Modern Pulp Fiction – Chris Roberson Part I
In this first out our two-part interview of Chris Roberson today, Byron Brewer talks with the writer about his eight issues run on Doc Savage, how he got on the project and why he shot the Man of Bronze into space.
CHRIS ROBERSON: In all honesty, it was a dream job, and one of the last ones on my "bucket list." I've been a huge fan of Doc Savage since I was a kid in the 70s, first seeing those amazing James Bama covers on the stands, and I've been hoping to get a chance to work on the character ever since.
CR: Dogged persistence, I guess. When I first heard that the previous publisher to publish Doc Savage comics no longer held the license, I immediately contacted the good people at Dynamite to let them know that, if they ever got their hands on the license, that I wanted to write the comic. And I mentioned it again the next time we talked, and again, and again. Ultimately, I think they gave me the job in part just to shut me up.
CR: Yes to all three of those, really. It starts with a reverence for the original material, and a big part of the fun of gearing up to start the series was going back and rereading a lot of my favorite Doc Savage novels. And then I checked out as many of the previous adaptations as I could get my hands on, just to see how other people had approached the character. And then I went and tried to come up with a story that encapsulates what I personally think is so great about the character. Not an attempt to pastiche or homage the work of Lester Dent, but to build a new story of my own using those same ingredients.
CR: I didn't find the character himself challenging to write, but I'm a stickler for detail, and doing period piece stories like this meant that I spent hours and hours at a time looking for just the right bit of image reference for Bilquis Evely to use. Everyone's suits, watches, cars and planes, busy intersections and buildings. There were several scripts that had more JPGs attached as references than they did panels in the issue!
BB: I cannot recall a writer putting Doc into a position like you did in issue #2, where the situation demanded he choose between what he saw as "the greater good" and the life of his own cousin, Patricia. Where did that come from?
CR: Doc lives by a strong moral code, and I don't think that he values any one life over any other, his own included. Putting his cousin in the crosshairs was simply a way of examining how far he would be willing to follow the logic of those standards out.
BB: By issue #5, we had Doc Savage in Spaaaaace! What was that like – having the crew in 1988 — after the preceding adventures in less technological times, and how important was it herein to remind folks Doc is a genius, not just a bronze muscle man?
CR: First and foremost in my mind throughout these eight issues has been the necessity to show that Doc is just as likely to THINK his way out of a problem as he is to start punching. He is a mental giant every bit as much as he is a physical superman, after all. But he's also a forward thinker, which is where the reference to Arthur C. Clarke comes from.
CR: Not consciously, but I wouldn't be surprised if that was lurking back in the misty recesses of my mind.
BB: Who came up with the premise behind #7, wherein Doc's smart phone is the catalyst for chaos? Brilliantly 2014!
CR: That would be me. I don't want to say too much for fear of spoiling the plot of issue 7, but the trajectory that Doc's campaign against crime and evil takes in the last decades of the 20th century and first years of the 21st is, to my way of thinking, just the logical extension of his practice of surrounding himself with talented aides in the 30s and 40s. If five geniuses who are the experts in their respective fields make it easier for Doc to accomplish his stated mission, how much easier would it be with fifteen? Or fifty? Could Doc ultimately even "crowdsource" his campaign by calling on the talents and abilities of anyone who is willing and able to help?
CR: The first six issues of the series appear to be standalone adventures at the outset, and they are, in part. But they have also been building up to a bigger story, bits and pieces that weave together into a larger tapestry. Ultimately it serves as my statement about what I think characters like Doc Savage represent, and the purpose they serve. Characters that do what is right not because they are driven by personal tragedy or desire for revenge or anything like that, but BECAUSE it is right.
BB: What is next for Chris Roberson, and what is next for Doc Savage?
CR: Chris Roberson (if you'll allow me to slip momentarily into third person) will continue to write EDISON REX with Dennis Culver, published in single issues digitally via Monkeybrain and ComiXology, and in trades by IDW, and will be writing an ALIENS miniseries for Dark Horse that is being illustrated by Patric Reynolds, among other projects he can't discuss yet. As for Doc Savage? Hopefully he'll keep right on adventuring!
For more on Doc Savage, click here.