Fortune & Glory: Williams on “Indiana Jones and the Tomb of the Gods”

The latest installment in the Indiana Jones film franchise, “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” comes to theaters on May 22, and this summer also marks the relaunch of Dark Horse’s Indy comics franchise with a four-issue miniseries entitled “Indiana Jones and the Tomb of the Gods.” CBR News spoke with writer Rob Williams about the book, issue #1 of which goes on sale June 29.

Though “Temple of Doom” was the second film in the Indy film franchise, the film was set in 1935, a year before the events of the inaugural “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Illustrated by Steve Scott with covers by Tony Harris, “Tomb of the Gods” is set sometime in between those two films. “It's an interesting time in Indy's development,” Rob Williams told CBR News. “One of the things we talked about from the offset is the dichotomy in Indy's character between 'Temple’ - where his mantra is 'Fortune And Glory’ - and 'Raiders,’ where it's 'That Belongs In A Museum.’”

In a pivotal scene in “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Indy’s rival, Belloq, along with a caravan of Nazis, transports the Ark of the Covenant through a desert pass before our titular hero levels a bazooka at their cargo and threatens to blow it to kingdom come. But Belloq calls Indy’s bluff, knowing Jones’ intellectual curiosity would not allow him to lose the secrets of the Ark to to history.

“In 'Tomb of the Gods,’ Indy’s not yet at the point in his life where he'll lower the bazooka and let Belloq have the Ark,” Williams said. “The younger, more driven Indy wouldn't do that.” Williams believes it is Indy’s newfound humility that saves his life at the end of “Raiders,” when he chooses to close his eyes rather than gaze upon the contents of the Ark. “Our story is another part of Indy's development on the way to 'Raiders.’”

Williams was hesitant to say too much about the plot of the series, but he did provide CBR News with a few hints. “We wanted to make the stakes huge, so it's something that could put the entire human race in peril, along with Indy's soul,” Williams said. “There's a MacGuffin - something that could mean that everything Indy has studied all these years is a lie - a chase across the globe, and, eventually, a major revelation. You'll have to read the series to see just what Indy's looking for. But it's something that goes to the very heart of who Indy is.”

The writer said that parts of the story are based on actual events. “There's a factual basis behind our inciting incident - an occurrence that did actually happen, and the evidence for it can still be seen today. But we're also adding in some aspects that are an homage to the writings of a certain author.”

Williams confirmed at least one member of Indy’s supporting cast features prominently in “Tomb of the Gods” -- Marcus Brody, Jones’ colleague and occasional benefactor. In the films, Brody was played by Denholm Elliott, and Williams was brimming over with praise for the accomplished actor. “Denholm Elliott is superb in 'Raiders’ and 'Last Crusade.’ He's probably the best thing in 'Last Crusade,’ actually. So, he's too good a character not to have along for the ride.” Whether or not fans can expect to see any other familiar faces from the Indy films remains to be seen.

For “Tomb of the Gods,” Williams made the conscious decision to introduce a number of expanded universe characters into the mix, if for no other reason than to have a supporting cast that he could put in real peril. “Even if you know Indy's going to make it out okay, you don't know if they will,” Williams said. “Also, recurring expanded universe characters help us give this run a distinct personality of its own.”

The series once again pits Henry Jones, Jr. against Hitler’s Third Reich, but Williams told CBR News that Indy’s adversaries in “Tomb of the Gods” aren’t just any Nazis. Indy crosses paths with the Ahnenerbe, a real-life section of the SS started by Heinrich Himmler in 1935. “The Ahnenerbe was the ancestral heritage branch of the SS, dedicated to archaeology surrounding the superiority of the Aryan race and the occult.,” Williams said. “This is, to all extent and purposes, Hitler's private team of Ghostbusters. I felt that was a pretty cool angle. So it's not just Indy verses your typical Nazi goons, it's Indy up against his counterparts from within the Nazi party.”

“Indiana Jones and the Tomb of the Gods” is not the Williams’ first foray into writing expanded universe tales of a Lucasfilm franchise, having written the “Star Wars: Rebellion” at Dark Horse for the past few years. “When the Dark Horse guys mentioned that they were restarting the Indiana Jones comics to coincide with the release of 'Crystal Skull,’ I was fairly shameless in sending a begging email asking to pitch, threatening to self-harm, things like that, as it would be a dream job for me. As far as I'm concerned, 'Raiders’ is about as enjoyable as movies get, and we're talking about writing one of the modern iconic heroes here. I pitched and, luckily, I got the job.”

The writer said finding Indy’s voice begins and ends with the first three films. “You watch the movies countless times and try and get the feel,” Williams said. “The most important thing is trying to nail Indy's core, and that's his love of archaeology. One of the first lines in issue one is someone asking Indy who he is, and he replies, 'I'm a college professor. That's why he's such a great action hero. Indy gets the crap beaten out of him endlessly and he still keeps chasing his prize. And his vulnerabilities make us relate to him. He's not the biggest gag telling hero, either. He's heroic, gets angry when he sees injustice. As the filmmakers pointed out at the start of 'Last Crusade,’ he's a boy scout.”

After seeing artist Steve Scott’s concept sketches for Indy and Marcus Brody, Williams said the artist was a shoo-in to pencil “Tomb of the Gods.” “Steve’s storytelling sensibility seems excellent, and when it comes to detailing feats of heroism, he's in a far better position than me,” Williams said. “He was a firefighter for many years. I like to imagine him with his Indy outfit on when he's drawing the pages.”

“As for me, if I ever got in trouble on a scene in the script, I start humming the John Williams theme music and that reminds me of what the tone should be,” Williams saidadded “Every comic book should have an iconic theme song. It helps no end.”

Dark Horse’s official comic book adaptation of “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” hits stands May 22, and look for the first issue of “Indiana Jones and the Tomb of the Gods” this June.

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