Interview:Mark Sable

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In May 2008, RyanGibsonStewart conducted an interview via email with Faces writer Mark Sable.


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Ryan Stewart: You were sole writer for a superhero comic strip called Grounded, which came out in 2005. How did that come about? Do you run the production company that produced it?

Mark Sable: Grounded was an original screenplay that I adapted (along with artist Paul Azaceta) into a six issue mini series for Image Comics (a large publisher for creator-owned projects which I don't run). It's a story I wanted to tell for a long time, about a teenager who is sent to a high school for superheroes where everyone has powers but him. By pairing with a great artist I got the chance to tell it, and it pretty much launched my career in comics after years of struggling as a writer.


Is there anywhere online where we can get copies of your works?

It's now collected in graphic novel form and should be available in most comic stores or on amazon.com. You can also check it out for free at http://comics.newsarama.com/grounded/.

Speaking of checking my work out for free, among my other works is Hazed, a graphic novel that's a dark comedy about sororities and eating disorders. If you liked the comedic elements in Faces, it might appeal to you. The first chapter is available for free on MySpace comics. If you like it, you can also get it at your local comics shop or on Amazon, just like Grounded.


What writers have influenced you?

I've been influenced by a great many writers. In comics alone...Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Frank Miller, Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis, Brian Michael Bendis, Geoff Johns, Mark Millar, Mark Waid...it's probably easier for me to name the writers and artists who haven't influenced me.


Do you have any preferences for fantasy over contemporary writing, or vice versa?

I enjoy both fantasy and contemporary writing, and I really love that I have the freedom go back and forth between them (sometimes in the same project).


Do you have any preference for working in a television studio over being a graphic novel writer?

It depends what I'm doing in the studio, but generally I prefer to write more than anything else regardless of the medium. I grow to love comics more and more every time I write a new story. The possibilities of comics are endless, and the opportunity to have such a close interaction with my readers like on 9thwonders.com is priceless.


When you were working for Howard Stern and Charlie Rose, did you write anything that was used on television?

My contributions to Howard Stern and Charlie Rose were mostly non-writing. Like organizing a press conference for former mayor Giuliani, babysitting a drunken dwarf for a day, or my favorite, making sure a stripper did not fall off a stage while she was dancing. Wait...did I say I liked writing more than anything else? :)


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How did you get the job of writing for NBC?

Jesse Alexander and Aron Eli Coleite were fans of my graphic novel Grounded, and were nice enough to take me out to lunch. Along with former Heroes writer's assistant/graphic novelist Pierluigi Cothran, they gave me the chance to pitch some story ideas and I was lucky enough to have them approved.


What sort of direction did NBC give you on this set of novels?

The mandate from Heroes writer/webcomic editor Chuck Kim was completely different than my last go round. Instead of just handing out assignments to a variety of freelancers to fill in gaps between episodes with the main cast, a team of writers was assembled from the Heroes staff and asked to do something more ambitious.

As a group, it was about creating kind of an epic story about the Company that would be a bridge between [seasons 2 and 3]. We were encouraged to have continuity, recurring characters and plot lines that paid off at the end.

Individually, we were asked to pitch stories featuring original teams of Company agents, one human and one powered.

As a writer, this was fun not only because I got to add to Heroes mythology, but also because rather than just sit at home and write by myself, I got to collaborate with the extremely talented Heroes staff.


What other Heroes writers have you been working with?

Too many to name. The graphic novel crew this time round, headed by writer Chuck Kim, was made up of Heroes writers, writers assistants, new media people, and former Heroes staffers. I had the honor of being the only person not working for the show to be brought in.


What is the collaboration process like?

Chuck basically laid out the grand scheme for this summer's novels. I can't say too much without giving it away, but his goal was to create an overarching story that introduced new characters we could have more freedom with than the show's mainstays, and continuity that paid off in a big way at the end.

I was invited to pitch a team of agents and story for them after seeing the first arc (Trust Issues), which Chuck [had a creative hand in]. When Chuck approved mine, I was able to come in for some meetings at the Heroes offices with the other writers, which was a thrill for me. We then got to throw around ideas about how to connect our various stories. I got great input from the rest of the crew and hopefully I was able to give some in return.


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Since this Company arc is a collaborative project, do you have any idea whether or not the Logans or any other characters (like Felicia) are going to reappear later on?

I honestly don't know whether the Logans will appear later on. And if I did--and this goes for Felicia too--I couldn't say without spoiling carefully laid plans. I can say that people seemed to really like Connie, and I suggested that it would be cool if her powers were used in a more dangerous way, or that maybe we could see that she's more than she appears. Whether or not they'll run with my ideas I don't know. I'll be reading just like you to find out.


Is the nerve gas guy actually emitting nerve gas, or just sweating? Can you tell us more about his power?

He's sweating, probably starting to emit a bit of nerve agent, but not yet enough to harm anyone around him. Penny is able to take him down just before he can release a fatal dose.

Also, his ability is not something he consciously controls. It's triggered when he gets nervous. Part of Penny's skill--not power--is that she can sneak up on people undetected. Having a plain face that doesn't stand out in a crowd helps her. Although it obviously creates problems in her personal life.


After bagging the man in Manhattan, who is the woman in the shower supposed to be? In the shower she has black hair, and light brown hair afterwards. Did the shower wash out black hair coloring from her hair or is that supposed to be an example of Penny reverting to her normal self?

It's Penny. I'm the wrong person to ask about colors, because I'm pretty much colorblind. But you can assume if they don't match, it was because her mom changed it and it changes back.


Colorblind?

I have a color defect. Meaning I have trouble distinguishing certain colors, like reds and browns, greens and blues. Luckily, I keep getting paired with excellent colorists. At least, they tell me they are great colorists...


MILF Island--what a great reference!

I was surprised I got away with that, myself, but then again it's [from] an NBC show. I'm happy to cross promote--30 Rock is a brilliant show, and I know at least one of the actors is a comic fan.


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Connie demonstrates her ability in the car. After Connie touches Penny's face, is it Connie's hands or Penny's hands that are shown touching Penny's face?

It's Connie's hands touching Penny's face.


Are Penny's and Connie's natural appearances the result of repeated use of Connie's ability or is their current normal appearance the original way they looked?

Their current normal appearance is the original way they looked. Connie's abilities only work for 24 hours (right now). And she can't use them on herself.

I guess the exception to the term "original appearance" is that Connie has had tons of plastic surgery. I think that's what makes her both funny and a little tragic--the person she most wants to change is herself, which she can't do using her powers. She projects those feelings onto her daughter, which only makes Penny feel worse about her looks.


Can Connie morph a person to the opposite gender? A different skin color? Could she give a person animal parts or vice versa? What more can you tell us about the limits and possibilities of her power?

Right now, she could change the outward appearance of anyone in pretty much any way, albeit temporarily. That would include skin color and gender. Theoretically, it could be animal parts as well, although whether someone would survive that is another question (and a possible offensive use of her powers). She's a relative novice using them so I feel like she could do much more than what we've seen if she puts her mind to it.


What made you decide to make Connie's ability a physical one, rather than a mental one like Candice's?

I think your question almost answers itself--we already had Candice and I think part of the fun and the challenge is coming up with original powers. Speaking of which, I'm really impressed with what my fellow writers have coming up in that regard--really inventive stuff that I can't spoil.


Did you write Connie's assignment tracker profile?

I wrote it (and had fun doing so), although there was some editing after the draft I handed in. I wrote it after I wrote the novel, but it was based on things I knew about the characters before I sat down to write the script. I've said this before but it's hard to write 5-6 page stories, so I was glad to have the opportunity to give the characters a little more depth outside the panels.


So Connie shares a birthday with you, eh?

Ha, yeah, although she's a decade or so older. NBC asked us to come up with full names, D.O.B.'s and birthplaces for these characters, presumably for legal purposes. It's hard picking dates at random so I thought I'd slip my own in there.

I'd love to do a joint birthday party with her--she can make all the women look the way I want. And if those women don't like me, she can make me look the way they want!


Why Union, NJ?

A bunch of comic pros I know are from the Jersey area. And I love Bruce Springsteen--I almost made it Asbury Park.


Did you do any psychology research for the profile? You mention narcissistic personality disorder and codependency behavior...

No, that stuff was added in editorially after I wrote it. But reading it I think whoever added it nailed both Connie and Penny pretty well in that regard.


Is the teleporter meant to look like Santiago from Create Your Hero? Is there any connection we should be getting from the fact that they wear t-shirts of similar design?

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No, he's original. I just wanted to create someone who would be hard to catch without the kind of deception that Penny and Connie can manufacture.


Is the guy just a teleporter or does he have access to all the stuff Hiro can do?

Just a teleporter, and unable to teleport the distances that Hiro can. I think you take something away from Hiro if you introduce a character that's too similar to him or too close in power level.


Any inkling on whether or not we might see him again?

Again, I don't know of any plans, but he's always available for other writers to play with (or me if I'm lucky enough to do more stories).


The teleporter's girlfriend was in the Company database--why?

His girlfriend is in the Company database because she's a known associate of the teleporter. I like to think when The Company wants to find someone, they keep tabs not only on their target but on anyone who knows them.


Penny goes to Levittown and says she's heading toward the teleporter's girlfriend's home. However, she ends up at the teleporter's home. Any significance to this? Does the teleporter live with his girlfriend?

They live together, so it's the same place.


Why Levittown?

That is a great question actually. Levittown is a town on Long Island, near where I grew up. It was built after the Second World War as affordable housing, one of the first if not the first planned suburban communities. But what it's really known for is that almost all the houses look the same. I thought that worked thematically with characters who could blend into a crowd or make someone look like anyone else.


Does the bar where Thompson, Jr. and Penny hook up have a name?

If I told you its name, it would compromise the one place where the agents can go unwind. Seriously, I didn't name it, maybe someone else will.


Is there anything we should know about the guy who helps Thompson find the teleporter's girlfriend? Is he just an agent of the Company, or is there anything more to him?

I wrote him as just an office mate, although it's possible another writer will run with his character. I figure that since he knew about Thompson's conquest, he probably was at the bar to see him leave with Penny.


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Is there anything about Faces that we don't know? Anything that's just really interesting or really cool that nobody has caught?

This will sound like I'm kissing up to the fans, but reading over the comments of 9thWonders it seems like they pretty much caught everything, from the MILF Island reference to my shout out to Wolverine (Penny's last name is Logan, and she says she's the best at what she does).


Any final words?

Well, in addition to the aforementioned projects--Grounded and Hazed--I have some books out from DC. A Cyborg (one of the Teen Titans) mini-series out now, his first ever solo book; and Two-Face: Year One, the origin of Batman's greatest villain, scheduled to come out in July in time for The Dark Knight sequel. The latter might be of particular interest to Heroes fans, because it takes place in the same world as Heroes writer Jeph Loeb's [and artist Tim Sale's] Batman: The Long Halloween.

That, and again I want to thank everyone at Heroes for giving me the opportunity to write more graphic novel chapters, for the fans for reading them, and to you for interviewing me.


Thank you, and you're welcome!



Interviews edit
Cast

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

Crew

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

Graphic Novel Crew

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

Specific Works

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

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