Interview: Marc Guggenheim
by Kat Bittner
Review by Kat Bittner
SFRevu.com Interview ISBN/ITEM#: INTMGuggenheim
Date: 26 November 2007
Links: Review of Resurrection /
SFRevu: Tell us about Resurrection
. Marc Guggenheim: I love science fiction. I love SF movies and alien invasion movies like The Day the Earth Stood Still, Independence Day, and War of the Worlds. After the movie ended my mind would always go, "What now?" The stories that I tell come out of questions. We now know we're not alone in the universe, and depending upon how the movie ends, the world is in various states of disarray. Sort of like how Independence Day ends and everyone is happy, but the earth's been turned into the bottom of a shake and bake bag.
The more I ask myself these "What now?" questions the more interesting answers I came up with. Those answers became different characters. That's the how and the what of the idea.
SFRevu: Who are your characters?
Marc: It's a pretty wide-ranging ensemble. What I've been calling the keyhole characters - the characters through which we see the majority of the plot initially - are two travelers, Sarah and Ben. The series picks up literally the day after we throw back the alien invasion. We follow the story through their eyes, but there are several other characters. There's Eugene McQuery who's plagued by problems of conscience. There's someone named Spock, who I don't want to say too much beyond that name; it's not Star Trek, but certainly in that direction and there's Paul at the top of the power structure in the post invasion world.
There's a saying: "Part of a crisis is opportunity." Different people find themselves at different heights in the food chain. There's a lot of mystery surrounding the book and one of those is, "Who's in charge? Why they are in charge? Should they be in charge?" Paul is one those characters for us.
SFRevu: Is this in the same vein as Lord of the Flies?
Marc: It shares with Lord of the Flies the central conceit that, when the organizing forces of civilization are removed, humanity does not always act with the noblest of intentions. Resurrection is very much a post-apocalyptic type of book. Hopefully people will read Resurrection and recognize the various different influences and inspirations I'm drawing on, but still find a book that has a new original thing to say.
SFRevu: How did you hook up with Oni?
Marc: Oni the company and I both happen to be represented by the same agency. The agents put me together with Eric Gitter who runs Oni's Closed on Mondays (a media production company created specifically to help Oni Press creators and titles find life in mediums outside of comics). Eric and I got along and started talking about what I was working on. He sparked Resurrection, which was great, because my writing tends not to be high concept. Resurrection is one of the few ideas that I've had in my life that falls into that category. I've been jealously guarding it for all these years waiting for the right opportunity, the right time, the right place, the right publisher. Eric spoke to the people at Oni, James Lucas Jones (editor in chief), and Joe Nozemack (founding member) and talked it over with them. They really responded to it and I thought these guys really get it and we took it off from there.
SFRevu: Was the fact that Oni is creator-owned a big pull for you going in, hearing how guarded you were with your project?
Marc: Yeah, it was a huge enticement. There are a lot of benefits going with Oni. One is they're creator-owned. Second is their reputation. I like a lot of the books that they publish their voice as a company. It seemed very much like the right place. I don't think I ever contemplated trying to sell the idea to someone who wouldn't allow me to retain some creative control over it. Certainly the creator-owned aspect of it was key.
SFRevu: And this will be your first book with them?
Marc: Yep, this will be my first book. This will be my first creator owned book. I only got into comic books two to three years ago as a professional writer.
SFRevu: What's the format for Resurrection?
Marc: It's gonna be monthly, 22 pages. Probably anywhere from 9-10 issues per year. We'll collect things in the inevitable trade paperback.
SFRevu: Do you have any favorite science fiction authors?
Marc: I'm a big Ray Bradbury fan, and I love Michael Crichton. I consider him science fiction even though he's sort of moved away from those roots originally. I love his book Sphere
. I'm a big fan of writers who are working in comic books like Brian Vaughn. Y the Last Man is my favorite comic book right now.
I like a lot of different forms of SF television and film like Joss Whedon's Firefly, I've been really enjoying his comic books lately. He's an amazing writer. I read his stuff and simultaneously love him and hate him at the simultaneously. There are certain writers I don't feel in competition with and Joss is definitely one of them.
And course Star Trek and Star Wars. Kind of hard for any male of my generation not to be heavily inspired by it.
SFRevu: With your background in television (Law and Order), do you see this as structuring it in seasons or 10 issue story arcs?
Marc: I totally see it in terms of seasons. I try to approach each project a little differently. Reexamine things. Resurrection is sort of written like a TV show. I don't even use narration captions, because it's totally wrong for the book.
SFRevu: Can you tell SFRevu how TV writing and writing for comics are similar or different?
Marc: They both tell continuing storylines unlike a movie, which is over in two hours. Movies are closed-ended. Television and comics share an open ended narrative; they also sometimes even share a universe in comic books, there's the Marvel universe. In television there's the Law and Order universe and these characters bump into each other.
There are differences obviously. In comic books, I work with an unlimited budget; but I also have to tell stories in a static way. There can be no movement within panels. So I have to train myself to remember that the story has to be told visually in a series of static panels and I don't want too many panels on the page. With television, it's a lot more fluid. You're filming so things can be in motion constantly. Even after you write the script, you have all these opportunities to change things.
For me, whenever I have an issue, I get a copy of the draft letters back from the publisher. How I change the story is a lesser version how I approach a cut in the editing room. It's that last opportunity to fine tune or change things.
SFRevu: How did being an attorney influence your writing with Punisher and Law and Order?
Marc: In the case of the Punisher story that I wrote, it's set in a courtroom. It's all about the Punisher moving through the legal system. I was drawing very heavily on my background as an attorney and on my experience writing in Law and Order. Except for rare instances where my characters intersect with the legal system, my experiences as an attorney really comes more to bear in terms of my ability to write fast. As an attorney you write a 75 page brief in a night. You learn the hard way to write well and to write fast. In many ways being a lawyer is like being in boot camp for writers.
SFRevu: Any future projects?
Marc: I'm working on a TV show right know called Eli Stone I'm very passionate about. It's got elements of science fiction. We have more visual effects shots in our pilot than Heroes did. Yet, it's not traditional sci-fi. It's more spiritual, more meta-physical than traditional science fiction. It's about a lawyer who maybe a modern-day prophet. It's a lot of fun. It's got comedy and drama and law and musical numbers and visual effects: it's one of those pieces that people will absolutely love or absolutely hate.
SFRevu: Who's in the cast?
Marc: We have a great cast. Jonny Lee Miller is our lead. He was in Trainspotting. Natasha Henstridge and Julie Gonzalo from Veronica Mars and Victor Garber from Alias. Loretta Devine, Sam Jaeger from Catch and Release. Tom Amandes from Everwood
. SFRevu: What network will it be on?
Marc: ABC. The trailer is up on YouTube and the ABC site.
SFRevu: You're in very good company this season with ABC like Pushing Daises.
Marc: That's a very good show. It's similar to Eli in the sense they are both magical realism, but we approach the subject matter in different ways. It's a good network to be on. They allow us to do a lot of fun stuff.
SFRevu: Regarding what Heroes did in terms of the webwork, is that something you want to do as a producer on the Eli Stone?
Marc: I love the branching out into the other media. It'd be great to do an Eli comic book. I'm very much about vertical integration, trying out different platforms. That's one of the exciting aspects about working in entertainment in general at this time in our lives. I'd be totally up for it you never know.
SFRevu: Thanks for talking with us.