Interview conducted by Joey Esposito
Recently, we had the opportunity to speak with writer Nick Sagan, author of the acclaimed Idlewild trilogy and creator of Radical Publishing’s Shrapnel series, the second volume of which, Hubris, is currently available for purchase.
Sagan’s experience across various mediums, including fiction, television, film, and video games inevitably led him to the mother of all storytelling — comics — and Shrapnel has been a huge success for both the author and for Radical.
CraveOnline: For the uninitiated, what is the premise of Shrapnel?
Nick Sagan: It’s a few hundred years from now and we’ve successfully colonized the solar system, but we’ve taken our problems with us. The haves of the system are at odds with the have-nots, those rich enough to afford genetic enhancements holding advantage over regular humans (“Helots”) who find themselves increasingly exploited. An expansionist government starts gobbling up colonies, the situation can’t hold, and so a revolution sparks across the system. Carnage ensues. Shrapnel‘s been described as Halo meets Gattaca, but there are also elements of mythology, ancient Greek battles and Joan of Arc. It’s violent and fun.
CraveOnline: Having worked primarily in film, television and prose, what’s it been like moving to comics?
Nick Sagan: Fantastic. Radical has been great to collaborate with, very welcoming, and working on Shrapnel has been phenomenally educational. The comic format carries a unique set of challenge,s including pacing and how best to use the real estate of each page, and I’ve been enjoying the challenge of stretching my skill set. My mother is an artist and, like her, I tend to think visually, but I can’t draw to save my life. So it’s pure, childlike delight for me to see a talented artist render something I’ve described.
CraveOnline: What interests you about telling the story of Shrapnel in the comic book medium?
Nick Sagan: Science fiction movies are, by and large, enormously expensive. Write a screenplay and it’s more than just art and entertainment–it’s a blueprint for how to spend millions of dollars. Movie studios are understandably cautious about parting with their fortunes, and that caution can sometimes throw a monkey wrench into the creative risk taking at the heart of many exciting projects. There’s far more freedom in novels because they cost less to produce, and graphic novels can be the best of both worlds, charged with visceral spectacle and power without any worries about “how do we film this?” If it can be drawn, it can be done! I love writing screenplays and think Shrapnel would make an excellent movie, but it often takes years for screenplays to make that jump, while graphic novels contain an immediacy that’s very gratifying to me creatively.
CraveOnline: Were you always a fan of comics?
Nick Sagan: Definitely, though when I was younger, I don’t think I appreciated the extent of what could be done with the medium. In the early ’80s I collected X-Men and New Mutants and The Flash and enjoyed them as escapism, and then I had my mind blown by Alan Moore’s Watchmen and The Killing Joke, by Grant Morrison’s run on Animal Man (even now I get chills thinking about “The Coyote Gospel”), by Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, etc. Brilliant stuff. I treasure fiction that not only entertains me but leaves me different from how it found me. I’m glancing at my bookshelf as I write this and see favorites in Transmetropolitan, Preacher, Lucifer, Stray Bullets, Enigma and Swallow Me Whole. As a number of graphic novels have deeply enriched my life, I have tremendous admiration for the format and hope to give back to it by crafting titles that evoke the same kind of devoted passion in others that I feel for my favorites.
CraveOnline: How did Shrapnel wind up with Radical Publishing?
Nick Sagan: Mark Long, co-creator of Shrapnel, has been a good friend since we worked together on the Zork: Nemesis computer game. He’s a great writer–check out his The Silence Of Our Friends title next year–and a kickass game designer. He runs Zombie Studios. Some years ago I pitched him Liberty, which put the player in the shoes (er, mechboots?) of a revolutionary leader on a colonized Mars. All credit goes to Mark for first seeing the potential for Liberty as a graphic novel, and as we talked it over, we came to envision it as three graphic novels, gradually evolving the concept into the blueprint for the Shrapnel we know today. We sharpened it, brought in amazing designer Syd Mead (who created some wonderfully interesting asymmetrical mechs for us), then Mark brought it to Radical. They loved it, so we made the deal and then approached the very talented M. Zachary Sherman to script the first installment. Clinnette Minnis and I enjoyed tackling the second. Current plan is for Mark to take on the third.
CraveOnline: Do you have any plans or interest in bringing the Idlewild trilogy to comics?
Nick Sagan: Definite interest. No plans as yet.
CraveOnline: What’s next for you in the realm of comics?
Nick Sagan: I would imagine it will be something experimental and very dark.
CraveOnline: Nick, we really appreciate you taking the time to talk with us, and best of luck!
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