As part of our ongoing series of interviews, we were lucky enough to be able to snatch a few words with Brian Wood, the writer behind such titles as DMZ, The Massive and Star Wars.
With his critically acclaimed series The Massive about to enter its final ‘act’, and the recent news that the Star Wars license is set to revert from Dark Horse to Marvel, we thought now would be a perfect time to get some of his thoughts on these and other subjects.
Here’s what went down;
BIG COMIC PAGE: First off, thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Brian. Let’s kick things off by talking about The Massive. For those of our readers who may not have been following the series (shame on them!), could you give us a quick summary of just what The Massive is all about?
BRIAN WOOD: A quick summary would be as follows: The Massive is about a crew of hardcore activists dealing the fallout – and the mysteries – of “The Crash”, a global end-of-the-world environmental event that seems to exist outside of known science. As the society of the world starts to unravel, this single ship of dedicated men and women search for their missing friends and have adventures along the way. There is a power socio-political bend to the comic, but also a sci-fi element, and lastly, a powerful character drama is just under the surface, as these people try and balance their dedication to pacifism and conservation in this world of violence, chaos, and piracy.
It follows books of mine like Channel Zero or DMZ, that find the common thread between socially conscious world-building and the personal journeys of the characters.
BCP: The basic backbone of the story – what it means to be an environmentalist after the world has pretty much ended – sends a fairly powerful message. How did the idea for that premise come about?
BW: I always try and figure out what terrible things I can do to my cast, what great tribulation I can put them through. I already had the idea of a ship full of activists, so what would happen if they, who have dedicated their lives, committed their identities, to this cause… what if the cause became moot? What if they failed to save the world? Helpless, sitting back, watching this failure unfold… what happens then? Seemed like some meaty story material, there.
BCP: You’ve made no secret of your plan to end the series and wrap up the story after ‘just’ thirty issues. Is that still the case, and if so, do you feel any pressure to either cram things in or cut them out completely now that you’re moving into the final third of the story?
BW: Not at all. The book was conceived as a thirty issue run, and designed to fit in that space. So there is no issue of having to cram anything in, or even any pressure at all. It’s relaxing, actually, to have a clearly defined map of the story and not have to worry about that. Much of the last 20 issues of DMZ were spent trying to decide when to end it, and how, and so on. With The Massive, that’s decision was made on day 1.
BCP: I know you’ve been fairly tight-lipped about what may be a fairly epic twist coming at the end of the series, but putting that to one side momentarily, can you give us any hints at all about what to expect from the final act?
BW: We have three mysteries, or at the very least unanswered questions: what caused The Crash, where is The Massive, and what’s up with Mary? I asked those questions in the first arc, and by #5 it was clear, if subtle, that Mary seemed to have abilities beyond her means. And I’ve teased that along for the last 20 or so issues, and then in the end, all that becomes clear.
It’s going to be interesting… I’m already seeing reviews that speculate, or express dismay in what they predict will be a “super hero” ending. All I’ve been willing to say is that there’s a reason why this series was always categorized as sci-fi.
BCP: You’ve also, somewhat interestingly, broken the series down into three-issue “mini arcs”. What prompted that decision?
BW: So since I was limiting myself to 30 issues… not that that is in itself a limiting thing… I wanted to make sure those 30 issues were chock full of story. Going with three-issue arcs as opposed to the more traditional five- or six-issue arcs enabled me to tell more stories within that 30 issue container. So instead of 5 Massive stories, we have 10. And I tried to make them dense, so that they felt substantial at three issues. It helps to have 22 pages to tell these stories, unlike the DC/Marvel 20 page issues.
BCP: The Massive has been an extremely well received creator-owned project for you, much like DMZ before it, but you’re also well known for your work on licensed content, primarily Dark Horse’s Star Wars ongoing series. Do you have a preference between creator-owned work and writing for licensed franchises?
BW: Put the choice to me, creator-owned wins every time. That’s a no-brainer. But I did have this itch to do what most of my peers had done, which was to work on these big name books. I hadn’t really ever done that in my career, save for a couple random gigs here and there. So I jumped in with two feet.
BCP: Speaking of your creator-owned work, with it recently being announced that DMZ is set to be adapted for television as a SyFy series, will you have any input when it comes to bringing your story to the screen?
BW: The media deal that one signs when you start a creator-owned book at DC puts all the control in their hands. They, meaning DC or Warner Brothers, has no obligation to include me at all, and so far I am being kept more or less in the loop, but I am not part of any decisions. It’s just the way it is, this doesn’t come as a surprise to me. But if someone along the way chooses to involve me, I’m happy to help.
BCP: With the recent announcement that Dark Horse’s Star Wars license is set to revert back to Marvel in 2015, how do you feel personally about the shift, and what effect has it had on your future plans for the series?
BW: Well, Dark Horse was playing it safe, and the 20 issues they had contracted me for took us right up to the deadline. So since I also tend to play things safe in my career, I was assuming that 20 was all I would ever do, so there would be no surprises (except, I guess, a happy one if I was able to write more). So while I do feel that Dark Horse is better for Star Wars than Marvel is, I am not personally affected so much. At the end of the day, I think the fans deserve excellent Star Wars comics and its up to any publisher to not screw that up.
BCP: As a self-confessed Star Wars fanboy, when you were initially offered the chance to write the ongoing series, was there a scenario that popped into your head where you felt like “yeah, I really *have* to include this?”
BW: Wedge, 100%. I’ve always loved Wedge, and I wanted him to be just as important to the story as Luke and Leia and Han. Aside from that, just little small things I wanted to put in for my own entertainment. Like the mouse droids, and IG-88 who plays a big role in the last story arc. Bossk and the Hound’s Tooth. Stuff like that, little things. I also felt an urgency to introduce as many women into the book, something that is definitely lacking in the original films.
BCP: You’ve previously mentioned that the chance to write Star Wars with the classic ‘New Hope’ characters was an offer you simply couldn’t refuse. Are there any other franchises out there that you just couldn’t say no to if they were offered?
BW: I would have loved to have had something to do with the recent Alien and Terminator launches at Dark Horse. Same with the Assassin’s Creed videogame comics… its hard for me to think of a better fit for me than those history-based games. But I dunno, like I said, give the choice I’d always rather do my own thing.
BCP: And finally, once the current runs of the Massive and Star Wars have come to an end (sniffle), what else can we expect to see from Brian Wood in the future?
BW: A whole bunch of creator-owned comics (mostly). After such a dense schedule of work for hire over these last few years, its time to take care of myself again.
BCP: Thanks again for taking the time to talk to us, Brian. I personally can’t wait to see where The Massive ends up, and look forward to seeing more creator-owned titles from you in the future.
Interview by: Craig Neilson (aka Ceej)
Article Archive: Ceej Says