Scott Buck is the real power behind the throne of Attilan’s Royal Family: as the executive producer and showrunner behind Marvel’s Inhumans, he’s been responsible for the creative choices that will bring the classic Stan Lee and Jack Kirby creations not only to television on ABC this fall, but also to IMAX movie theaters starting this weekend.
Clearly, between the massive film screens and the 2,000-pound bulldog, it’s a big job.
It’s also not Buck’s first Marvel Cinematic Universe rodeo: he was the showrunner for Netflix’s Iron Fist (his past credits also include Six Feet Under and Dexter), which received similarly challenging reviews when it launched earlier this year. Buck admits to CBR that Inhumans came with an entirely different set of creative challenges and opportunities -- but also the same core rule: no matter how otherworldly the action gets, the characters have to be grounded in a recognizable reality -- no small feat when your leading hero’s voice could level a city block.
CBR: These characters in their original conception are so adventurously creative. When you looked at that original round of inspiration, what did you want to take from that and instill in this show?
Scott Buck: I was not that familiar with the Inhumans, so once I began to take on this project, I started from the very beginning. What was fun about them was just that they are such fun characters, and that they are a family. Rather then dealing with one superhero, we’re dealing with a whole family within a race of people who all have a gift.
We’re used to seeing it the other way around, where the person with super powers is the outsider who’s different from anyone else. Instead, our one character who’s different from everyone else is Maximus, who has no powers. I like the fact that there was something inherently fantastical about the whole situation.
Was it nice that the Inhumans have only recently been blown out big in the comics, and that even though they’ve been around for 50 years, there wasn’t necessarily 50 years of tons of lore?
Right, yes. It gives you a lot more freedom with the characters. Look at the latest Karnak stuff, it's completely different from other Karnak versions. It allows you to sort of think, “What’s best for this character? What’s going to give us most out of this particular individual?”
As you started looking at the characters and deciding what their dynamics were going to be, tweaking it for the TV show, tell me a little bit about landing on how the Royal Family members relate to one another.
It is kind of fun, because there are things you don’t really start to discover or figure out until you start to write them. For me, one of the most fun aspects of this is the relationship between Karnak and Gorgon, who are really complete opposites. Gorgon just thinks from the heart. He’s all emotion.
He acts without thinking, whereas Karnak is just the opposite. He can’t help but analyze absolutely everything he sees. Then the idea of making these two close friends who are just constantly butting heads with each other, but because they’re family, they have this great love and great respect for each other, but yet they both drive each other crazy, is like one of the fun things you discover along the way.
We didn’t really get a whole lot of Medusa and Crystal in the pilot. How would you define that relationship?
That’s an interesting relationship because they were not born into the royal family. Medusa, she married Black Bolt, and Crystal is her little sister. So bringing them in from the outside, and as we slowly unfold their backstory as well, which is something that is new to the TV show, and not part of the comic book history. It just adds a lot of depth to these characters in a way that the other characters don’t have, because they were born royal.
For you as a storyteller, with Iron Fist you had one character with one power. In this, every character has some kind of ability. Tell me about working that aspect into the stories you’re telling -- that’s a lot to ask to make sure everybody gets to show off their powers in the course of the story.
What I found particularly fun about that is that when we come to our Royal Family, they are in the midst of a crisis, a big family crisis, that could threaten to destroy everything. But despite each one of them having a superpower, those superpowers are completely useless in solving this dilemma that they find themselves in.
But what’s also interesting to me is that, they don’t get these superpowers until they go through Terrigenesis at the age of 15. They are not just what their superpower is, but yet their superpower becomes such an important part of the identity to every one of them. But also in ways that don’t fully come out until they’re on Earth.
Crystal is able to control the elements, but she lives in an artificial city on the moon where there’s not a lot of elements to control. So when she comes to Hawaii, it’s like her power, she’s finally able to explore it and utilize it to a degree that she never imagined before.
Lockjaw is clearly going to be a breakout character. You guys recognized that right away. This is a sort of nerdy path I’m going to go down now: there’s a very controversial story in which Lockjaw was suggested to perhaps be an Inhuman, and transformed as part of his Terrigenesis transformation. How are you looking at Lockjaw?
Lockjaw is a dog. Lockjaw is not an Inhuman. This is not his territory. He’s a dog. He’s always been a dog. How he came to be this way, why is he so big? How can he teleport? It’s a fun mystery. We’re not going to fully explore that -- just yet, anyway.
The biggest challenge, in an exciting way I would imagine, would be having your leading man be wordless. Tell me what kind of learning curve it took for you guys to land on how you were going to do that, and to work with Anson Mount to get him there?
It was very much a learning process. For me, in writing the first scripts -- and writing almost all the scripts – I had to make it clear to all the writers that, despite the fact that this character doesn’t have a single line of dialogue, he is still our lead, and he is the one who’s driving the action, and he is the center of every scene.
It got to the point that I was perhaps emphasizing that too much within every scene, in terms of, “This is what Black Bolt is thinking; this is what Black Bolt is feeling; this is what Black Bolt is doing.” Anson actually had to come to be and say, “Can we just back off a little bit?”
What had sort of happened was that I was over-directing him in the way I was writing the scene. So he needed a lot more freedom, and that was very much to the benefit. It was a huge relief to me to know that Anson had such a strong grasp on who this character was, that I could give him that freedom to be the Black Bolt that he knew he wanted to be.