An Enormous interview with Tim Daniel

Enormous_CVR_1This June, 215 Ink gets Enormous onto comic book stands. The comic, which was previously a one-shot, is now a monthly ongoing series courtesy of writer Tim Daniel and artist Mehdi Cheggour.

In the midst of a planetary crisis for food and fuel, a vast ecological cataclysm has spawned ‘The Enormous,’ massive beasts unlike anything ever witnessed. Humankind struggles to stave off extinction– seek shelter!

What’s cooler is the comic has a companion new live-action web series from Machinima!

We got a chance to chat with Tim about the series, both comic and live action, and what we can expect!

Graphic Policy: So for those that don’t know what is Enormous?

Tim Daniel: How is that even possible!?!  You guys!!! So, here’s how it goes…the world is starving. A consortium of nations construct and implement an agriforming technology system dubbed Alchem. Each node, there are several, is located in a tract of desert land on several continents. The intent is to turn arid land into fertile farming regions. For once, humankind has unilaterally agreed to take action to prevent a crisis much to the benefit of all. But, as is the case with tampering with nature, something goes horribly wrong. Evidence of a powerful mutagen begins to rear up over the span of the next 17 years…culminating in the arrival of the Enormous, massive beasts that strike major cities around the globe. In the aftermath of the uprising, a band of survivors lead by Ellen Grace, form up a search and rescue team that scours the rubble of Phoenix, Arizona in the hopes of locating orphaned children. But not all the survivors think alike…there are many factions with their own designs on what the future holds for humanity.

GP: How did the idea come about?

TD: On an airplane trip with my family April 2010. My daughter Elle and I were just trying to pass time and I looked down through the window and asked her what if would be like to see a truly enormous monster below.  We started imaging some scenarios…I then asked her where we could possibly live in a world filled with giant monsters and she answered very simply, “Underground, Dad.”  That did it– that was the spark right then and there and I ripped out my yellow note pad and started writing as fast as I could. Still have that page of notes…

GP: The comic was released as a one-shot a bit ago. How did it go from that to an ongoing series, even switching publishers?

TD: Enormous was previously published as a One Shot Graphic Novel in the summer of 2012. It was a 64 page, over-sized treasury edition. When it returns in June, Enormous will finally arrive in the format it was naturally conceived for and at the length it was intended to be, which is, an ongoing, monthly format with a clearly defined ending.  Hence the switch in publishers. 215 Ink agreed with the scope of my original pitch. They had the courage, faith and foresight to agree to publish Enormous.  I could not be more grateful to Andrew Del Quadro and Michael Perkins for giving us the opportunity to pursue our original goal.

GP: This March, a live-action adaptation of the comic is out via Machinima and Xbox One. How’d that come about?

TD: So cool! Yes, the live-action adaptation debuted March 20th, 2014. The process of bringing Enormous to the screen started in July 2012 when the book debuted at SDCC. Producer Adrian Askarieh approached me on the convention floor at the booth where the book was on display. We talked and several weeks later he called me with a plan. He’s a very resolute man and he sought out the talent and financing to make this happen. Adrian’s Prime Universe Films partnered with Pure Imagination Studios and fellow producer Joshua Wexler. Between the two of them, the pair recruited some startling talent both behind and in front of the camera. Director BenDavid Grabinski added another layer of talent to the cast and crew by brining aboard his team from his very successful short, Cost of Living. What they were able to achieve is nothing short of cinematic.

GP: Is the adaptation an extension of the comic or the same story, just in different form?

TD: Here’s the cool part, it’s neither! Enormous, the screen adaptation, shares some very key core elements with Enormous, the comic book. At the heart of both is a search and rescue team lead by Ellen Grace. The team is in strict pursuit of orphaned children. They in turn are being hunted not only by giant monsters but several factions of humans… some inflicted with the effects of a powerful mutagen. In effect, the adaptation is a wittier, funnier distillation of the comic book to be appreciated completely on its own merits.

GP: One of the things we discuss a lot on the site is cross promotion. Are you working to make sure to promote the comic through the web series?

TD: Absolutely, and a lot of the credit goes to Adrian Askarieh, Josh Wexler and Ian Moffitt at Machinima. Adrian and Josh put me together with Ian and he and his team very graciously allowed us to do a couple of very unique things in regards to promotion. First, we have a purchase link embedded in the film’s description. Viewers can watch Enormous, then buy the first issue instantly through an exclusive arrangement with Hastings Entertainment.  The exclusive was arranged by my good friend Sina Grace (Burn the Orphanage, Not My Bag, Self-Possessed) and James Parker at Hastings. Hastings first issue cover for Enormous uses the poster art from the film as painted by series artist Mehdi Cheggour and features lead Ceren Lee as Ellen Grace. Machinima has also made mention of Enormous the comic book at every turn; in press releases and such. Helps to that the book credit appears in the end credits of the adaptation. Hopefully, that inspires interested readers to check us out!

GP: Giant monsters destroying things seems to go in waves as far as entertainment releases and it’s back in recent years. Why do you think the resurgence is happening?

TD: No kidding! But I’m still not satisfied! Film has lead that charge– but television, novels, and comics are sorely lagging in that regard, which is perplexing to me in that you don’t need a big budget to pull of something of epic scale in a novel or comic book. All that’s required is enough information, be it written or visual to spark the imagination of the reader. Films like Monsters, The Mist, Trollhunter, The Host, Super Eight and even Cloverfield took that tact. They hint at a certain scale for the most part, rather than engage in a full blown spectacle. Each of those examples are satisfying in their own way.

Why the recent resurgence, I think that speaks to the pliability of the horror genre. A monster of any variety or scale can embody all manner of our fears. Imbue a beast or creature with even the slightest hint of our contemporary societal concerns and you’ve potentially crafted a powerful allegory. And that tradition dates back to Frankenstein and carried through to the nuclear age with Godzilla and through the present with the zombies of The Walking Dead. At the heart of Enormous is our preoccupation with over-population, resource scarcity and genetically modified organisms. Not to mention what affect those things will have upon future generations.

GP: With all of the destruction in the first issue, it’s also clear you wanted to focus on the characters and particularly Ellen and Megan’s relationship. The comic has lead LGBTQ characters, not a common thing in comics or most entertainment. What got you to go that route?

TD: Wonderful that people are picking up on that already, but there’s also a part of me that wished no one noticed. Ellen is a person, a human being with the same concerns we all share. Who we love, who loves us—when Mehdi first saw that in the script I think he was pleasantly surprised as well. My reply to him was, Ellen is Ellen, she’ll tell us who she is if that’s what she decides within the framework of the story. There was no preconception, Ellen’s partner Megan materialized on the page the same way say the apex predator did…just because there was white space in front of the cursor. Much like Laney Griffin, the protagonist of Curse, from the Boom series Mike Moreci and I co-wrote. Someone recently pointed out to us that they never even noticed he was an African-American protagonist in a horror story until the second or third issue…and we were both gratified that really no one has taken note of that.  I’m pointing this all out here because the moment we no longer notice who our heroes are, but what they stand for is being the most important aspect of their plight, then we’ll have finally turned a corner.

GP: How did artist Mehdi Cheggour get involved with the book?

TD: Way back in late 2010 I discovered his work through Facebook.  He was posting fan art of Morning Glories. I followed his name to deviant art and elsewhere. Seeing his work popping up on various forums. I messaged him on Facebook and asked him if he had any current projects and what he most enjoyed drawing. When he responded with something to the effect of ‘big sprawling sci-fi’ I asked if that entailed giant monsters and shared a short pitch with him for Enormous. Within a couple of hours I was staring at the first sketch of Ellen Grace.

GP: Other than Enormous, what else do you have coming out?

TD: Right now I’m wrapping up the first 6 issue arc of Enormous. Curse from BOOM! will be wrapping it’s 4 issue run next month. I’m really very happy to have been a part of that creative team; Moreci, Riley Rossmo and Colin Lorimer. I got to be Ringo for a while and it was way cool. After that Skinned with co-writer Jeremy Holt and artist Joshua Gowdy debuts from an unannounced publisher, Throwback with artist Anthony Gregori and colorist Mike Spicer…and a new project with Michael Moreci.