This week sees the release of The Massive #21, the epic story written by Brian Wood follows the crew of the Kapital and it’s Captain Callum Israel, in a post-environmental disaster world. Their mission isn’t just to survive, but look for their sister ship as they reassess, and attempt to stick to, their mission of protecting the environment through action.
We got a chance to talk to Brian about the series, and what we can expect as it hurtles to it’s finale.
Graphic Policy: To you, what is the series The Massive about?
Brian Wood: The Massive has been one of those series that evolves as it goes. Whenever a project runs for multiple years, its bound to take on a life of its own in certain ways. When I started the series, I was focused on big, environmentally-aware world-building… not exclusively, but it was a big focus. But as I wrote, the characters themselves, and their histories, really came alive. I’ve come to realize that the series is probably mostly about the central idea of the sins of the past, how you can never escape your own histories, that the past never really goes away. This applies to the individuals in the stories, and also to the world, to the planet. The ending of The Massive has yet to be revealed, so that’s about as big a hint as I think I can make right now.
GP: I have to ask, because I’ve wondered this since the first issue. How much research goes into The Massive?
BW: In this case I made a real conscious effort to limit the research, as I can really overdo it. I get obsessive, I buy too many books, and lock myself into this thing where I make all these claims about accuracy and then find myself having to spend as much time living up to that claim via research as actually writing the stories.
So when I started The Massive, I gave myself a break. I allowed myself to fudge some of the science, to be a little more fantastical than realistic. I gotta say, it’s been nice.
GP: Have you had feedback from environmentalists or those that research climate change?
BW: A little bit. Both Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd have reached out to me, with positivity, which is really cool and very flattering.
GP: We’re coming up on close to the two-year mark, and you’re diving into the mystery of Mary and the cause of the Crash. Was that always the plan, and were there ever thoughts about leaving the cause of the Crash a mystery?
BW: The Massive ends, as planned, at the 30-issue mark, so we’re really into the third act now. I’m writing #26 now and am very much deep into that end of the story. I have to say, the end really is the book, really is the story. The end is the concept, and it involves Mary and the Crash and all that. All open mysteries are revealed, and I’m pleased and a little bit surprised we’ve managed to hide the big ending as well as we have, considering how many eyes – both in the comics industry, in Hollywood, and at multiple publishers – have read the ending. I hope I didn’t just jinx it.
I think the ending will be polarizing… some will love it, some will hate it. But it’s always been our intent, from day one, to end it this way.
GP: You’ve written a lot of dystopian tales. What is it about those types of stories that draws you to them?
BW: I like them as a reader, that’s probably the biggest reason. I find them cool, I find them interesting, they have a sort of dark appeal, they allow a certain type of fantasy or escapism you don’t really get any other way. As a writer, I always like seeing my characters pushed to the limit, to be put in really horrible situations, and dystopia works perfectly for that.
GP: You’ve just wrapped up your run on Conan for Dark Horse. How was writing for a character with so much history and source material different and similar to creating your own world with The Massive?
BW: Its different in so many ways. One big one is, on a book of my own creation and one I own, I am essentially god. Or the boss. Meaning that I always get the final say in what happens on its pages. On a company book or a licensed book, there are rules that govern what I can and can’t write, which is all to be expected and respected and all that. It just means different creative muscles get used and different problem-solving skills come into play. I actually really enjoy the adaptation process. It’s fun! Coming from someone who spent the first decade of his professional career doing creator-owned, its been a blast to take on other challenges.
GP: You’re also writing Star Wars for Dark Horse. That’s a property that has a massive following and lots of history, though your take is a bit looser with canon. How’d you prepare to take the reins of that series?
BW: I didn’t try to be loose with it! At least not in the sense of “ignoring canon”. We just had less canon to worry about, since the subsequent films past A New Hope and all of the EU [editor’s note: Extended Universe] wasn’t known to the characters at the time my series was set. So it allowed us to tell a purer story in that sense, but we still weren’t allowed to “break” anything in terms of continuity. The fine people at LucasFilm read everything and checked everything as far as that goes.
So that left me with not much research to do. At least not much more than I’ve sort of done my entire life as a Star Wars fan. I watched that first movie again a few times, bought some books (the Star Wars Atlas was pretty useful), and put a lot of trust in the editors.
GP: Whether it’s Conan, Star Wars, The Massive, or much of your other work, relationships between characters seem to be at the center of each series. Have you made that a focus of your writing on purpose? Is it just your style?
BW: Doesn’t everyone do that? I don’t say that in a flip way, I just think the bones of any story is how the characters relate to each other. And I think the examples of books that don’t spend time on that, who deal more with surface details or ‘cool moments’… you can really spot them a mile off. I should know, I wrote a few like that early on in my career! I think, when it comes down to it, readers want to read about people they can understand, or relate to, or identify with, from heroes to bad guys.
GP: What else can we expect from you this year?
BW: A lot of creator-owned work, and a few re-issues of old stuff. I’ve always been a creator-owned guy, way back when it wasn’t cool to be one (its not lost on me that the time when I decided to do a bunch of company-owned work and climb the ladder at Marvel is when all the creators who had been doing that decide to go do creator-owned). Anyway, its time to reconnect with all that again. I have a lot of stuff that’s ready to go.