While the new American television season has been filled with many disappointing debuts, one of the few big success stories to come from the 2006/2007 television season is the NBC series "Heroes." Created by Tim Kring ("Crossing Jordan"), the show which follows a handful of people who suddenly display extraordinary powers is one of the few bright spots on the fall schedule this season. The complex back story and mythology of "Heroes" coupled with a large ensemble cast has struck a cord with audiences, even comic fans - some of the hardest to please fans there are.
For the remainder of the season, CBR News will bring you a weekly question and answer session with Joe Pokaski and Aron Coleite, members of the "Heroes" writing staff. Each Monday we'll ask them the tough questions and try to extract some hints as to what's to come next - as you might expect, the mystery is key with a show like "Heroes," but we'll do our best to hold the guys to the fire and get them to reveal some secrets.
Our first Q&A covers details from the first four episodes as well as some teasers for tonight's fifth episode. "Heroes" is seen Monday nights at 9:00 PM on NBC.
The following questions were contributed by CBR Executive Producer Jonah Weiland and CBR Staff Writers Chris Ullrich, George Tramountanas and Emmett Furey.
Joe Pokaski and Aron Coleite here representing.
We're both writers on the show - and we've been working on this show since Tim Kring first uttered the word, "Heroes."
We both started as assistants at "Crossing Jordan" and Mr. Kring gave us the opportunity to be where we are today. It's awesome and rare. So, if you've watched "Crossing Jordan" - you've seen some of our work. There might be one or two people that picked up Aron's comic "V.I.C.E." (Top Cow) and he thanks both of you.
Allright, so aside from Co-Executive Producer Jeph Loeb, who we all know is a huge comic fan, and Aron, who's also written "The Covenant" comic, are any of the rest of the writers staff comic fans? And if "yes," does it ever feel that you're treading (albeit respectfully) over comic stories by others? Does Jeph or any of the other staff find say, "That's just like what (Superhero X) did in an issue of (Superhero X's comic)?" And how does that affect the writing on the show?
Okay. Funny story. We're sitting in the writers room and talking about a new character that will show up and we're pitching variations on the scene and Loeb's just staring at us, with this ironic look in his eyes - and after we finish pitching Loeb chimes in, "We're talking about Damage here." Now, most of the people in the room had no idea what he was talking about! But, a few of us knew that he was discussing the DC character, Damage. That phrase, "We're talking about Damage here" has now been a catch phrase for the room.
That being said, we just want to tell good character based stories.
Oh, that's hilarious! Good thing Jeph is there to have you back! Another major contributor from the world of comics is Tim Sale, who's a member of your staff. While most fans probably recognize Tim Sale's art, how much of the art in the show is his? All of it? Even the comic books? And please tell us you're not having Tim emulate Issac and have him do smack to do art for the show!
Tim does all of the art for the show. And we're so thankful for it. It's become such an important signature for the show and it's great that he's getting so much new exposure. Tim's a genius and it's about time that more people knew that. And if it takes smack to make that happen - so be it.
One thing that's impressed all of us here thus far about "Heroes" is how well you've balanced telling everyone's story. You have here a very large, ensemble cast that each have their own supporting characters. How much of a challenge has this been for the writing staff to balance this all out? What kind of problems has it presented you, or does it open up more opportunities for you?
When we were working on the pilot, Tim Kring (Our Fearless Leader) came up with a phrase for the style of storytelling that we're doing. He called it Haiku Scenes. We're dropping into scenes at the most critical moments and we're jumping from scene to scene knowing our audience is smart enough to keep track.
Now, thus far we've seen each episode feature pretty much every character on the show. In the coming weeks, will we see more stand alone stories spotlighting specific characters, or will each episode always focus on the entire cast?
We're mixing it up. You never know what to expect. And that keeps it fresh - for the audience and for us.
For any new show, it takes a writing and production staff a little while to get comfortable with their new characters and to find their strengths. To "gel," if you will. How about with "Heroes?" When did everyone feel like they could relax with these characters?
This staff is amazing. It's like the perfect super team. You've got your big strong guy. Your hot dangerous ninja assassin. The powerful telepath. The funny sidekick. The ugly mutant with the heart of gold. And together we can all take down big robots. (We're not going to tell you which one is which.)
While no one likes to choose their favorite child, we're going to ask you to do it anyway! Which are your favorite characters thus far?
Well played, guys! Well played!
In the October 13th issue of "Entertainment Weekly," they listed several of the characters and the superhero archetypes it appears they were fashioned after. Specifically:
Hiro Nakamura = Dr. Manhattan (Watchmen)
Niki Sanders = Hulk
Peter and Nathan Petrelli = Angel (X-Men)
Claire Bennet = Wolverine
With that in mind, did you have superhero archetypes in mind when designing any of these characters? And if so, are any of EW's comparisons correct? Following this line of thought, could Isaac be an archetype for the hero Hourman? Mohinder could be the Professor X of the group, albeit without powers (that we know of).
First, we loved that article. It's so great to have people talking about those comparisons. Everyone is now debating if Peter is more like Rogue, Synch or Mimic. The truth is the reason that this works is that Tim Kring (OFL) never read a comic book. These abilities - these characters are iconic. While people might consider Suresh to be like Prof X now, who knows where the characters are going… stay tuned.
Allright, let's talk about some of the characters for a bit. Teenagers generally think they're indestructible. That's one thing that makes Claire's powers so interesting - she's a teenager who truly is indestructible. What about the rest of the cast - how closely do their powers reflect their individual personalities? And if they do, could you share some examples?
Absolutely. The characters are linked to their abilities. Niki is the single mom who wished she could be in two places at once. Peter is the optimist who always had his head in the clouds. Hiro's just a spaz. The abilities help the characters get through their human dilemma.
Talk about the decisions behind choosing the powers we've seen the cast exhibit thus far. Were these powers chosen with a specific end purpose in mind, or more for the story potential each one lends to the show?
Everything was chosen based on character. Do we sound like a broken record yet?
Not yet! Now, in the original unaired pilot, there was a scene where Issac was trying to kick his habit by handcuffing himself to a pole in his loft to keep him from getting to the junk. In doing so, he went a little mad and cut off his own hand to get his fix, while in the series that scene never happened. What was the thinking behind this change? Was it simply too gruesome?
Sure, let's go with that.
Sticking with Issac for a bit, his heroin addiction feeds his powers and is a necessary part of the storyline. What kind of feedback have you all received from NBC regarding his drug use? Are you restricted in any way in terms of how you can use this particular story element?
There have been a number of really great, dark moments in the show - Niki's slaughter of the gangsters, Claire being attacked, Claire on the coroner's table, Claire crashing the Camaro, Isaac's drug abuse - how far are you able to go with this stuff? Does the 9:00 start time help or hinder in any way?
One of the key "events" in the pilot was the eclipse. As the eclipse is part of the TV series logo, we have to guess it plays a significant part in the story of the "Heroes." Or is it merely a coincidence?
As the characters stories unfold for viewers and now with the reveal of Sylar, the idea of good fighting against evil has been introduced. But, some of what we may think of are the good heroes certainly have the potential to be something else. Nathan Petrelli may not be what he first appears and Niki Sanders could find herself on the side of evil, even against her will. The question is, how comfortable should audiences get with believing these characters are one thing or the other?
We all make good and bad choices. Selfish and selfless. These characters are no different.
One question we've seen asked on message boards is how long this particular story arc will play out. Right now we're just getting introduced to the characters and the mythology behind the show, but is this initial story set to run its course completely this season with a giant confrontation at season's end? Or might this story expand into the next season and years beyond?
Tim Kring (OFL) has often talked about the series in chapters - like a novel (you'll notice the chapter headings in the show.) Season one is Book One - Genesis. This gives us an opportunity to wrap up some stories and leave cliffhangers on others. (more "Buffy," less "Lost") Book Two… stay tuned?
A number of the leads who do have powers have "sidekicks" who currently don't have powers - Micah, Ando, Simone and also Mohinder (although he's not a sidekick). Might some of these characters also evolve and show off special abilities?
Many of our characters will not have abilities. Having an ability does not make you a hero.
Indeed. Now, one of the tenets of modern comic heroes is that heroes don't kill. Claire appears to have broken this tenet a number of times as of the last episode and Niki is a one-woman slaughterhouse! Will our heroes be defined by the comic book genre or will they play by a new set of rules? Are there consequences for killing?
Every action has a consequence. People will be forgiven, seek redemption and be punished.
It seems Claire's ability is that she's indestructible and we've seen thus far that she can survive quite a lot - such as a branch in the head and coming back from an invasive autopsy (now that was some fun stuff!). But how indestructible can she really be and will we see those limits tested much in upcoming episodes? (We're guessing a decapitation might leave Claire in less than good spirits.)
Good guessing. See you at homecoming (they said with an ominous grin.)
Nathan and Peter Petrelli have exhibited the power of flight, but Peter's had some troubles getting off the ground on his own. In message board discussions some have posited the idea that Peter's powers may be more "empathetic," Rogue-like if you will, than actual flight. How much more is there to Peter' abilities than we currently know?
Rogue, Mimic, Synch? See above.
In the last episode we saw a Hiro from the future. Does that tell us our heroes have already stopped the pending nuclear explosion in NYC? Also, it was hard to tell in the dark, but was the future Hiro wearing some kind of costume? And did he have a weapon strapped to his back (possibly a bo staff)? For that matter, which future season of the TV show is this future Hiro from?
Season 20. Is that tempting fate? "Law and Order" look out, we're gunning for your record. Maybe Future Hiro will show up again and answer some of your questions.
Allright, consensus around the office is for more visits from future Hiro, so keep 'em coming! Now, Claire's father is working with the black super-powered individual. This is not Sylar, correct? Can you tell us if Claire's father and Sylar are even on the same "team?"
No - we can not tell you.
Allright, well, we tried! But what about Sylar? What can you tell us about him? Was Mohinder's father on his trail? Is he patient 0, i.e. the first to exhibit powers?
Future Hiro has told us that Episode 10 is going to answer some of these questions.
And what can you tell us about Clarie's father and his back story. Any hints or clues there?
His glasses are in fact prescription. Take from that what you will? Why does he refuse to get Lasik?
While Mohinder's map seems to pinpoint the current locations of the "Heroes," do the locations also play a part in how the powers developed? How relevant to the story are those locations? And how important are the strings that connect the locations?
Evolution is as much about migration as it is about genetic codon alterations… but, of course you knew that.
Indeed. Now, is there a force greater than coincidence that is weaving the web of interconnectedness that continues to draw our heroes together?
Yes. Tim Kring.
At one point, Hiro's friend Ando addressed the paradox of time travel. Will that be brought up again, or was that your way of hanging a lantern on it?
Sadly, we spend most of our time arguing about the ramifications of the space/time continuum. There's nothing like coming home to your wife and arguing aspects of the butterfly effect.
Let's talk about that symbol that keeps popping up in episodes. Is this symbol that which everything else revolves around? When might we learn more about its meaning? What can you tell us about the design that we should know?
OK, no more questions about the symbols. Got it! Now, how about our super powered friends on the show - can you say whether or not they were victims of a secret govt. experiment to try and tap into human potential run by Clair's father?
Depends on who you ask.
One complaint made about shows like this - ones which have a large mythology and mystery running through the show - is that we learn too slowly the truth behind the various forces vying for power. How does the writing team of "Heroes" tackle that balancing act?
Answers come and they bring two new questions with them.
Fair enough. Allright, let's finish out this week's Q&A with a few teasers of tonight's episode #5 titled "Hiros."
Episode 5 has our best teaser yet. Every scene is connected and the ending… is just ridiculous. All the characters become more connected and a new character is introduced. This is a freight train, tell all your friends to come on board.
Looking forward to it. Joe and Aron, we'll talk with you again next week.