Brian Wood spent some time in the spotlight during his New York Comic Con Dark Horse Comics panel. On hand to moderate was Dark Horse’s Director of Public Relations, Jeremy Atkins, who initiated the proceedings by asking which audience members were reading Wood’s creator-owned series “The Massive,” a question that got an enthusiastic round of applause from the audience. Wood emphasized that “The Massive” is the series that is most challenging for him to write because of the research involved. “It’s the one I sweat the most over.”
The discussion quickly turned to Wood’s work on “Conan,” which the writer explained was difficult to talk about since he is so far ahead in writing his scripts — he’s already on issue 14 — and didn’t want to spoil anything for the series’ readers. Wood emphasized that he sees his planned 25-issue run as a love story between Conan and Belit, something most people wouldn’t think of when it comes to the Cimmerian. Wood expressed his appreciation for the talented array of artists Dark Horse has assembled for him including Vasilis Lolos, who just wrapped up his arc, and upcoming artists Declan Shalvey and Mirko Colak.
Shifting back to “The Massive,” Wood’s enthusiasm about the addition of new series artist Garry Brown was evident as the writer declared, “The art is amazing.” At this point, Atkins called out the editor of “The Massive,” Sierra Hahn, who was sitting at the back of the panel room and was a bit embarrassed at being spotlighted. Atkins laughingly apologized, but explained he wanted to give credit to her work with Wood on the series. Wood discussed the current arc which runs through issues #4-6, describing them as a series of one-off stories focusing on how the crew of The Massive obtains supplies. Each tale takes place in a different setting including Somalia, The South Pole and a gigantic container ship.
Among the most anticipated of Wood’s upcoming Dark Horse projects is his upcoming run on a new “Star Wars” series. Atkins explained that Dark Horse sees this series as so important there is no need for a subtitle; the series will simply be called “Star Wars.” The comics focuses on the core characters from the original movies, and is set directly after the destruction of the original Death Star. “You won’t need to look up a timeline for an obscure character from the novels with this series,” Atkins joked.
Wood described his experience at the recent Star Wars Celebration convention where he “got in some trouble” after having made the controversial statement that in this series, the subsequent movies “never happened.” He was confronted by concerned “Star Wars” fans and had to explain that what he meant was that for the characters, the events of those movies haven’t happened yet. This will make for some unusual character dynamics, considering Vader has not yet met Luke Skywalker, and Luke and Leia do not know they are brother and sister. “The two of them are still flirting at this stage,” Wood joked. “So that could make for some awkward situations.”
Wood expressed appreciation for artist Carlos D’Anda’s work on the series, saying his artistic partner is talented at providing the detailed renderings the ships of the “Star Wars” universe require, something particularly necessary for this series as Wood primises “a lot of X-Wing action.” Wood said he was inspired by the “X-Wing” series of novels by Michael Stackpole, and revealed that one of the most important X-Wing pilots in his series is Princess Leia. When he pitched the idea of Leia as an X-Wing pilot to Dark Horse and Lucasfilm, Wood was uncertain if they would approve the idea. The feedback he got was positive, however, as they were already looking to break Leia out of the role of a passive diplomat. Another aspect Wood will explore in his series is the emotional fallout from the first film. “We never got to see how the characters felt about everything that happened; Luke’s family was killed, Leia’s entire world was destroyed and they lost a lot of pilots in the battle.”
Asked about the perception that he frequently has a political undertone to his writing, Wood said he gets that a lot. “I’ve been pigeon-holed as the political guy.” However, he chooses to use this to his advantage, taking his stories in directions that people don’t expect and don’t necessarily reflect his own views. Citing his work on “DMZ” as one example, “The Massive” is another effort on Wood’s part to challenge those expectations. “It’s an attempt to get beyond politics, and into more people-based stories,” He said.
However, the inspiration for Wood’s initial conception of “The Massive” came from another medium. “I became obsessed with the ‘Whale Wars’ show,” Wood said with a laugh. With that in mind, he set out to create the world of “The Massive,” emphasizing that there is no set way to begin developing a series. “Sometimes it’s character-first,” he explained.
Atkins then asked if Wood, who is best-known for his independent work, ever thought he’d be working on books like “Conan,” “Star Wars” and “X-Men.” Wood admitted that he hadn’t, but there are economic realities, and paying the bills is something that everyone needs to do. Speaking frankly, the writer explained that one of the first questions he asks himself when taking on an assignment is, “Is this a good business move?”
When asked why he hadn’t yet created an ongoing creator-owned superhero series, Wood explained that superheroes don’t come naturally to him, and when he does work in the genre, he has to make it work from his perspective. “‘Demo’ was me forcing myself into that context,” he explained, adding that “X-Men” works for him on the same level. “I can’t see myself writing any other Marvel characters.” Another audience member asked about Wood’s “Supernatural” series for DC Comics, and Wood expressed regret over what he saw as a less than enthusiastic reception for the book. “That was done at a time that there was a lot of fear at the company. People were fearing for their jobs, and I think that rubbed off on the book.”
In describing his collaborative process, Wood said he never provides thumbnails to his artists. As a sometime artist himself, he understands how unpleasant it can be to have the writer confine them in that way. There have been some rare exceptions, however. While working on “Northlanders” with an artist whose English wasn’t strong, he sketched out the panel layout to communicate his intent for a particular sequence of pages that involved a complex panel layout. Covers, on the other hand, are a different story. “I am very specific. I drove Fiona Staples crazy with my instructions for the ‘DV8’ covers.” One of the biggest compliments he ever got was from his “Mara” collaborator Ming Doyle, who said that he writes artist-friendly scripts.
Wood wouldn’t explicitly confirm or deny whether he had been approached to write for DC’s “New 52” line, but did say, “I was asked to sign an NDA. You can draw your own conclusions from that!”
Asked if he would ever adapt “Channel Zero” into a movie, he said he felt the time had passed. “Let’s face it; in that book I was writing about freedom of speech being restricted. Now we have drone attacks and people being thrown in jail indefinitely. So we’re far beyond that,” Wood stated. Asked if there any projects he wished he’d passed on, Wood joked, “Well, after reading the Conan boards, maybe ‘Conan!'”
One fan stated that he had trouble explaining to his friends what made “The Massive” interesting,and asked if Wood had the same trouble. Wood agreed, wryly stating that the first thing one should do when coming up with an idea is “figure out how to explain the concept in a single sentence!” The best way he could do that for “The Massive” is to say it is a series about “Environmentalists who fail to save the world.”