10 Questions with writer Mark Long

Rubicon GN CoverTake the classic movie The Seven Samurai, mix in some SEALS and set it all in Afghanistan and you have Rubicon, the graphic novel published by Archaia. Rubicon marks the second collaboration between Archaia and Meteor Entertainment, the first being Hawken: Genesis.

Rubicon is the story of a paramilitary SEAL team who defend a remote mountain farming village in Afghanistan from the torment of marauding Taliban. Rubicon blends timely themes of fate, hope, and courage with relentless action into a triumphant tale of honor won with loyalty and death.

This powerfully realized book is written by New York Times best-selling graphic novel author and Meteor Entertainment president Mark Long, from an idea by Oscar-winning writer/director Christopher McQuarrie, and from a story by SEAL Team VI and Red Cell veteran, Dan Capel. It’s illustrated by newcomer Mario Stilla.

With a story that packs a punch, we had a chance to subject Mark Long to “10 Questions” and you can read our review here when you’re done.

Graphic Policy: How did you come to work with Archaia on this project?

Mark Long: We produced Rubicon ourselves so we had the benefit of seeking the best publisher for the book. Archaia was our first choice. They’re producing some of the most beautiful graphic novels published today and we really liked their passion for Rubicon.

GP: Rubicon is an updated storytelling of Akira Kurosawa’s classic film, The Seven Samurai, set during the Afghanistan War. Where did the idea come from? The graphic novel is also a collaboration with writer/director Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects), and Seal Team VI veteran, Dan Capel. How did that group come together?

ML: Chris, Dan, and I were having dinner in LA and the conversation turned to passion projects. Chris said he wanted to do something with SEALS in Afghanistan. A movie like Zulu. When I got back to Seattle, I emailed Chris and said I couldn’t get his idea out of my head, but suggested Seven Samurai instead. He liked it and I asked if we could write and produce it. Dan and I had been searching for a project to do together. Chris agreed and offered to collaborate.

GP: What type of research went into putting the story together? How detailed and “set in reality” is it?

ML: Well, we had the best technical advisor you could hope for in Dan. He’s both a SEAL Team VI and Red Cell veteran with operational experience that spans what he calls the “hairy frogman” era up to the modern anti-terror present day. But Dan’s real interest was in was emotional authenticity. Dan says the stoic SEAL portrayed in most movies is bullshit. He and his teammates grieved openly for the men they were often closer to than their own family. They also cultivate a droll wit and in Dan’s case, are outright funny. If Seth Rogen was a Navy SEAL, he’d be just like Dan—loud, hilarious, profane, irreverent.

GP: You’re also the CEO of Meteor Entertainment which partnered with Archaia on Hawken Genesis, a video game tie-in. How do you see technology shaping the comics industry?

ML: I think we’re going to see comic reader apps like comiXology feature more titles with motion graphic treatment and sound design. I plan on releasing a creator’s commentary feature when we release our eBook, with anecdotal explanations of where certain scenes came from and notes on underlying themes.

GP: You also wrote the graphic novel, The Silence of Our Friends which took on the civil rights struggle. Is there something about “real world” events you enjoy writing about?

ML: I think it’s in part a response to working exclusively in genre and action themes in game design. But I recall asking Sherman Alexie a similar question. His novels and stories are fiction, but very obviously drawn from personal experiences that are sometimes raw and difficult to read. Sherman said he couldn’t help himself. And I think that’s the secret to the best material. If it makes you uncomfortable to write, but you can’t help yourself, you’re on to something good.

GP: What types of hurdles have you met creating comics, and any lessons learned you can share?

ML: OGN’s (original graphic novels) are really unique media in that they take years to come to fruition. There aren’t many endeavors in your life that take long to complete. It’s one of those, “It’s the journey that’s the reward” experiences. And can be profoundly satisfying as a result.