Editor's Note: This article contains spoilers from the first five seasons of "24."
If you've got a television, you've likely heard of "24" and Jack Bauer, the series' heroic lead played by Emmy award winning actor Kiefer Sutherland. The show has made headlines not only for its innovative storytelling style (each season takes place in real time over 24 hours) and controversial plots, but also because its audience continues to grow each year, rare for a show entering its sixth season. As one might expect, there've been a number of tie-in products created for "24," but it wasn't until the "24" video game debuted earlier this year that fans stood up and took notice of these tie-ins, as the game featured a pivotal (and untold) story in the show's mythology. IDW Publishing has been producing "24" comic books for years and it seems that their latest project may attract the same attention as the aforementioned game, as the new mini-series focuses on an oft-mentioned mission from Jack Bauer's past. Arriving in November, "24: Nightfall" delves into the pasts of not only Jack Bauer, but also of Season 3 character Stephen Saunders and the villains of Season 1. CBR News caught up with writers JC Vaughn and Mark Haynes to learn more about "Nightfall" and to address the apathy some comic fans feel towards "24" tie-ins.
"It might be true of people who like only superhero comics, but in better comic shops and certainly mainstream bookstores do you think there's more of an audience for '24' or every single superhero?" responded Vaughn. "This isn't anything against superhero comics. I read them and write them. With the success of the movies, it's great to see their broader acceptance. That isn't the same thing as being mainstream, though. '24,' on the other hand, is mainstream, and in that sense our aim for the comic book is the same as the aim for the show."
"As for whether it's meaningful or not, after we do our job it's up to the reader to decide," added Haynes. "I've read licensed novels that were awful and licensed novels that really added to the experience of a show or film I liked. Due to its unusual format, we've only seen five days out of the last eight years of Jack Bauer's life. There's got to be some more stories in there! Some '24' fans definitely want to see more or we wouldn't be having this conversation!"
Sure, in the realm of television, Jack Bauer's take no prisoners, borderline psychotic attitude may stand out, but the world of comics is much different. Comic fans are used to tough characters such as Punisher and Wolverine, who may be even more brutal than Jack, though Vaughn is quick to point of what makes Jack unique in any medium. "Aside from all the jokes, like 'Superman wears Jack Bauer pajamas,' Jack is an almost idealized concept of what a man can do if he puts his mind to it," he said. "One of the reasons that people relate to Jack in a way they don't relate to some other action heroes is that there have been some pretty tough consequences relating to his commitment to getting the job done."
Haynes agrees with that assessment, but also feels that while there are a lot of complex answers available, he prefers the simple one. "A lot of people hope we have people that good protecting us," said Haynes. "The same people who profess to have problems with our military or intelligence services torturing terrorists tune in week after week as Jack pushes the envelope. It's a fascinating social dichotomy and it's a wonderful world to play around in as a creator."
"Nightfall" will differ from previous "24" comics not only because of the major story being told, but also because of the increased build up to action and increase in action itself. "The main differences up front are that it's a mini-series in the standard comic book format (rather than a one-shot), and that it's a prequel to the entire series," explained Vaughn. "'Nightfall' is actually the first story we came up with and pitched to IDW. It's the one that made them want to go get the license. In the mini-series, we have the room to get a lot more into the action."
By now you're probably wondering what "Nightfall" is actually about. "'24: Nightfall' is about Jack Bauer and his Special Forces team being dropped into the former Yugoslavia with secret orders to eliminate Victor Drazen, one of the prime movers behind the ethnic cleansing that was going on there," explained Haynes. "If someone is a fan of Season One (or "Day One") of the series, they know it took place two years to the day of Operation: Nightfall. Not only do we fill in a lot of the details that fans have speculated on, we draw a lot of the great elements of the show into our story."
You may know how this all ends, especially if you've seen Season 1 of "24," but Vaughn noted that knowing the ending certainly doesn't mean you know the full story. "Just like with 'Apollo 13,'" said Vaughn, referring to the Ron Howard film about the troubled Apollo 13 mission to the moon. "As fans we already know the ending, but in this story we have the excellent opportunity to show how things happened and throw in some great twists. Some of what we do will only add some additional depth to things we've known before, while other elements will be introduced for the first time."
The cast of "Nightfall" includes Jack Bauer, Senator David Palmer, Mike Novick, The Drazens, Stephen Saunders, and as Haynes revealed, some new faces as well. "We also introduce Anna and David Petrovic, who are new characters, as are most of the guys on Jack's team other than Saunders, an ambassador from a middle eastern nation - some of the roles are bigger than others," he said. "We have some of the characters from the show appearing in small but crucial scenes. The main thing there, though, is that we won't do it just to fit them in. I think anyone who has ever read a really bad 'Star Trek' novel has had enough of fitting characters in just for the sake of doing it."
With a story that is such a major part of "24'" history, Fox has been reviewing the scripts for each issue, though there haven't been major re-writes and neither writer has met anyone from the show, except for one character, as Vaughn revealed, "We did have dinner in San Diego with Greg Itzin, who plays President Logan, and that's how he ended up in our story."
The writers are both huge fans of "24," which they say makes a project such as "Nightfall" relatively stress free, and Haynes admits that he needed Vaughn's prodding to get him to initially check out the show. "When we were roommates, J.C. kept telling me I had to watch '24,'" said Haynes. "Then one weekend when he was away the cable went out and his Season One DVD set was just sitting there, calling to me."
Vaughn laughed and added, " I came home and Mark's eyes were bleeding and he was asking to watch 'just one more episode,' so we decided we had to do the comic. We pitched to IDW and they agreed. The basics of the story came together very quickly."
Like any good "24" story, "Nightfall" raises a lot of questions about assassination for the greater good and the effect it has on the people pulling the trigger. Both men are news junkies, taking a lot of time to research real world political and military issues so that when they portray similar situations in their writing, they can bring authenticity to the story. They famously wrote about Arctic drilling in "24: Midnight Sun," only to see that become a major issue in the real world soon after. It's that commitment to continual education that adds credibility to their depiction of broken and affected men in their various "24" stories. Vaughn doesn't want to say too much about those aforementioned themes, as he wants readers to approach those parts of "Nightfall" with an open mind. For Haynes, few shows seem to encourage as much debate as "24." "Seriously, fans of all walks of life and all political persuasions seem to take it for granted that Jack Bauer is going to do whatever it takes to get the answers out of the bad guys and save our necks," Haynes said. "A percentage of those people in real life would definitely have a problem with Jack's methods, or at least they would profess to."
Fans who look through the preview pages for "24: Nightfall" #1 will notice that the scribes seem to be taking visual cues from the same, in terms of framing the scene and the way the action occurs. "I have more of a TV background and J.C. has more of a comic book background, but it's something we both arrived at easily in the storytelling approach to '24,'" explained Haynes. "It's just a mechanism, though, and it shouldn't drive the story, but it can make it more compelling to move from scene to scene."
"TV writers rarely get to play director," added Vaughn. "Screenwriters rarely get to play director. Comic book guys, though, get to call a lot of the shots. Maybe I'm just a frustrated director? It's a lot of fun coming up with that stuff. We're pretty demanding in terms of detail - we believe the show requires it - and some of that sort of direction is really an effort to liven things up for the artist. Additionally, when we started on the series, we didn't know who the artist would be or what his or her work would be like."
Part of the controversy surrounding "24" has been due to the gritty nature of the show, where Jack Bauer's fractured psyche is on display for all to see and where Jack often gets very violent. With "Nightfall" set during his days of Special Ops work, some fans have wondered if this mini-series will be darker than a regular episode of "24," though Vaughn doesn't feel that it'll be the case. "I think it's circumstantial," Vaughn said. "I don't think there's any "Bring me a hacksaw" scenes in this one, so it's not as dark as Jack cutting off a guy's head for evidence of his (false) loyalty to a bad guy."
As you might expect, Haynes has similar feelings on the subject and added, "There are definitely some incredibly dark tones to this, but the real darkness is in the lasting elements that we know will show up later in Season One, Season Three and so on."
Diverting from "Nightfall" for a moment, CBR News had to ask the two scribes about their favorite moments in the show. "Too many moments to choose from, but the hacksaw bit I just mentioned is really up there," Vaughn revealed. "Jack just shoots a child pornographer, cuts off his head and puts it in a bag like it's a bowling ball. I like a lot of other characters, but they're all dead now."
Haynes agrees with his writing partner, adding, "There are a lot of great moments in the show in Season One when you find out Nina's the mole -- that's a really good moment. Ryan Chappell was a good character."
"24: Nightfall" hits stores this November with art by Jean Diaz.