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Conspiracies live in the shadows. In the darkness, the conspirators quietly consolidate their power. They regularly subvert the law to protect their schemes. When someone uncovers a conspiracy often the only tools they are left with to confront it are their own cunning and brute force. The heroes in Andy Diggle’s comics have all found themselves reluctantly drafted into a war with a devious and secret enemy. In Diggle’s Vertigo Book, “The Losers” a rogue Special Forces unit clashes with a cabal of evil operating from within the CIA. In Diggle’s DC Mini-series “Adam Strange,” the space faring hero finds himself up against a secret group who has hijacked the planet Rann, and in Diggle’s latest series “Silent Dragon” a creator-owned six issue mini-series from Wildstorm Signature, a man finds himself battling two conspiracies. CBR News spoke to Diggle Friday morning via e-mail about “Silent Dragon,” “The Losers” and the eye-opening truths behind the comic, and the conclusion of “Adam Strange.”
Beginning with “Silent Dragon,” Diggle says this book is set in its own universe. “It’s set in a future Tokyo where the ancient and modern collide – a crazy melting pot of cyborg Yakuza, holographic ghosts and samurai war droids,” Diggle told CBR News. “It’s a sci-fi/crime/action/tragedy/love story with really big robots. I wanted to create a universe where I could really let rip with some extreme actions sequences without being constrained by the supposed ‘reality’ of a book like ‘The Losers.’ So everything is bigger, crazier, and larger than life. But I was surprised that, once I got into it, the tone ended up being somewhat darker than I had expected. The characters have taken on a life of their own, more so than in anything I’ve yet written, and there’s a kind of haunted, melancholy air that hangs over the lead character for reasons which will become apparent.”
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The lead character of “Silent Dragon” lives in a world of turmoil and self-doubt. “A global economic meltdown prompted the Japanese army to seize control of the country in a military coup – and the Yakuza don’t like this new state of affairs one little bit,” Diggle explained. “The military junta is nationalizing the banks and industries, which means the crime lords don’t get their cut any more, and – even worse – it smells suspiciously like Communism to these right-wing, ultra-nationalist Yakuza. Our hero – if you can call him that – is Renjiro, the komon (advisor) to Hideaki, the Yakuza overlord of Honshu. Renjiro is an old-fashioned kind of guy, and one who has always bought into the myth of the Yakuza as latter-day Robin Hoods. But now in his twilight years, he’s wondering whether he has wasted his life by helping a monster rise to power.”
Unseen enemies have begun plans that will irrevocably alter Renjiro’s life. “Renjiro is wrestling with these doubts when he learns of two conspiracies against his master – one from within Hideaki’s own crime clan, and one from without,” Diggle said. “Renjiro thinks he can stand on the sidelines and allow events to unfold without being drawn into them personally, but fate takes a hand in the most visceral way imaginable. I can’t really say too much more without spoiling the surprises in store, but let’s just say that when you read the end of issue one, you’ll wonder how there can be an issue two. But hey, this is comics – anything can happen.”
Diggle explores a number of themes in “Silent Dragon,” including love, loss, redemption and what is known in Japanese as giri-ninjo, which Diggle explained is “the dynamic (and often tragic) tension between the obligations of loyalty and honor on the one hand, and the desires of the heart on the other. That and, y’know, really insane fight scenes.
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“After a relatively quiet and introspective start, the action accelerates until by issue six it’s just insane,” Diggle continued. “Sword fights, jump jets, spider tanks, magneto-telekinesis, and demon-samurai war droids. Fun in a bun!”
Silent Dragon’s art team has risen to the challenge of creating a fantastic, dark future world. “It’s drawn by Leinil Yu, who blew everyone away with his work on ‘Superman: Birthright,’ but frankly his work on ‘Silent Dragon’ is in a whole other league,” Diggle said. “It’s just incredible. He’s created this beautiful blend of ancient/traditional Japanese design with ultra-futuristic technology – it looks fantastical, but everything still makes sense. It’s a world that works. If someone picks up a sword instead of a gun, there’s a reason.”
Diggle also offered high praise for the book’s inker, Gerry Alanguilan. “When I first saw Leinil’s pencils, my jaw hit the floor – the level of detail is just mind-boggling. But I thought, there’s no way anyone will ever be able to ink this and do it justice. But thankfully, I was wrong – Gerry absolutely nailed it. The two of them just work so well together. They’re an incredible team.”
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“Silent Dragon” came about because of Diggle’s desire to work with Yu. “I’d been talking to Ben Abernathy about doing a Wildstorm Universe mini-series, but I just had too much other work on at the time, and ultimately I had to politely decline,” Diggle explained “That’s when Ben said something like, ‘That’s too bad, ’cause I was also gonna ask if you’d be interested in doing a creator-owned sci-fi mini-series with Leinil Yu…’ So once I’d managed to pick myself up off the floor, I started plying him for details. Leinil was just coming off ‘Superman: Birthright’ and was apparently keen to do something with a sci-fi flavor, and they were looking for a writer to pair him up with. I still didn’t have a lot of time in my schedule, but what the hell – you don’t get an offer like that every day. Somebody asks if you want to work with Leinil Yu, you make time. So I pitched a couple of ideas, Leinil picked the one he liked best, and we were off to the races…At least, we would have been off to the races if it wasn’t for the fact that I was still mired in deadlines, writing ‘Adam Strange’ and ‘Swamp Thing’ while juggling rotating art teams on ‘The Losers.’ Fortunately, Leinil was generous enough to take on the ‘Batman/Danger Girl’ one-shot first to give me a little breathing room. Which was worth waiting for, frankly, because Leinil draws a mean Batman!”
“Silent Dragon” was not the original title of the book, having gone through 17 title changes before settling with this one. “I originally wanted to call it ‘Hammerhead,’ but we had to change it – partly to make it look like Rich Johnston didn’t get the scoop on it (curse you, Johnston!) but mainly because Marvel already owns the comic-book trademark on that character name,” Diggle explained. “Seriously, is there a single species left in the animal kingdom that isn’t a third-tier Spidey villain…?”
“Silent Dragon” is only a six-issue mini-series, but Diggle might consider doing a sequel. “If things works out, we’ll do a sequel – but only if Leinil’s on board,” he said. “He’s the life and soul of this book. You can tell that he’s been yearning to draw sci-fi, and I’m giving him as many great visuals as I can dream up. If you can just get an artist excited about what he gets to draw, the rest is easy. You can tell Leinil’s into it.”
The first issue of “Silent Dragon” hits comic shops July 27th.
While “Silent Dragon” begins in a few months, Diggle has begun planning the finale of his Vertigo book “The Losers.” “Yes, it will come to a definite conclusion – although I’m reluctant to say exactly when that’ll be, just in case everyone suddenly dumps the monthly in favor of the trades! But the good news is the trade collections are doing really well – the third book, ‘Trifecta’, goes on sale May 18th.”
Diggle was reluctant to offer any plot details about upcoming issues of “The Losers” other than long-term plot threads coming together. “And then stuff blows up,” said Diggle.
Even if The Losers leader, Colonel Clay, leads his unit to victory, he still won’t have a happy ending. “I probably wouldn’t like Clay very much if I met him in real life – he’s an arrogant, stubborn, bloody-minded son of a bitch. He’s all about the mission, and he’d be lost without one. So yeah, I think he’d have a pretty hard time adjusting to civilian life. He’d probably have to go out and start himself another war.”
To help base “The Losers” in reality, Diggle did thorough research on the CIA, clandestine activities, and world affairs. What Diggle found out changed his view on the world. “Very much for the worse, I’m sorry to say,” Diggle said. “The CIA running drugs pales into insignificance next to some of the stuff that’s going on out there. I can almost see why people would rather just bury their heads in the sand and pretend it isn’t happening. It’s just too depressing for words.”
Many of the ideas and organizations that Diggle uses in “The Losers” are real things that he discovered while doing research. “I’ve discovered a lot of stuff that made my hair stand on end, frankly,” Diggle told CBR News. “People think I just invented stuff like the ‘Proactive Pre-emptive Operations Group; – the top-secret Defense Department operation specifically designed to provoke terrorism. And because it’s run out of the Pentagon, it’s not accountable either to Congress or to the American people. Don’t believe me? Google it. The ‘Policy Analysis Market’ is another one. Seriously, you can’t make this shit up.”
While researching, one of the things that shocked Diggle the most was a comment he found by a US government official. “Over half a million children died as a direct result of our sanctions on Iraq, and when U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was asked whether this price was worth it, she replied, ‘I think this is a very hard choice, but the price– We think the price is worth it.’ That gave me a moment of pause,” Diggle said. “So half a million dead children is a price these people gladly pay to get one over on their old buddy Saddam – a monster who was still being subsidized by British and American taxpayers even after he started gassing his own people. Nice.”
Diggle’s “Adam Strange” mini-series will be coming to a conclusion in April. However, with the announcement of “The Rann/Thanagar War” mini-series written by Dave Gibbons coming this May from DC, many readers can guess what will happen at the end of “Adam Strange.”
Although, Diggle does not have any creative involvement with “The Rann/Thanagar War” he has spoken to Gibbons about it. “I’ve swapped a few emails and chatted over beers with Dave Gibbons, just to make sure we’re both on the same page, but that’s about it,” Diggle said. “It’s his baby now. I get to break the universe – he gets to fix it!”
Diggle has no plans for any more Adam Strange stories in the immediate future but he does have another project lined up that he could only cryptically describe, “I’ve got something lined up at DCU that I’m very excited about… but I’m not allowed to talk about it. Yet.”
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