SDCC: Sebela Attempts an "Escape From New York" at BOOM!

One of cinema's greatest heroes is poised to make a comic book comeback on December 3. During their "Big Trouble in Little China: Shaking the Pillars of the Comics Industry" panel at Comic-Con International: San Diego, BOOM! Studios officially announced that "Dead Letters" writer Christopher Sebela will bring Snake Plissken back in an "Escape From New York" ongoing series.

Writer/director John Carpenter and co-writer Nick Castle penned the 1981 film that introduced the world to Snake Plissken, a former war hero turned criminal played by Kurt Russell. "Escape" is set in 1997, a future in which the Big Apple has been completely written off by the government and turned into a giant prison. After getting captured, Plissken is conned into saving the President (Donald Pleasance) after his plane goes down over Manhattan. Once on the island, Snake encounters a variety of colorful characters from Ernest Borgnine's Cabbie and Harry Dean Stanton's Brain to Adrienne Barbeau's Maggie and Isaac Hayes' Duke of New York.

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"Escape from New York" received a sequel in 1996, "Escape from L.A.", which took place in a fictional 2013 after Los Angeles broke off into the ocean as its own island. Snake also appeared in two different comic book offerings, a Marvel one-shot called "The Adventures of Snake Plissken" and a four-issues CrossGen miniseries entitled "John Carpenter's Snake Plissken Chronicles," but the new series marks Plissken's first foray as an ongoing comic series. This mark's BOOM!'s second John Carpenter film-originated comic, with Eric Powell and Brian Churilla currently working on a "Big Trouble in Little China" series for the publisher.

Sebela's artistic collaborator and the level of Carpenter's involvement have yet to be announced, but as a lifelong fan of Carpenter's work, the writer is more than ready to get going on the ongoing series that takes place immediately following the events of the original movie. CBR News talked with Sebela about expanding on Carpenter's mythology, Snake's enduring popularity and how he landed the job in the first place.

CBR News: What was the process like scoring this assignment?

Christopher Sebela: I'm friends with Brian Churilla, who is drawing "Big Trouble in Little China" and when he told me about him getting that gig I flipped out at how much fun it sounded like he and Eric Powell were having on it. So I talked to everyone at BOOM! I could, trying to explain what a huge Carpenter nerd I am and how I would basically fight strangers if they told me to to get a chance at working on any possible Carpenter books they might have in the pipeline, having no idea if they did or not. I can't speak for them but I think it was mostly off the basis of "Dead Letters" -- the creator-owned book I'm doing at BOOM! with Chris Visions -- that they thought of me for this book. I got a couple e-mails asking if I'd be interested in a new book and as soon as I saw the words "Escape From New York" I've never answered an e-mail quicker in my life. All I said was "YES YES YES YES" and apparently that convinced them I was serious about this book.

How did you first find your way to the films of John Carpenter?

I grew up on them. One of my earliest memories is being a little kid at home while people were watching "Halloween" on TV and being scared to death just by the soundtrack, knowing that that meant scary dudes in masks murdering the hell out of you. It was scary enough that I didn't even see it until I was a senior in high school. I think the first one I actually saw was "The Fog," which scared the pants off me, but in a way I could deal with. I was lucky enough to have a mom who was into horror novels and was pretty permissive about what I could watch, so it was a process of constantly psyching myself up to rent the next Carpenter film and see if I could make it. And I'm still here.

RELATED: Powell & Churilla Get Into "Big Trouble in Little China"

What is your personal history with "Escape?"

It came pretty quickly in my roster after "The Fog" but it confused me at first as a kid, because I was expecting monsters or murderers. While I got them, they didn't come wrapped in any of the horror trappings, it was an action film that had streaks of horror running through it. Back then, the fear of World War III, of America getting nuked by the Russians was a real enough thing, so it played on that enough to engage my horror brain. But it also had Snake as the ultimate badass surrounded by a bizarre cast and that kept me coming back to it. I've lost count of how many times I've seen it in my life. But I've seen it on every possible format from VHS on up. I managed to see a 35mm print of it projected last year here in Portland, which was sort of the apex of my "Escape" history -- until I got this gig.

What is it about Snake that makes him such a beloved character even though he's only been in two films?

I'm sure people have written long essays and dissertations on why that is, and you could ask a few hundred people and get different reasons. Maybe it's his iconic look of the eyepatch, camo pants, gun with a huge scope, big ass tattoo and one of the few mullets that actually looks cool today? A lot probably has to do with how Snake has been distilled through pop culture since "EFNY" came out, especially in the form of Metal Gear and the wave upon wave of "one man against the world" action films that it gave birth to. But I think, for me, Snake Plissken was the first dystopian/post-apocalypse action hero I can remember. Him and Mad Max. And since those films came out, apocalyptic visions in books, games, comics, movies and TV have become a genre unto itself and it feels like Snake is sort of the Elvis meets Iggy Pop of apocalypse fiction now.

Speaking of the movies, does the comic take "Escape From LA" into account?

Nope, we're starting right at the end of "Escape from New York" and following Snake from the moment he walks off screen. Everything is so wide open at the end of the movie that there's about a billion directions we can go, and we're going to try to go as many of them as possible.

What can you tell us about this first comic adventure?

The "Escape From New York" film ends with Snake Plissken having completely humiliated the President in front of the world and destroying the tape that could have put an end to the currently on-hold World War 3. If he was hated by authority before, he's completely despised by them now and he has to put as much distance between himself and the United States Police Force as possible. The best part of having a springboard like this is if America is in such dire straits that the crime rate has risen 400% and they turned New York City into a walled prison, how warped are the other 49 states of the union? Snake is gonna find out exactly just how messed up the rest of America has truly gotten.

Will any other familiar faces from the films show up in your books?

Well, most of the familiar faces from "Escape from New York" are dead by the end of it, so it kind of limits our roster of potential returning characters. But I'm definitely interested in exploring more about Hauk and the President. Considering how badly Snake screws both of them over at the end of the movie, they both have a lot of axes to grind and plenty of resources to get plenty of axes.

You get to expand this crazy world by delving into new places and introducing new characters. Can you tease any of that? What was the experience like?

Guh, I dunno how much I can tease about what we have coming up, or how much they're going to reveal when they reveal the book. Our first arc doesn't take place in New York, but somewhere on the East Coast. It was the first or second place that popped into my head immediately upon thinking about what place in America these days could match up with the weirdness of an alternate universe where a whole city got converted into a prison. Except it's a whole state. (And if those clues don't give it away, I dunno what could).

While we're light on returning characters like the Duke or the Brain, cause, y'know -- spoiler -- they all died, I'm definitely trying to stay loyal to the vibe that John Carpenter and Nick Castle came up with in their screenplay and what actors like Isaac Hayes and Ernest Borgnine really drove home with their performances. This world is so rich in potential, we want everyone who shows up to be just as dynamic and compelling.

And this whole experience on "Escape From New York" is a crazy dream come true, I'm still half-convinced this is some fever dream and I'm going to wake up at any moment. My plan is to write the hell out of this book just in case I finally do snap out of it and wake up in a padded room. 

"Escape From New York" #1 from Christopher Sebela and BOOM! Studios arrives December 3.

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