His mission — which writer Michael Alan Nelson (“Supergirl,” “Day Men”) chose to accept — was to work with actor Peter Facinelli (“Twilight,” “Can’t Hardly Wait”) co-writing a high-concept espionage thriller about a team of young and highly-trained globetrotting super-spies, working for a mysterious benefactor known as “Dad.”
But the story Nelson and Facinelli wanted to tell — solicited earlier this year as “Orphans” – was held back after hitting some production delays. But like Ethan Hunt ripping off one his trademark “Mission: Impossible” masks, their spy story has taken on a new identity and will hit store shelves in November as “Protocol,” featuring interior art by Mariano Navarro and covers by Stephane Roux (“Zatanna”). “Protocol” may look different, but its mission is still gunning to be another action-packed tale from BOOM! Studios.
“It was such a cool idea and [Facinelli] had all these great concepts, that we all jumped at the chance to tell the story,” said Nelson of the series’ origin. “I do most of the heavy lifting on the scripting, but Peter has a lot of input as to the direction of the story, which ideas he wants to see implemented and fleshed out more. He’s been incredibly generous by letting me take a run at it.
“It’s his baby and any time you’re helping someone develop a story, you want to make sure you’re as respectful to his or her vision as you can be,” he continued. “Thankfully, he’s been happy with what I’ve been bringing to the table.”
In “Protocol,” a shadowy government agency known as The Council recruits talented adolescents to train into the worlds’ foremost — and nigh-superhuman — espionage experts.
“[They’re] parent-less children who were chosen by the Council because of their exceptional physical and mental abilities. Their training began at a very young age and continued on into adulthood. By the time they are ready to go into the field, they have skills that seem almost superhuman,” said Nelson, who also teased some of core characters of the miniseries, including “Dad,” the mysterious father figure who looks after the orphans, and reports to The Council.
“The power a Dad has over his orphans is beyond that of a simple commanding officer,” he said. Orphans live in fear of disappointing Dad. Not because of the retribution of failure, but because of the immense pressure that they put on themselves to succeed.”
“Protocol” has a deadly and dangerous cast, and while the series has yet to launch, Nelson already has his favorites. “I really enjoy writing Lewis since he’s a bit rough around the edges,” the writer said. “He’s highly trained and incredibly disciplined, but his approach to his job is unorthodox and his innate rebellious attitude can’t help but surface from time to time. But my absolute favorite has been Parish. He’s just…cold. One of my favorite scenes that I’ve ever written is a Parish flashback to his training at the Playground. I won’t give it away, but he reveals himself to be attuned to a very specific career path.”
While Nelson has a diverse resume when it comes to genre writing — he’s carved out a reputation as a horror writer, written fantasy and sci-fi and super-heroics, like DC Comics’ “Supergirl” and “Ravagers” — but he admits the spy genre is new territory.
“It’s a bit like stepping out onto a ledge with no net below you. Exciting and terrifying all at the same time,” explained Nelson. “But with all great espionage, it’s the central mystery that really compels the story forward. And that is something that I’ve tried to do with all of my writing, regardless of the genre. Having that mystery helps keep the reader engaged.
“All of that said, you will also see some rather horrific elements in the story, especially when we see what it was like for these operatives when they were trained as children,” he continued. “I get to have a lot of fun with that, believe me.”
Although the spy genre is admittedly a new element for Nelson, he looks forward to grounding the story while exploring the limits of what ordinary people can do.
“I’m always been amazed by people who are very, very good at what they do, regardless of what that is,” said Nelson. “Excellence is a wonder to behold, so just imagine having a group of spies who are at the very top of the physical and mental food chain. It allows me to put them into some terribly awful situations with just a glimmer of a chance at survival. You know, fun!”
“Protocol” hits stores in November.