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EARTH PRIME TIME: NATHAN EDMONDSON OF THE ACTIVITY AND WHERE IS JAKE ELLIS?

THE ACTIVITY - MITCH GERARDSSome interviews are so sensitive that you might get a call from an unknown number asking you to take it down for the sake of national security. We hope we’re not getting another one of those calls this week, as we got a chance to talk to the top spy-fi and espionage comic book writer in the business, Nathan Edmondson. Nathan has written Grifter for New 52, as well as a recent Ultimate Iron Man series for Marvel (now in trade paperback). For creator-owned work, Nathan’s The Activity and Jake Ellis series continue to draw attention from real military and fans of spy fiction, and more books are in the works including being tapped by Ubisoft to develop a Splinter Cell comic series. We conducted the following interview over a secure line.

DIGBOSTON: Hi Nathan, Thanks for taking the time today. We’re just now caught up with The Activity, a special ops book you do with artist Mitch Gerards. What’s the inspiration for such a real world espionage book?

NATHAN EDMONDSON: Mitch and I are fascinated by this nearly untouchable world, and when we found a side of it never seen before in fiction, we knew we wanted to tell stories about it.

The attention to detail on the missions are really what grabs me with this book in particular. How important is the tech to the book?

Tech is second to soldiers and story, but technological superiority is part of what makes a group like this so effective on the battlefield.

We do our best not to distract with the tech, but to give a real-world feel of the gadgets and gear employed by Tier 1 operators on missions.

The Activity - Mitch Gerards

The Activity - Mitch Gerards

I have a relative that dealt with special ops military, he’s pretty tight-lipped about his time there, but I understand you have had some great support from ex-military and special forces members. 

How do you gain access to the right people you need to help you tell an accurate story? And who or what is at U.S. Army Entertainment Liaison Office?

The armed forces has offices that are set up to provide information and support to the entertainment world.  We have worked a bit with the Army’s office, but most of our direct research comes from relationships we’ve forged with individuals who have or who continue to serve in the Special Operations community.  In the back of the trade you’ll see a list (though names are changed and much information withheld) of some of those who have given us support.

We are careful, however, not to disclose information that would compromise any of these individuals.

The Activity - Mitch Gerards

A Comic Book Fan gets to pick the Mission Codenames! - The Activity - Mitch Gerards

This is a very different flavor of book from your other series, as you are not only showcasing the heroes on the ground with direct action, but also dealing with the structure of the whole operation including international cooperation. 

At some points a team member or a team might disagree with the orders from on high—but ultimately carries out the mission. Other missions may get scrubbed or not go as planned. Is your Activity team balanced well? Will there be any roster changes coming up?

If you’ve read issue 11, you know there are some changes stirring within Team Omaha.  In the real world, part of what makes a Special Missions Unit team effective is they grow together and train together as a team so that they can trust one another fully and completely on the battlefield.

Nathan Edmondson

Nathan Edmondson on this Monday to Friday plane.

Gender roles are addressed in a unique way in the book, and your female characters are key soldiers to each mission. Is this also a real world discussion carried over into The Activity? Have ladies been upgraded from personnel to field agents?

For years, women have been serving on the front lines (in combat) in the special operations world.  This has led to some problems, and continues to distress more conventional units, but the special operations environment is unique in that is teams can work together more closely to accomplish an objective—their tactics are always evolving and change to fit each mission.  So they adapt more easily to, for example, working with female operators than would and do the infantry.

A few things appealed to me as a G.I. Joe fan. Codenames, Special Missions and all of the tech of course. Are you at all influenced by Larry Hama or the more recent Cobra series by Mike Costa and Christos Gage? The Activity takes special forces out of fantasy, and is more cinematic than those books but a string might tie your book to theirs.

As much as I appreciate that work, I can’t really say it influenced us in creating The Activity.  Our “launchpad” for this series is, I think, a much more grounded reality that G.I. Joe entertains with.  They’re just different sorts of stories.

How is it working with the incredible Mitch Gerads? His storytelling and attention to detail is amazing. Does it become a challenge to convey strategic details of these missions over your scripts or do you spend a lot of time talking these over the phone?

Mitch and I speak on the phone nigh-daily.  Yes, he is a dedicated and phenomenal talent, and his professionalism is solid.  Since the start I haven’t had to urge Mitch to “get this or that right” as he is as devoted to getting the details right as I am.

For example: every street he’s depicted in every city in every issue is a real location that you can travel to and find.

That’s all on him.

We should hop over to some of you other work that we’ve been fans of for a while. From spy-fi to superheroes to Greek mythology you’ve been able generate some excitement for your titles and we know of some more projects coming down the line to talk about. I’d love to ask some questions about your recent books.

Ultimate Iron Man — Marvel Comics

Frank Stockton Cover, Ultimate Iron Man

Cover by Frank Stockton

Orson Scott Card’s origin was retconned out, and you follow Millar, Hickman and more on the Ultimate version of Tony Stark. I thought your run on the Ultimate limited series was both fun and funny. I have to ask, as I would any Iron Man writer — is Tony easy to write these days after seeing the popularity of his movie persona?

I can only speak for myself but writing a character someone else has defined is just as difficult as crafting one by yourself, but for different reasons.

Robert Downey, Jr.’s performance certainly gives a reference point but it’s one thing to recognize him, another thing entirely to give him a voice.

The Mandarin in your story was not what we’ll expect to see in the upcoming Iron Man 3. Would you go back to the Ultimate Universe if asked?

Most eagerly.  There’s more story to this version of The Mandarin, waiting to be told.

Who Is Jake Ellis? Where is Jake Ellis? – Image Comics

Where is Jake Ellis? – Tonci Zonjic

ON THE RUN! Where is Jake Ellis? – Tonci Zonjic

November of last year you followed up your critically acclaimed miniseries Who Is Jake Ellis? with Where is Jake Ellis? This is a solo spy book that’s difficult to pitch without spoiling, but one that has most readers hooked after the first issue. Were you happy with the response to the book? Issue 3 of Where is Jake Ellis? has just hit the stands.

I couldn’t have been happier with the book itself (thanks to Tonci Zonjic) or the response.

We were nominated, at least, for nearly every major comics award, and the critical and personal response was and continues to be overwhelming.

We hope people will feel the same way when we get to the end of Where Is…?.

Upcoming: Splinter Cell: Echoes – August 2013, Ubisoft

Splinter Cell: Echoes - Marc Laming

Sam Fisher wasn't quiet enough this time... - Splinter Cell: Echoes - Marc Laming

It may be safe to say you’ve clocked some time with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare but now you have an important mission of your own. We’ve just seen a trailer for a new Splinter Cell comic with you at the helm of Sam Fisher’s back story.

What’s it like to play with those toys? Sam’s a popular hero but not much is known about his adventures outside of the game.

We were given a wide berth of storytelling liberty with Splinter Cell: Echoes, but his personality is clearly defined in the games, so the trick wasn’t as much in the story as it was in making sure we depicted the “real” Sam Fisher, even when he was doing things—cutting the grass, waking up in his house—gamers might not have ever considered about their favorite black ops hero.

Do you have a certain amount of freedom for where you want to take the story?

Our expectation is that this book will serve the Splinter Cell fan base but will also appeal to anyone as if it’s an original work from Marc Laming and myself.

 It’s a fun black ops story with a bad ass dude at the center and some exciting gadgets.

Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us, Nathan. Is there anything else you’d like to mention we check out from you?

Fans of The Activity can further their experience with warfarewithoutwarning.com,
and be sure to check out The Dream Merchant from Image Comics, out in May! The Dream Merchant tumblr here: dreamshavemeaning.tumblr.com.

Follow Nathan on Twitter — @Nhedmondson. And some of his amazing artists Tonci Zonjic @tozozozo (Jake Ellis), Marc Laming @monkey__marc (Splinter Cell) and of course Mitch Gerards of The Activity @MitchGerads. Image Comics can of course be found here: @ImageComics.

League Post Pax 2013

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League of Ordinary Gentlemen Podcast Episode #146 — Interview with Silver Circle’s Pasha Roberts
Clay and Dursin interview the director/producer of the new film Silver Circle Pasha Roberts, the only person who ever came back to be interviewed by us a second time.
Direct Download / Mp3 Stream (opens in new window).

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2 Responses to EARTH PRIME TIME: NATHAN EDMONDSON OF THE ACTIVITY AND WHERE IS JAKE ELLIS?

  1. RickyRickyRicky RickyRickyRicky says:

    Definitely checking this stuff out!