Mark Roslan has worn many hats over the last few years. Not only is he Aspen Comics’ Director of Design and Production and a digital inker on titles including “Fathom,” “Soulfire,” “Lady Mechanika,” “Ultimate Comics X” and “Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine,” he’s a former comics letterer and now, he’s making his first foray into writing comics with Aspen’s newest title, “Broken Pieces,” debuting in August with art by comics newcomer Micah Kaneshiro.
In a United States reeling from the aftereffects of a biological weapon detonated over the Gulf of Mexico, Doctors Gabriella and Richard Adams are hired to develop a cure for the effects of the bomb. Unfortunately, as they seek to invent a cure, they create a horrible monster. Through a dual narrative — one following the pasts of Gabriella and Richard and one following the monster — “Broken Pieces” will slowly reveal the full story of what happened and why.
CBR News spoke with Mark Roslan about his upcoming series and got the details on Richard Adams, the world of “Broken Pieces,” his transition from designer to writer and the unique fragmented format of storytelling within the book.
â€¨CBR News: Mark, tell us about the premise behind “Broken Pieces.” What’s the story here and who are the primary players?
Mark Roslan: The story takes place in the not too distant future, twenty-five years from now after a catastrophic biological bomb has detonated over the Gulf of Mexico. Its effects spread up the coastline of the United States and the nation starts to freak out.
We’re introduced to our main characters, Dr. Gabriella Adams and her husband Dr. Richard Adams, who are approached by a huge pharmaceutical company in charge of finding a possible cure for the effects of the deteriorating atmosphere in the southeast United States. The director of the company, Damon Ludas, believes that Gabriella is the answer they’re looking for, a return to normalcy for America and in turn, huge profits for his company.
However, “Broken Pieces” chronicles two separate stories: one of the doctors given this tremendous opportunity to save their country (and marriage!), and then the other exploring the resulting Monster they ultimately spawn, and the aftereffects of its creation. The initial storyline will follow the couple in their past and the path that leads them to their current present. The other tells the story of the Monster’s odyssey from its present forward. It sounds complicated, but I think everything will fit together nicely! The book’s overall focus will be on these moments that pop up in our everyday lives without warning, and then the choices we make to deal with those important moments. “Broken Pieces” is a five issue mini-series (along with an introductory zero issue) and will hopefully read like “District 9” meets “The Fountain” meets “Wolverine!”
â€¨According to the solicit, there’s one fatal moment in the beginning of the series that sets off the main plot of the book. What is Dr. Richard Adams’ life like before this event and how does he approach the changes that come as a result?
Dr. Richard Adams and his wife Gabriella both attended the same University, where they met and fell in love, and planned a beautiful future together. But things began to change, and he started to feel like a burden on their relationship. Like any married couple, they worked hard to figure things out, but everything’s getting worse a lot quicker than it’s getting better. That is until Damon Ludas enters their lives.
While the solicit details two characters — Dr. Adams and his wife — how does their research into medicine and bio-rejuvenation tie into the overarching plot?
It’s actually a huge part. In “Broken Pieces,” there is a sickness spreading up the eastern coast that has gotten out of hand and needs to be taken care of right away. Once the doctors accept Ludas’ offer to work on a remedy, they jump right into developing a form of highly advanced cellular regeneration. They are trying to basically get to the point where our bodies allow our cells to adapt and repair themselves and ultimately eliminate disease and the requirement of medicine. But of course, like any corporation, profit from these various steps of treatment is paramount. There is no money to be made in a cure after all.â€¨â€¨Tell us a bit about the significance title, “Broken Pieces.” Obviously, Dr. Adams suffers a tragedy and has to pick up the “pieces of the fragmented reality,” but what are those pieces and why are they broken?
The title came about quite naturally because of the way the story’s narrative will be presented in a fragmented format. I’m a huge fan of stories that don’t follow the normal plot structure. Nonlinear books like “Catch-22” and “Choke,” films like “Memento” and “Pulp Fiction,” and disjointed TV shows like “Lost.” However, I quickly realized this would be difficult to do in comic book format because not only do you have to wait a month between issues, but any confusion could also take the reader out of the story. But with the help of my editors, I think we pieced together the adventure nicely.
How did the opportunity to write a comic book for Aspen come about?
Well working for Aspen is what I like to believe it’s like working for NASA or Pixar. There is a collection of brilliantly creative minds under one roof that all feed off of each other. After Michael Turner’s passing, Frank [Mastromauro] and Peter [Steigerwald] sat down and talked to the studio about Mike’s nature of pushing everyone around him to be as creative as they can be. They said that the ideas we’ve been holding close to our hearts should see the light of day, that Turner always intended it that way, and that we continue to make comic books that we’d enjoy. I saw this as an incredible opportunity and spent many late nights working towards seeing my vision through. Luckily, after I collected all the post-it notes, doodles, paper clippings, and multiple notepads into one final document, I got the green light to start the scripts.
You’ve worked on a number of different titles on the production side, but I believe this is the first title you’ve written. How has your design experience helped you in writing “Broken Pieces?”
Like most things I work on, whether it’s a design, an illustration, or a script, I never truly feel like it is good enough and I want to work on it and work on it some more until I’m happy. But after years of doing design work for clients, I’ve grown more accustomed to doing the best that I can with the time allotted to me. For “Broken Pieces,” I set some deadlines for myself and treated the book as if I was working for a client, otherwise the book probably would’ve never got done. I’m also fortunate to know a lot of the behind the scenes elements of making a comic book, so I feel like I have a clear grasp on how to make the process as efficient as possible.
How have you found the transition from design to writing?
I feel if you work in a creative field, you’re at your best when you’ve been practicing a lot. I was very nervous having not written anything substantial since my days in college, but Frank and Peter were very supportive and reassured me that I [should] take my time and work it out. My daily practice and natural instinct is in the visual medium and it took a while for my brain to switch to descriptive words instead of the scribbles I had been collecting. I spent a long time working and reworking the story breakdown and plot outline so that it was at a place I was happy with. I feel that if you prepare yourself as much as possible in the beginning, then the final product will come to you with ease and you can polish it off from there. Luckily, sometimes daily design work can become monotonous, so I let my brain escape to concentrate on a scene in the book that I’m stuck on, and then quickly write dialogue, panel descriptions or anything else that jumps out at me.â€¨
As a writer and designer, what appeals to you about the story you’ve put together?
One thing I wanted to do was really challenge myself, not only with the overall story, but in how it’s presented too. It was an opportunity for me to put together everything I like in experiencing a story but to also be able to mold it into what I believe is a very beautiful graphic narrative format. I think the artist, Micah Kaneshiro, who is doing the complete illustrations from pencils to colors on “Broken Pieces,” has been turning in the best work of his career that rivals some of the industry’s greats. He has been phenomenal to work with and I can’t wait to see more from him. It’s a wonderful thing to see something that started as an idea in your head to then become a beautifully illustrated visual. I’m really looking forward to the final collected graphic novel… mostly because I know how it ends!
â€¨How did series artist Micah Kaneshiro get involved in the project?
As I mentioned, Micah has been stellar. We met him at the Long Beach Comic-Con when he casually showed us his conceptual art portfolio and everyone at Aspen was floored at the talent he presented. We wanted to work with him right away before Sony or Warner Bros. or some other studio could steal him away! I told him about the project and he immediately had some great ideas he wanted to incorporate. Micah only lives a couple of hours from the studio and was kind enough to drive up to Los Angeles a few times to go over the complete story in detail and how we wanted to present it. Micah went home after our meetings and immediately designed multiple versions of every major character in the book practically overnight.
Can you take us through your collaborative process with him?
Once I had the [first] full script completed, we had Micah layout every page of the issue. He then came back into the studio again to brainstorm on possible ways to make them better. He’s been incredibly eager to improve on every page and every panel. We’re pretty picky here at Aspen about what we feel makes a good comic book, but Micah has tough skin and takes whatever notes we give him one step further and never ceases to amaze. He is a new face in the comic world but you’ll be hearing his name for years to come.
â€¨What are you most excited about in theseries?â€¨
For it to finally come out! I’ve been working on it for over three years! I really feel like this book is something refreshingly new. Not only from Aspen, but comics in general. “Broken Pieces” is definitely not a Frankenstein or underwear wearing Superhero book. The story isn’t a new take on old heroes, or dead hero’s greatest stories retold, or based on a gimmick. It’s a story that you will hopefully find riveting and powerful with all the qualities of a sci-fi action adventure along with thought-provoking dramatic undertones all beautifully captured and presented by a very talented artist. Plus, there are some amazing covers by some of my dearest friends in the comic book industry that I can’t wait to get and add to my ever-growing collection.
“Broken Pieces” #0 is in stores August 3, 2011. For more information visit brokenpiecescomic.com.