Every fan on the show floor of this year’s Comic-Con International in San Diego will soon know the name Joseph Kosinski. In addition to directing the highly anticipated “Tron Legacy,” which will be showcased over the course of the entire convention, Kosinski is best known for his direction of the amazing “Gears of War” commercial, “Mad World.” While film and video game fans alike have ample reason to know the director, he will soon be no stranger to comic fans as well. Later this year, through Radical Publishing, Kosinski releases his creator-owned illustrated novel “Oblivion.”
Plotted by Kosinski and scripted by Arvid Nelson (“Rex Mundi”), “Oblivion” takes place in an apocalyptic future where the Earth’s surface has become dangerous and inhospitable, and people live above the clouds, returning to the planet only to scavenge supplies and relics from a bygone era. However, when one such explorer comes across a beautiful woman in a crash-landed craft, an epic adventure begins that will change the way he looks at his world forever.
Kosinski took time out from his jam-packed Comic-Con schedule to talk a bit about his first foray into the world of creator-owned comics, his thoughts as a director on the upward trend of comic book based films and, of course, “Tron Legacy.”
CBR News: Joseph, tell us a bit about the story behind “Oblivion.”
Joseph Kosinski: It’s a love story that explores various themes ranging from identity to redemption. It’s a sci-fi adventure that spans two different worlds and two different times. It’s epic in terms of its scale and scope, but it’s a character driven story with a small cast.
Where did the concept for the series come from?
I first came up with the concept when I moved from New York to Los Angeles. I was inspired by old sci-fi models like “The Twilight Zone” to find an emotional, dramatic story that would raise interesting questions and play with perspective. I wanted to build the story around those few characters, but at the same time ask the bigger universal questions that are integral to science fiction, questions about our existence, our purpose in the big scheme of things.
Who are the central characters of the book? What can you tell us about them?
The main character, Jak, is an ex-soldier who works as a drone repairman on this barren planet. He fixes the drones that patrol the surface looking to destroy what’s left of the Scavengers, a savage alien race. Jak has a partner, Vika, who’s a by the book kind of career officer and she works as his “eye-in-the-sky,” scanning for damaged drones and monitoring Scavenger activity. One day, Jak comes across a spacecraft that’s crashed, and inside he finds this mysterious woman in “deltasleep.” He rescues her from the Scavengers and takes her back to their Skytower, which is high above the clouds. When the woman wakes up, her story turns their lives upside down and sends each of them on an adventure of self-discovery.
What has your interaction and collaboration with Arvid Nelson been like?
Arvid is great. He’s smart and fun to work with. Our process is pretty typical. We talk on the phone and discuss notes, and then he writes some more and submits pages and we talk again. We swap reference videos, images that relate to the story and talk about movies and books. He has a strong grasp on sci-fi and his ability to build worlds is unique.
You’ve opted not to go for a full-blown comic book format for “Oblivion” – why is that?
I think “Oblivion” could be made into a graphic novel with panels, but for our book, “Oblivion” will be an illustrated novel with around 40 to 50 large wide format images interspersed through the story. I wanted to do large painted images to really show the scope of the worlds.
What do you feel has been the most challenging thing about working on “Oblivion?”
The challenges have changed depending on the phase. At the beginning it was getting people to look at the story and then the challenge was finding the right partners, both illustrator and writer. Now the challenge is giving the project everything it deserves while finishing Tron Legacy at the same time.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of this project for you?
Being able to create a project completely from scratch. The story was something I came up with when I had just moved to L.A. It’s a story that’s close to my heart, so it’s very rewarding to see the images and to read the novel and collaborate with creators and artists who share my excitement to make it into something unique.
Additionally, as a director, what do you think about the recent trend of comic books being adapted for film, especially considering that “Oblivion” is slated to become a major motion picture through Radical?
I think that it’s great when the screenplay is strong and when the adaptation is taken seriously. A lot of comic books and properties lend themselves to being made into movies, but they’re still vastly different mediums and processes. What works on the page doesn’t always work on the screen. There’s a balance between making the best movie and remaining true to what was strong about the original property. It’s a fine line we’ve been walking on “Tron Legacy.”
Speaking of “Tron Legacy,” can you tell us anything about it?
It’s out in December and it’s a stand-alone sequel story to the 1982 film Tron. It’s a father/son story. We’ve worked really hard to maintain the iconic design and feel of the original world, while updating it and creating some new elements. I’ll be showing some footage at Comic-Con.