Legendary Comics began its programming at Comic-Con International in San Diego with a preview night event unveiling one new project and exclusive details about another. The publisher, overseen by industry veteran Bob Schreck and a part of Thomas Tull’s Legendary Entertainment, debuted in 2011 with Frank Miller’s controversial “Holy Terror” graphic novel and announced “The Tower Chronicles” trilogy by Matt Wagner and Simon Bisley at C2E2. During the preview night event hosted by Nerdist Industries’ Chris Hardwick, Legendary announced “Shadow Walk,” an original graphic novel co-written by Mark Waid and “World War Z” author Max Brooks and illustrated by Shane Davis. Comic Book Resources spoke with Waid, Brooks, Davis and Wagner about their projects at the event.
After an introduction by Chris Hardwick, Schreck began the presentation by noting “Legendary doesn’t like to do anything small.” He introduced the panelists before Hardwick unveiled prop suits for “Pacific Rim,” a film due for release next summer.
“‘Shadow Walk’ takes place somewhere we’ve all heard of, it’s something that is part of American Biblical mythology, especially-but we don’t think of it as a real place,” Waid said.
Waid described “Shadow Walk” as melding religion, science fiction and horror — a story about “something that exists on Earth which shows up like Brigadoon every once in a while and shouldn’t exist.” He continued, “There’s no reason on the planet this should exist and it’s a very bad thing.” The appearance of this mysterious item sparks a race amongst world powers to confront or control its presence. “But it’s not a matter of sending in a military strike force,” Waid continued. “For a mission like this, you need men of faith. You need science heroes, and you need men of faith. And you need a small group.” Waid said Tull brought him onto the project based on his work in DC Comics’ “Kingdom Come,” which also blended faith with supernatural elements.
“It’s a different kind of strength,” Brooks added.
Waid said the point of view character is “a man of the cloth who has a history that is revealed through the story.” The other characters, Waid added, are chosen for the team based “not so much on skills as backgrounds. For a mission like this, you need the hard scientist, the Steve Jobs-level [intellect], the guy who invented Google Maps.” He continued, “But you also need the woman who buys into the old adage that magic is just science we haven’t discovered yet, and you also need somebody who’s been close to the edge of that place before, the last time it showed up.” Waid described this last team member as “the one guy in human history who’s ever walked out of there,” adding, “and the first thing they do is throw him in Gitmo and say, ‘Don’t tell anybody what you’ve seen until we can figure this stuff out.'”
Waid said having Davis on art was a big draw for him to work on “Shadow Walk.” “He brings a sense of humanity — the characters are very real, but at the same time you get the big giant explosions and the big monsters and the big dramatic moments. So far I have not thrown anything at him he cannot draw.”
“I’ve drawn some things I never thought I would have to,” Davis joked. Outside of the character building, which he said involved thinking about body language and how the team would physically interact, Davis said he also enjoyed designing the bio-suits, weaponry and monsters for the book.
Brooks described the “Shadow Walk” team’s process as “a lot of baton passing,” by which Tull, Brooks, Waid and Davis each got to do what they do best. “You never have too many cooks spoiling the soup,” he said. Davis commented there were brainstorming sessions which allowed him to suggest great visual moments before the scripts came to him. Waid said Tull was a great collaborator as well, and everyone felt free to question his suggestions and ideas.
“Nobody builds worlds better than Max,” Waid said, “and that’s the God’s honest truth. I write in the spur of the moment and I write from the heart, but I don’t do world-building nearly as well as what [Brooks does].”
“When you go to a movie and there’s always the one nerdball who won’t let you enjoy it because he’s always picking it apart and overanalyzing and trying to inject reality into it, and you’re like, ‘Dude, shut the fuck up’ — that’s me,” Brooks said. He added, Tull asked him to bring “research and realism” to the “Shadow Walk” concept. “What I do for Thomas is I build him a world, down to history, technology, science and the events leading up to this.”
Brooks said he based “Shadow Walk” on real life events. “What I wanted to do is go back through history, go back through this geographic location we will be discussing and think, ‘How can I tie it in to what has really happened and explain the event through this place? What if the story as we know it isn’t the whole story, what if this is the reason for it?” Waid added much of Brooks’ work would not be seen in the finished graphic novel but “it informs the world, it informs the characters and the things they’re dealing with.”
Legendary also debuted a preview comic of Matt Wagner and Simon Bisley’s “The Tower Chronicles” in both print and digital formats during preview night at Comic-Con, and Wagner revealed more details about the series — it will release as a trilogy of four-issue prestige format miniseries. “Tower,” Wagner said, “lives off the grid,” a mercenary of the supernatural accepting assignments via his website Geisthawk. “He uses the website and his lawyer to ferret through — because he gets a lot of crazies, a lot of people who aren’t worth the effort — to find the real ones. He’s an ambiguous character who works for money — he’s almost like a Clint Eastwood character in that at the beginning, we’re not sure if we really like him. And that’s a good thing. Ultimately, his humanity, his cause, gets slowly revealed.”
Because of Tower’s ambiguity, Wagner stated a female FBI agent serves as a conduit and entry point for readers to get to know him. “She works for the Behavioral Analysis Division, she’s basically our take on Clarice Starling,” Wagner said, referring to the “Silence of the Lambs” heroine, “who turns to him on a case which doesn’t make any sense to her.” Though she tries to go through “the proper channels,” Tower’s lawyer turns her away — but she manages to track him down anyway.
Wagner said Schreck, whom he’d worked with at Comico and DC, brought him onto the project to flesh out Tull’s series concept. “It was the very germ of an idea,” Wagner said, adding Schreck chose him as a seasoned writer not afraid to challenge Tull’s suggestions. “I’m always looking for a challenge. Basically, in comics, I have ‘Mage,’ which is my one-man show; I have ‘Grendel,’ which is my scattershot collaboration; and I go work for the big guys with established characters,” Wagner continued. “This is kind of all those things and kind of not all those things, so it seemed like a cool challenge. The character intrigued me and there was room enough to put my own personal spin on it. When we got Simon on board for the artist, it just all came together.”
Describing how he built upon Tull’s concept, Wagner noted all great characters need “desire, consequence, and loss.” Wagner added John Tower, the hero of “The Tower Chronicles,” has all of these things but “he’s so mysterious and aloof it gets slowly revealed to us, slowly, while he’s fighting these cool fucking monsters.” Wagner commented half the fun was getting Bisley to draw different creatures.
Originally, Schreck brought Bisley on board only for a cover or promotional piece. “He knocked it out of the park so I said, ‘God, Bob, why don’t we just get him to draw it?’ And he said yes.” This progressed to Bisley committing to the first book, then the entire trilogy. “We realized it can’t be anybody else but Simon.”
“The Tower Chronicles” begins in September, while “Shadow Walk” hits in 2013.