@’s by SHADOW WALK Writer
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): So I’m here with Mark Waid and he’s here to talk about Legendary’s new book, SHADOW WALK. When is this book coming out?
MARK WAID (MW): It’s coming out November 27th.
BUG: Okay. Obviously you’ve seen the script, but have you seen the art work or the initial pages yet?
MW: Yeah, as a matter of fact I have, and we are going over it now and tightening it up, the whole project overall, and it looks fantastic. I mean, Shane Davis, this is the work of his career. It’s really just mind-blowing. The guy is so talented.
BUG: Have you worked with Shane before? I thought you had.
MW: No, and so it’s really nice to be able to work with him on something where it’s a little more collaborative than I think he’s used to. I think that he’s probably used to not having as much input into the story or as much input into what he has to do on a daily basis. I like the back and forth give and take with an artist, and there’s no reason to not take advantage of a guy’s strengths and a guy’s passions. So that made it a very enjoyable process.
BUG: So how does that collaboration work? Do you guys just send pages back and forth during the scripting process? Is that all, or are you consulting with him on the way things look or the way he wants the scene to look? How does that work?
MW: Yeah, it goes back to the scripting process. There are a lot of places where we have this vague sense of what this place would look like as we get further into this valley of death, but a lot of it was “Okay, Shane, I really want to hit this emotional beat, but let’s talk about the kind of creatures that might be here in this environment, things that we might be dealing with” or “how do you see this looking on the page?” There’s a lot of that back and forth or there were times when he would just send me character sketches out of the blue of truly monstrous dark things that he’d just imagined, and I would open up my emails and I would look at the pictures and I would just want to die after seeing these horrifying things, but then I’d be able to incorporate them into the story. So it was very inspirational that way.
BUG: That’s great. You’ve written so many comics and so many stories and everything, when you approach a script like this for the first time and it’s the first steps into this world that you’re making, how do you approach that now that you’ve written so many different things like this?
MW: Well actually, with this one it was particularly difficult for a couple of reasons. One is that it’s long form. I mean, I’ve written comics that have been collected into graphic novels and I’ve written longer pieces before. You know, I’ve written multi-issue series that have been collected as a story, but I’ve never actually sat down to write something that is from start to finish a hundred and twenty-four pages or however many. I’ve never written “page one hundred and twelve” on the top of a page on a script before. It was more daunting, because I had to keep the long game in mind the whole time, and also another one of the challenges was that I’m not using established IP. I mean, these were all brand new characters and these were all brand new people and they had to be real to you as a reader, so I had to spend the first fifteen or twenty pages of the book really building these characters into people with unique voices and unique personalities, so that you care about what happens to them, and it’s part of the job of being a writer, but the language of comics is such that there’s a lot of shorthand involved and you’ve got to be able to use visuals, like whatever’s on the back of somebody’s office wall or anything in terms of diplomas or anything like that, just anything you can do to tell the story visually. (Laughs) Sorry, it’s been a long day.
BUG: (Laugh) No, that’s okay. I know what you mean.
MW: There’s the shorthand to help explain who these characters are.
BUG: Sure. Well, we rushed right into the writing process and everything like that. What’s this book about? How about we get that covered?
MW: Basically Thomas Crawl, the head of Legendary, apparently is not content with making multimedia mergers all day and also spends his time creating story ideas, so that’s nice work if you can get it. The good news about that is that they are good ideas. So he sat down with me and pitched the basic idea, which I took to mean INDIANA JONES meets ALIENS. Then we ran with it. There was a back and forth with each other and we sort of built on each other’s ideas. The high concept that Thomas came to the table with is the difficult passage “I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” “What if that was a real place? What if that’s not an allegory, but what if that is an actual reference in the Bible to some strange and bizarre and nightmarish lost valley in the Mideast and it is a place where your physics text book is thrown out the window and down is up and left is right and nothing makes any sense and it is a place where your faith in yourself and the things you believe in is tested to the limit?” So this story really is about a team of experts…it sounds like a joke (laughs), a priest, an anthropologist, a quantum physicist and a soldier walk into a bar, except they walk into some nightmarish realm that may or may not be the gates of hell itself.
BUG: Very cool. It sounds like an amazing concept. Did you specify one particular religion in this, or are you looking at others?
MW: We did all, as a matter of fact. One of the reasons the anthropologist is along for the ride is to give a voice to the theories that they run across all sorts of things in this place that this may well be the wellspring of all myths and lore and religion of the world.
BUG: Did you have a favorite religion that you liked researching or exploring?
MW: It surprised me. I really enjoyed the anthropological aspects of it. I really enjoyed being into the beginnings of certain myths, the vampire myths, the zombie myths, taking story telling tropes that we take for granted in the twenty-first century and sort of tracing them back from folklore as far back as you can find in civilized writing and seeing how these myths had grown over the years. Again, it’s sort of as you trace them back far enough watching them sort of dovetail with each other, giving credence to this idea that there may in fact be some ancient wellspring that is the big bang for a lot of these elements of myth and folklore.
BUG: As far as research is concerned in general, are you a big research guy? I’ve heard some people say that it’s just comics and sometimes it’s just fun to write the stories… other people do really extensive research. Where do you lie in that spectrum?
MW: I’m a big believer in research, because if for no other reason than you will just be stunned at the amount of story ideas that come out of that. I mean, in this case I had a real ace in the hole in that Thomas turned to Max Brooks, who is not only an accomplished novelist and a really good writer, but a nice worldbuilder as well. That’s one of the things that Max is really good at and well known for, really being able to world build. So after we talked about the basic concepts of what we wanted out of it, Max went off to his little corner of the world and emerged unshaven a few weeks later with a bible for this world that is probably as thick as the script that I turned in and it’s fascinating reading, because he’s going through the history of modern warfare and the history of ancient civilizations and the history of religion and finding all sorts of genuine real world common threads that just really help give the sense of verisimilitude to the story.
BUG: Yeah, and you hear this a lot about writers who come up with a bible basically or a set of rules for their universes that they build. Do you ever see that piece or that document ever being published as a part of a special edition or anything like that? Would we as readers ever get to see that?
MW: That’s a good question. That’s more of a Legendary call than a Mark Waid call, but frankly I think it deserves to be real, because it’s a really impressive piece of work. Again, Max was doing all the heavy lifting, god bless him. I fear he’s not given enough credit for what makes this work.
BUG: And so after the initial rules and universe thing he built, how much more did you work with him as far as your story that you’re doing in this world?
MW: At that point his job was done on that end of it and it was up to me to take the raw data and some real basic character profiles, which some of them work for the story and some of them didn’t, but that’s fine, that’s just the creative process. I mean, taking what worked there and then working with Thomas to develop it into a strong story. We had pieces and we had data at that point. We had certain scenes in mind, but we still needed a character arc and a throughline on this and I say, writing something that is like this, a long form graphic novel format, we had to have all the pieces in place before I started. There’s no chance of making it up halfway through.
BUG: You’ve worked with pretty much every company out there it seems.
MW: Yeah, pretty much.
BUG: Every company seems to have their own personality. What is it about Legendary? What sticks out about Legendary to you?
MW: That they let comics be comics. That’s what sticks out to me. I mean, when I first sat down with Thomas…I mean, he’s the head of a motion picture studio, so I was thoroughly committed to this idea that I was going to be lectured by a guy who wanted me to take a movie treatment and basically just put pictures to it, you know?
BUG: You see that a lot. Every time you go to these conventions you see these things and you know they’re movie treatments, but they are just…
MW: Exactly, and you know what? They smell like movie treatments. Again, if you want to do that, that’s fine, but don’t call it comics. So Thomas pitched the idea and one of the first conversations we had is he had an idea very strongly in mind for the first scene of the thing, which involved a lot of people in business suits standing around a conference room, and frankly in a film script it would have been amazing the way he lays out and the way he talks about the characters and the information… it would have been riveting, but in comics, that’s death. There’s got to be better ways to deliver information about characters than having suits around the conference table and so what I love is that…the first thing I said was “Here’s the thing, the language of comics is different than the language of film. Let’s tell the story, but if you let me tell it in the language that I know then I think we will all be better off”, and he didn’t’ blink. Thomas never batted an eye. “Make it a good comic. Make it a great graphic novel. If it ends up being something else down the line, that is terrific, but that is not our primary goal. Our primary goal is to tell a good story and to do it in a format in which it’s conditioned for.”
BUG: Very cool. So you said this is going to be due out in November. This is like the first chapter in thi,s or is this a standalone story? Obviously, since there was a bible made and a whole universe created, there are more stories planned.
MW: There certainly could be. Let’s see what the reception is on this one first, but there’s definitely a beginning, middle, and end. There certainly is room in here to do more with it and to do more with this world if the reception is strong enough, so let’s get it out there. Ask me again in December when the sales figures come in.
BUG: Sounds good. Is there anything else that you’ve working on? I know you’re working on THE GREEN HORNET right now and you’re doing a whole bunch of other kind of projects; is there anything else you want to get out there for people to check out?
MW: Yeah, I’d love to get them to come to the digital comics site that I’ve been running for about a year and have a lot of my own creator owned stuff on it. It’s called Thrillbent.com, and every day there’s brand new additional comics free to read, free to download, and free to embed in your own webpage or tumbler what have you. I mean, we want to share this material as much as we can, and there’s something new up there every day.
BUG: Awesome. Well, very cool. I’m a huge fan. I’ve been reading your work since gosh, I don’t know, since even before THE FLASH when you first started on THE FLASH way back when. I’m really looking forward to reading this book SHADOW WALK here when it comes out in late November from Legendary Entertainment. Have a great day.
MW: Yeah, you too. Thanks.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 12 years & AICN HORROR for 3. He has written comics such as VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS THE TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, & NANNY & HANK (soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He has co-written FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND’s LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in October 2013 as a 100-pg original graphic novel through Hermes Press). Mark wrote the critically acclaimed GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment & GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-81. Look for GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES available in February-July 2013 and the new UNLEASHED crossover miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS WEREWOLVES: THE HUNGER #1-3 available in May-July 2013! Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitter @Mark_L_Miller.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G