Planet of the Apes has always been a long enduring Sci-Fi franchise and this year the Apes are back in a big way. First in the sell out first issue of Planet of the Apes from Boom! Studios and then in the late August release of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. We had the chance to pick the brain of Apes writer Darryl Gregory about the comic half of the Apes return to popularity so sit back and enjoy!
PA) What are your feelings on the first issue selling out before release?
DG) Relieved? I'm just happy that the book's been so well received, and that people are intrigued enough to come back for issue 2. And now that there's a second printing (with a new variant cover) coming out, people who missed out (like my sister-in-law, who couldn't find an issue where she lives) can pick it up from the beginning.
PA) How did you become involved with the project?
DH) I got a call one November afternoon from Matt Gagnon, the editor in chief at BOOM! He told me they had the license to do Planet of the Apes -- but even better, the universe of the original films, and even better, we could set stories at any time period in that chronology, using any characters we wanted. This is what they call The Keys to the Kingdom. Or at least the Keys to Dad's Mustang Convertible. It took me less than 24 hours to send a proposal to Matt. I feel so lucky that they went for it. I mean, not every editor would go along with a POTA that takes place in an undersea city and written entirely in verse, but Matt was game. I kid! Most of it doesn't even rhyme.
PA) This is only your second comic project how does it feel to have already worked with Kurt Busiek and now are taking on a well-known sci-fi project?
DH) Working with Kurt on my first comic (DRACULA: THE COMPANY OF MONSTERS) was a rare opportunity to learn from one of the greats and risk severely disappointing him. How many times do you get the chance to launch a comics career and end it at the same time? (Well, once.)
But working on Apes brings with it some of the same mixed feelings. This is a well-beloved franchise, that many fans care deeply about. That I care deeply about! I don't want to mess it up. But on the other hand, that's the job description. The writer's job -- strike that, the writer and artist's job -- is to carry the story forward, and if you're too timid to bring something new to the universe, you're not going to engage the reader.
PA) How much did the movies come into play when you were writing your story?
DH) The five movies are the source for it all! I spent a lot of time thinking about the themes of the movies, and how to make those themes resonate for today's readers. Actually, my first thought was how to make them resonate for me. I told Matt that I needed to figure out a way in to the world. And once I figured out how the classic POTA themes -- freedom versus security, progress versus stability, community versus xenophobia -- could be applied to what's going on now, I got very excited.
The movies obviously provide all kinds of story stuff -- settings, characters, mythology. You've got the radiocative mutants, the ape class structure, the mystery of humans going mute... all elements we could use, and that longtime fans would expect us to address. But most people haven't seen all five movies. So the story has to welcome in new readers. All those references and easter eggs are great for fans, but the story has to work on its own terms.
So, those hardcore fans know that the five movies have a complicated chronology that involves time travel in both directions -- Heston's Taylor showing up in the far future in the first movie, but Cornelius and Zira traveling back in time to the 1970's in the third movie. Our series picks up about 600 years after the last movie, a period when the movies tell us will be a time of peace and harmony, with apes and humans living together. But we all know how utopias work out. There's a tremendous amount of tension between the species, and that's what we'll be focusing on.
PA) I have to ask Original or Reboot, which do you like better of the movies?
DG) The original Planet of the Apes is a classic, so it's no contest. But I'm looking forward to the reboot with James Franco. All I've seen are the trailers, but I'm hoping for a smart film.
PA) What’s the inspiration for your story the “The Long War?” It seems like it has some noir elements mixed with crime drama forensics? Is any of that accurate and if not what is?
DG) That's right -- it does have a little CSI scene in issue #1! We start with a murder mystery and a technical mystery. An assassin has killed the Lawgiver using a weapon that hasn't been around for 600 years, so the apes have to find both the killer and the weapon. If the humans can manufacture high tech weapons, the entire power structure is at risk.
PA) You put a lot of characters and story elements into play for the first issue, is the drama going to get bigger and bigger as the story goes on?
DG) That's exactly the plan. We start our story in one ape/human city, with a small cast of characters. But the political conflict is going to expand to other cities, across the continent, and as far as we can go. This will be a true planet of the apes. Our canvas is only limited by the number of pages we can put out, and the amount of lead in Carlos Magno's pencils.
PA) Is there a character that you enjoyed creating/writing more than any of the others?
DG) Wait, you're asking me to choose between my children?
PA) Of course!
DG) Okay, let me think... I can guess at what my editor's favorite character is -- Nix, the albino gorilla who's leading the government troops who are putting down the human insurrection. Ian Brill came up with the idea for an albino gorilla, and Carlos draws him beautifully. But I think my favorite right now is Casimir, the one-armed beggar who started as a very tangential character, but keeps coming back. He's a rabble rouser, the voice of the common man, and I keep finding new ways to use him.
PA) What’s next for you after this series? Obviously Dracula: The Company of Monsters is ongoing, but is there anything else you’re working on that you can talk about?
DG) My third novel, Raising Stony Mayhall, is coming out in June from Del Rey. I'm calling it my anti-zombie-novel zombie novel. And in the fall I'll be releasing my first collection of short fiction, called Unpossible and Other Stories, from Fairwood Press. As for comics, there's nothing I can talk about yet, but I can confidently predict that my mother will have no interest in reading them.
PA) Lastly, anything you can tell us about the next issue of Planet or Dracula?
DG) I'm very excited to have people read the next few issues of Dracula. We're finishing up a story arc that took 12 issues to build, and it's going to be a blowout. The book has been a bit of a slow burn, with gradually rising tension and a main character who's been reluctant to fight back, but now his back is to the wall, the gloves are coming off, the chip is off the shoulder... and I've lost control of this sentence.
As for Planet of the Apes, I'm writing in 4-issue arcs, but each arc continues a larger story. Think of sections of a novel, rather than self-contained short stories. By the end of the first arc the readers will know who murdered the Lawgiver -- but the solution to that mystery only raises the political stakes and causes a lot more problems for the characters. I'm hoping people are intrigued enough by this world that they want to see where we're going.
We'd like to thank Daryl for his time and wish him the best on both series, you can keep checking the site for reviews and info on both Planet of the Apes and Dracula: Company of Monsters. If you're interested in more info on either book we encourage you to check out Boom!'s site.