Welcome back to THE COMMENTARY TRACK. This is the mostly-weekly feature at CBR in which we invite creators to stop by and talk about their most recent releases, often in SPOILER-filled detail. Go behind the scenes and into the minds of your favorite creators and flip through their own comics along with them. It's just like a DVD commentary, but without all the awkward pauses.
When "Moon Knight" started its run more than one year ago, writer Charlie Huston was at the helm. With the current storyline, "God and Country," Houston and series artist Mark Texeira are joined by writer Mike Benson, most recently known for his work on HBO's television series, "Entourage."
Now halfway through "God and Country," Benson sat down with THE COMMENTARY TRACK to go over this week's "Moon Knight' #16 and discuss how it came together, how he approaches his scripts, and how football player Brett Favre managed to get a name-check in the same week he announced his retirement from the NFL.
As always, there will be SPOILERS after the break.
You co-plotted this story arc with Charlie Huston. What's your working process like?
Mike Benson: Our process is the following: Charlie and I get together at some dive restaurant or bar, shoot the ####, then get into the book. First off, we discuss the arc and cool scenes we'd like see. We put together a loose beat sheet and I go off and write up the script. Sometimes the structure changes and things get modified due to say a time line that doesn't work, density, any number of things. When I'm done with a solid first draft, Charlie will give me his thoughts and sometimes line notes. It's a seamless process. Charlie is great to work with.
Konshu, or the Bushman, seems to either be real or a figment of Marc's fractured psyche. How hard is it to write someone with what seems to be this type of schizophrenic disorder? Did you do any research into the subject?
Yes, that's all taken from my real life experiences, dealing with my own personal demons. I'm joking. . . but am I lying?
Moon Knight is a registered superhero. Is it easier to not have to deal with Moon Knight evading the law, but instead in how the law deals with him?
I don't know if it's easier. It sure makes things more interesting and gives me plenty of opportunity to create interesting scenarios. I love that Moon Knight straddles the line of what is acceptable and what isn't. It makes him a richer character.
PAGES 3 - 4
There is, obviously, a lot of violence in this comic book. How do you distinguish what happens off-panel from what happens in plain sight of the reader? For example, in this issue we see Carson Knowles stab his parole officer, but then we *assume* he suffocated another man in the hospital.
Sometimes it's more powerful not to show something; other times it's just such a cool shot you really want to show. It all depends on the flow of the scenes and what type of headspace I'm in, to be perfectly honest.
Great timing with a Brett Favre joke, given that he retired the day before the issue hit the stands. Who's the football fan?
I'm a long-time New York Giants fan, but, funnily enough, I wrote the exchange in the cafï¿½ after the fact. Tex had drawn the men in the cafï¿½ looking over at Marc and for whatever reason I just kind of though Marc looked a bit like Brett Favre. I wrote it in as kind of a joke and it made people laugh so I kept it in.
In the past, Marlene has more or less been eye candy with a strong right hook. This time she appears ready to stand up for herself emotionally, as well as physically. How do you see Marlene's role in the book and where do you see it evolving?
As much as I love eye candy, I wanted Marlene to be strong, but at the same time a little broken. She's someone who, at this point in her life, is dealing with her own demons and choosing not to look the other way. She's also a sexual creature and, in many ways, she's a lot like a dude in that she's drawn to Marc, but doesn't need to always be with him. She is beginning to do what's best for her. I didn't want to paint her black and white, but to be more complex and not always in the right -- meaning she can be selfish, or cold, or whatever. I want her to be real.
Moon Knight's rogues' gallery seems to play a decent supporting role in each issue. First there was the Bushman, then Midnight, and now the Black Spectre is returning. Who is next or who else would you like to bring back?
Man, there're so many villains I'd like to bring back. Not all from Moon Knight's past, but villains I felt could easily fit the tone of the book. I think the last one I looked into was Death Stalker. He wasn't available. It's tough finding a villain who isn't dead or isn't being used. I'm starting to come up with original foes for Moon Knight. Stay tuned.
PAGES 12 - 13
I'm a big fan of Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange," so pages #12 and #13 are a slight nod to the Droogs. Charlie and I wanted something a bit different than your typical street gang, so we came up with The Whyos. We also wanted to showcase them in a cool way, so I scripted these inter cuts between Moon Knight and Fin getting ready to go out on the prowl. Tex did an excellent job of giving Fin, the leader of The Whyos, a truly demented look.
Are you thinking of your artist, specifically, when you're writing scripts?
I've said this a couple of times in other interviews, but I pretty much wrote all the scripts before Tex came on. I'm well into the second arc now. That said, Tex is doing a bang up job and I'm really pleased with his work.
I am not one of those guys who likes to overwrite description. I like to set the stage and provide a solid road map of the story I am trying to tell. Scenes that are important to the story are written in much more detail. On a whole, though, I give the artist latitude where certain things are open to interpretation.
The trickiest thing for me as a writer is not overwriting panels that may take a number of panels to pull off. Reducing action sequences. I've gotten much better at it. Another thing I've realized is nuance doesn't work too well in comics. It seems you need to hit things a bit harder on the head than you would if it was a screenplay. It's all a learning process and I'm really enjoying it.
PAGES 14 - 15
Moon Knight is a little snippy here with his pilot, Ray. Can you tell me a little more about the thought process inside of Moon Knight's mind at this point?
Primarily, it's because Spector doesn't feel his presence on the ground is necessary, and he doesn't want to have to worry about him when things get ugly. Also, as Moon Knight's internal dialogue in the last couple pages shows, he's more than willing to maim, but he goes to great pains not to cross the line and kill. That's not so much the case with Ray. If he kills someone in the heat of battle, so be it.
What are you hoping to do with Ray? Is it a matter of just making him a more pro-active character? Is he there to contrast a specific character trait in Moon Knight?
Yes, Ray will become more pro-active as the series moves forward. As I just mentioned, Ray's attitude is closer to Khonshu's than Marc's so there is going to be more conflict. But at the same time from a writer's perspective, I want Moon Knight to have an ally -- someone he can talk to.
We had no updates from Tony Stark/S.H.I.E.L.D. in this issue, after that opened the previous issue. Will we return to that next month? Next arc?
Yes, that story will play itself out to its natural conclusion. I wouldn't leave it open ended. There is some much to service and I never want to just cram things in. Tony Stark plays a nice roll in the story line. He'll be back.
Thanks to Mike Benson for taking the time to sit down with THE COMMENTARY TRACK! Special thanks to Jamie Tarquini and Dave Richards for their assistance on this TRACK, as well.
If you have any titles or creators you'd like to see featured in THE COMMENTARY TRACK, or you're a creator with a book due out that you'd like top stop by and talk about in detail, let us know. ). We're especially looking for artists/colorists/letterers who are looking to talk about their craft. We're busy behind the scenes lining up books for the weeks ahead, but there's always room for more!
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