AICN COMICS Q&@: Bug interrogates Writer Peter Tomasi & Artist Peter Snejbjerg anout their Military/Horror Comic LIGHT BRIGADE!
@’s by LIGHT BRIGADE’s
Peter Tomasi & Peter Snejbjerg!!!
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): Hi Peter and Peter. I'm excited to hear the news that Dark Horse is going to be putting out a hardcover edition of LIGHT BRIGADE, a book which I really feel slipped under the radar of some folks when it first came around. To start us off, can you describe the basic concept of LIGHT BRIGADE to those who might not know about it?
PETER TOMASI (PT): Sure, it's about Chris Stavros, an American soldier smack dab in the middle of the Battle of the Bulge during World War Two who learns his wife has died and with no relatives to care for his young son the state say there's no other choice but to put him in a foster home until if/when he returns. So Chris has one goal, getting back to his boy in one piece but, of course, in the process of trying to stay alive he discovers the Universe has other plans for him, which is the impossible task given to his platoon of recovering the lost Sword of God before a unit of arcane, seemingly unkillable German soldiers locate it and storm Heaven's Gate! Chris and the rest of his platoon begin a supernatural crusade that'll determine the fate of the world one bullet and one soul at a time!
PETER SNEJBJERG (PS): It's like Milton coming back from the dead to script WHERE EAGLES DARE. And if that's not a killer combo, I don't know what is.
BUG: How did this project make its way to Dark Horse?
PS: I'd say magic, but I suspect all Pete Tomasi's hard leg work had something to do with it.
PT: Luckily it was crazy smooth, Mark. LIGHT BRIGADE fully reverted back to me from DC Comics, where I've been a happily exclusive talent for many years, and being that it's a project I hold near and dear and am incredibly proud of, I just couldn't stand it not out on the shelves for new readers to discover. So I started thinking which publisher would be a good fit and Dark Horse was of course at the top of the list due it's great handling of it's action/horror line like HELLBOY and other titles. I called my buddy, John Arcudi, who's been doing awesome work for them, and he suggested I contact Scott Allie who in turn put me in contact with Daniel Chabon, who, I have to say, has been a consummate pro and a real pleasure to work with in putting this new edition together.
BUG: I've been told that this version of the story has some new supplementals to it in this new Hardcover treatment. What are they?
PT: For one, it's now finally in a hardcover version with a kick ass wraparound cover by the amazing Peter Snejbjerg which I'm really happy about and thankful for Dark Horse agreeing to. Snejbjerg and Bjarne Hansen's color work on this story really deserves the hardcover treatment, and Daniel Chabon told me that the proofs he saw looked stupendous when compared to the previous printing of the book. We've also been able to put in a nice supplemental section in the back of the book with tons of Snejbjerg's pencil work and sketches, from interior pages to covers, with a running commentary by him on his approach to the art-side along with my own script pages that Snejbjerg worked from.
PS: Light Brigade was being made at an interesting time, right between the old days, when you'd send the pages physically via Fedex, and the bright new age of the Internet, when we started scanning pages and e-mailing them in. So, there was a folder on my computer with scans of the pencils and stuff, something you won't find for work done before that. We've put some of those in there, with comments, script samples, cover roughs... that sort of behind-the-scenes-stuff.
BUG: This one is for Tomasi. Can you describe the chemistry equation of mixing elements of a military story and supernatural story together? Are there any influences you looked at while putting this project together?
PT: I'm a history buff, partial to American history and military history and a big Twilight Zone, EC Comics and DC Weird War Tales nut. The initial idea for LIGHT BRIGADE came to me one day around 1989 when I was reading through this beautiful old book I have about World War One cemeteries that was printed before World War Two, and it showed a makeshift graveyard of some fallen men in an area that was later to be a part of a World War Two battle. So I imagined what it would be like if U.S. Army soldiers had to dig foxholes for cover amidst the graves of American dead from the Great War while German troops attacked them.
Over the years I kept a separate notebook for this story, always jotting down notes, thinking about what if the Great War dead came to life around their World War Two counterparts and helped beat back the German offensive. Then of course I realized it would be waaaay cooler if it was the Germans who were undead and then me being the old altar boy started thinking about adding some religious elements, specifically the Spear of Destiny, which kinda then ballooned into a whole cache of interesting artifacts that really helped me explore this examination of faith in a wartime scenario. And I'd be remiss not to mention the great Twilight Zone episode with Warren Oates where a U.S. tank crew on maneuvers in the mid-west somehow goes back in time to find themselves at the Battle of Little Big Horn. Freakin' great episode that got me thinking about soldiers from different eras facing each other.
BUG: How about any influences you mined for LIGHT BRIGADE'S specific take on military horror?
PS: When I started out gathering reference material for Light Brigade, I picked up a lot of EC war comics and the like. I don't know if it's visible to anyone but myself, but I think I see an influence, especially in the inks, from that period of American comics. Wood, Crandall, Severin... obviously I am not fit to tie the chinstrap on those guys' helmets, but I believe something seeped through and into my style. And I dug out my old Action Men. I guess they were the European brand name for GI Joes. They had this totally detailed and authentic WWII equipment, weapons and all. Today is sounds incredible that you'd sell that as toys for seven year old boys, all they get nowadays is fantasy crap. What's the world coming to!
BUG: When mixing genres as this story does, how do you stay away from the clichés often applied to military and horror stories?
PT: Hmm, I honestly don't know, Mark. I think it boils down to approaching this from a realistic point of view, meaning I always tried to stay true to the human heart/desire of the main characters first, the grunt eyed view, the perspective of the soldier simply trying to stay alive another day, dig deep into what makes them tick without letting the supernatural aspects of the story overpower the human aspects of the story. I even applied that strategy to the main villain too so even his desires felt relatable and easy to plug into rather than be so cosmic that it felt other-worldly and strange. For good or bad, I let character drive the story in LIGHT BRIGADE rather than plot, which is usually the way I approach all the stories I write. I feel if you're more interested in the human element in a truthful way you can usually bypass falling into the cliché trap. And it sure as hell doesn't hurt to have a very critical eye after the first draft to jettison anything that feels false or cliché and rewrite it till it at least feels honest.
BUG: I know it was a while ago, but what was it like to be working with Tomasi?
PS: Very easy. I think we had a real relaxed relationship, where we all trusted each other, Bjarne included, to do our best for our common goal, to make the best damn rockin' comic book we could.
BUG: Looking at this work all these years later, what stands out the most for you?
PT: Well, I don't want this to come off egotistical, but for me, I'd have to say how timeless the story feels. That the choices I made in keeping it character centric really paid off. I still sign lots of copies whenever I'm at comic conventions and the fans of the book always talk about smaller specific moments that moved them rather than the overarching plot which means a lot to me cause as hard as I worked on the story to be inventive and exciting, I worked even harder to make the characters feel real.
Then of course, there's the art and color. The work by Snejbjerg and Hansen never ceases to amaze me. They make it look so simple, but the artistry by these guys is second to none. I can't wait for new readers to see their work in this new edition that'll showcase it even better. Snejbjerg's storytelling abilities and his attention to character detail in the faces and body language -- all I can say is wow, the emotion he gets on the page blows me away -- and I'm always discovering something new in the art even all these years later. And Bjarne's color art, man, even if I wasn't part of this book, the lighting and mood, the landscapes, you'll have to search far and wide to find a better colored comic than this one. Both of these guys deserved a helluva lot more recognition for their work than they got and I hope getting this book out there again goes a long way to rectifying that in some way.
PS: I think that what really strikes me, and this is something that is confirmed by the readers I talk to, is the plain humanity of the story. In the midst of all the over-the-top action and the supernaturally high stakes and all, it's the quiet realism of our group of protagonists that stands out. They are not any kind of heroes or the best and brightest or anything. They are just the guys that happened to have this whole thing dropped in their lap, and now they have to deal with it. And they do, as best they can, because there's just really no way around it. They've gotta step up.
BUG: Does this new reprinting of LIGHT BRIGADE mean that we might be seeing another Light Brigade story happening? Do you have new stories/directions/ideas to where you might want to see this story going?
PT: I'd be lying if I said I didn't have any ideas for developing a new story, but I do think the beauty of the book is that it's a done in one 200 page epic, a beginning, middle and end. Self contained, like a good novel. No dangling plot or character threads. No cliffhanger that you have to wait years for. It's all there, under one cover.
PS: Well... I know Tomasi had an idea at one point... but it's definitely a stand-alone story as it is, complete in itself. Not sure if we need to. But who knows.
BUG: Have you ever talked with war veterans who have read this story? And if so, what did they think of it?
PT: Funny that you mention that, cause I have given it to some veterans who I know, and even met some at comic cons who love the attention to detail regarding the mundane aspects of soldiering. I did a lot of research and was always a voracious reader of first person accounts of soldiers, so I wanted to make sure that even though it was a supernatural story, I wanted to honor the details and get those right from uniforms and weapons to pissing on your rifle if it's too cold to operate.
BUG: I thought this would make for a great film as it combines the best of both the supernatural and military. Is there a chance of ever seeing LIGHT BRIGADE on the big screen?
PS: If they ask really, really nicely and promise to do it right.
PT: I hope so, Mark. I always felt it'd make a great movie. In fact, the story started out as a screenplay first, which you'll see in the supplemental section of the new edition, and when I felt visualizing it might help get it produced (which wasn't as commonplace many years ago) is when I decided to pitch it as a comic book. And the great thing is, when I started to write the comic script, Peter Snejbjerg, who had come on board having read the screenplay, said he didn't want me to write a comic script, that he felt it was all there in the way I wrote the screenplay and he enjoyed the latitude it offered and wanted to draw straight from that.
I also feel it's got a lot of great roles for actors to chew on, from lead roles to even supporting ones, there's small story arcs for all the characters in the story in some way or another, along with kick ass set pieces and sequences that would be amazing to see on a big screen. And what I also like about it if it ever makes the transition from the page to the screen is the fact that the story relies on the acting chops of the cast first and the special effects second.
BUG: Who would you cast in the lead roles? Were these actors the same folks you envisioned while making this story or do you not think that way while writing?
PS: I didn't really have anyone in mind. It's actually a bit strange, because normally, with such a big cast, you might need some reference points to keep track of them all and make them all individuals. But no, they all sprang into my head pretty ready-made.
PT: I didn't think of anyone specific when writing it, but I think Christian Bale would rock as Chris Stavros and Michael Fassbender would be perfect as Marcus! And for our bad guy, Zephon, I'd love to see someone like DiCaprio, especially after seeing how awesome he was in DJANGO UNCHAINED. I'd be more specific about their roles, but I don't want to give too much of the story away.
BUG: Anything else you guys want to tell the readers about LIGHT BRIGADE?
PT: Just that it's a book filled with heart and soul along with great freakin' art that I don't think will disappoint.
PS: Buy it, already!
BUG: When will this new hardcover edition be available?
PT: It hits stores and also ready for digital download January 2014, just a few short months away.
BUG: Thanks so much for talking with me about this great book. I can't wait to see it in its new form!
PT: And thank you, Mark, for helping get the word out that LIGHT BRIGADE is back out there. Your support and Ain't It Cool News' is much appreciated!
BUG: Thanks so much and look for LIGHT BRIGADE in January from Dark Horse! Pete and Pete asked if I could post some of the praise LIGHT BRIGADE has received from some of comic-bookdom’s top talent and I said sure!
"A remarkable effort. By turns eerie, fervent, astonishing, and wise. LIGHT BRIGADE is a relentlessly readable, hypnotic, not-to-be missed story. It's been a long while since I was able to say that about anything." -- HARLAN ELLISON (Deathbird Stories, Strange Wine, Approaching Oblivion)
"I love the setup, I love the mission objective, and I love the character stuff. A brilliant story wrapped around an even more brilliant concept." -- MARK WAID (Kingdom Come, Daredevil)
"Renegade Angels on the loose during the Battle of the Bulge is definitely a new one on me, and Peter Tomasi has plenty of other surprises! He writes great shoot outs, cool villains, and classic hard-bitten G.I.'s. With Peter Snejbjerg's beautiful artwork as the icing on the cake, LIGHT BRIGADE is a must-have book." -- GARTH ENNIS (Preacher, The Boys)
"Tomasi and Snejbjerg have created a highly entertaining read, action-packed with touching human drama and epic biblical undertones: it's a perfect mix of 'Where Eagles Dare' meets 'The Evil Dead." -- ALEX ROSS (Kingdom Come, Marvels)
"Tomasi's opus is ripe with unforgettable characters and explosive action -- perfectly visualized by the genius of Peter Snejbjerg's artwork. All in all a bravura work." -- JAMES ROBINSON (Starman, Earth -2)
"Blood and Guts and Heaven and Hell! Here is good versus evil, literally. LIGHT BRIGADE is a bizarre, supernatural, cinematic, gore-splattered war thriller!" -- ANDREW KEVIN WALKER (Seven, Sleepy Hollow)
"LIGHT BRIGADE is an apocalypse within an apocalypse, an exuberant, spine tingling cosmic showdown set on the last battlefields of World War Two!" -- KEVIN BAKER (Dreamland, Paradise Alley, Strivers Row)
"LIGHT BRIGADE is a war/horror/supernatural adventure tale that'll keep you reading at the edge of your seat. Tomasi brings a fresh voice to his characters and a tough as nails approach to a world gone crazy. Snejbjerg's artwork captures the mood perfectly, whether it's a battle to decide the fate of the world or a quiet moment of a soldier torn by his faith. It's the summer blockbuster movie in the making you've been waiting for." -- JEPH LOEB (Batman: The Long Halloween, Batman: Dark Victory, Superman for all Seasons)
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 4. Mark’s written comics such as THE TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, DEATHSPORT GAMES, NANNY & HANK (soon to be a feature film from Uptown 6 Films), Zenescope’sGRIMM FAIRY TALES Vol.13 & UNLEASHED: WEREWOLVES – THE HUNGER and a chapter in Black Mask Studios’OCCUPY COMICS. FAMOUS MONSTERS’ LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (co-written with Martin Fisher) will be available soon in trade. Mark also wrote the critically acclaimed GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK and its follow up THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES! Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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