Dynamite has sent us one more writer's commentary for the week, this time we get Fabrice Sapolsky talking about the finale of Intertwined. Cover by Olivier Coipel and interiors by Fred Pham Chuong.
Let me start by stating the obvious. Writing is hard. Damn hard. And it's not always kind with you. But I love it. When creating a creator-owned comic book series, you're pouring your heart and soul in it. Your sweat, blood and tears. The two most difficult tasks? The first and the last issue of a story arc. If you miss your entrance, readers are not going to stick with you for the rest of the series. And if your conclusion sucks, the fan base you've managed to build so painfully is going to throw tomatoes and rotten eggs at you, making your next project harder to put together. Yeah. I'm the optimistic kind (laughs).
So you now can imagine my state of mind writing Intertwined #6, the final issue of my creator-owned's first story arc. And yes, it wasn't really easy to wrap up this issue. The whole creative team, Fred, Veronica and myself were going through rough times (we still are). And we started to run late. Some creators never say a word about it, but I am: creator-owned comics cost money to the creators. They don't bring money immediately. The time you invest on your creation won't give you any dollars back (if it does) until many, many months later. So it really is a tough thing. You have to maintain schedule while not being able to really do anything else. Especially for the penciler. And I really praise Fred's passion for our project and his strength to end things on a great note despite all he's been going through. Same for Veronica. She worked overtime, multiple shifts (she had to take another day job) to make sure we could finish the series.
Well… Let's get to it! No… WAIT. Are you sure? I tried to remain as spoiler-free as possible. But there are some spoilers, especially in the end. So if you're ready to handle it, this creator commentary begins now…
As we start our issue, our hero, Juan Jin, is back in jail. At the end of issue #5, Juan felt his friends were in danger. So how come he chooses to get back to the precinct instead of looking for his friends? Because he promised Marcus, his lawyer, he'd stay still until he could legally walk out of there. He always trusted Marcus and he doesn't want to be in more trouble than he already is.
Juan and Marcus get out of the precinct. That scene was written differently in the script. In that early version, two cops are talking in the back while our main heroes are coming out of the precinct. One tells the other about his wife, a nurse who hates blood and how she saw to guys, one black, one Asian, coming to the hospital badly bruised and covered with blood. Juan overhears the conversation and asks the cop to describe the John Does, thinking it's Antwan and Long Huo. But Fred wasn't comfortable with that version. He couldn't see that working on paper. So we used a different trick. In the final version, Marcus already knows where Antwan and Long Huo are as the Hospital found his business card in Antwan's pocket.
Here's another couple of pages where Fred asked me to change the script. The dynamics were different initially. Fred was disturbed by the use of the Jewish prayer book in that scene. So we had to change the way he asks about it. Originally, we had to see the book damaged as a knife had gone through it when Long Huo was trying to escape Nei Chang's goons. Juan then candidly asked which language it was since it wasn't Chinese. My goal there was to put Juan in the position of not understanding another culture and language (Hebrew) while he was talking with someone, Long Huo, who he thought had the same background as his, Chinese. It was another way of saying: "people may look the same, but that doesn't mean they're the same". I liked the double-dipping idea, as Juan also had to cope with another of Long Huo's secret he just discovered. But Fred didn't quite like it. So… we changed.
Nei Chang has been a mystery for most of the series. But in this issue, he talks a lot. Way too much. And in this page, he starts with a long speech to his allies and troops. I'm not really a military fan if you know me. But I knew where to look for proper inspiration: Napoleon!
Yeah, another French guy like Fred and myself. I borrowed a lot from his famous words to his troops to write Nei Chang's speeches.
Here's another page which came out different from the original script.
The exact words in the script were: "Outside of the warehouse, goons are guarding the place, as always. It starts raining rocks. They don't really understand. They try to run to protect themselves when a bigger rock smashes them from above. This is when Juan appears and takes down the goons. Fred: you have carte blanche". ;)
Well… Fred did change it and came up with the idea of a rocky stairs which becomes a weapon. Clever, Fred. Very clever!
After making quite an entrance, Juan comes alone and isn't even afraid of the army he's about to face. This is our Return of the Jedi moment when Luke Skywalker enters Jabba's lair alone and says: "Free us or die." You can call Juan Jin naive or over-confident. But he does have style, doesn't he?
Oh I see you on your side of the screen… "Ninjas are Japanese, not Chinese". Fair. But I respectfully disagree. While many stories on Ninjas are false or made up, several sources point Chinese Jiān, shaolin warriors, as inspiration for Ninjas. Japanese Ninja manuals such as the Ninpiden (written in the 16th century) or the Bansenshukai (from the 17th century) or claim that some of their techniques came from ancient China.
Also on that page, we can see the Spirit of Water beheading a warrior. In an early version, both warriors had their heads cut off. But I thought it was graphic enough for the book, especially with the pages to come… So I asked Fred to change that.
So … Juan had a plan all along. You didn't really think he'd come alone, right? All the people he met during his journey in New York play a big role in the grand finale. The first one we see is the Puerto Rican Juan. The Pizza guy. With his friends, he helps stealing back the Spirits' power statues while Juan, the Spirit of the Earth, keeps Nei Chang and his goons busy. I wanted this scene to come as a surprise, and it does. In the original script, they were seen, pedaling away on their bikes, statues in hand. But Fred found this idea very silly. He thought it'd be more efficient with a mini-van. He convinced me and we did the scene differently.
There's also a tiny easter-egg in the first panel. The pizza van has a Don Marco's Pizza logo on it. It's a direct reference to my other creator-owned series, ONE-HIT WONDER, where the Don, the Mafioso-in-Chief, owns a Pizza place where he can kill people with dough (yeah, I wrote that scene, check it out!).
The Spirit of Water had to die. She was the boss. She had to take the blame for messing up with Juan's life and bending the natural course of Wu Xing. Her death was a little bit more romantic in my script. I imagined her turned into ashes and swept by the wind. But we didn't have time to create such a scene and Fred was racing against the clock to finish the issue. So we agreed that she had to die differently.
Immigrants save the day part deux! So now, the Haitians, led by Antwan, invade the place and start kicking Nei's men's asses. I particularly like panel 5 where there's a lady using a baseball bat to knock a ninja out. But the real moment in that page happens in panel 6. I don't know if readers can really understand it, but Antwan throws a bowl with a very special plant in it at Nei's head. This plant has special abilities, it eats up metal! And it really exists. Well, in real life, it was only found, in the Philippines, in 2013, but the Spirit of the Earth being who he is, he could totally have knowledge of this 20+ years before. While preparing the series, I knew I had to come up with something really original to beat the villain. And this plant became my McGuffin. I also liked the fact that it came from Juan's uncle, whose death triggers the whole story. Nice way of evening the score!
Technically, the story ends here… but it doesn't. In the script, there are 4 pages after this! We just didn't have time to do them. So Fred had the idea of another page, where the Spirit is swinging from roof to roof in New York. First, he thought that it'd make a great nod to the first page he drew on the series, where Da Wei, Juan's uncle, also goes from roof to roof (it was in issue #0 but was printed as a flashback in issue #3 in the Dynamite edition). And second, Fred wanted to pay homage to Spider-Man. And I couldn't agree more.
Now… What was in those 4 extra pages in the end? Without giving too much away, I can reveal that we'll see what happens with Long Huo once she's out of the hospital. We also learn that we're not done with Luca's story (even though he died in issue #2). These pages show that Fred and I always had a long term plan for Intertwined. And that we'd really like to offer more volumes in the future.
But for that, people have to buy the book. So if you read it before and you like it: TALK ABOUT INTERTWINED. Buy two copies. Offer it to a friend. We're counting on you!