Some people might think that the sole survivor of a horrific plane crash might have nothing to fear after staring death in the face. Those people haven't met Nicholas Dane. Having survived a plane crash, Dane finds his world turned upside down; he begins to manifest strange abilities while he pursues a mysterious goal and he's become the target of professional assassins and sinister conspiracies. Dane is the star of "Talent," a new four issue mini-series beginning this April from Boom! Studios by writers Christopher Golden & Tom Sniegoski and artist Paul Azaceta. CBR News spoke with Golden about "Talent."
"Talent" wasn't originally meant to be a comic book story, but a long strange journey marked by incidents of bad timing lead Golden and Sniegoski to turn their story into a four color tale. "It was originally conceived as a two hour spec TV series pilot," Golden told CBR News. "We wrote it that way and we finished it shortly before September 11th. Also, if I remember correctly, this was around the time of the movie 'Unbreakable.' So, 'Unbreakable' made it probably a bad idea to try and sell a TV series that starts with a guy who is the only survivor of something that killed everybody else involved and September 11th made it a bad idea to have something that starts with a plane crash."
It was a conversation with Boom! Studios chief Ross Richie that lead Golden and Sniegoski to revive "Talent" and turn it from a television script into a comic story. "We're taking the existing two hour pilot which is perfectly structured to do this and we're doing it as a four part comic mini-series," Golden explained.
"Talent" is no longer bound for the small screen, but some people are comparing the story to one of television's most popular shows. "Even though the pitch in print is hyping the similarity to 'Lost,' I must confess there really isn't much similarity to 'Lost," Golden said. "I can see where the comparison is being made, but it's really about the way the story is told and the fact that it begins with a plane crash. Beyond that, there isn't much.'
"Lost" follows the adventures of the survivors of a plane crash that are thrust into a strange new world. Like "Lost," "Talent" also explores a strange new world after a plane crash, but readers see this world through the eyes of one character, the series protagonist, Nicholas Dane. "Nicholas means 'victory for the people' and as common as the name is, the choice of the name is purposeful," Golden explained. "That's not something I can elaborate on, but I can tell you that Nicholas Dane is an English professor. He's an ordinary Joe. That's really his defining characteristic. He is every man. He's relatively intelligent. He's in his early '30s and he's divorced. He's just a good, ordinary guy until the plane he's on explodes in mid-air and crashes into New York harbor and his life changes completely."
Where Dane's flight was headed and what exactly happened to it are part of the ongoing mystery in "Talent." "I can say it wasn't an accident," Golden stated. "It's all part of the overarching story."
Dane may have been the sole survivor of the plane's explosion and plummet into in the water but the ordeal has had a profound effect on him. "Whatever force that has kept him alive, because certainly there's no ordinary way that he could have survived twelve hours underwater. This force kept him alive and has given him both a gift and a mission. He has somewhere in him all of the abilities, memories and unfinished business of the other passengers aboard the plane.
"It's not like a superhero comic," Golden continued. "He doesn't access them all at once to become a Superman. And it isn't that he can access these things randomly. It's not like he's 'Dial H for Hero.' It's that he's serving a purpose in the universe. In exchange for the life force that is keeping him alive, which was sort of donated by the passengers who did not survive, he has to provide them with a certain service. He's not randomly able to choose what talent he has at any give time; it's the urgent need to resolve unfinished business left behind by the people who died. Moment by moment he surprises himself with things he knows and things he can do. He realizes of course he has to deal with that and help people."
Helping people will entangle Dane in many clandestine, shadowy worlds both real and otherworldly. "The title of the 'pilot episode' is 'The Nature of Balance.' So, there is sort of a metaphysical story going on at the same time," Golden said. "There's also politics and intrigue involving one of the passengers on the plane and there are people who when they discover what has happened to Nicholas Dane, they don't want him to have the memories, talents and unfinished business of the passengers."
There will be a multitude of people upset over Dane's abilities and his mission and he will find himself targeted for assassination by their representatives. "There's a massive anti-religious conspiracy run by a shadowy organization which Dane will run afoul of. It's all sort of involved in this tangled web of politics, espionage and religion," Golden explained. "Our two favorite characters probably are a team of assassins called Payne and Abel. They are visually and mentally sort of based on Michael Madsen and Lucy Liu. They are divorced from one another but still work together as assassins and they are so much fun. We had a friggin blast with them."
It won't just be shadowy conspiracies and assassins trying to stop Dane from completing his mission. "You have to imagine that if he's completing the unfinished business of essentially every single passenger on the plane that there will be personal dramas as well," Golden explained. "Each of the deceased passengers is going to have some kind of thing they wanted to accomplish and in some of those cases it's going to be unpleasant. In fact one of them involves a former boxing champion, who was on the flight and has left behind a very unpleasant circumstance for his family and that involves another antagonist that Dane has to deal with."
He may have a legion of enemies opposing him but Nicholas won't be without allies in "Talent." "There's his ex-wife, Barbara and her husband, Cliff," Golden stated. "Cliff is a reporter and if the story continues past the initial mini-series, which it could, Cliff would be like the Jack McGhee character from the old 'Incredible Hulk' TV series."
In addition to Cliff and Barbara, Dane will frequently encounter a mysterious woman who appears to him in odd places and strange ways. "She appears all of a sudden on the plane," Golden said. "In one of my favorite moments in the first issue, they're on the plane and Dane is getting a little nervous because they're in a storm. The flight attendant leans over and all of a sudden it isn't the flight attendant we saw before it is this beautiful blond woman and she says, 'Don't worry Mr. Dane it's going to be all right.' Then the plane explodes. So, we see her as sort of an ethereal presence in his life. She's infuriatingly cryptic as far as he's concerned but clearly she knows a lot more about what's going on, what happened to him and why."
Tone wise "Talent" is a blend of elements from supernatural horror and the conspiracy thriller. "There's some interesting and unpleasant conspiracy stuff going on in the story, such at the time that we originally wrote it, it would have been impossible to sell to anything but premium cable," Golden said. "Now you could probably sell it to FX or one of the cable networks that's doing stuff that's nastier, darker and all that wonderful stuff."
"Talent" began life as a TV pilot and many classic TV shows influenced its creation. "There's some 'Quantum Leap' and some of 'The Fugitive,' in there," Golden stated. "In Hollywood speak there are elements from a lot of different things but at its most fundamental you have to call it a supernatural thriller."
Golden is happy that he and Sniegoski have artist Paul Azaceta to bring their supernatural thriller to life. "Paul is really, really talented," Golden stated. "I'm sure that as soon as the first issue comes out it will be Tom and I rushing to make sure that he finishes the whole mini-series before he gets stolen away by Marvel or DC. He's really, really good."
"Talent" is a series jam packed with story ideas and Golden would love a chance to continue the series after the initial four issue mini-series and to bring the story to other mediums. "Our relationship with Boom! and Ross is such that we all hope to take it both to future comic stories and other media," Golden said. "But I think that there's a lot going on in these four issues. There are a great many plot threads. In the age of comic book decompression, we're doing the opposite. We're doing what in any other comic book these days would take at least a year's worth of issues to tell or more. We're doing it in four. It's really jam packed.
"We're just trying to focus on making 'Talent' the best comic that we can make it," Golden continued. "We both love comics and this is a kind of story that really unfolds page-by-page in a way that I don't think you see much of these days."