X-Files mythology, TenThirteen Interviews Database, and more

Two Interviews: Harris & Walsh

In what I think is unusual for comic books, and if you thought reading Season 10 is not similar enough to the experience of watching new episodes, writer Joe Harris has done a full Season 10 #1 Commentary Track looking at the comics and discussing page by page! Podcasts for commentary tracks have become more and more common lately for TV series creators (Battlestar Galactica, Breaking Bad), too bad we don’t have the audio here. Besides providing no less than half the pages of the issue right here (!), this is a great read. Obviously, spoilers below.

joe_harris

Joe Harris

CBR News: Joe, before we get into the details about the first issue, how did you find yourself writing “X-Files: Season 10?”

Joe Harris: It sort of happened really fast. I was talking with Chris Ryall, who offered congratulations on the launch of my Image Comics series “Great Pacific,” and he asked me if I had any interest. It was one of those things that caused me to almost reflexively respond, “Yes!” without even thinking too long and hard about it. For one thing — and the best thing — I’m a huge fan of the show, the characters, Chris Carter’s execution and his wonderful staff of producers and writers over the years. I was really “of age” when the series hit, a teenager with Friday nights to spare, and over the years, it had already become one of those points of discussion and reminiscing amongst my closest childhood friends and my brother, all of whom would have a hard time separating memories of growing up in the 1990s from their “X-Files” fandom.

Anyway, once IDW asked, I holed up for a couple of days and punched out a take on the material, which they responded really enthusiastically to. From there, it went to Fox and I managed to get them excited about the direction I had outlined too. And I was hired, and we started getting to work when, one day soon after, I’m told that what was thought to be a routine meeting with FOX and representatives from 1013 Productions turned into an unexpected meeting with Chris Carter himself who sought more involvement with the series. From there, we all got on the phone and talked about what I was doing. Chris had some thoughts, concerns, suggestions, etc., and we ended up meeting in Los Angeles to talk about things further and deepen the trust, the commitment and all that.

What I love about this property is the memorable mythos that wrapped around these character, unspooled over nine seasons — and one movie that dealt with it directly. It was dizzying in its execution and some of the most anticipated television in history. Once Mulder started digging into the government cover-up of the existence of extraterrestrials in hopes of uncovering the truth of what happened to his little sister, believed abducted by aliens years ago, things got intense and fast. Following Mulder and Scully through everything, their relationship and devotion to one another, and the price they continually paid in search of “the truth,” just left an indelible mark on my brain, as both a writer and creator of science fiction and horror, myself, and a fan who knows what the good shit is when he sees it.

Also, it’s the prototypical paranormal investigation franchise. So much else out there is derivative of it in some way. The show obviously borrows from the old “Kolchak” series, as well as the format of “The Outer Limits” and the various Rod Serling series’ like “Twilight Zone” and “Night Gallery”… but how many properties, across various media, do you find out there which resembles “The X-Files” in some way or another? You can tell so many types of stories in this universe, with these characters and within this paradigm, and they certainly did for a good many years.

Moving on to the first issue, the story opens with Agent Scully in quite a bit of peril. Are these new foes, or something from “X-Files” past?

They’re new adversaries whom we’ll definitely be learning more about as this opening story arc unspools. They’re connected, in ways both obvious and subtle, rooted in some of the past mythology of the show, as well as something wholly new.

How long has Scully been out of the X-Files division and living in this new identity?

Scully, and Mulder, have been away from things since the end of the last movie — so it’s been a few years.

I cast her as a practicing pediatrician, which is a new role for her but, I think, one that fits with her character as we’ve seen in the past. She’s clearly got a soft spot for children. That aspect of her character, especially as it pertains to more personal elements of her past, will be a major part of all this going forward.

That name “Van de Kamp” should ring a bell for the more intrepid viewers of the show. How direct, or oblique, the reference proves to be to our story going forward remains to be seen, however —

Did Mulder just steal a baseball from those kids?

Ha! Yeah — I don’t think the retired suburban life is really agreeing with Mulder these days. He’s about a second or two away from yelling at those kids to get off his lawn.

The slight-of-hand “magic” trick speaks to his assumed identity, “Blake” and the connection to an earlier bit of “X-Files” trivia I’ll speak more about in a second.

I knew early on that I wanted to get one old “Spooky” Mulder utterance into this first issue!

Are Scully and Mulder living together now?

They are living together, all biblically and such. But, like with most relationships, outside pressures and internal fissures test theirs, so I wouldn’t necessarily read this as “happily ever after,” you know?

Will Skinner play a prominent role in the series moving forward?

I love Walter Skinner. I want to get back to that classic paradigm where he’s challenging Mulder, pushing him, clashing with him, etc. All the while, we’re thinking he’s such a dick, and that he even might be in league with the antagonistic forces within the FBI, the larger government and the conspiratorial elements both outside it and within… only to reveal that he’s really doing his best to protect Mulder and Scully, from those very same forces.

But, in any case, yeah. He’s around for the foreseeable future.

I pulled the “Blake” name Mulder and Scully are living under from a flashback scene in the season two premiere episode of the television series, “Little Green Men,” in which young Fox Mulder witnesses his sister Samantha’s apparent alien abduction following an episode of his favorite television show, “The Magician” — starring Bill Bixby, who went on, as comics fans know, to play David Banner on “The Incredible Hulk.” I thought it’d be a neat nod to continuity, and it’s the first of a few Easter egg-ish bits and pieces woven into this story arc.

Hacking, eh? This seems like a case for the Lone Gunmen! Will they be appearing in the series any time soon?

As we’ve already leaked the covers for issue #2, I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by answering, Yes! The Lone Gunmen will be making their return, next issue.

Here, we see Scully’s concern for her child, William, whom she gave up for adoption toward the end of the show’s final season in an effort to hide him from the forces who would always hunt him.

So, Mulder is writing a book? I have to imagine that there’s more than a few shady figures who would like to get their hands on that manuscript —

He’s writing it, but I’m not sure it’s the sort of thing that will be publishable as he’s redacting himself as he goes. That manuscript won’t be very useful, to a publisher or an enemy, with all the classified parts blacked out like they are.

I just like the idea of him struggling with what he knows, what he’s learned, what he can and can’t talk about, and what he’s had to accept without being able to change it for the better.

Why would Mulder redact his own book?

Well, if he didn’t, the government surely would. You can’t just publish a memoir about classified, top secret stuff. The world knows Special Agent Fox Mulder worked for years on the X-Files. We saw a number of times, in early episodes, that his search for evidence of aliens on earth was known to other conspiracy theorists, alien abductees, etc. But he couldn’t write a book about what he’s seen go on within the government, what they’ve covered up — for bad or good, honestly — without a rain of shit coming down on him.

But even beyond that, Mulder’s wanted peace. He’s wanted nothing to do with the FBI, or The X-Files, for years. Breaking that anonymity would invite scrutiny, and threaten both his and Scully’s privacy, as well as their safety. Although, once you read issue #1, it needs to be said — a lot of good that did him.

Is Skinner calling Mulder instead of the FBI an indication that he might not be authorized to contact his two favorite former special agents at all?

He’s actually calling Mulder to lure him away from home. Skinner is under these mystery villains’ control. He doesn’t want to make the call, but we can see that his nose is bleeding, one of those visual cues that psychic power is being exerted over him. These hooded figures want Skinner and Mulder as far away from Scully as possible, so they can make their bigger, actual move on her.

Are we catching a glimpse of the cult leader in this final panel?

It’s… complicated. You’re catching a glimpse of a very significant member of this group who’s going to have a lot to do with Scully going forward. Whether he turns out to be friend or foe remains to be seen.

Things aren’t looking too good for Scully. What’s coming up for our intrepid paranormal investigators in the next few issues?

Scully is seen as a sort of prize to these characters. Based on her history, what she’s seen and experienced, these robed and glowing eyed figures are drawn to her. But now, Mulder’s coming after them all, and that’s bad news for the bad guys.

As Mulder tries to get to the bottom of who’s hunting them, who got to Dana Scully, and why, we’ll see old allies and enemies both crawl out of the woodwork. I’ve confirmed The Lone Gunmen, and we’ve already teased the Cigarette Smoking Man on the cover to issue #3. I’d look for the return of other old friends within the FBI, as well as more of a connection drawn between the uniquely special, potentially part-alien child Scully bore and surrendered for adoption years ago and the reason she’s being hunted today.

Where were “X-Files” creator Chris Carter’s fingerprints in this first issue?

Honestly, it’s on what you can’t and won’t see. I know that’s cryptic, and I apologize. Maybe one day I’ll elaborate on what we didn’t do in this opening story arc, but I’m grateful for advice he gave me for writing “The X-Files,” and for the story challenge he presented when he requested a change to the opening arc, “Believers,” and why he wanted it made.

Sorry I can’t tell you more. State Secrets and all.

Some quick comments:

  • You can really tell he’s a fan and knows his X-Files. Plus, good humour! (“They are living together, all biblically and such“)
  • Skinner as a character walking the line between a friend and a foe: that was his role in the series, but in particular after season 7 can there still be doubt that he is definitely a friend?
  • The last point is most interesting! This most certainly has to do with what story threads Carter is/was planning to pull for a potential X-Files 3. Whether “Believers“/Season 10 was re-arranged to setup a certain situation and be in line with how X-Files 3 would start, or whether elements of how X-Files 3 would start are what we see here, we do not know. Probably the former, given that Joe Harris had developed a good draft for “Believers” before Carter was asked to join as a producer.

Hopefully more of those commentary tracks will come and enlighten us!

X-Files News also interviewed artist Michael Walsh:

Michael Walsh

Michael Walsh

XFN: For the Philes who don’t know a lot about comics, can you tell us a little about what a comic book illustrator does and how the development of a project evolves?

MW: Usually the seed of the idea starts with the writer. They write out a script which comes to me. A script usually looks a lot like a movie or film script detailing the characters dialogue and breaking down the events of a page. From there, I visualize the story and put it down to paper. Bringing an idea into reality.

XFN: You’ve talked about instantly jumping at the chance to work on these new X-Files comics. What has it been like coming into the project as a fan, and how has this whole creative process unfolded for you?

MW: So far it’s been a dream project. I remember hearing the announcement that IDW had picked up the rights to do some new X-Files comics and thinking it would be an amazing project to work on. When I was offered the project I was ecstatic! Coming into the comic as a fan of the show gives me a solid understanding of the atmosphere and characters as well as the ability to throw in some small visual easter eggs here and there.

XFN: We’ve read that you like to make each project look distinct from past ones. How are you approaching the art for The X-Files?

MW: The X-Files really played a lot with shadows. They would go from a very well lit yet sterile and desaturated scene directly to a scene so drenched in shadow you could barely even see the actors. I’ve been playing a lot with this juxtaposition to not only add to the atmosphere but also to make the shadowed scenes that much more effective. I’ve also been analyzing how the scenes were framed and the camera shots used so that I can capture a bit of the same cinematic quality from the show.

XFN: In this X-Files universe, who or what is the hardest thing to draw and why? How about your favorite?

MW: Nothing is hard to draw when you are having this much fun! As for my favourite, I would have to say Skinner, in the first issue at least; the scene in the motel room was really fun and intense! Also, he has so much character in his face it makes for good drawing.

XFN: If you had your choice, what villain or character would you most like to see brought back in these comics?

MW: It’s a toss up between Tooms and Flukeman. Tooms was the first legitimately terrifying monster of the week and Flukeman would just be a blast to draw.

XFN: Obviously we’re all very excited to see your art in “Season 10”, but where else should we be watching for your work? Any other upcoming projects?

MW: I’m doing a single issue of a book called ZERO which will come out in september. It’s a spy/thriller and is very different from what you will find in X-Files. I’ll also be posting up a webcomic short titled King Warlock & Bluebird which should be going up in the next two months. It’s a dark fairy tale that I will be writing and drawing. Stay tuned to my twitter for updates on that.

XFN: What should X-Files fans be looking forward to in these new comics, and what do you want them to take away most from the series?

MW: Look forward to a new step in the ongoing mythology. We are going to be wrapping up some dangling questions while posing some new ones and introducing new and interesting characters into the X-Files mythology. One of the most rewarding aspects of this whole thing so far has been creating new characters for the world of X-Files.

The XFN Quick Six
Favorite
Food: Pizza!
Favorite
Word: Beelzebub
Favorite X-Files line
: I’ve seen the future, and the future looks just like him! (points to Mulder) … This whole conversation at the end of Humbug is amazing!
Your guilty pleasure
: Countdown by Beyonce!
Dream job
: Comic Book artist 😉
I wish I had invented
…  PIZZA! (artists note: I was hungry while filling this out.)

I love his comment on watching the show’s cinematography to inspire his art! Also, are these hints that Tooms or Flukeman are up for issue #6? “The Son of Tooms“?

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