Interview:Blackout

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On September 11, 2007, RyanGibsonStewart conducted an interview via conference call with Blackout writer Mark Sable and artist Jason Badower.

Ryan Stewart: So you two haven't actually talked yet.

Mark Sable: No, no, only online. So it's good to meet you, Jason!

Blackout, Part 1.jpg

Jason Badower: You too, you too, man. Thank you for such a great, fun script.

MS: Well, thank you for what you did with it. Everything I've told you online and in our emails has been really true. I've been really, really happy with it.

JB: Thanks. It's just one of those things that's the nature of our art--I look back on our stuff and think, "Oh, more time! More time!" But there's never more time, so it is what it is!

MS: Believe me, I look at this stuff the same way. You did a tremendous job, especially considering how short the deadline was.

JB: Yeah, and I just really did a bollocks up job of managing my time this time. I've done bigger jobs in shorter time, but this time just eluded me. And you can tell because of the number of photos I used rather than just drawing backgrounds. Ah well, it was fun!

MS: It's definitely been fun for me. I'm excited, and I'm kind of sad, actually, because at least for now it's over.

JB: I'm sure there'll be more opportunities, man. Given the feedback on the boards, which has been great for you. It's some of the best comments I'm getting from people--that it feels like an in-continuity story, about the tone of what you wrote. Hopefully the people in the production offices will sit up and pay attention to that.

MS: I hope so, and thank you. Anyway, sorry, Ryan.

JB: Oh yeah, Ryan!

RS: Oh no, that's fine! I had a feeling I was going to sit back and just listen to you two talk most of the time, and that's just fine with me! [all laugh] You talked about the deadlines. What exactly were the deadlines, and the logistics of getting your work done?

MS: To back up a little, and I mentioned some of this online, Jesse Alexander and Aron Coleite had gotten in touch with me. Months ago, Jesse asked me if I wanted to do something for Heroes. I of course said yes. And then a couple of months went by I didn't really know what to expect. Aron called me and basically said that it had to be a Suresh story, two parts, ten pages. It gave me a very basic outline. He told me where Suresh was as a character--basically on a Professor X journey to find funding and people to help him with his project. He said Suresh should find somebody who has the same disease, or at least what we think is the same disease as his sister's, but then manifests to be another power. So that's sort of the assignment I was given. And then they threw out a power or two--which I won't say because they may use it again--and then I threw out a couple. I threw out one that I thought was killer and would have worked perfectly, but then they told me, "Oh, we're actually using it." It's actually something for the fans to look forward to. I wish I could say more about it. But they're going to do a better job with it than I would. So from that point I got frustrated because I thought I had the best power and I couldn't use it. So I ran this one by them. The story had pretty much been similar for both powers. To me, it was definitely a story about somebody getting sick as a result of their power and having a power that cost other people something and having that choice, and Suresh being in a place to help them. They okayed my next draft--that was a one page treatment. From there, they were like, "Just go right to script." They gave me basically a week for each 5-page chapter. Then I handed that stuff directly in to Aron and Chuck Kim, another writer who works there. I didn't have any contact with Jason, so he can take it from there.

JB: Sure. My liaison is Frank Mastromauro. One of the great things about the script is that both parts came in at once. Normally, I'll just get the first half, like with The Death of Hana Gitelman. With War Buddies, I was getting one installment every week. So it was great to read the whole thing and say, "Okay. What are we going to plan out? What has to work across the entire thing?"
Momo's thoughts.jpg
One of the great things about having the whole script is when he pulls the mountain bike out of the car in the end, I think, "It's gotta be a car you can put a mountain bike into." So it's just a little detail like that if I had drawn a sedan in the first one, well how the hell is he going to get a mountain bike in there? So it was great having the whole script. I had about five days to draw the first one and about seven days to draw the second one. I also cut into myself on the first one, coming right off another project. Two gross errors of mismanagement: On the first page in the second panel, you see a picture of Hiro holding the sword and Claire running out of the fire, which Mark wrote in the script. Well, I drew big, poster-size images--I got so carried away! [laughs] And the second thing I did which I miscalculated was--and I've never done this before--I miscalculated the time zone difference between Melbourne and L.A., and I came in a day late. But Frank was really cool with that. So both parts at once--it was great!

RS: That's great you had the continuity. I remember in War Buddies there were some issues with watches, which you mentioned on your blog. I'm sure, as an artist, you're always making sure everything flows in a natural way, and that you're prepared from the beginning for something that might happen in the end.

JB: Yeah, it's one of those things where you're trying to come up with details, but you can never get them all, and there's always stuff you miss. You go back and say, "Yeah, I could do that better." But hindsight's 20/20. And the funny thing is, until you see the script over the top of your artwork, you don't actually see the story. Like, I'm as surprised as anyone else when I go to the Heroes website and download it for the first time and see it all. And it's really exciting for me to see it all come together.

RS: Mark, did you see Jason's work before it was published online?

MS: I got to see it before everyone else, but actually it's funny. The first time I even heard that Jason was going to be the artist was actually from you, Ryan. You contacted me about the interview [back in the beginning of August], and I was quite impressed that you knew who the artist was going to be! [laughs] But then I was able to look up some of his stuff and I was happy with it. I could breath a sigh of relief because when you're doing noncreator on stuff, you never know who you might get stuck with. I obviously feel like I got the best of the best.

RS: And the Heroes community agrees with you--Jason was voted the best Heroes graphic novel artist by the 9th Wonders boards. Right, Jas?

JB: Yeah. I've never been more flattered by anything in my life. It knocked me out.

MS: And well-deserved, too.

JB: It was just one of those things that, in retrospect, I regret not chatting with Mark more about the script more. There were a lot of subtleties that, only now after I see it all down on paper, I can say, "Oh, I see what Mark was getting at now! Oh, I see what he was alluding to there!" There are a lot of subtleties to Mark's script that I now look at and go, "Oh, you know what? I wish I had picked up on that."

RS: Like what, for instance?

Dying patient.JPG

JB: I just read through the story and script again, and I was making little mental notes to myself. Like the way he had time passing through, and things about the characters--there were just some subtleties that I would have liked to have played with a bit, especially in, say, some performances. There's a line in the second half where the patient says, "I never put it together before." And I kind of see it now when it's all together with the dialogue and I go, "Ah, I think the patient's a little too..." I think I drew him overacting a little there. And just stuff that I'm looking at and seeing it actually lined up with the dialogue, normally I have a very consistent picture with that in my head. That's just one of those times that [I have a better perspective] when it stands together as a whole with ten pages. I think maybe I didn't need to go quite that far with his expression.

MS: Right. I'm going to take this time to point out that I think Jason is too much of a perfectionist. I mean, I think it translates great to the work, but you really have to look hard to find [something wrong with Jason's work]. I think any writer or any artist can go back and look at their work and find stuff that makes you cringe. I just want to emphasize that I think you did a fantastic job. I mean, just the fact that it took you so long to come up with something so minor [as the patient's expression] is a testament to that. As I said, I did get to see his art. I would get it sent from the Heroes guys. I got a couple of layout pages early on. The layouts looked really good, but they were thumbnails, so it's hard sometimes to tell. But basically, it looked good and it worked. It was interesting because this is something that never happens--I would get the art, but without the lettering. Then they sort of asked me to do the lettering corrects before I actually saw the lettering. It's very hard to try to figure out. When I look back at stuff I would do-over differently, it is sometimes hard to figure out how the letterer is going to fit it in, etc. It was good that I at least had the chance to edit. I think if I did it again, I would probably do with every comic: use less words. I do think it was nice to have a little bit [of time] to adjust things to Jason's storytelling, which I thought flowed very well.

JB: Yeah, I really dug that. Ryan, I remember you saying in an email or a comment on my blog that there was no line of dialogue on the final page of Part 1.

RS: Right. You mentioned on your blog that there was a line of dialogue that was added to the last panel of the first part, but I didn't see any, at least when I read the comic. There was a line in the first panel of the last page of Part 1, but nothing on the last panel. What was it you were talking about there?

JB: The line I've got is Suresh saying, "Welcome back to the land of the living."

MS: Oh, well here's what was interesting about that. That was actually the one last minute correct made. Like I said, I had to do my lettering corrections before the actual lettering was in. And then on a Friday (I think the Friday before that Monday) I got the proofs back that had the lettering. They weren't even really asking for me to do anything, they were just sort of saying, "Here are the proofs."
Blackout patient recovery.jpg
When I looked at it, the "Welcome to the land of the living" line I wound up having to move. I don't want to blame the letterer, but I think it was supposed to be on the second page, [attributed to] the first patient.

RS: Right. It was the nurse who said that line to the adult patient, the guy with the goatee.

JB: Oh, right, right, right! Oh, wow!

MS: And I think I sort of went into a panic and sent an email over the weekend--and believe me, the Heroes guys work over the weekend. I was in a panic because if you were to put that line on the last page, it looks like he's dead, and he's maybe being brought back to life by the electricity. Hopefully this story's clear to everybody, but if it's not...Luckily, I think what I heard was that the first time it was released in PDF form, that line may have been on the last page, but then they corrected it later. So there may be some fans out there with a different variant that has that line in there differently.

JB: The limited edition version! [all laugh]

RS: Apparently! Very interesting! So the line is supposed to be from the nurse to the adult patient, not from Mohinder to the teenage patient.

MS: Correct, correct.

JB: Which is actually in your script direction, also. As the patient opens his eyes, he comes back to "the land of the living". But is it actually a line of dialogue?

MS: Oh, yeah...I don't know how that...

JB: On my version of the script there's no dialogue there. It just says, "The patient's eyes open for the first time. The lights come back on and he returns to the land of the living." But it's not dialogue, it's just direction.

MS: That went in as dialogue, as part of a correct or...I knew it didn't need to be in that last scene, and I think I may have put it in that second page just to err on the side of clarity, which I try to do over everything else, though it may be to the detriment of the work. I know I was reading Jason's blog and I saw he's not a huge fan of sound effects. I'm really not either, and I look sometimes and think, for instance, do the scenes with the blackouts really need the shoonk sound effect? They may not. It was a tough call for me.

JB: I like what you did originally with the sound effect, the szzzt when the lights turn off. I thought that would work really well later on for the car. So you've got the szzzt sound as it goes black, and then the electrical discharge. I thought that would work really well with the car later on because a car can't go shoonk, but it can go szzzt.

MS: This may be the funniest conversation I've ever had. [all laugh] I wanted to have three distinctive sound effects: there's the shoonk for when the lights go off, there's a bzzz for when the emergency lights come on, and then the szzzt distinctly for when the teenage patient is using his electrical absorption ability. I wanted to distinguish it.
A shocking development.jpg
I get these pages, and it was one of the nice things, even looking it over today--so much depends on the quality of the print. I get a jpeg, and then I print it out on my printer, and you really do lose stuff, as opposed to what the final thing was. Even, like, if you have the wrong amount of ink in your cartridge, it'll look a little darker, or maybe not be clear on certain things. I looked today, and just reading it on a nice screen today (today is the first day that the second part, chapter 50 is up), there are so many details that really weren't visible in my original printouts. For instance, on the very last panel, there's a picture of Suresh's dad on the back of Activating Evolution, and I just never noticed that. That's a nice little touch, but even in the panel above that, it was really hard for me to tell from my printouts that Jason didn't just put this little cabin in the woods, but there's a lake, and it's really well lit. It just didn't come across. As I go off on crazy tangents here and try to bring it back, with the blackout scenes, I wasn't going, "Are people going to 100% get this as a blackout?" Not even thinking, by the way, that the title is Blackout.

JB: It's one of those fascinating things, though. One of the beauties of comics is you never really see it until it's all done in print, so to speak. Even though you can kind of nurse it every step of the way, it's not until you see the whole book together--words, print, or web--that you really get to see how it looks. It's like bringing up this little baby in the dark, and eventually somebody turns on the light and you go, "Oh my God!" [laughs] It's a great surprise to see how everything kind of works and doesn't work. But you get better at your craft, and you solve more problems in the past that become easier to solve in the future.

MS: Yeah, I would agree with that 100%. Another thing: I'm looking at the shot now of that first blackout. To me the issue wasn't the coloring; I put in a big chunk of words that are blocking the window. If I got to go back, I don't know if all that narrative is necessary, or I don't know if I would have placed it there. But the letterer did a great job.

JB: To be honest, I was looking through the script direction and I was actually the one who backed you into that corner. That chunk of narrative is actually supposed to go in the previous panel. But I didn't give you enough space in the previous panel because I was hogging space drawing a big picture of Claire and Hiro! [laughs]

MS: You could go either way on that. You could say, "You didn't leave me enough space," or "I gave you way too many words for a panel."

JB: That's what I'm trying to say--it's neither right nor wrong, it's neither here nor there. I think it worked really well. I love that panel, and I think I wrote on my blog that I always love when the synchronicity of words works with panels and works with the visual. It's one of those things you can't do in film because it just looks so contrived, but in comics, it just works so well. It's one of those things that we can get away with that no other media can.

MS: Yeah, it's something I have a really fun time with, and one of the things that keeps me on my toes in comics. I'm always trying to get the word/image thing and the pacing down. Again, in that same panel, it was just supposed to be a cut from them talking to the narrative that says, "In the dark" just as the lights go out. In some way, it would have been perfect, but then again, maybe it would have been too on the nose, actually.

Blackout, Part 1, P1 layout.jpg

JB: See, I really liked it. I think you pulled it off really well there. It was a really good piece of direction. So trust your instincts!

RS: I guess this is how the conversation goes when we have two perfectionists talking about their work: "Oh, I could have done this." "No, I should have done this." [all laugh]

JB: My motto is, "Always be happy, never be satisfied." I'm happy with the work; I'm not satisfied with it. I know if Mark and I were both given it again, it would be twice as good, at least. But the work stands by itself and we move on to the next one.

RS: You both have been on 9th Wonders talking about Blackout, and you've read the comments--both positive and negative--from the fans. What did you guys think of the general fan reaction?

MS: I've been thrilled with the fan reaction. I've said this on the boards: both positively and negatively, it's great to hear compliments, but I was pleasantly surprised by the criticism and the discourse on the boards. This applies to not just Heroes fans--I'm used to being on internet boards and posting on them myself, and people can get really snarky. That's fine, and it's everybody's right. What I really respected [from the Heroes fans] was that all the criticism was well-founded--

JB: --and so polite, too! No one was being rude, it's just legitimately honest questions.

RS: And you'll see a little bit more discussion about your work on 9th Wonders because they know you, as opposed to a lot of the other Heroes artist and writers, will read it, listen to it, and respond to it. They're going to bring up questions they have more than they would on any other given comic.

JB: Mmm. What I love is just the outpouring of enthusiasm from the fans. Just people really engaging with the work and thinking about it--sometimes too much, hence that tongue in cheek post about the Kristen Bell thing.

RS: By the way, I should congratulate you on a really terrific comic about Kristen Bell. I really appreciated you introducing us to her, and what a great likeness you did!

JB: [laughs] I've actually put a call in to my editors going, "When the Kristen Bell comic does come up, my hand is up!"

MS: [laughs] My hand is up as well, and I'm willing to meet with her to discuss the story. [all laugh]

JB: That's the sort of selfless, professional artist you are, Mark! You're willing to go that extra distance. [all laugh] Yeah... but that's the only thing that gets me is the fans looking too far beyond the work. Like, "Who's that Primatech salesman? Who's the patient in the bed? Who's the director?" Sometimes the elements are just the elements.

MS: Look, I think the nature of shows like Heroes and Lost invite those sorts of questions.

JB: Mmm, that's a good point.

Blackout hospital shove.jpg

MS: I feel a little bad because they're expecting some major revelation to happen in the comic that I'm not offering. I mean, Heroes has done an excellent job with making these comics something of value and not just a throwaway little extra thing. I think they really do hold up.

JB: The fans seem to place a lot of value on revelations, rather than just exploration. Sometimes, it's a matter of, "We don't need to cover new ground. Let's just get the ground we've got, dig deeper, and explore what we've got here." You don't always need to have a new debut or a new character who's going to turn up in the TV show who you got from the ground level in the comic book first. Sometimes it's just like what you did--this great, exploratory story of Mohinder, which actually tells us what he's been doing after the finale. I think that's a pretty big deal!

RS: Absolutely, but it also tells us a great story about this kid who is a teenager, and is going through this really really tough time, knowing that he's causing deaths and blackouts and damage. And he wants to kill himself! That is a huge, exploratory, character-driven story there!

JB: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

RS: I think sometimes us fans overlook that for this huge electrical arc which is essentially a cool new power, or the Shanti virus, or any number of new pieces of information. People focus on the sensational, overlooking what is really a touching, heartfelt story about a kid who is going through a really hard time.

JB: Absolutely.

MS: I'd like to say two things to that (besides thank you.) First, what I think is great about the comic and about the show is that this character is now out there. If the Heroes gentlemen would like to use it and connect it to something else, they have the ability to. But also, I love putting the continuity stuff in--I'm a big continuity person. I don't even want to say that I "get" the fans--I am one of those fans. I love that stuff. But at the same time, one of the things that was so surprising to me was, in writing a 10-page story, 5 pages at a time--and I think this goes for illustrating them as well--writing shorts and telling a story in that short amount of space is really hard. I think I can safely say this because it doesn't impinge on anything that's going to come up in Heroes [second] season, but I had this thought out even further, as a bigger story than this. The same story, but I was going to have this kid be a convict and he had brought down a plane, and maybe the mob was going to use him for a casino heist, or the government was going to use him for something. You think ten pages is a lot, but I felt pressed for space just to get this little story out. Especially when I look at stuff, I wish I had more time. As a writer, I worry, "Does it feel rushed that Suresh is getting him to this cabin in the woods?" I wish I had more time to give that and some other sequences a little more breathing room. But again, I think Jason did a great job pacing it within the confines of it.

JB: It's so tough when you've got so much to cover.

MS: Yeah.

RS: Well, you said you only had ten pages, and you thought that was short. I just interviewed Duncan Rouleau and Steven Seagle from Men of Action--they wrote Golden Handshake--and they were like, "Oh, we only had 22 pages, so we had to cut some stuff." And that's 22 pages there over four issues! So one might think they had it hard, but I can't imagine how hard that must have been to tell a story over only 10 pages.

JB: Yeah, which 22 pages is just the standard monthly comic book. It's one of the reasons why V for Vendetta is such an intense read. It's done in six-page installments. So you look at Golden Handshake, and it's so dense because every five or six pages is an issue. It's got a cliffhanger, a payoff, setup, foreshadowing. It's a really tight piece of writing.

Lakeside cabin.jpg

RS: Yeah, yeah. Agree. Okay, so we've got this teenage guy, residing in this electricity-less lakehouse...which is owned by whom?

MS: I don't think it's been established, but my assumption was either Suresh somehow owned it, but probably not because financially he's looking for money. But somehow it was just something that he knew about. I certainly didn't have an answer for it. But it didn't seem far fetched to me that he somehow came across it. I mean, I could make something up, but I don't want to say anything that would make the next chapter the origin of the house. [all laugh]

JB: [movie announcer voice] "Season Two: The Origin of the House." [laughs] Instead of "Save the cheerleader, save the world," "The Origin of the Cabin." It's right up there! I'm getting that t-shirt tomorrow! [all laugh]

RS: Mark, you said that there were no big revelations in the story, but there actually was. I don't know if it was intentional or not, but in the beginning of Part 2, Mohinder has a narrative in which he says his sister "had remarkable abilities". We'd actually never heard that Shanti ever had any abilities before, just that she had this disease, and perhaps a genetic mutation, but never that she manifested any abilities.

MS: I should clear that up to say that that's me speaking, and that's from watching the show. I just sort of drew that conclusion, and I never actually thought about it that maybe she hadn't [manifested abilities]. My assumption was sick with something that somebody else with powers had, and her father, as a result of that, started this lifelong quest for finding these people. I just automatically made the connection. [laughs] So as far as being a revelation, it's not canon as far as a I know.

RS: Well, that's exactly my point. You came to the same conclusion that everybody who watches the show jumped to. So it's just nice to actually see that. You said pretty much exactly what everybody else is thinking, that she would have been an evolved human, had she grown up.

JB: But Mark, all your scripts are approved by NBC and the Heroes team. So that's for the keeper! That's in there--that's part of the show!

RS: Absolutely, and people will refer to that.

JB: I mean, there's a debate on the boards all the time where people talk about whether the comics are part of the continuity. The writers and producers have always said, "Yes, they are." There are some little mistake on the way because us as creators make mistakes, but it's all part of continuity. So, there you go, man!

MS: I should say, for the fans, the Heroes people are really involved in it, and they do take the continuity very seriously, which is good, because you could get into trouble with that kind of stuff. At the same time, with little things, like even just the turn of a phrase, because I said she had "abilities" rather than she's "evolved"--

JB: --It's also Suresh's impression, too. Maybe he's just drawn this conclusion, but it might not have actually been the real thing. He may have just made the same inference we have. But it might not be, so there you go.

Electrical power.jpg

RS: So Mark, when you were deciding on the power to choose for this teenage patient--by the way, does he have a name?

MS: He does not. He's literally listed as "teenage patient".

RS: Okay. So how did you decide on this power of electrical absorption? How did you match that power with the character?

MS: Let's see what I can say without spoiling anything. [laughs] My guideline was that it has to be something that's mistaken for Shanti's disease, and it has to be a power. So my natural thing to jump to was that if it's mistaken for a disease, it's obviously a power that's having a negative effect on the person, like Rogue from X-Men. We threw some different things out. One that was somewhat similar had to do with Wi-Fi. But if it was going to have a detriment, I wanted the character to have a stake in it where it was a gift and a curse. It wasn't just a simple question of getting him away and that solves everything. My original power, which I can't say what it was, also involved a hospital and people's lives being affected. I was a little wary of electrical powers [because] they have been done in different ways, and I was a little wary of doing something too similar. But this is a way where this poor guy doesn't mean to [cause problems]. It also gave the opportunity to create this hospital setting that was a sort of this creepy hospital feel--and Jason did a good job of getting the mood with the colors. The kind of story with a hospital where something's off and something's wrong and something's mysteriously happening to patients. So that seemed to fit in well with that.

JB: I can't believe it was your second idea. I think it's stunning! The whole idea of the electricity, and he's absorbing electricity, which makes total sense that he'd be exhibiting signs like Shanti, and then the really elegant solution of Mohinder telling him, "We're going to get you off the grid and you'll be fine." It just ties together so nicely. A secondary idea? I'm stunned. Floored.

MS: By the way, at some point in the season, if fans want to come back to me--I think they'll figure out what the other power is when it comes out.

RS: Right, and we know you can't spoil things about who has the power in the next season.

MS: I don't know what I'm allowed to say, but it's definitely somebody new.

JB: Just say if it's a guy or a girl.

MS: It involves twins, and other than that, I'm not going to say anything. They both have a set of powers that compliment each other. That's all I'll say. But my power was like half of theirs, and honestly, their idea just sounded much cooler.

RS: Well, I know Jason doesn't like spoilers, so we won't ask any more....One of the very first lines about the hospital was, "You're the leading research hospital in--" --In what?

MS: That was one thing where I left it for the reader. The idea was something genetically-related. If somebody said "genetics," I would have said that would be a fine answer. It's hard because I don't know how much the rest of the world is starting to learn about this. But it would have been something genetic or molecular, like molecular biology. Something in that realm. I thought, again, not spelling it out too specifically left it for the reader. Also, whenever you have interruptions, it makes dialogue flow better anyway, and a little more realistically.

Mohinder hospital proposal.jpg

JB: It also doesn't really matter. It could have been research in chemotherapy. [What's important] is Suresh is somewhere along his line of looking for funding. Maybe at the top, he would have started with genetic abnormality research places. And then by the end of it, jeez, he could be going to anyone! "Hi, I'm here about breast cancer, and I wanted to know if you've heard about..." It doesn't matter, as long as he gets someone to flip him a buck! [laughs]

RS: You know, that's one of the things I like about Suresh--he tries to go to the leading research hospital in whatever, but Mohinder at heart is a grassroots guy. He gets his best research from pulling spinal fluid out of Sylar, or just from talking to a guy. That's exactly what Chandra did, too. With all his medical background, Chandra kept a journal where he'd keep toenails and locks of hair and specimens he'd swipe from people in the theater, and that's how he'd do his research. It was very much one-on-one, grassroots research. So intentional or not, I thought it was a really nice touch that Mohinder started by going to the top of the line hospital, but ended up with his best research results by just talking to a guy and doing an on-the-fly blood transfusion.

MS: Yeah, I think you're right. I hope it fits. That's one of the most important things to me--nailing the characters and keeping it realistic.

JB: Again, it doesn't really matter what hospital it is. It's just one of those things where Mark threw that ball into the air for somebody else to catch. Is it the reader? Is it another writer? It doesn't matter; the ball's in the air.

MS: Jason said the answer doesn't matter, dammit! We have the story! There's no such thing as a bad question. I either have the answer, don't have the answer, or I can't say the answer.

RS: ...or you're going to skirt around the answer and talk about twins. [all laugh]

JB: I thought it was brilliant the way he cut it off. If he actually said, "You're the leading research hospital in genetic aberrations," then you know Suresh is at the start of his journey; this is the first place he's gone to. But if he said, "You're the leading research hospital in unknown vulnerabilities to cancer," everybody would be like, "What? Why is he there?" And Suresh would say, "Hey, I'm going anywhere to get some cash!" Either way, it doesn't matter. And by cutting it off there, I think Mark covered the entire gamut of Suresh's journey by not saying anything.

RS: Okay, the car. I know when you first read the script, Jason, that you had asked me what kind of car Mohinder drove. So now I'm asking you, where does that car come from? Suresh drove a taxi when he first got to America, he got a rental car in Montana, and now he's got this car.

JB: I figured it's a rental car [from New York City], just like you told me a month ago. I went to the next best thing than the source, and that's [the contributors at Heroes Wiki]. I wanted to know what he drives, Ryan, and you told me he's driven cabs and rental cars. So I thought, okay, I need a rental car that can fit a bike in it. Kabam! I did some research. [all laugh]

MS: Let me be clear that that's not a Nissan Versa because, clearly, a Versa would never have any kind of electrical problems or ever gotten into an accident. [all laugh]

JB: If I had a little more forethought on that, I actually would have done one. One of the things in that sequence, when I was reading Mark's script, I was thinking, "But why does he crash? I mean, in my car, if the electricity turns off, the car just kind of stops." But if the patient has a blackout and he does the cool electrical absorption thing, if I were Suresh, I'd freak out and into a telephone pole, also! So I figure I could've done the Nissan and blamed it on Suresh, not the car. [all laugh] Yeah, I'm really annoyed at myself for not putting that shameless piece of product placement.

RS: Ah, there's always next time.

JB: Speaking of Easter Eggs of sorts, there is an Easter Egg in the second part, but it's really, really subtle...

MS: I'd like to know what it is.

Homage to Cheerleader on Staircase.jpg

JB: On page three of the second part, there's a panel where the patient is cringing, and all you see is the shadow. That's kind of my riff on the Tim Sale picture of the cheerleader and the shadow of Sylar on the steps.

MS: Oh, wow.

JB: His hands are in the same place and everything, or at least as close as I could. Sylar's hands are up and curling towards him, but I thought that just wouldn't look right. But I kept the same angle and the same pose. So that's my little Easter Egg.

RS: I like that! And you know that that painting is Tim Sale's homage to Nosferatu. So you're actually making an homage to an homage.

JB: [laughs] That's hilarious!

RS: Well, and I guess that's all art really is--

MS: --Comics, and superhero comics especially, are homages to homages to homages.

JB: I always try to throw something in, but it was tough for me. I mean, I could have done some side tables with magazines on them, I guess. Unlike the first season, where I knew the ending well ahead, I knew I could put the Linderman casino in, and they weren't going to blow it up in the last episode. I knew Nathan was going to run for Congress and win, so I knew I could keep all these things in, but because I don't know what they're doing in the second season, if I put an ad in for the Linderman casino and I find out in the first episode that it's been blown up, well I'll look like a bit of an idiot! I figured I'd better not go there.

RS: Yeah, you mentioned that on your blog. It's a tough position, compounded by time restraints.

JB: Yeah, so that was the best I could do for an Easter Egg for this one.

RS: Well, gentlemen, I have to tell you how much I enjoyed this novel, and how much I enjoyed talking to you about it.

MS: Of course, and thank you. I also wanted to say that if people enjoy my work, that Grounded is available now in trade form. It's also available at newsarama.com as a serialized daily for free. You can sample it there and then hopefully buy the trade if you like what you see. Then, I have a new comic that's coming out in November. It's called Fearless, and it's about a superhero who is basically addicted to an anti-fear drug. He's got a crippling anxiety disorder and can't do anything without the drug. It's sort of what happens when his supply runs out. That's from Image, and you can preview it in the Diamond catalogs at your retailer. So if you liked my stuff, I'd greatly appreciate it if fans check it out. Definitely let me know what you think--I'm reachable at the boards and at the Grounded message board at Image.

Blackout, Part 2.jpg

JB: And I wanted to congratulate you on the Supergirl work, too.

MS: Oh, thanks. I did an issue of Supergirl, actually, with Joe Kelly, who is another Heroes writer from Man of Action. That's been out awhile--

JB: --but worth going back and having a look.

MS: I have more stuff from DC Comics. I can't really say what it is, but it'll be cool.

RS: Great, well we'll look forward to that, and to Zero G from Jason sometime next year. Thank you guys, and hope to see more from you soon!

MS: Thank you, Jason, for such terrific work; I'm really thrilled with what you did. Thank you for doing such a great job.

JB: Thank you, Mark; like I said, it was just like an onion. It had so many layers to it that I'm still looking at things from the script and the story, even before we had this interview. I would just go, wow! There's so much stuff to it. You wrote a great short story.

MS: Yeah, it was the same thing for me, just looking it over and seeing such details, even before the Easter Egg you pointed out. It's a treat for me reading it again and seeing all you put into it. I really hope we get the chance to work together on something again.


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Interviews edit
Cast

Sally ChamplinAlex FernandezMike FoyJames Kyson LeeNtare Guma Mbaho MwineJoshua RushJames RyenRoberto SanchezDiana Terranova

Crew

Adam Armus and Kay FosterYule CaiseNate GoodmanChuck KimTim KringJason La PaduraDebra McGuireJoe TolericoKevin Tostado

Graphic Novel Crew

Robert AtkinsMicah GunnellR.D. HallJoe KellyChuck KimKotzebue brothersRyan OdagawaJG RoshellMark Sable

Specific Works

BlackoutDestinyEvs DropperGolden HandshakeInto the WildiStory (follow up) • Nowhere Mandirectors / writersThe RecruitRoot and BranchSlow Burn

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