Jonathan Lincoln knows a thing or two about werewolves, and even though a full moon isn't going to turn anybody into a feral beast - at least not in his esteemed opinion - there are still plenty of reasons to fear the berserker side effects of lycanthropy.
Lincoln is the author of "Tracker," a five-part comic book miniseries launching in November from Top Cow Productions. "Tracker" is not only the comic book debut of writer Lincoln, it's also the debut for Heroes and Villains Entertainment, the multimedia production and management company that partnered up with Top Cow last summer. When CBR News spoke with the founders of HVE about "Tracker," they described the series as "a noir-genre thriller" that knocks conventional werewolf wisdom "out of the park."
To clarify that bold statement, CBR News tracked down the "Tracker" writer himself to discuss his reality-based approach to the werewolf genre, how the miniseries deviates from classic werewolf mythology, and how Lincoln is enjoying his newfound status as a comic book writer.
CBR News: Jonathan, can you describe the premise and plot of "Tracker" for those who haven't heard much about it yet?
JONATHAN LINCOLN: "Tracker" tells the story of Alex O'Roark, a federal agent whose life gets ripped to shreds when a case leads him straight into the maw of a werewolf. Now infected with the werewolf virus himself, Alex has got to track down the monster that infected him before the disease kills him.
The folks at Heroes and Villains Entertainment already spoke with us about some of the book's characters, including Alex, Herod, Cyril, Jezebel and Tory. Can you dive into these characters in a bit more detail?
Well, you certainly identified the main crew. Alex, as you might already know, is a sort of ultimate Boy Scout - the kind of guy who plays by the rules and always does the right thing. This, of course, gets massively complicated when he suddenly has to hide his new condition.
Jezebel and Tory are the other two points of his romantic triangle. Jezzie represents someone who understands agent life - she's tough, aggressive and all about the job. Tory, on the other hand, represents the world that Alex is about to lose because of his disease.
Herod and Cyril represent the new world Alex is entering as a werewolf, each in a different way. Cyril Tucker is a researcher for a mysterious group that studies werewolves. He knows a lot about the disease, but it's not clear whether he's good or bad. Herod, on the other hand, is all bad. He's a brilliant serial killer who also happens to be a werewolf. Unlike most werewolves, who black out whenever they turn "feral," Herod has a mutation in his blood that allows him to keep control of his rational mind. The result is a man who is equal parts vicious animal and cold-blooded killer. We've been describing him as "Hannibal Lecter with fangs."
I'm also really excited about some of the other werewolves in the series - I won't name names because some of them are surprises! Each one of these characters gives a little snapshot of how an individual might cope with the disease in their own unique way.
"Tracker" is allegedly departing from the werewolf mythology in some significant ways. What are some of the changes you'll be making?
Mostly I'm doing away with the superstitious trappings like full moons, pentagrams or gypsy curses. The cynic in me struggles with that sort of occult stuff because it feels illogical. What on earth could a full moon have to do with transforming into a monster? In "Tracker," werewolves are all about science - or, at least, pseudoscience. Lycanthropy is a virus that is passed through blood. When stressed, carriers have a sort of epileptic fit in which their rational minds are subsumed by fight-or-flight instinct.
How about the flip side - what parts of the werewolf mythos are you sticking with?
I'm staying true to the basic themes of the werewolf myth. At its core, the myth is about a good man who becomes a monster and then has to deal with the change. Unlike vampire or zombie stories where the person is replaced by a monster, werewolves retain a part of their old life. They wake up with blood on their hands and then feel remorse for this horrific thing they've done. That's the central drama for Alex O'Roark in this series.
Clearly you're not a werewolf - although that would be awesome - but do you find yourself relating to the werewolf's plight?
Goodness, I can't tell you the number of times I've woken up in a strange place with someone else's blood on my clothes! [Laughs] But seriously, I think we all struggle with a little bit of Jekyll and Hyde syndrome. One day we're patient and loving, and the next day we're selfish and petty. We lash out at people we love. We give in to our baser instincts. "Tracker" is a chance for me to explore some of those darker impulses in myself and hopefully make sense of them.
How did "Tracker" make the leap from comic book idea to full-fledged comic book?
"Tracker" has been tumbling around in my head for a long time. I've had a lifelong fascination with the werewolf myth and had been trying to find a fresh angle on it for years. I originally thought it might make a good TV series, but quickly realized that the story I wanted to tell was too large and violent for the episodic television format. When the guys at Heroes and Villains proposed taking the idea to Top Cow, I was thrilled.
How did illustrator Francis Tsai come aboard the project? What do you think he brings to the table?
Top Cow came to us with a list of possible artists, but the second we saw Francis' work, we knew we had to have him! "Tracker" is all about making a ridiculous thing like werewolves feel realistic, and Francis has a way of doing just that. He brings so much atmosphere to each panel that it feels like you're watching actual people go about their daily lives. I can't imagine doing this project without him.
As a relative newcomer to the comics industry, how have you found the experience so far in terms of writing, promoting, nervously anticipating the arrival of the book - all that fun stuff?
First of all, scripting comics is so radically different than anything I've done before. The writer is required to put down a lot more detail than in mediums like playwriting or screenwriting, where they leave that stuff to the director. More importantly, comics involve a completely new set of challenges for me. Because each panel is essentially frozen in time, simple actions like interjections or double takes become much more complex. So far it's been incredibly challenging - and incredibly fun.
I'm used to working in the incredibly slow-paced film industry where, if you're lucky, something you write gets shot a few years down the road. It's incredibly rewarding to write a comic script and then hold a printed book in your hands a few weeks later. Promoting "Tracker" at Comic-Con [International] was a blast. I've been to Comic-Con a number of times before, but never with a coveted "professional" pass - that was awesome.
Heroes and Villains Entertainment specializes in taking story properties and expanding them through different media outlets. Given that, are you already thinking about the possibilities of "Tracker" beyond comics?
I'm not sure how much I'm allowed to say at the moment, but Heroes and Villains is pretty aggressively pursuing the movie thing right now. We all think that "Tracker" could be a breath of fresh air in the superhero movie genre. It's a great partnership, because while HVE is busy with that stuff, I can fully invest myself in the comic book. Francis and I are happily chomping away at issues #2 and #3 as we speak.
Finally, what would you say to an unconvinced reader to sell them on "Tracker"? What does your book have that prospective fans will want to check out?
Though there are werewolves in "Tracker," this is essentially a crime drama about real people. It's sort of the monster book for people who hate monster books. Along the way, we've got a really dark murder mystery that examines the difference between man and beast - a line that gets thinner with every issue. If you're not convinced by my words, I urge you to pick up issue #1 and open to any page - Francis' gorgeous art will sell you on the spot.
"Tracker" #1 is scheduled to hit stores on November 11, 2009, courtesy of Top Cow Productions.