[Interview] Tim Daniel Evolves Humanity with “Enormous”

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Tim Daniel has had a banner year. His devotion to the medium has taken him onto several inspired projects. He brought us a chilling recreation of the werewolf mythology in “Curse” from BOOM! Studios. He’s blurring the line between utopia and dystopia in “Skinned” from Monkeybrain Comics and now he’s returning to his first-born: “Enormous.”

A little one shot graphic novel about a world overturned by a mutagen. Entire cities were devastated, and humanity lies on the brink of extinction. Yet, “Enormous” doesn’t concern itself with the horror of being yet another post apocalyptic survival tale. Instead it’s about the plight of what comes next. The bigger picture of what humanity must move towards and the agony that comes with the birth of an entirely new way of life. It just happens to have incredibly large devastating beasts too.

After a one shot graphic novel in 2012. “Enormous” became the first of it’s kind when Machinima adapted the world into an original web series. Now, the book is about to return to the stands in June from 215 Ink. So, Daniel sat down with Bloody-Disgusting to talk about his exciting new take on the series and offered us a MASSIVE preview of the first issue. Find it all after the jump.

Bloody Disgusting: “Enormous” feels like Godzilla meets The Walking Dead with a hint of The Last of Us.

Tim Daniel: Definitely. You know, it’s funny that is definitely part of the DNA. I can’t help it. I grew up on Friday night creature features. The host would sit there in a rocking chair with a cigar, and a skull. He would introduce these films that are so terrible and that’s what made them so awesome. He was very stoic about these crap movies.

My heart broke when “The Last of Us” came out. I thought they really beat me to the punch here, even though I started this in 2010 and the one shot was published in 2012. We had built the basis of what’s happening around the cordyceps fungi. This parasite basically inhabits an ant’s body and remote controls it up a shrub, makes it plant its mandables in the stem. It dies and the parasite has at this point become the ant itself. This thing meshes with the tissue of its host. It’s kinda gnarly. It fruits literally out of the head, it erupts and starts all over again.

There was film in the creature features on a Friday night when I was twelve years old called Attack of the Mushroom People. Holy crap, this film scared the hell out of me. It was survivors on this Japanese fishing vessel they pull up to this fog shrtouded island. They are stranded there, and of course one of their crew memebers gets infected. His face begins to bubble, pop, and ooze. It’s absolutely awesome. That was the influence if anything.

 

BD: What can fans of the original one shot look for in these new chapters of Enormous? For me, it felt like a directors cut.

TD:That’s a great way of putting it. When we got the book at the original publisher, we had to agree to do a one shot. Rather than as it was conceived which was as a series with a finite ending. As someone looking to get their book published you agree to things and you agree to them in good spirit. The one shot was 64 pages and there was no negotiating that. I took a story of what I had and tried to boil it down in those 64 pages. Which was both a challenge and a mistake. You can’t be economical, it was way more than I thought as a first time writer. It was difficult in terms of structuring and pacing, but I wanted to publish the book and tell the story.

What readers can expect from this new series is, were going to go as long as we need to go to tell the story. We do have a definite end in mind, it is finite, it’s not going to go on for the next ten years, that’s not an approach I necessarily agree with in comics. I like to signal there are a beginning, middle, and end to the story.  If it takes 15 issues to get there and we’re lucky enough to do that then we will, if it takes sixty then we will. I’ve got a clear course and I know where we going.

 

We will open the floodgates on the number of monsters and creatures, we will focus on action sometimes exclusively between the beasts. Then we’ve got what I call the ground game. You have a catalyst for these beasts, but that effect is going to have a big toll on the human beings. If something can spawn Godzilla, why doesn’t it have any effect on humans? Why isn’t there a mutation present in humans, they should pay a cost for that too. That’s our ground game.

BD: Are we coming back to events of the one shot?

TD: We are going to see the one shot. How we’re going to see it is indicated in the first issue of the ongoing. You see a similar sequence. In the one shot that sequence was told in maybe three pages. In the ongoing we had ample space with a 48 page first issue, we had the chance to tell that sequence the way we wanted to. With more action, more buildup, and a bit more peril to the character. We’re going to see the one shot broken down and inserted in and around the story as it was conceived.

For instance we’ll see the formation of the team that takes residence in the silo by the end of the first arc. Readers will understand we’re heading in a definite direction that intersects with the one shot. How that happens is completely different. It’s not a retread, it’s new.

BD: I really enjoyed the diversion in the first issue. It really deepened Ellen’s character. The massive escape that makes the bulk of issue one is explosive. How do you script something like that?

TD: Okay, here’s the truth to the matter. The original script for the first issue was 24 pages. Then we got it in our heads that we’d do a thirty page opener and closer. Both issue one and six would give a little extra value to the reader. Here’s the beginning and here’s the end of the arc, that was the intent. When I wrote it, Medhi took a look at it, and went off the rails and kept sending me pages of this gigantic action sequence. The first issue is a cause for celebration, let’s do it. Let’s go to forty eight pages, there was no written script for that sequence. There was no script for those sections. I would go back and add more to it.

I’d have a simple panel shorthand where in three panels Ellen is to fall from the fire escape, hangs there swinging, and then we see the emergence of the beast. Medhi took that and blew it out into two or three pages. He included bits and pieces of information that weren’t there. Suddenly there are helicopters firing on the beast, and I would go back to write the script against his art. All he had to know was Ellen had to get from A-Z in this sequence that would conclude with a  very specific beat.

BD: It must be an excellent way to work.

TD: [Laughs] It’s both excellent and horrifying. As a writer you want to be in control of everything. Then an artist does something that you couldn’t have imagined. They tell the story better than you could have. Colin Lorimer and Riley Rossmo took the script that Mike and I offered in “Curse.” Where did that come from? They added a little touch. They are very seasoned storytellers that collaborate to make our story better. Because you think you’re in control of the story so to speak when you see something that is not your own, it’s a little bit jarring. But if you take a minute you’ll see it really works. It deepens the world, and you can then build on to it. It’s all about finding those little opportunities in the story.

BD: “Enormous” isn’t typical. It’s a kaiju gigantic monster story in North America, and unlike the stories that inspire it, it’s not about battling the monsters, or the beasts themselves, it’s about survival on the ground. How did you develop the idea for the series?

TD: The original conception required me to really sit down and do some research to create a bible. I sat down and looked at common causes of mutation. Radiation, weather, geography, are these very basic components of our daily existence. Then I noticed bacteria, viruses, and fungi. I started looking at things like terraforming, specifically agriforming. How do you take land and turn it into something airable? Turn it into something that can be farmed. At the time there was a lot of talk about GMOS.

So what that means for our future and our food all kind of collided together. I wrote a bible around all of that. Over very big and broad strokes I wrote down what these characters would experience and where they’d end up. The creatures operate on one simple rule. There would always be a basis for their existence in reality. A reader can recognize the creature that inspired the beast. It can range from the microscopic and petrifying creatures to apex predators. The idea was to always have basis recognition. The creatures would display certain attributes. I’d take photos and manipulate them in photoshop to send off to Medhi.

Certain creatures can only get so big before gravity takes hold and they crush themselves. Godzilla is what? 400 feet tall? The target keeps moving. Modern readers demand at least a hint of reality. None of our creatures get to the point where they would exceed the lays of physics. You’d never have something so large that it would be impossible.

BD: Children are very important in the story, so I’m sure being a father informs that element?

TD: No doubt. As a dad it seems to seep into my work. I do kind of look at everything though that lens. Watching my daughters grow up is something else. The preoccupation about what the future holds for us is something we can all agree to. When I look at my children I definitely have that concern. Writing “Curse” as a father son tale, and with “Enormous” about this woman who is desperately preoccupied with rescuing these orphans. I look at Ellen now, and working with the character over these last few years. She has lost everything. She’s got nothing left to loose. She’s selfless. Her preoccupation with these children means everything to her on this personal journey. As we’ll see in the first three issues her relationship with her parents isn’t so great either, but she’s doing this for a reason.

BD: The Series begins with the big reveal from the one shot. The virus’ alluring and intoxicating properties are juxtaposed against the cumbersome terrifying creatures, but both seem to have the same roots in the phenomenal events happening to the earth.

TD: It’s a mutagen. So think of it like a Venus Fly Trap, some effects are highly irresistible to the humans who come into contact with it. It might not be everyone.  The reasons behind who it reacts to are very pervasive throughout the story. You look at that aspect and you look at children. You relate Ellen’s quest to that, and you might have one of the reasons she’s on, without even really being aware of it yet. There may be a relationship there.

There’s this idea of beauty and splendor juxtaposed against these horrendous beasts. Those two aspects opposing one another is really about where the story goes and what this story is really about. I think a lot of people look at “Enormous” like just another post apocalyptic tale. I deliver the message very clearly. This isn’t the end. You look at human evolution and there are eras. One may end but it signals the beginning of another.

I consider this an evolution. We’re witnessing the birth of something else all together. There is always this pervasive fear that we’re dooming ourselves. When the earth tires out with us, the earth will say goodbye. Like it does to every other creature that walked this planet. We’re insignificant. Really. Truly. It’s not sinister. It’s reality.

What’s next? What is beyond what we consider to be the apocalypse? Whether it’s a zombie uprising or a deadly virus that wipes out the planet. What’s that after future look like? Can we imagine it.

BD: So that must be one of the core themes of “Enormous.”

TD:  No doubt. It definitely is. As much as hope, discovery, it’s right there front and center.

BD: The Machinima web series adaptation must have been something else. How did you feel after you had seen it for the first time?

TD: I loved it. I’m just thrilled about it. Always have been. I got to watch a ton of people work so hard to achieved nine minutes and I realized something. This little tiny story that reached 5,500 people for sales had been watched 55,000 times in five days. More people got exposed to this story. I loved every minute of it.

I felt like I was 12 years old again, on a Friday night, watching it.  I couldn’t even hope for anything better than that. I hope it continues. What was outlined for that series was really fun. There are some really cool ideas that would be explored and there is a lot more monsters and action line up. I look at like the one shot comic. A lot to do, little space, with a limited amount of resources. They pulled it off. The director Bendavid Grabinski really accomplished something. I’m really proud of it.

BD: This is something new for the comic book adaption world. This web series, to my knowledge is the first adaptation of its kind.

TD: What I love about the webspace about content. You’re outside what is typically the means by which we enjoy film or television. It gives you a lot of flexibility and latitude.  A lot of things that wouldn’t fly in those formats can work here. It’s not a big production like “Godzilla.” You can enjoy this any time you want, in any way.  You don’t have to have a schedule, or a time, you can just digest it whenever you want.

There is a whole lot more to explore with this series. We’re the first of our kind. It’s kinda cool! Machinma had Mortal Kombat make the transition. That was really awesome. Motion comics had a little bit of a explosion, but this is something completely different.

BD: The web series is a format that nears creator owned comics. You have a team filled with passion and there isn’t nearly as much influence from the people behind the production. Both formats kind of leave you alone to play.

TD: Yes. Absolutely. That’s a great analogy. There is definitely a parallel. People who know the film industry better than I do that budget and studio involvement changes everything have told me.  The bigger something becomes the less control the creative contributors have. There is more at stake. Ben David really had his hands on the wheel. Machinima was really good about letting them fulfill their project. There was support. It was wonderful. I felt the same way. I looked at what Ben David was doing and I said “go, do your thing. Tell your Enormous story. I’ve already told mine.”

ENORMOUS #1 HITS 06/25/14. USE THE ABOVE FORM TO PREORDER YOUR #1 NOW.

AND

Still not convinced? Check out this massive preview of #1 now, EXCLUSIVELY here on Bloody-Disgusting.

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  • J-SiN

    Seems like I’ve been waiting forever for this. Glad the time is finally here.

    • http://zacbthompson.tumblr.com Zac Thompson

      I’ve read the first 3 issues and they are insanely impressive. It has some of the grandest sense of scale I’ve ever seen achieved in comics.