|Marc Guggenheim, Hugh Jackman|
Marc Guggenheim (“Wolverine,” “The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive”) hates to turn down a project, be it a comic, film or television show. As a result, he is not only one of the busiest writers working today, but one of the most heavily sought after too. The former lawyer and “Law & Order” staffer told CBR News, “I don’t know when I will cool off. I keep waiting for people to say, ‘Dude, you are a total hack.’ I keep waiting for all of this to catch up with me.”
Known for both impeccable comic timing and spot-on action pacing, Guggenheim offers his unique brand of storytelling on “Amazing Spider-Man” as a member of Marvel’s bullpen of writers working on the top-selling weekly comic. He is also set to launch his own X-book this week with “Young X-Men” #1. Add to the mix that Guggenheim is the co-creator of ABC breakout hit “Eli Stone” and is also penning a script for the highly anticipated Green Lantern film for Warner Bros. with pals Greg Berlanti (“Eli Stone”) and Michael Green (“Heroes”).
You’d think he would call it a day and be going nowhere, man.
And that’s exactly right.
Guggenheim is teaming with superstar actor Hugh Jackman (“X-Men” trilogy, “The Prestige”) to write “Nowhere Man” for Virgin Comics. The publisher is joining with Jackman’s Seed Productions to create a new comic series that if successful, will be launched as a movie franchise too.
The Virgin release announcing the title was light on details, saying only the story is a “Sci Fi odyssey set in a groundbreaking vision of the future in which mankind has traded privacy for safety.”
The always candid Guggenheim said the secrecy surrounding the project is very much by design, but did shed a little more light on the book’s direction. “It’s basically a science fiction book, set in the far future and it deals, essentially, with the Patriot Act on steroids, but in a totally surprising way. It’s one thing to say ‘the Patriot Act on steroids,’ but you have to know the kind of steroids we are talking about here.
“They really completely upend any notion of personal privacy that you might have. One of things we all initially talked about was how the best science fiction had things to say about today. By telling stories about the future, we are telling stories about the here and now. And obviously, in the wake of 9/11, we all, as Americans, have a choice to make, in terms of our security versus our personal privacy and where do you strike that balance. It’s obviously something a lot of politicians, and judges and lawyers and citizens and patriots have debated. Not just after 9/11 but before 9/11. I think we have a chance to say something interesting and new about the topic. Plus we have a really cool, very kick-ass science fiction story to tell.”
Guggenheim continued, “It’s actually a very human-oriented book. That’s what’s really great about it. There are different kinds of science fiction. There is science fiction like ‘Alien,’ like ‘Star Wars,’ where aliens and extraterrestrials or paranormal stuff co-exists with the world and then there’s stuff like ‘Firefly’ and ‘Blade Runner’ where the concept is more, even though it’s science fiction, it’s more grounded in the human drama. And this is very much a human drama. I won’t promise a complete lack of cool science fiction sensibilities, but it’s always going to be channeled through real human, flesh and blood characters. Not aliens and robots and such.”
Guggenheim said Jackman’s Nowhere Man is obviously the main character, but stopped short of calling him the ‘Good Guy.’ “He’s a **protagonist.** I don’t want to say that he is the good guy because part of what the character is going to have to deal with in the story is, is he on the right side or not? Is he doing the right thing or not?” said Guggenheim. “But he is the protagonist, in the sense that he’s the character, who we follow, he’s the character, who we are rooting for but even the villain is the hero of their own movie. And as far as the type of guy he is, I think one of things that is cool about this concept is that the character is very much a man apart. He’s very isolated. It’s not unlike Will Smith’s character in ‘I am Legend.’ The difference being, and this is all due to the strength of the high concept of the story, even though he is this solitary, unique figure, the only person on the planet like Will Smith in ‘I am Legend,’ he’s populating a world that is full of people. So unlike ‘I am Legend,’ where Will Smith had no one to interact with except for the zombies, the Hugh character will get a chance to interact with people.”
Asked if “Nowhere Man” was a Robin Hood-type of character, Guggenheim responded, “He is basically a character, who is doing exactly what he was told to do, but the question is has he been told the right thing. Robin Hood knew he was violating the law. Robin Hood believed, and never questioned, that he was doing the right thing. We are going to put Hugh’s character into the position where he has to question whether he is doing the right thing. It’s a much more morally complex type of story.”
Guggenheim said Jackman’s character has a name beyond “Nowhere Man,” but couldn’t quite share it just yet. “We haven’t finalized all the legalities,” said Guggenheim. “We haven’t completed all the trademark searches. I haven’t dotted all the ‘i’s and crossed all the ‘t’s just yet. So no, I can’t say who the name is. I could get in trouble.”
Guggenheim said the book will likely be released as a miniseries, but don’t hold him to it. “Right now, and I totally reserve the right to change it as the story dictates, but right now it’s conceived as a five-issue miniseries,” said the writer. “It ends very much with a beginning so there’s a door left wide open for either another miniseries or an ongoing series. This is very much the first chapter.”
As witnessed by Virgin’s series “Stranded” — a joint project with SciFi written by Michael Carey that has already been optioned for television — the publisher builds it books with multimedia in mind. Virgin is also developing comics with Hollywood heavyweights like John Woo, Guy Ritchie, Terry Gilliam, Dave Ed Burns, Nicolas Cage and Jon Mostow.
Guggenheim characterizes the Virgin Comics model as developing a new way of making movies and TV shows.“It’s coming from a place of intellectual property as opposed to the medium,” explained Guggenheim. “What I like about it is the cart is no longer dragging the horse, in so far as, instead of thinking of things in terms of well, this is a movie or this is a video game or this is a novel or this is a comic book or this is whatever, we — creators, writers, producers — now get to think of things in terms of here’s the concept, here are the characters, here’s the situation and know that once that idea is fully fleshed out and developed, there are plenty of different avenues to pursue the idea.
“But it’s kind of nice the way the entertainment industry has shifted. Now you are coming from the concept, the core essence of the idea versus what medium is the idea going to be materialized. And I think that’s the proper order of things. It’s great to be able to approach like, OK, this is a pure character. If we make it into a movie, we know we have a great actor to play that character. All the pieces are already in place.”
Guggenheim added that a big picture, high-concept story like “Nowhere Man” is a perfect fit for multiple platforms. “There are certain concepts that are very insular and they really lend themselves to one short story and then there are other concepts that are bigger and suggest almost an entire world of stories and this certainly falls into that second category. “That’s what so great about it. It’s a concept that is big enough to spin-off different characters. You can go down different routes. There are lots of forks in the road. So you may be able to do a video game with a completely different character than the one that is in the book from exactly the same world. And play around and see the world from that perspective. And that’s a lot fun. The potential is really exciting.”
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