War is hell. And the ultimate warrior has a little bit of hell in him, too.
Filmmakers John Moore and Richie Smyth are taking the never-ending battle and looking at war through the eyes of Dead Soldier, a book through Dynamite Entertainment and Liquid Comics due out this month. What happens when the fighting takes a supernatural toll on an ordinary John Doe? We spoke with Moore and Smyth about working with artist Dean Hyrapiet, their influences on comics and film, as well as what this "Metaphorical Superman" might mean for us all.
Newsarama: John, can you tell us a little bit about your transition from film to comics, and how you got to Dead Soldier?
John Moore: I was aways a graphic novel fan, never really connected to the typical superhero comics, I thought they were silly , even from a young age - so I was delighted to discover ( late, I admit) that serious people made comics too!
What did it for me was the Dark Knights of the 1980's, those Batman re-inventions really opened the door for me into a place where I could get real satisfaction. They were so full of hate and anger. The Brian Bolland illustrated "The Killing Joke" was a revolution for me - after that I was hooked.
Dark, dangerous, subversive and so inviting and welcoming.
Richie Smyth brought "Dead Soldier" to me - he wanted to make it as a movie but I knew he was a comic fan too and so I suggested we take that route, and so it is. I was working with the guys from "Liquid" on "Virulents" and I knew they'd get it.
Nrama: Richie, what about you? Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you got to this point?
Richie Smyth: As a kid back in Ireland it started with the Beano.. Dennis and Gnasher, Mini the Minx, et al... later The Furry Freaks, I used to sketch up my own Fat Freddy's Cat stories... then there was the superheroes, but really I read them for the villains. I met John to pitch him an idea for a movie, a war story called Dead Soldier. John was really into it and at the time was working with [Liquid Comics chiefs] Gotham [Chopra] and Sharad [Devarajan] on a movie adaptation of a comic. He had the idea to make a graphic novel. it clicked instantly and i was buzzed to be making a comic. For me, comics are like a series of photographs that tell a story, and as a photographer, writing a comic seemed very natural. I put together some concept art, a synopsis and met with Gotham.
Nrama: Now, what's the premise here for the story, and what sets the character of John Donner apart?
Moore: I'll let Richie tackle the premise , but I can tell you what sets John Donner apart - he is you. He is me.
Like the 2006 Time magazine mirror cover, Donner is us.
Smyth The premise of the story -- it's basically Spartacus.... that one man shall raise from the carnage of war and lead an army against the powers that rule and control the world to their own gain. J.D. is an anti-soldier. I wanted to tell an anti-war story that reflected the state of world affairs which at the time, five years ago, had become so transparently corrupt. John Donner is just a man, typical of the hundreds of thousands of privates that were ordered to their death in the trenches of WWI. John Donner is a number, a historical statistic. He represents the cry of "NO!!!" to world leaders who justify wars across the world. I thought it was time for a man like this to fight back.
Nrama: In the solicits, it seems somewhat vague about what turns John Donner from an ordinary man into... well, something else. Is there anything you can tell us about the nature or cause of his transformation, without giving everything away?
Moore: Without giving much away, and keeping it lofty, what transforms Donner is anything but supernatural, or alien, or unfamiliar -- again, it's us.
Donner is transformed by the evil in mankind and our unquenchable appetite for it and so, Donner can never be killed. He is the first Metaphorical Superhero. he is the product of intention.
Smyth: The metaphor here is the cannibalism of ourselves as a race through war. Dying in the trenches surrounded by his dead comrades J.D. watches the rats eat the dead and realizes if he is to survive do as the rat does. He must eat the dead. As he ingests the hearts of his comrades he gains their life force, with each heart he grows stronger until soon he becomes a powerful new man, a super soldier with hate and revenge burned across his soul, he pledges to make the rulers of mankind accountable for what he has been forced to become.
Nrama: Something that seemed particularly interesting about this story was the time-spanning nature of it, going from World War I to the War on Terror. Do you guys feel there will be a bit of a political statement going on with this? How do you feel war has changed between then and now?
Moore: Yes. Donner's existence itself is a statement. And the statement transcends mere politics in their iteration as party politics. He is not a representation of a "side." He is the personification of the sum of the worst assumptions of both sides.
Smyth: Yes the story spans 100 years. The arch of J.D.'s character starts off twisted with revenge but as WWI comes to an end and he wanders the planet the hate subsides and his motivations intellectualize. He looks to find who he is and what he has become. He realizes his power and begins to focus on his destiny. He will lead a powerful army against the world to create a New World Order.Nrama: John, considering your backgrounds as a filmmaker, how do you feel that informed your approach to scripting this story?
Moore: Film is efficent, so it's a natural fit to cross into comic storytelling which is the most efficent medium.
Nrama: And Richie, what can you tell us about going back and forth with John on this? How did you guys divide the work, and how do you each feel you left an impact on it?
Smyth: Yeah, we're both directors, so it was pretty interesting... I'd send him my ideas... He'd tell me they we're terrible and send me his ideas ... I'd call him up and tell him he was an Irish #@$@#%@#er... He'd come around to my house banging on my door. We'd end up punchin' the heads off each other in the garden... It was a very creative process.
Nrama: You guys are working with Dean Hyrapiet and Liquid Comics -- what was the back-and-forth between you guys? What strengths to do you feel makes these guys the right people for the job?
Moore: Richie had most if not all the interaction with Dean from our side - so I'll let him handle that one. All I did was complain. :)
Smyth: Everything went through Gotham Chopra... Dean is epic, once we found the visual tone it became a joy, I'd write a scene and Dean would take it to the next level. The team at Liquid are a fresh force in an age old-world of comic storytelling that inspired me and many peers to create new characters and stories. Their strengthens lie in the fact that Liquid are on the front line of comics.
Nrama: Finally, for those who still aren't sure about Dead Soldier, what would you tell them to get them on board? Any fun moments you can tease on this?
Moore: I'd say you want to be there from the start, be part of the realization of Donner-hood.
This guy makes the rest of them look like the bunch of cape-wearing, homo-erotic tea-sipping pussies that they are.
Smyth: I think John got this one. :)Rise from your grave