Knights of the Red Planet: Hawkins talks "Lady Pendragon"

Last year, Top Cow Productions launched the first annual Pilot Season initiative, whereby six creative teams produced single issues featuring underused Top Cow characters, and after all six Pilot Season episodes were released, fans were given the opportunity to vote for their favorite on the MySpace Pilot Season page. The top two vote-getters, Joe Casey's "Velocity" and Joshua Hale Fialkov's "Cyblade," will each be getting their own series in 2008. The first Pilot Season was so successful that Top Cow's top brass decided to revisit the concept this year with Pilot Season 2008. CBR News caught up with Top Cow President Matt Hawkins to talk about this year's Pilot Season, as well as his and artist Eru's contribution, "Pilot Season: Lady Pendragon," on sale in June.

"Pilot Season was an idea born out of a desire to get the fans more involved in the process," Hawkins told CBR News. "I've always felt strongly about getting as much reader interaction as possible because comics is one of the only entertainment mediums where people can meet and interact with the creative types (unless you stalk Angelina Jolie)." Fun is the order of the day where Pilot Season is concerned, and it gives the company an opportunity to work with creators they don't usually work with."

Hawkins's "Lady Pendragon" was originally published more than a decade ago, and tells the story of a direct descendant of King Arthur and Lady Guinevere who reintroduces magic into the present day. It's been almost 10 years since Lady Pendragon graced the pages of a comic book, and fans have the character have clamoring for her return ever since. Hawkins always intended to return to the character, but the time was never right until now. "Truth was, the full time gig I took at Top Cow, the two kids and a debilitating Everquest and later World of Warcraft addiction, sucked up any free time I had," Hawkins confessed. "Through my family's intervention I no longer play MMO's (I'm only semi-kidding here)." And with new publisher Filip Sablik taking over a lot of his day-to-day responsibilities at Top Cow, there's never been a better time for Hawkins to reintroduce Lady Pendragon.

The story for "Pilot Season: Lady Pendragon" begins with Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Mars Rover discovering a Stonehenge-like circle of stones on the red planet, complete with a would-be Excalibur. "The government keeps it secret and works for years to recover the artifacts and bring the sword (in the stone) and some tablets with writing on them back to earth for analysis," Hawkins explained. "The writing turns out to be Latin and when they translate it, they discover the translation matches word for word excerpts from novels written by a historical novelist named Jennifer Drake. They detain and interrogate her to discover that she claims her ideas come to her in vivid dreams."

It's Jennifer who successfully removes the sword from the Martian stone, thereby returning magic to modern day Earth.

This was also the basis of the original "Lady Pendragon" miniseries, but only accounts for the first few pages of "Pilot Season: Lady Pendragon." From there the story jumps five years into future.

Hawkins felt that re-imagining an extant miniseries for a Pilot Season one-shot would be "pretty lazy," so he "tried to come up with something that would be readable by a first timer and yet be palatable to one of the original readers." And the events in "Lady Pendragon" exist in their own separate continuity from the Top Cow Universe. "I love the Top Cow Universe, I just don't think it fits," Hawkins said.

It was Top Cow editor Rob Levin who first recognized the talent of up-and-coming artist Eru, and it was on the strength of Eru's samples that Hawkins picked him to pencil his installment of Pilot Season. "The pages came back unbelievably fucking cool!" Hawkins said. The writer couldn't he happier with his collaborator, though he has yet to actually meet Eru in the flesh. "I sent him a 'You kick ass' e-mail earlier today, but no response yet."

Top Cow will soon be re-releasing the original "Lady Pendragon" miniseries in trade paperback, with slight script alterations by Hawkins to make it sync up with the new


The first installment of Pilot Season 2008, "Twilight Guardian," is on stands now, and look for "Pilot Season: Lady Pendragon" to hit stands June 11.

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