a great white shark for sport - it didn’t seem right to hold back in any other respect.
Plus, I honestly figured readers might recoil from the book if it was nothing more a blonde athlete in a sexy bikini the entire time. So naturally, there’s a lot of male frontal nudity. My hope is that people who might be making certain assumptions about the book, will take a risk and find out it’s really not that at all.
As a writer, The Atoll meant I could just cut loose because doing so felt intrinsic to the story. I’m pretty sure I scared the crap out of my wife with The Atoll and I had producer Adrian Askarieh tell me it’s the work of a sick mind. Their reactions let me know I was onto something. It shocked them both and to me that was a good sign! Really, I’m only interested in not repeating myself as a storyteller. Every story should feel fresh to me and that will hopefully convey to the reader no matter the subject matter.
Nrama: In the credits you mention that your father Joe first introduced you to great white sharks. Can you tell us about that?
Daniel: Thanks for noticing that! There are certain things that happen to us as children - little impressionable moments that seem to have an accumulative effect on us later. At least in this case it seems to have on me with sharks.
Having grown up in the San Francisco Bay Area (Go Giants!), the Pacific Ocean was always right there. My father, Joe, would always be pointing out things like shark sightings along the coast, or the Steinhart Aquarium’s (Golden Gate Park) short-lived attempt to house and display a great white. He took me to see Jaws in-theater back in the 70’s and was always feeding me books, stories, and tidbits about the ocean or survivors at sea. In fact, he still sends me articles and websites from the web.
A bit later on in my adulthood, he sent me a video tape of a National Geographic documentary which featured the gigantic mature females that inhabit the waters of the Farallon Islands. There’s a scene in the documentary, which predates the crap on Shark Week, where a researcher uses a fishing pole and camera mounted on a boogie board to entice a great white to strike from the depths. The footage captures the shark trailing the board and it is so big, moving at such speed that is creates a wake, like a three-foot wave… just like Jaws. That left an indelible impression on me. What seemed like fiction was in fact, real.
Ironically, my father would never set foot in the ocean, but his heart is out there somewhere, so a dedication of sorts seemed appropriate.
Nrama: How did you connect with Ricardo Drummond to do The Atoll together?
Daniel: Ricardo is a tremendous talent and Atoll only hints at his artistic range. If I recall correctly, I became familiar with his work via my Skinned co-writer, Jeremy Holt. He was sharing his work on Facebook and I liked a bunch of his stuff which were primarily all watercolor and brush and ink work - portraitures, displaying stunning likenesses of pop-culture icons like Star Wars, Game of Thrones and such. Atoll is the first comic he’s ever drawn and this is a good point to call out the work of colorist Joana Lafuente, whose work has elevated this book beyond my hopes. They make for an amazing team - very visceral. You can feel the heat and smell the sea in these pages.
Nrama: Big picture then, what are your goals with The Atoll?
Daniel: Atoll will run five issues. The goal has always been to craft finite tales and then move onto the next title. Readers deserve to know a story has a defined ending, and I find it most rewarding as a writer.
Outside of that, as announced a couple of months back in The Hollywood Reporter, producers Adrian Askarieh and FJ DeSanto have been working hard to adapt The Atoll. In fact, there’s a call scheduled within a week that involves a very talented writer who I’m very much looking forward to talking with - he’s really embraced Atoll and has already expressed a clear vision of how he intends to approach material.