With Dark Horse Comics’ Fire and Stone shared universe event set to conclude this week with a special double-sized “Omega” issue, we’re excited to be able to round off our series of interviews with its creators by sitting down and having a chat with the finale’s acclaimed writer – and Head Writer for the event as a whole – Kelly Sue DeConnick.
Here’s how the conversation went;
Big Comic Page: Ok, so we may as well start from the beginning. How did you get involved in the whole “Fire and Stone” project in the first place? Licensed properties don’t really seem like your typical M.O.?
Kelly Sue DeConnick: Scott Allie approached me about it initially, and I had to be convinced. I was concerned about there being a stigma to a licensed property, but then I talked to Warren Ellis and Brian Michael Bendis about it, and they both completely disabused me of the notion. Ellis pointed out writers who’d made their bones on licensed properties. It’s a great way to work with a built-in audience – and if you’ve got a take, a real point of view to bring, it can be an incredible opportunity.
So I understand where that question comes from, because I had that idea myself. But two people who are well above me in their career hierarchies felt differently, and lovingly smacked me around for having that prejudice.
And when I look at some of the other licensed comics that are coming out today — man. There’s a number of them that have met or surpassed their source materials, you know? Look at Adventure Time! I looooooove the Adventure Time cartoon and the comics are every bit as amazing.
The thing that was incredibly appealing to me about this from the start though was that this project was going to be developed in a writers room here in Portland with all Portland-based writers. I had never had opportunity to work like that, so that was incredibly appealing. I wanted to see if I would like working like that – and as it turned out, I loved it!
BCP: Were you a fan of the movies beforehand?
KSD: Sure. Especially Alien. I love Alien.
BCP: A lot of the recent movies seem to have… not been particularly well received, let’s say.
KSD: Y’know, when you’ve been around for as long as these properties have been around – and existed in so many different formats – there’s going to be some variation in quality. And they’re all so very different in the KINDS of films they are. Alien is a tight and powerful ‘man versus nature’ horror movie, and Prometheus is a different animal that asks entirely different questions. They exist in the same universe, and that’s cool – I love shared universes – but they’re apples and oranges.
BCP: Did the negative response for some of the more recent movies figure into your thought process when you were putting the whole Fire and Stone thing together? Like “we need to overcome this”. I know when it was initially announced, a lot of our readers saw the name ‘Prometheus’ and felt like they almost had to be convinced that this was going to be worthwhile.
KSD: I was such a fan of the ambition of the movie. It asked a lot of questions and didn’t resolve many of them and I think, for the kinds of gigantic spiritual questions it was asking, that’s okay. But it’s hard to marry those existential questions to an action film, you know? It’s certainly not a film for everyone, and I get that, so while I don’t exactly disagree, there was still enough there that I was interested in, in ways that I didn’t have to ‘drum up’. It’s like I was saying about Warren Ellis giving me counsel, you simply can’t take a job that you don’t have some kind of passion for, because it’s gonna read. So there was no faking it; there was definitely enough there for me to find a hook. In a way, I feel like we’re in a dialogue with the film, if that makes sense?
BCP: Absolutely. So you were talking about the writer’s room in Portland – what was your role there? You were the ‘head honcho’, I believe?
KSD: [laughs] Yes, and this is how good of a boss I am – I was the lead writer, and I came into the room assuming that everyone already knew that, so I never mentioned it. But at the end of the project, I found out that some of the writers I was working with didn’t actually know I was the lead writer, which is hilarious to me because it means they just thought I was super bossy, and decided to roll with it.
You know what though, I had a great experience with everybody that I worked with, and came out with a real affection for those guys. We had a good time, and I’m proud of what we made.
KSD: I would rather be ambitious and fail than not be ambitious at all, but – dammit I think we did a good job! [laughs]
BCP: I wholeheartedly agree. On that subject, one of the few criticisms we heard about the event from the readers of the page was that they weren’t particularly happy with the release schedule; with all the issue ones being released, then the issue twos, etc. rather than one arc at a time. Was that a creative or a commercial decision?
KSD: That was the structure we decided on when we started, so I felt like it was organic to the development of the story.
BCP: I think a lot of people just didn’t like the fact that it wasn’t just A to B to C and so on.
KSD: Yeah. I mean, there’s so much overlap that happens, I don’t know if we could have done it chronologically. It’s a valid critique, but I think it was more fun and more exciting to have it as this ‘bullet time’ shaped storytelling.
BCP: The final chapter – the Omega issue that’s out this week – shifts the focus towards Angela Foster, who was, I don’t want to say overlooked necessarily, but she definitely becomes the driving force here in the finale. Was that important to you to have the final chapter as more of her story?
KSD: That was something we developed in the room. The whole thing is really Angela’s narrative, it’s Angela’s arc. If we’ve done our jobs right, everybody else has their own story, but she’s definitely central. It’s her hubris that causes everything to happen, and in order for her to in any way redeem herself, she has to understand that, which makes her a very, very different character from Ripley – whom I love, by the way. The thing I love about Ripley is that – well – Ripley didn’t screw anything up! [laughs] Ripley was right! From the very beginning, Ripley was right.
Angela is evangelical about Weyland, y’know? In the beginning, anyway. She really believes that this is important work, and her hubris puts lives at risk – it costs lives, even. She is responsible for the deaths of her crew because she brought them into this situation under false pretences, and that’s a hard thing to come back from.
BCP: It’s safe to say that the whole Fire and Stone event covers some bigger issues than just Aliens and Predators hacking each other up. Was it important to you to give the story some real meat?
KSD: Yeah – but I mean, I wanted it to be action-heavy, and I actually had to cut a big action scene that kinda bummed me out.
BCP: Was that in the Omega issue?
KSD: Yeah, there was supposed to be a thing with parasites – I’m not sure how much I can say without going into spoilers – but we had these giant parasitic creatures inside the mountain that we were going to have a nice gross fight scene with, but I just didn’t have the room for it. Plus, I have this test about scenes where I ask ‘does it tell me something that I have to know about character, or does it move my plot forward’, and ultimately everything that the scene did I was able to move to different places, so I didn’t need it. The book felt rushed as it is. I mean, I think we could have drawn it out a little more.
BCP: Was there ever the temptation to do that, to make the ‘Omega’ an arc all of its own to fit everything in, or was it always just going to be a one-issue finale?
KSD: No, it was always going to just be a single issue that wrapped the whole thing up, although we made it double sized to kinda make up for that – I think it probably could have been triple sized [laughs], but then that would have driven the costs up.
It was super important to me that the book speak to the questions of the Prometheus film in a way that I hope wasn’t just rumination. It asks ‘what are the responsibilities of the creator?’, and in that question we have all kinds of different levels, because we have the idea of ‘who was our creator?’, which was Weyland’s mission. If the Engineers created us, we can then question them like our Gods.
BCP: Right, like almost a spiritual thing.
KSD: Then you get into the whole Frankenstein archetype, and it’s impossible not to see that mirrored in the character Elden. He’s is artificial life that we have created – what do we owe Elden, y’know? And in the film, that’s mirrored in Weyland’s daughter too. One conversation that we had in the room that was really important to me was also the idea of the corporation itself as artificial life. We’re hitting Prometheus and Frankenstein really hard here [laughs]
There’s lots of punching and running and gooey bugs and all kinds of good stuff, but I feel it’s… bigger than that, I guess?
BCP: That’s definitely how I saw it. I mean, initially I was obviously excited by the creative teams, and all the possibilities that come with these franchises, but when I actually sat down and read it, there was definitely a lot more going on – a lot more philosophical aspects.
KSD: Right on.
BCP: Now, the Omega issue has the strong position of having all these well-developed characters coming together once all the – I don’t want to say ‘fodder’, but, let’s say ‘supporting characters’ – had been wiped out, leaving us with the cream of the crop. Did you have a favourite character?
KSD: Angela was super important to me from the beginning, but of the other three, I would have a really hard time picking a favourite.
BCP: That seems fair. Those final four characters are all incredibly strong.
KSD: Yeah, and that is thanks in large part to my collaborators who were able to develop these characters before we came to my book so that I had a real strong sense of who they were. I mean, Chris Sebela did an incredible job with Elden; Tobin and Williamson did likewise with Galgo – our crappy Han Solo [laughs]
BCP: [laughs] Yeah, not an easy character to love.
KSD: Like Han Solo if Han Solo was kind of shitty, whiny and talked too much [laughs]
BCP: On that subject, we’ve still got these strong characters in place – are you aware of any plans to revisit them further down the line?
KSD: Its comics, I’m sure somebody has a plan. My work here is done, but I love them and I hope that they do continue. I mean, when we left them we didn’t really resolve much [laughs], so if Dark Horse wants to move on with them, they’d certainly have room to.
BCP: Final question. Now that you’ve got a ‘taste’ for – and have overcome your preconceptions about – licensed properties, is there any other ones out there you’d like to take a crack at?
KSD: Well, my standard answer for this one is always Modesty Blaise, but whoever owns the rights – O’Donnell’s estate, I would imagine – aren’t down to do that. I know several people have tried to license it in the past without any success, which I totally appreciate, in way. Plus, it’s so much ‘of its time’ that I think it would be really tricky to do it, but… well…
BCP: But you’d want a crack at it if that ever came up, right?
BCP: Kelly Sue, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us.
KSD: I really appreciate you accommodating me.
Prometheus: Fire and Stone – Omega is on sale everywhere today, and you can find out more about the Fire and Stone event as a whole, including reviews of every issue and interviews with the majority of the creators, over at our Fire and Stone Interview & Review Hub.