AICN COMICS Q&@: Ambush Bug talks with FJ DeSanto about DC’s INSURGENT, CYBORG 009, STAR WARS: SMUGGLER'S GAMBIT, and more sci fi!!!
@’s by INSURGENT Writer
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): So let's start off with INSURGENT. What can you tell me about the story of INSURGENT and the world in which the story takes place?
F.J. DESAANTO (FJD): Our story takes place in the very near future where the government has secretly created a domestic counter terrorism unit consisting of wounded soldiers who have been experimented on with next gen robotics. However, after realizing the technology is flawed and has horrible side effects, the President decides to shut it down and recall the soldiers. Because the government refuses to take responsibility, they hire independent “Hunters” to round the existing soldiers up before the world learns of the program’s existence. Unfortunately, that doesn’t quite go as planned as some refuse to go quietly and one in particular goes public, leading to absolute chaos. Later, it’s believed the program has been shut down for years, but now random citizens suddenly start to “activate” for reasons we don’t quite know yet but are obviously very sinister in nature. Our main character, John Ravane, is one of the original hunters who is forced back against his will to help take on the mysterious new threat.
BUG: Just to make things clear, INSURGENT doesn't occur in the DC Universe. Is that correct?
FJD: Yeah. Insurgent is it’s own universe unless someone at DC has made it Earth 53 or something and didn’t tell me!
BUG: This is most definitely a sci fi comic, an area that hasn't really been explored in DC lately. How did you convince them to publish this book?
FJD: Todd and I had been working on the project and we originally thought it could make a cool original manga. But after we finished our outline, I mentioned it to Jim Lee and he liked the idea and felt it might be something we could do at DC. I wasn’t sure if it was going to happen at first, but then there was a way too early Sunday morning meeting at San Diego Comic Con where I thought they were just going to be nice and pass on it in person. I was hungover and almost did a spit take when they told me they wanted to do it. I think Jim wants to see DC publish a broad spectrum of titles and maybe saw INSURGENT as something that could reach a wider audience.
BUG: You've worked on some huge films. Can you tell us a little about your expansive resume?
FJD: I was fortunate to be hired right out of NYU to work for the executive producers of the BATMAN film franchise, Michael Uslan and Ben Melniker. I grew up a big comic book fan so working for them was a natural fit. I started as their assistant and then was running their company by the time they were working on movies like CONSTANTINE and BATMAN BEGINS. I was a co-producer on THE SPIRIT and then have since gone off on my own. Now I create original stuff like INSURGENT or find original properties, like ORION, which is a show in development at Syfy and was co-created by a brilliant guy named George Krstic, who created MEGAS XLR and wrote for STAR WARS THE CLONE WARS and MOTOR CITY. I also Executive Produced documentaries on Grant Morrison and Warren Ellis and I’m co-writing a graphic novel adaption of CYBORG 009, the manga classic, while also developing it as a feature film.
BUG: You worked with Todd Farmer who did DRIVE ANGRY and MY BLOODY VALENTINE on this project. How did you guys meet and how did you guys decide to do this project together?
FJD: Todd and I met ages ago when I was trying to recruit him for a film. He’s a helluva writer and we got along really well, so we decided to create something new together. He and I wanted to put a new spin on the current advances in Transhumanism and what would happen if these bionics, which are now real and designed to help people, were instead militarized and fell into the wrong hands. That was our starting point for INSURGENT.
BUG: I've known you for a couple of years now having met you at SDCC many moons ago and I know you're a huge sci fi fan. What is it about sci fi that appeals to you so much?
FJD: I think it’s really about the idea of there being worlds beyond ours or in the case of INSURGENT different versions of the world we live in. It’s all about escapism for me. I think as creators, we are always trying to hone in on that moment where you remember when you loved a movie or a comic and try to recapture that feeling and pass it on to someone else. My hope with any projects I work on that maybe a kid sees it and falls in love with the world the same way I did with STAR WARS or STAR TREK years ago.
BUG: What kind of sci fi books or films inspired you?
FJD: When we created INSURGENT, Todd and I had been talking about comics like MAGNUS ROBOT FIGHTER and I was into movies that explored robotics and humanity like NATURAL CITY and the Italian film NIRVANA, both of which of course were all inspired by BLADE RUNNER. I made our artist, Federico, watch all of those movies. However, with this, instead of going for the broken down noir of all of those movies or the shiny “perfect future” we’ve seen before, we wanted to create a world that looked more like ours but was in transition and about to be rendered obsolete by the rapid advances of technology.
BUG: Do you see INSURGENT as an ongoing story? Will there be more series after you complete this one?
FJD: The initial story is a six issue mini-series. If it sells and is well-received, maybe DC would be interested in doing more. I hope that’s the case as we have two more stories roughly laid out that are very different from the first and each other.
BUG: With both you and Todd Farmer's experience in film, do you think we'll be seeing an insurgent movie any time soon?
FJD: Maybe down the line, but who knows. Our immediate concern was making sure we deliver a great comic book series that people will find and enjoy. Anything after that is gravy.
BUG: I really loved the art in what I've seen so far with this book. Who is the artist and how did he become associated with INSURGENT?
FJD: I’m glad you love the art, cause I do too. The artist is Federico Dallocchio and he’s worked for every major publisher on everything from STAR WARS to SUICIDE SQUAD to BATMAN and licensed stuff like MODERN WARFARE but had never done anything original like this. Our editor, Ben Abernathy, brought Fed in. He did a quick concept sketch and we were sold right away. We never even had to consider another artist for the book. You’ll see with each issue, the scope of the series grows significantly because Todd and I started to tailor it to Fed’s style. He’s really creative and collaborative and a perfect partner to build this new world with. He’s also just a really great guy.
BUG: I also wanted to talk a bit about CYBORG 009. How did you become aware of the property and can you describe what it is for folks who may not know about it?
FJD: I’ve known about the property since I was a kid. I grew up with it. It’s a real classic and known all over the world. The creator, Shotaro Ishimori is comparable to Stan Lee in Japan. He created amazing properties like KAMEN RIDER and POWER RANGERS and CYBORG 009 is the equivalent of X-MEN or AVENGERS over there. They were the first super-heroic team in manga and consist of nine ordinary people from all over the world who are kidnapped and turned into soldiers of mass destruction. They’re designed to be sold as soldiers to the highest bidder by a group called The Black Ghost, but eventually they escape and decide to use the abilities that have been forced upon them to fight evil. It’s an amazing property with decades of history all over the world, and I think the timing is perfect for this here in the US. So we are starting by doing a westernized graphic novel for the audience here. I’m writing it with a gut named Bradley Cramp, who was Andrew Niccol’s producer and now a great screenwriter. He really took the source material and figured out how to present it to a new audience without messing with legacy. It’s been an absolute joy to work on this with Archaia and especially our artist, Marcus To, who has drawn RED ROBIN and BATWING and is going to a whole new level with this book. His art on this just blows me away.
I have a relationship with the rights holders, and have been working with them to bring the work of Ishimori here for the last couple of years, so this is just the start of what will be several stages of exposing the titles here. The first round of translated original manga is now up on Comixology and the reaction has been amazing as these have been out of print in English for some time and we can create a new generation of fans for the property and it’s creator.
BUG: Is this something you plan on working on with DC?
FJD: No, this is through Archaia and it’s going to come out as a hardcover graphic novel in July. We chose to work with Archaia for this project cause they produce such high quality books that it was a perfect match for Ishimori. Archaia has put a great team together for this. The book is going to be beautiful. I’ve been really lucky to have great collaborators on these projects.
BUG: What other projects do you have coming down the pipeline?
FJD: We’re just wrapping up the script the CYBORG 009 graphic novel and are starting to get the film development off the ground. Also, I just wrote something for DC that I am really excited about and has a tremendous artist, but it hasn’t been announced yet, so I have to behave myself. Also, we’re hoping we shoot ORION in 2013. Fingers crossed on that as it would bring big sci fi adventure back to television and I think the script is great. Also, check out SMUGGLER’S GAMBIT, the original STAR WARS show that Kyle Newman and I wrote that was performed at STAR WARS CELEBRATION and features an awesome cast of actors . There’s a few other surprises coming but it’s all in the early stages, but I am pretty psyched for 2103.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over eleven years & AICN HORROR for two. He has written comics such as VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS THE TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, & NANNY & HANK (soon to be available on iTunes and soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He has co-written FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND’s first ever comic book LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in 2013 as a 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark wrote the critically acclaimed GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK last year from Zenescope Entertainment & look for his exciting arc on GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-81 released August-December 2012. Mark will be writing GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES to be released in February-June 2013. Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitter @Mark_L_Miller.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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