Tomorrow afternoon, Image Comics will launch their brand new military action thriller The Activity from the superstar team of Nathan Edmondson (Who Is Jake Ellis?, Grifter) and artist Mitch Gerads. Today, Multiversity proudly presents our interview with both Edmondson and Gerads starting right here with Edmondson.
After the runaway success of his latest mini-series for Image, Who Is Jake Ellis?, Nathan decided to take a more real world tone for his latest effort, which combines cutting edge military practice with high stakes political drama.
Click on down as we discuss how The Activity took shape and what fans can expect from the book and be sure to check back later today for our chat with Mitch Gerads!
Nathan Edmondson: We’re very proud of the story, and pouring our hearts into the sequel.
NE: We began work on THE ACTIVITY almost exactly one year ago, now. And I do mean began work–I started plotting, writing, researching, outlining, and Mitch began sketching. And we both began talking. There hasn’t been a week that’s gone by since when we didn’t talk at least once and come up with ideas.
JM: Unlike with Jake Ellis, The Activity seems to be, at least so far, a much more reality based espionage book. There are no, at least as far as we can tell, disembodied voices in these character’s heads. Why did you decide to go in that direction this time?
NE: These are stories we want to tell in a universe that intrigues us. For the same reason, in other words, as I would tell any kind of story: it’s a story that I think I can tell well, that interests me immensely.
JM: Your first three independent books all followed a different theme and explored a different genre, however The Activity is now your second espionage book in a row. What is it about this genre that appeals to you?
NE: THE ACTIVITY is not an espionage book, but rather a military action thriller. While it may involve some moments of espionage, on the whole it is not a story about spies stealing and protecting information. It’s a story about operatives and soldiers engaging their enemies.
I do enjoy the spy genre, and I have another book (in addition to more JAKE ELLIS) that is at least on the fringes of the spy genres. I’m not sure what about it attracts me. I suppose on one hand it is a very real genre, and on another hand espionage stories are all about information, the power and danger of information. There’s also in spy stories an implied, hidden power behind the characters: no matter how independent they are they are like mortals serving gods as they fight, however unethically, for their countries.
JM: What are some espionage stories that are currently influencing your work on The Activity?
NE: Again, espionage is not at the center of THE ACTIVITY. To research THE ACTIVITY I’m reading a great many books on military history, special forces chronicles, and keeping up by way of the internet and magazines with current tech trends. I just finished KILLING PABLO, and before that read STALKERS AND SHOOTERS for research into snipers; I keep POPULAR MECHANICS on my desk, too, getting ideas from each issues.
JM: What made you want to approach an espionage book with an ensemble cast as opposed to one starring a solo operative?
NE: THE ACTIVITY is a big, ongoing series. It’s scope is wide. The stories in it are many and diverse. For those reason it warrants a larger cast of characters, but also because we want this title to represent the world of the army. It is highly researched, and many of the details are spot-on, but it should also feel like the military, where no soldier acts alone. The military is about squads, at it’s most basic level, and those are supported by thousands of troops doing a myriad of tasks. No one is on their own; all jobs are interdependent, and there is a very definite hierarchy.Continued below
JM: How did you go about creating your cast and what are some of the ways you plan to make them unique both as a team and as individuals?
NE: The team around whom the book center is as diverse as the missions they will be engaged in. We have former-CIA majors, former-CIVIL AFFAIRS sergeants; DELTA and the RANGERS are represented. For one thing, soldiers do a great deal of such migration in the special operations community, so there is that degree of realism there. Each character also offers us a different area of expertise and opportunities for exposition on certain missions.
Building the team has been a long, and actually, is an ongoing process. Our ideas have evolved as we’ve researched and come to know the characters. We’re still occasionally realizing new things about them–“oh, no, this character has two children,” or “actually, we should give her a scar from that one mission we reference,” etc. It’s all a process that began the day before my first call to Mitch and hasn’t stopped yet.
JM: How is the Intelligence Support Activity different from any other secret military intelligence organization we’ve seen in fiction before?
NE: The ISA, in real life, goes through a name change about every one or two years. It’s been called a number of things: CENTRA SPIKE, THE FOG, CEMETERY WIND, GRAY FOX. Anyone who has investigated it–and those writers are few–comes away saying something like “…is a rather strange outfit in the special forces community.” While it is a primary intel-oriented organization, it harbors an enigmatically titled “Direct Action” component, whose mission has never been disclosed. No one has ever really been able to pin it down, even less so than DELTA FORCE. So that uncertainty and mystique made it a perfect place for us to build up our new addition to the US ARMY: Team Omaha, one of three such teams within DIRECT ACTION.
And in THE ACTIVITY it won’t just be the fact that we use ISA that will differentiate this book; we are building a world, as I previously mentioned, that very much exists in the real world of the military, and I can’t find another comic that’s ever done that before, so it’s exciting new ground for us to be treading.
NE: I have done, and continue to do as much research as I can handle. That begins with reading the news, includes many, many books and extends to speaking directly to soldiers and officers in different branches of the military.
JM: How did you and Mitch Gerads connect and for about how long has he been working on the book?
NE: One year ago, and he’s been working on the book since.
JM: What is it about his style that makes him suited to draw this particular story?
NE: You’ll find out. He’s a perfect fit and has literally improved in bounds with each issue. Just as important as his style, though, he’s passionate about the stories we’re telling.
JM: How much collaboration generally goes on between you and Mitch on any given issue? Is it as simple as you send the scripts and he draws them, or does he have any say on the story itself?
NE: This book is a collaboration more than any other I’ve worked or am working on. Mitch and I speak daily, we share every idea we have about the story, and it’s all built by both of us equally.
JM: How long do you have The Activity plotted out for? Is this something you think you could write for years, or do you have a definite ending planned for sooner rather than later?
NE: We have no immediate definite ending, but should we feel it’s appropriate to wrap it up after 25 issues or so, we can easily do that. We can also easily keep it going twice, three times as long if that’s the right thing to do.Continued below
JM: How has working on The Activity been different from working on some of your past books or even your other current ongoing series, Grifter, over at DC?
NE: It’s a universe I know, that I, with Mitch, control, and I continue to frame and reframe every corner of it, and all the while we dedicate ourselves to a high degree of realism. Writing in the DCU, I’m restricted by a number of factors, including the 51 other stories being told at the same time as mine. There is precedent, too, in the DCU–both in GRIFTER the character and in the way his world works. In THE ACTIVITY, our only precedents are in reality. And GRIFTER is indeed a team effort with my editors, the artist, editors of other books we may cross over, and everyone involved up to the Publisher. In THE ACTIVITY, it’s a collaboration between Mitch and myself.
JM: Generally speaking, what can fans expect from The Activity moving forward?
NE: Lots and lots of fun, and a seriously well thought-out world.
JM: While you have the digital floor, is there anything coming down the pipeline or even currently out there, that you’d like to plug?
NE: Keep your ears out the next two weeks, but I can’t say anything just now.
The Activity #1 will be out tomorrow from Image Comics. Track it down at a store near you!