The gods of Olympus return to Earth this week, courtesy of IDW Publishing. "Pantheon," created by "The Shield" star Michael Chiklis and Anny Simon Beck. Written by Marc Andreyko, and illustrated by Stephen Molnar, the series restores Zeus and the heroes of myth to glory for five issues set in a dark near-future world. CBR News spoke with Andreyko about the project, reimagining the classic gods and lunching with the stars.
"'Pantheon' is, in my best Hollywood speak, 'Children of Men meets 'Clash of the Titans,'" Andreyko said. "It takes place in our near-future where the environment is in tatters (no ice caps, levees around Manhattan, Miami under water) and religion has been outlawed. After a disaster at a drill site in Greece, something evil is unleashed and it is up to Zeus and the Greek gods to come out of retirement/hiding and save us all.
"It's very Merchant Ivory," the writer added, referring to the famous independent film company.
Beyond Zeus, Andreyko said that Herakles, Aphrodite and Ares would play significant roles, as well as "many more i ain't gonna reveal." "There are a few obscure ones who will eventually play majors parts in this epic, but I ain't telling you who," he added. "Gotta keep some things a surprise!"
As to the role these gods have been playing before the opening of the story, Andreyko said, "Some of the gods have lived in self-imposed exile, some are hiding in plain sight, while others are...unaccounted for.
"This initial series is very 'Fellowship of the Ring' insomuch as the players are gathering and making battle plans," he added.
The human lead in "Pantheon" is a man called Hamilton Finch. "He is sort of an Indiana Jones wannabe," Andreyko said. "He is a collector, preserver of old religious art, iconography, and he gets mixed up with black-marketeers/terrorists."
Many of Andreyko's projects, notably the fan-favorite "Manhunter" for DC Comics, have been gritty street-level affairs, a tone which the writer said would influence but not dominate the feel of "Pantheon." "'Pantheon' is a mixture of street-level and the widescreen, 3-D summer tent pole," he said. "For me, the big blowing-stuff-up scenes only have real weight with the reader if the characters involved are compelling and well-developed. We're taking something familiar- the Greek pantheon - and going just enough left of center to make it an exciting ride. I hope."
As to the world Andreyko is setting up with the series, the writer noted that deities themselves would not be the only supernatural elements. "Well, we got gods. And demi-gods. And monsters. Oh, and don't forget the ******," he said, leaving the last a mystery. "So, we have supernatural out the wazoo, but with new interpretations that make sense in a modern setting."
Andreyko's own interest in mythology informs his take on the established gods, goddesses, heroes and monsters that will appear in the series. "What young geek didn't devour 'Edith Hamilton's Mythology' and 'Bullfinch's Mythology' as a kid? Religious mythology - be it Greek, Norse, Christian, Indian - has always fascinated me especially since it is the basis for so much of our contemporary storytelling tradition."
The writer continued, noting that, "as the world has evolved, the niches these gods occupied have changed as well. And I'm obviously not the only one who thinks so, what with 'Percy Jackson,' 'Clash of the Titans,' 'Immortals,' heck, even 'Thor' coming out, it seems elder gods are in the zeitgeist."
Andreyko is developing "Pantheon" with actor Michael Chiklis, who originated the project. "I had gotten a call from Scott Dunbier at IDW to see if this would be a project I'd be interested in. I heard the one-line take and thought it was cool and, living in L.A., I take any and all meetings with celebrities because, even if we don't click or the project never germinates, I usually get a free meal and will have a fun story for my folks in Ohio," Andreyko told CBR. "So, I said, 'I'm in.'
"Michael and I (and Anny Beck, Michael's business partner on this project) had lunch and we got along famously. I can't say enough nice things about Michael," Andreyko continued. "In addition to being an amazing actor, he is a dream collaborator, and over these last few months, he has become a great friend."
The writer added that Chiklis has been hands-on throughout the creation of the series. "Michael has been active since the word go. After I plot out an issue, we meet up and he puts me through the wringer," Andreyko said. "He has strong creative vision which makes this whole process a pleasure and his involvement, for me, was essential. I didn't want to be some ghost writer for a project stamped with an actor's name, and after our first meeting, I knew Michael was in for the long haul. This experience has been one of the most fun of my career so far, and Michael and I look forward to working together again.
"So, what are you waiting for? Buy it! Love it! It's good for you!"