Set in a bleak future where overpopulation has led to mandatory euthanasia upon one’s twenty-first birthday, “Logan’s Run” by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson, stands as a milestone of science fiction since its first publication in 1967. A 1976 film starring Michael York further popularized the concept, even though that version significantly altered the novel’s story.
Bluewater Productions recently announced that it will be adapting Nolan’s novel as an ongoing comic book series, titled “Logan’s Run: Lastday,” written by Paul J. Salamoff with art by Daniel Gete. The series, the third “Logan’s Run” comic after a late-1970s run at Marvel and two miniseries from Malibu Comics, will debut in late 2009. CBR News spoke with Nolan about the Bluewater comic, the origins of “Logan’s Run,” and the state of the long-awaited film remake.
In its original form, “Logan’s Run” follows the adventures of Logan 3, a “Sandman” charged with hunting those who flee rather than surrender themselves to “sleep.” A jewel embedded in each person’s hand at birth changes colors every seven years, marking the stages of life, until it turns black after 21 years — one’s “lastday.” As Logan himself nears the completion of his allotted years, he begins to hear whispers of a place called Sanctuary where runners can escape the Sandmen and the obligation of Sleep. Logan resolves to use his lastday to find Sanctuary and destroy it… but of course doubts cloud the way.
Nolan’s career in comics dates back even before his career as a science fiction writer, when he worked for Whitman Comics, a division of Walt Disney, writing Mickey Mouse stories. He admits that his stories from those days weren’t entirely original, but nevertheless went over big with his bosses. “I wrote several stories, including one which was a total steal from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s story, ‘The Diamond as Big as the Ritz.’ I called it ‘The Mystery of Diamond Mountain’ with Mickey and Goofy in place of the two characters Fitzgerald had written about,” Nolan told CBR. “And just to let everybody know that I wasn’t stealing blatantly, I named the villain Gerald Fitz. But the editors there had never heard of Fitzgerald, or Moby Dick or Melville, so I just got bolder all the time.”
The writer said he also appropriated the story of Moby Dick and others. “I had a lot of fun doing those. So, I’ve been in comics a long time in my life.”
As to why he decided to bring “Logan’s Run” back into comics now, Nolan told CBR it was partly to see a new version of Logan and partly to push Warner Bros. along on the much-delayed movie remake. “It’s been about 12 years now [that we’ve been trying to make this movie], it’s incredible,” Nolan said. “There have been seven different writers and four different directors assigned to ‘Logan’s Run.'”
Joel Silver is producing the film for Warner Bros., there is still no director or script. “When I got a chance to license the material with Bluewater right here in Vancouver [Washington], I jumped at the chance because I want to re-energize ‘Logan’s Run’ so Warner Bros. and Joel Silver can bring the film out and Logan can run again.”
Under his arrangement with Bluewater, Nolan has approval of story and design elements and, as seen exclusively here on CBR, artist Daniel Gete’s costume designs. Nolan was adamant that Logan wear a helmet in the new series. “He didn’t have a helmet in the MGM movie, but you can’t move through life and go through all the things a Sandman goes through without a helmet,” the writer said. “So I did sort of a skull helmet, I helped design that with another writer friend of mine, we worked out a helmet and they’re using that.”
The original idea for “Logan’s Run” came from a presentation Nolan made for “Twilight Zone” writer Charles Beaumont’s class on science fiction at UCLA in 1963. “He asked me to come in and give his class an example of social fiction vs. science fiction. So I used the old cliche, ‘Life begins at 40.’ In social fiction, the man turns 40, runs away with a showgirl to Vegas, and leaves his wife and kids behind. That could be called social fiction,” Nolan explained. “Science fiction, the man turns 40 and has to turn himself in for euthanasia in a future world that’s overpopulated and that’s the way they control population.
“I brought that idea to George Clayton Johnson and he said we should do it as a screenplay. I said, ‘No, George, we should do it as a novel and then as a screenplay because we can sell both.’ It became a collaboration, we went down to Malibu and rented an apartment on the coast and wrote the first draft in three weeks and then I took it up to San Francisco and smoothed it out and cut and revised.”
Other influences could be found on the book’s dedication page, where “You’ll see 120 influences from Frankenstein to Mickey Mouse,” Nolan said, as well as cultural events of the time. “When we were writing ‘Logan’s Run,’ the Watts Riots were taking place in Los Angeles and young children were taking over the whole area of Watts. I wouldn’t say it gave us the idea, but it certainly strengthened our idea of a youth cult.”
As mentioned in the Bluewater announcement, Nolan will be launching two other comics series based on his work. “William F. Nolan’s Sam Space” adapts “Seven for Space,” a collection of two novels and five short stories starring Sam Space, who the author described as “Humphrey Bogart on Mars.” The third project is a six-issue miniseries titled “William F. Nolan’s Dark Universe,” in which each issue will present one of Nolan’s “shock-horror” stories from his oeuvre of over 170 published works.