Intro. Most of you know writer Gerry Duggan from his iconic run on Deadpool from 2012-2015, but he’s also written Uncanny Avengers and NOVA runs. This week he’s dropped his last the Merc with a Mouth comic in Despicable Deadpool #300 . Duggan is also a veteran TV writer and gave the likes of Olivia Munn and Kevin Pereira their start on Attack of the Show from 2005 to 2013. But here, I’m going to be talking to him about his creator owned project Analog. A conversation that was started on the SYFYWire stage at C2E2 last month.
Published by Image comics, Analog is about a world that basically no longer uses the internet because it’s no longer safe. Everyone’s personal info got dumped onto the cloud in a massive “doxxing” event and now important information is passed between interested parties who have the money to pay for it.
Analog is actually not your first time working with Image is it?
Gerry Duggan: Image was the first place that said yes to me in my comic book career. They took a chance on me, with a comic book that I collaborated on about Santa Claus after the apocalypse. (The Last Christmas/2006) A true story unfortunately. Then I did a second collaboration with Phil Noto that was loosely based on the Odyssey, (the Eisner nominated Infinite Horizon/2012) about a soldier in our near future trying to get home from a forever war that was set in Syria, which at the time felt safely in left field but unfortunately that story is aging well.
Those two comics got me my start and for anyone interested in making their own comics, that's always my prescription: Find a way to put your blood, sweat and tears into a creator owned comic so you can figure out how to learn how to do it, to learn how to collaborate, to make a great comic. And then you may also be able to use that work to maybe parlay that into something at some of the bigger companies, but you know, that's neither here nor there, but I do think, you know, a lot of that's the question that I get asked the most about how to break in and unfortunately there's no great way in, you just have to find a way to do it and make it your second or even third job.
Why did you decide to collaborate David O'Sullivan on this?
I was introduced to artist David O'Sullivan by Declan Shalvey, who I got to know by sitting with him at a comic-con. We were both trying to expand our horizons and were, you know, spending our family's vacation money to go to comic cons. He and I would later become collaborators and great friends. He's said he had a mate in Ireland who was quite good and would I take a look at his stuff? He knew I was looking to get back into some creator owned work. I took one look at David and I just couldn't believe that he had not had any professional comics work.
None? That’s unbelievable. His work is very good.
Yeah, I snapped him up and said, I have a couple of ideas and pitched him the idea for Analog first, which we started working on in 2015. It was a lslow start but you know, we're really chugging it at a great pace now. We also felt after the election that it was really time that we stopped sitting on this and get it out into the world before we got run over by real life.
Tell us about the premise of Analog.
It’s a world where the Internet is severely compromised to the point where no one will send anything important or sensitive or critical over the web anymore. The cloud that had stored so much of our information has crashed to the ground and is available for people to sort of a rifle through. So everyone gets doxed basically.
It gives rise to men and women called ledgermen who will move your secrets on paper in special briefcases from Point A to Point B so that it can safely avoid the many sort of worms and spies that exist online. So it's a really an excuse for us to tell stories that take place in the near future that are more like classic spy tales. And the thing that we've done, very selfishly, is to get rid of cell phones. You know, I think anytime you can do that in a thriller is good business. You're doing your story of favor when a character with a cell phone can't end the story on page two. I love old noir as well, so this is a chance for me to make a neo-noir-cyber punk [story]. It feels relevant to where we are today.
It's so relevant that it feels like this could actually happen in the next few years.
It's funny, after the first issue came out last year, I actually began to hear from people about the different ways that either they personally or the organization that they belonged to, were actually pivoting to analog. And interestingly enough, there’s a dealer out in Los Angeles who was selling typewriters, I think almost as decorations in writer's apartments, but he couldn’t keep them in stock. In fact a political organization came in at some point last year and actually cleaned him out of a lot of his electric typewriters, which I thought was fascinating.
In fact, our first issue dropped the week that the Cambridge Analytica story broke in the mainstream news. It makes me laugh. It feels like we sort of are representing them in the pages of the comic. So it's sort of, it's exhilarating, but it's also a little distressing to sort of write one of the worst things that could happen and sort of see it come true.
Who is Jack McGuinness in this story?
Jack is a hard drinking, hard chinned, human punching bag. He’s is a former member of the intelligence community who has now in sort of the late middle age of his life, found a way to monetize the “Great Doxing” by becoming a ledgerman. And a good one. The ledgermen are often found in pubs, the local pub actually has a more important role to play in the future. The end of the first trade paperback will actually see that out west speakeasies have returned because of the I.C.E. raids that are going on now. Because they’ve become safe havens for undocumented people, and the ledgermen sort of spring up from that situation.
So we look at the world through, not your identity online anymore, but actually where you are in the world. Jack has an aging father that he has a contentious relationship with, who was also once a member of the intelligence community and he looks after him as well. He also has a friend, a partner and a lover, in a woman named Una. We see her lurking in the background in issue one and we meet her properly at the end of two. And then Una’s story takes the center stage in issue three before Jack's comes back. And, she's got a very interesting backstory.
When we get to meet Jack’s Dad it’s absolutely hilarious. A reason for that is the dialogue. Do you ever find yourself borrowing personalities from other characters?
I'm aware that what I'm doing is entertainment and I better be entertaining if nothing else. And so I worked really hard on the balloons and boxes that you read on the way out the door, to make sure that they're, that they're snappy, when appropriate, because this is not a frivolous, entertainment endeavor. It's $3.99 a pop and I'm really trying to hook you in. So I grew, I tried, I learned my craft by reading a lot of Shane Black and the way that he tries to keep you hooked. I think Shane's influences were those old pulp novels and old noirs. So this is a little bit of me, sort of my own comfort food that I'm serving up for people, but I think it's fair to say that, you know with everything that I do, I'm always trying to beat the joke. I also did that in my tv life when I was a live TV writer
You’re referring to your work on Attack of the Show right?
Yeah, I used to write for Kevin Pereira and Olivia Munn. I think we did about 260 hours live every year and we only had about three or four writers. You did your best in the mornings to write a script that was shiny and nice for read through and sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't work. And when it didn't work, you were sort of like a surgeon operating in the afternoon before the live show at 4:00 PM. I remember there were days, and this is not an exaggeration, when we didn't have a joke, we didn't have anything written in the prompter yet and the show was already live it was like when Spock and Mccoy were operating on the torpedo in an Undiscovered Country. If nothing else, that live TV experience really served me well in terms of a work ethic and trying to be good and fast. Those can be hard things to put into one person's head.
What’s your process like with David? Do you script everything in detail for him?
I feel like it's my job to provide that at a minimum. Then David goes away and does very detailed thumbnail sketches of what the pages look like. And at that point, if we need to, we can move stuff around to benefit the storytelling and then he goes away and pencils the issues after settle on that and once the pencils or inks come back, I then have a period of time where I'm really polishing my script and trying to either clarify, simplify for punch and there it's all very important and it's all kind of different, you know, I want to be able to clearly tell the story, but I also want to do it in the fewest amount of words. So I'm covering up as little art as possible. And then if there's something that should be funny, just can I beat the joke, can I make it shorter?
And that continues until we go to print because during that time it's being lettered, images rechecked, proofreading, we're doing variant covers. I always give my artists the ability to say, 'Here's how I would do it', so if you have a better option, please go for it. David has been a really wonderful collaborator and I think he's an old soul. Does not feel at all like his, first big Image comic.
Marvel markets its mainstream comic different than Image pushes its titles. Do you think that Deadpool fans will check out Analog?
It’s a different beast, but we do have hard and fast rules at Image about what we can solicit. You need to have three inked and done and even maybe even colored in order to get into the catalog to solicit. But you're right, in a case like Southern Bastards or some of Rick Remender’s books or some of the other stuff that Image has in the pipeline, we've found that, you know, there's not as much crossover as we might hope. I'm not sure how many of my Marvel fans are crossing the aisle. I hope to bring over as many people.
And by the way, I hope that goes both ways, but I think it's a different market and [indie fans] are used to a little bit of a wait, a hiatus. I think our consumption of entertainment feels like we're definitely in the seasonal era of entertainment. So Analog will run five issues straight and then August will be dark. And then in September, on the same day we're going to drop the beginning of the second arc with issue six, we’ll drop the first trade paperback and the first trade paperback is going to be a pretty big trade, but it's still going to be $9.99. That's an entry price point, um, to, yeah, to hook people and you know, I think you're much more likely to find people taking that on even if it's five issues, but because some of the first issues were larger size, it's about six issues of content for the same price. I think going to be a nice value.
Do you have the entire world of Analog already built or are you building as you go?
No, no. I have an outline, that in success, would be about five trade paperbacks or roughly 30 or 35 issues worth of stories. But you know, if for some reason the market doesn't support Analog, then we just move it up. We sort of accordion the story we have, bring the end up much sooner than I'd want and it becomes a little bittersweet. But in success I think I have more room to sort of give Jack's Dad, Una, the handler and even Aunt Sam, who is an unnamed NSA director (not to mention Jack’s nemesis) their own stories. But really, in addition to the characters, the other thing that I'm really excited to be able to show everyone is how different this world is and how different the world, even pieces of the world, are from themselves.
What statement, if any, are you trying to make politically or socially with Analog?
We're really sincerely only trying to entertain. We just sort of picked the spot where I think that we really are going to need to look hard at our own technology and ethics of technology. We're going to have to look at everything, including the very fiber of our being or DNA. It's fascinating to think the Golden State Killer was caught because an ancestor posted their DNA profile to a website. He got away with it and you know, the idea that this is going to be an issue, you know, in every aspect of our daily lives and how technology is going to impact us. Even if you unplug like Jack, you're going to be tracked via facial recognition almost every day.
Do you have any plans for bringing Analog to the screen?
You know, I had not wanted to really get into it until I had a trade paperback to be able to show someone and go, this would really give you the idea of where it is because we are doing a lot of world building up at the front, but I think because of sort of where the luck of the calendar sort of put us, you know, it sort of lit a fire under some people. So stay tuned on that there. There could be some news, before too long and keep your fingers crossed.
Analog #1 and #2 are availble now. Analog #3 is availble for pre-order.