Thursday, March 26, 2009

Dissecting Alpha Gods: Part Two: Prologue: Slash & Burn

As we discussed in Part One, the Prologue was actually one of the last parts to be written. Well, actually, that’s not entirely accurate. The six issue series, now known as Alpha Gods: Betrayal was plotted first, and an early draft of issue one was written, then the main chapters of the graphic novel were plotted…and then the prologue was written.

The task before me was to write a six page introduction to the world of the Alpha Gods, so I decided to go back one step further to find out how they first learn that Grigori Industries might be experimenting on Extra Humans. At first it seems like a routine, very easy mission…and then they run into opposition.

Let’s start at the very beginning, with the date that the prologue takes place on – 12th July, 2086. There are no random dates in Alpha Gods, and this is no exception. Those of you that know me well will know that 12th July is my birthday…but why 2086? This is a small homage to one of my favourite cartoons when I was a kid, Thunderbirds 2086. The show was awesome (in my memory…it was probably awful).

Originally the prologue didn’t start with a briefing scene. My first draft opened with a splash page of Paladin and Impact deflecting a hail of bullets during the fire fight from page 3. The narrative for the page essentially ended up with “How did we get ourselves into this mess?” and then we’d flash back to the briefing. At the time the book was with VCS and the editorial advice I had from there was that in a six page story I shouldn’t waste a page on a splash, and should instead start with the briefing scene, and Paladin’s duel with Agent Omega was extended by a page. I’ve written quite a few six page stories since then and, well, let’s just say that with hind sight I disagree with that advice. I feel the story would have felt a lot more dynamic if it had started in media res. At the time I was just starting out and so took the advice I was given and rewrite it. Maybe for the collected edition we’re planning to do once Alpha Gods: Betrayal is complete I’ll ask Ezequiel to redraw the prologue from my original script. (Which would actually be the third time that this story has been drawn, as it was originally illustrated by Randy Valiente in an early version that appeared in Eleventh Hour #1).

Anyway, as it worked out the Prologue proved to be a great way for me to establish Paladin and Impact’s characters, and the relationship between them. In the briefing scene we see that Paladin is alert and attentive, whereas Impact is clearly bored and disinterested. On page two we begin to get a sense of the friction between them…and that the friction isn’t necessarily caused by them disliking each other. I wanted to establish that these characters are teenagers first and foremost, and super heroes secondly. Impact is by far my favourite character in Alpha Gods to write, she’s probably the most like me.

So, finally, on page three, we get to the action. Personally I think that Ezequiel’s done a great job here of cramming a fight between Impact and Paladin and an entire room full of guards into such a small space. Page three ends with a mysterious foot…and we start to get the sense that this mission is a lot less straightforward then it first seemed.

There are obvious questions thrown up here. Why was Agent Omega waiting for them? Did he know they were coming? Was he there by chance? All I can say at this point is that there are answers to these questions, but you won’t find them out until well into Alpha Gods: Betrayal. Sorry.

And so to the duel between Paladin and Agent Omega. Originally, as I said, this took place over a single page, but when the splash page at the start was removed it was extended to two. It was at that point that the little homage to my favourite screen duel wound its way into the script. There’s actually a deeper reason for using this quote than just “Hey, Star Wars is awesome! Let’s throw in a geeky quote for people!” Some people have complained that it takes them out of the story. This is actually quite deliberate. I’m not going to spoil future plot twists, and it’s almost certainly not what you’re thinking it is…but those lines are there for a very good reason.

On the final page, we see that Paladin now has Agent Omega at his mercy, but he lets him live. Why? Um….sorry….but yet again…I can’t say… The point of this was to give you an insight into the writing process and some of the thinking behind the story…but with so many plot twists yet to come, it’s very hard to go into too much depth without spoiling everything.

Of course, that was the point of this story, to tease, to sow seeds and provide pretty much no answers. It was designed to draw you in, intrigue you, make you want to find out more. For a long time this story was the only bit of Alpha Gods out there, originally in Eleventh Hour and later on via myebook. It did it’s job, it got people interested, it made people want to read more.

Originally this story wasn’t going to be in the graphic novel at all. It was meant to just be a little teaser that stood on its own. It was only later that I realised that it was silly to not use it as a Prologue to the book. Personally, I think it works quite well…the book would have a very different feel if it started off with Chapter One. Instead the Prologue allowed me to establish certain core concepts of the Alpha Gods universe before going on to introduce the villains and take a closer look at the individual characters. 

Next time we’ll look at Chapter One and explore the influences behind the creation of one of the main villains, Lester Cravely and some of the mythology behind the series.

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