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War Games: Dan Wickline talks “I Am Spartacus”

by  in Comic News Comment
War Games: Dan Wickline talks “I Am Spartacus”

It’s not easy being a cop. It’s even harder being a bad cop looking for a little bit of good. Just ask Tiffany Munday. This April, Cellar Door Publishing releases “I Am Sparatacus,” a one-shot chronicling the adventure of one cop as she searches for atonement. This fifty-page one-shot features a story by Dan Wickline with art by Ilkka Lesonen. The book is listed in the current Diamond Previews catalog for pre-order. CBR News caught up with writer Dan Wickline to learn more about the book and what to expect.

“I think of ‘Spartacus’ as taking a handful of different genres, sticking them in a blender and setting it on puree,” Wickline explained to CBR News. “You have the corporate greed angle, the bad cop out for redemption, the mysterious powered figure and a mounting body count. An ex-cop, now the head of security for Hallotech is brought in after a series of corporate espionage escalates to murder. As the investigation progresses, the line between the good guys and the bad guys becomes very blurred.

“We follow Tiffany Munday, an ex-cop who was kicked off the force for being on the take. Now she heads up the security for Hallotech. Thomas Halloran is the founder of Hallotech and one of the most powerful men in the country. He has an amazing ability to get people to say yes to whatever he wants. And of course there is Spartacus, our mysterious figure that can do things he shouldn’t be able to do– from insider knowledge of Hallotech to physical feats that are beyond comprehension. And there are a handful of corporate executives who make up the suspect list. Tiffany’s story is touched on here, her past is important to why she is where she is and her future is changed by the end of the book, but it’s not her story. But whose story we’re seeing is part of the overall mystery.”

And if you’re looking for the list of suspects who might have inspired this book, look no further than the Wachowski Bros. Their “Matrix” films had a huge impact on pop culture and continue to resonate with Wickline, who found his story while watching the films. “The absolute first glimmer of the story came to me while watching the ‘Matrix,’ the scene where Neo flies off at the end. That visual stuck with me. That image combined with an idea for a homeless superhero started me down the path towards Spartacus. There is another very obvious and classical influence, but the reader won’t see it until the end, so I can’t really mention it.

“The story was actually written a couple years back and has been sitting on my hard-drive for a while; it wasn’t until Ilkka emailed me asking if I had any scripts he could play with that this came to life. I sent him the script; he really liked it and started working on it in his spare time. By San Diego last year he had half the book complete and I took it with me to show. I ended up showing it to Jade Dodge of Cellar Door first and that was the end of that.”

In Wickline’s previous work, “Blood Stained Sword,” he dealt with the world of corporate intrigue and it’s no simple coincidence. In big corporations, the scribe sees potential for a myriad of stories to be told and emotions to be evoked. “If you want to connect with your reader, the fastest way to do it is through the base emotions. Love, Revenge, Greed, etc,” said Wickline. “Corporations have become synonymous with greed. You look at the fact the Exxon has posted the single greatest one-year growth in corporate history at the same time we’re paying $2.50 or more a gallon for gas– tell me that you can’t picture a boardroom full of men in suits, smoking cigars lit by $100 bills and then making a call to raise the price another nickel a gallon.

“When those with the money make the decisions, it will be those same people who make even more money. Making a guy the head of a corporation is the equivalent of putting him in a Nazi uniform in the 40s or in black with a handlebar mustache in the westerns.”

Also from Wickline is the recently released “30 Days Of Night: Dead Space,” which was co-written with “30 Days” creator Steve Niles. The book was delayed for many months, but a little patience and perseverance saw the book finally released. “‘Dead Space’ has been an interesting ride,” said Wickline. “To start with, this is not the story I was going to do for ‘Bloodsucker Tales,’ that’s still sitting on my hard-drive hoping to see the light of day. This was basically Steve and I about year and a half ago joking around in instant messenger. He was talking about an autopsy scene he was doing for ‘Bloodsucker Tales’ and was trying to figure out which organs a vampire wouldn’t need. I suggested the lungs; being they can stay underground I would assume they didn’t need to breath anymore. Then I joked how they would make great astronauts. Five minutes and one email later he and I are fleshing out the plot and we have Milx locked in to do the art. Funny how things work.

“Now Milx is this great kid down in the Philippines who does amazing painted work; but some people know him more for some unfortunate events that happened while he was doing “Silver Surfer” for Marvel. So, Steve and I set it up that he would do the whole series before we got it set up at the publisher. He finished up the last page in May of 2005, we got it set up with IDW in July and it hit the shelf last week.

“Working with Steve was enjoyable. I had never co-written anything before; so I wasn’t sure what to expect. But we worked the plot back and forth until we were satisfied and then gave it to Milx to draw. Once he completed the pages I made a pass through the dialogue and then Steve went through and tweaked and added from there. Overall it was a very fluid process only hampered by the fact that he’s doing so much work now.”

Wickline’s entry into the writing world, at least full-time, isn’t quite your average break through story, even though the road has been paved with success. For other writers looking for their big break, you may find some parallels to Wickline’s story. “In February of 2005 the company I was working for out-sourced their IT department and I had a choice to make; either go with the new company or try my hand at full-time writing. I decided to take the gamble,” said Wickline. “And for eight months straight I got to live the life I always wanted. I wrote a novella called ‘Three Little Maidens All In The Morgue, A Lucius Fogg Mystery’ which should be seen later this year. A children’s book called ‘St. Christophers’s Junior Mystery Detective League’ which hopefully will also be seen later this year as well as start on a novel, a screenplay and a handful of new concepts that my manager is pitching around Hollywood.

“In comics I got to do ‘Dead Space,’ two stories for ‘Monkey In A Wagon Vs Lemur On a Big Wheel,’ continue my character in ‘Event Horizon’ and I got to pitch for two licensed properties which I basically got and then had them both get put on hold. And my first photography book saw print. So, from a creative stand point, it was an amazing time.

“Financially is where things get frustrating. Nothing moves fast when it comes to writing, whether for comics, Hollywood or novels, everything is a waiting game and after eight months I had to rekindle the bank account so I took a 6-month programming contract while I wait for everything to come out and for some new assignments. But the number one thing I learned over the last year is that I definitely want to be a full-time writer and will do whatever it takes to make it happen.”

Part of that “anything” is promoting his work in new ways, such as the online trailer for “I Am Spartacus,” which caught the attention of many. “It was an idea Ilkka came to me with. He has some friends, Kimmo Lesonen and Sari Hallikainen of Animan, who do these trailers for websites and he talked them into doing this for him. Sari made the visual composition and Kimmo wrote the musical score. I think they did a remarkable job on it. They really got the feel of the story down.”

He’s also having a great time with Cellar Door Publishing, a company he respects and enjoys working with, as he says, “I actually met Jade the year before when a group of us pulled together and got a booth at San Diego. We called it ‘The Booth with No Name’ and had myself, Jade, Dwayne McDuffie, Tone Rodriguez and others. Later the next year Jade contacted me about another project, so we had been talking some already. When I went to say ‘hi,’ that’s when I showed her ‘Spartacus.’

“As for why Cellar Door? Jade has a definitive plan for publishing and she looking at more than just the direct sales market. She’s putting out graphic novels in the same fashion that a regular book publisher would market the latest mystery novel. Plus she said ‘yes,’ that’s always important.”

If you’re looking for a sequel to “I Am Spartacus,” don’t hold your breath: Wickline doesn’t plan to do more with the characters quite yet. “I think it’s believable for the average person to have an extraordinary event worth telling to happen to them once in their life. After that you enter the ‘John McClain’ factor. The only reason the ‘Die Hard’ movies worked is because in each movie Bruce Willis took a moment and said, ‘Can you believe this is happening… Again?’ By saying what the audience is thinking, he erases the doubt. But that’s a rare thing. Now if I can come up with a believable and compelling story to tell involving the characters, then I would think about it. But I wouldn’t do it just for the sake of continuing the characters.”

CBR Executive Producer Jonah Weiland Contributed To This Story.

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