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State of the comics + S11 #1: The Lowdown

After a season 10 in comics that lasted for 25 issues, a number close to that of the number of episodes in a television season, IDW switches to a season 11. However, much has changed since January 2013 when IDW announced this series. IDW seems to have resurrected the XF franchise at the correct time, preceding only by a short while the return of XF to the popular discourse. The revival of the XF live series both accompanied and reinforced the presence of the X-Files in people’s minds, with several retrospectives, art projects, podcasts and discussions having appeared over the past year and a half, and IDW’s comics are part of that general movement. What is old is new again, and popular culture has reached the point where late 1980s-early 1990s items are what is being recycled and what given inspiration to the creations of today.

Chris Carter and comics Part I: not Harsh Realm

Chris Carter and comics Part I: Not Harsh Realm

Joe Harris’ Season 10 in comics was successful in certain surprising ways thanks to its plotting, using a lot of fan service with the return of old (often deceased) characters, a staple of comics, and a close adherence to the show’s past mythology. However, in other ways it was overall it is not going beyond what tie-in merchandise confines itself to, drawing much more from the past and from what readers identify with the brand name, than evolving the concept and innovating with new topical threads. Season 10 did have several novel ideas and nicely incorporated in the X-Files’ fictional world several real-world elements in the way that the TV series did, however it veered little from the status quo of “two agents investigating the paranormal” despite the passage of time. Building off of Season 10, Season 11 could try to expand beyond that into unexplored territory.

Scully melts in anticipation for another alternate universe

Scully melts in anticipation for another alternate universe

That being said, Season 11 comes into being in a very different context. The X-Files (live) revival will air when issues 6 and 7 of Season 11 will be published. The revival is being referred to as “Season 10” in several media outlets and even in the scripts and call sheets themselves. The risk that the IDW comics will be relegated to a non-canon “alternative universe” status, while it had been launched as a canon continuation of the story with the benediction of Chris Carter, is very real. Joe Harris has said that ideally the comics storyline will dovetail into the revival, i.e. that the comics Season 11 will end where the live series will begin. This is a seductive outlook, however given the first indications as to the state of things at the beginning of the revival series — not to mention the likely appearance in the revival of a certain character that was given a central role in the comics — this progressively seems as a challenge.

Previously on the X-Files...

Previously on the X-Files…

Let’s not judge too early. The mythology Harris has created is worth taking more time to explore and resolve, one possible outcome could be that the comics series continue for a while — why not years? — before eventually wrapping up, either concluding where the revival series will start or confirming that this is an alternate world in which Harris has the full freedom to drive storylines where he wants and for as long as he wants. In all cases, it would be a shame to shorten the comics Season 11 because of the revival. Given the excitement around the revival, it makes full commercial sense for IDW to continue as it has: alongside the central line of Season 10/11 there is the Annual one-shots, the Jonathan Maberry-helmed “Trust No One” prose short story collections (of which at least 3 volumes are planned), the board game (for which an expansion pack is planned), the republishing of the XF comics of the 1990s (which is nearly complete already), the prospects of more comics (like the Lone Gunmen or Millennium), and who knows what now that the XF brand is hot again.

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And so Season 11 begins with #1, “Cantus“! Lowdown and spoilers after the jump!

(more…)

Revival! Revival!

So many news within two weeks! The After cancelled, the confirmation that IDW/Joe Harris will be making a Season 11 in comics after Season 10 wraps, the first sign of FOX finally expressing interest for bringing back The X-Files in some form — while Frank Black returns in comics form this week!

The After: much ado about nothing

The After, Chris Carter’s new series on Amazon, has been cancelled before it got off the ground. After the pilot aired last February, Amazon ordered a full 8-episode season in March, and the last comment we heard was in July with Carter mentioning Dante’s Inferno as an inspiration. It was to be expected, as there was absolutely no news around it and no new episodes were being produced to meet the “airing” date of the season that was expected to be spring 2015. On January 5, the only comment that accompanied the cancellation from Amazon was that:

“We have decided to not move forward with ‘The After,’ We would like to thank Chris Carter, the phenomenal cast, crew and producers for all their efforts.”

An extremely short comment. Surely a lot went on behind the scenes. So The After gets cancelled in the general indifference of the potential audience Amazon could have been counting on, the X-Files/Millennium fanbase, and of the public and critics at large. And I think it’s very unlikely that another network or producer would pick up The After and continuing it. By comparison, the other show from Georgeville TV, the same production company as The After, Sense8, has kept the buzz going and is developing to one of the most interesting series for me for 2015.

Coincidentally, and funnily enough, Spotnitz’s own project, a TV series adaptation of Philip K Dick’s “The Man in the High Castle“, aired its pilot at Amazon as part of this year’s pilot season, to huge critical acclaim — and it shows that the budget must be several times what that of The After was, Amazon is really putting a lot of weight behind this project! Being also a PKD fan I find the whole enterprise very interesting but also very risky: I don’t see how this could hold for more than a season’s worth of story.

Carter is still attached to the development of “Area 51” at AMC, a project in development since 2012, but no news there either since last March. Which is not to say that the project won’t happen eventually, such beasts have long development times.

This is a hard blow to Carter. An update from him would be more than welcome, it will be interesting to hear his own point of view on what happened on The After and how he would spin it, how this will affect him after also having another show not being picked up (Unique) and having a movie aborted at near completion (Fencewalker). I had my own very mixed opinion of The After pilot, however I found it good news that Carter would be back with something new and creative, after an extended break that’s been going on for over a decade — if you don’t count the intermission of IWTB that ended up with him at a state of exhaustion. In terms of credibility and pull for new projects in the harsh realm that is the movie & TV industry, Carter is now at a vary delicate position. It would be foolish to think that a third X-Files theatrical movie or a Millennium project by Carter would be an easy sell on Fox, even if Carter were to put all his energy to make it happen (which he hasn’t been doing). Actually, anything by Carter now would be a hard sell. I could even imagine him going back to his voluntary retirement! — but I hope he still has things left unsaid in him.

So what now?

Sequel or no sequel?

Carter has always had a theatrical movie in his mind, he has had that vision of XF as a movie franchise since 1998 and he repeated that in the 20th anniversary panel at San Diego Comic Con in 2013 (covered on EatTheCorn). Movie or nothing. It’s been two years now after the self-imposed date the XF mythology was looking at for its endgame. With chances of an ending of the XF on the big screen slimmer than ever, there have been signs that things have been changing in Carter’s mind. In the summer of 2014 Carter had “conversations” with FOX, and in December Carter and Spotnitz were discussing the future of the franchise.

I don’t live for a sequel or continuation and I most often dislike the trend of making endless sequels for sequels’ sake — however, independently of my likes or dislikes, for such a popular franchise a continuation or reboot is quite likely somewhere down the road. For years, Spotnitz has been saying that the economic case for FOX doing something — anything — with the X-Files brand name is there, it is just a matter of time. Evidently the legal suit precedents between Carter and FOX and the very mitigated success of IWTB did not help. Perhaps FOX didn’t want to entrust Carter with a full feature film and Carter didn’t want to change his stance; perhaps things are changing now at FOX; perhaps both parties have been waiting patiently for the whole thing to mature and make a revival of a classic.

xftp

Pop culture is cyclical and as the youth of yesterday becomes the trend-setters of today, what was old becomes new again, which explains the revival of design and music and pop culture franchises from the 1980s lately (Tron, Terminator, Mad Max, Star Wars, now Jurassic Park). We are now getting to the point where 1990s things will be the thing studios draw upon. It’s already happening, with one of the most exciting news of recent: the resurrection of Twin Peaks 25 years after it ended with a “third season”! And this is not your typical revival, for this is supported by the show’s original creators Mark Frost and David Lynch — something of a first in the history of television.

Television and the entertainment industry is not what it used to be twenty or ten years ago, and what might have been considered “second rate” back then is now hot. Event mini-series with season-long arcs are now a new popular format (American Horror Story, True Detective, the independent seasons of House of Cards, the 24 event). For a new XF, I’ve long supported the idea of aiming at a made-for-TV movie or direct-to-DVD movie or a limited run TV mini-series as a more accessible and realistic venue for such an endeavor, and perhaps that’s where things are headed.

The X-Files: The Revival

Speaking at the annual Television Critics Association Winter press tour at Pasadena, FOX co-chairs mentioned among many, many other things, that they’d had conversations and that they’re hopeful that X-Files would be back. They probably had no idea of what would follow. After the presentation journalists asked for more details on X-Files and in the hours and day that followed an incredible number of media outlets worldwide — even TIME and CNN! — did an article that took it nearly as granted that the X-Files was returning!
What was actually said?

During the panel (from live-tweets):

Gary Newman says “we’re hopeful” about bringing back #XFiles

Gary Newman: We’ve had conversations about #XFiles

After the panel (here and here):

Newman: “What I can say is that if this happens, it’ll be with David and Gillian reprising their roles. Chris is interest, both David and Gillian are interested. Scheduling is very difficult. David has his show, Gillian is doing something in the UK. I really don’t know how fast it can happen, but there are ongoing conversation happening.”

Walden: “You know who we’re dealing with, do you think I can elaborate???” [joke on Carter!] “Gary and I both worked through the entire run of the X-Files. It was a great experience, we’ve maintained great relationships with creator Chris Carter, Gillian, and David. We’re very hopeful. It’s hard because they’re actors who are very busy. Chris has a lot going on. So it’s about finishing those conversations.” [FOX] “would not move forward without Chris.”

So no actual mention of reboot, and it’s very clear the original stars and the creator (not to mention co-owner!) are involved: technically, that’s called a revival — although many journalists added to the confusion already existing among media lingo by mentioning a reboot.

So what ushered this?

  • Carter: The passage of time and perhaps his frustration with his new projects might have played a role for Carter to re. Surely the early discussions with FOX started before The After was cancelled, however Carter must have known about things going astray on The After for a several months and the cancellation might have accelerated things.
  • FOX: with the passage of time, old executives who might have had grudges against Carter (especially around the time his series were getting cancelled, that of Harsh Realm in particular was bitter on Carter; and during the years he had a lawsuit with FOX) are leaving and are replaced by people who have worked with or appreciate Carter. Those who announced the revival, Dana Walden and Gary Newman, are “very friendly” with Carter and grew in the business together; as recently appointed co-chairmen of Fox Television Group and CEOs they plan to rebuild the ailing FOX and steer it into new territory.
  • Precedents: the success of the 24: Live Another Day miniseries event, the announcement of the Twin Peaks revival
  • Buzz during and after the 2013 San Diego Comic Con
  • Buzz during 2014 and more recently: Kumail Nanjiani’s X-Files Files podcast, Gillian Anderson on the Nerdist podcast

How is this different from previous endless rumors and replies to nagging questions?

  • This is FOX talking. The last reaction from FOX is a few months after the release of IWTB, saying that they were waiting to hear from Carter.
  • It has been confirmed by both parties, FOX and Carter, that discussions are happening.
  • The media coverage and buzz this passing mention of preliminary conversations has generated shows to FOX there is huge interest out there. They even asked William B Davis about it!

Anderson had, a few days before only, generated some buzz thanks to a Nerdist podcast that launched the twitter trend #XFiles2015. And a few days later Duchovny weighted in saying he’s “more than happy and excited to bring it back“, and “that it will happen sooner rather than later now. We’ll see what form, how many [episodes]. Certainly I can’t nor would I be interested in doing a full season. It will be in some kind of limited form. We’re all old, we don’t have the energy for a full season.” So the interest is definitely there.

All in all, nothing is set in stone, but something will be happening! How, when?

  • With writing, pre-production, shooting, post-production ahead of us, we are looking at some time in 2016 — 8 years after IWTB!
  • Carter will be involved. There have been many voices even within hardcore XF fans against him, but it’s his property and he has specific ideas about this. If there’s a reboot later that’s another story. But, apart from long-time collaborator and seasons 8-9 mythology co-creator Spotnitz, I’d hardly expect anybody else from the old writing team to be involved. It will either be entirely Carter/Spotnitz, or them plus a newcomer — especially if a reboot is in the minds of FOX.- Short seasons are more and more the norm: the writing is tight, the shooting schedule is short for the actors, the marketing is focused. Let’s expect a 6-12 episode season.
  • XF3 would always have been about the alien colonization mythology. But even with a mini-series, the shortened length wouldn’t allow for a back-and-forth between independent episodes and mythology episodes. I expect a single story, cut in parts.
  • It would make good sense for Fox to hold on to the remastered series in HD and use the release of a BluRay boxset as promotional material for the new event/series if/when that happens.
  • Schedules have to be aligned — a burdensome development could come up if the stars are contractually tied to a specific network and can’t appear in many networks simultaneously.- Given the pop culture importance of the brand name, it’s easy to imagine Fox wanting to produce more than a one-off event and thinking ahead about continuing the franchise. It’s possible that this event would serve as both a farewell to the old characters and as an introduction to a younger group of characters that could be used in a re-launch of the series: the “old” stars are perfectly capable of holding their own, but at or approaching their fifties the most likely option is that they would form only part of the cast which would include younger actors as well. So this could be the last Mulder & Scully X-Files we see — with a reboot down the road.

The comics: bridge or alternate universe?

Meanwhile, the comics Season 10 is continuing and actually coming to an end — earlier than I expected — with #25, expected for June 2015, and with the last collected volume (Vol.5), expected for September-October 2015. However, it’s already more or less officially confirmed that after a break there will be a Season 11! With about 10,000 (physical) issues sold each month and in the Top 10 of IDW’s sales, the X-Files is a success for IDW, along with good reviews and the low production costs associated with comic books. Hence all the side publications: we’ve already had a Lone Gunmen spin-off, an origin story, an Annual and a Christmas special, and reprints of all the older Topps comics, and there’s a table board game, a short story (prose) collection and a Millennium arc to hit stores in 2015 — and potentially more coming, as editor Denton J. Tipton has said that despite a break between XF seasons there will be XF-related material coming out every month. And it’s quite obvious by now that all this is done with just Carter’s permission but essentially without any of his creative input. If it starts around the end of this year, another 25-issue season would take us well into 2017.

X-Files — and Millennium? — comics still have a long future.

However, with the new developments of an on-screen XF revival, where do these comics fit into the picture? Carter was supportive but ambiguous (how odd?!) on whether he thought of them as canon. There are three options:

  • Comics ignored: As excellent as they are, it’s hard to think that FOX executives and the creative team would “constrain” themselves with comics — they might not even constrain themselves with the live series, resulting in inconsistencies! — and there’s been a recent precedent with a much longer lived Extended Universe, with the “de-canonization” of nearly everything Star Wars since the 1980s! So the comics would continue, sadly as an alternate universe.
  • Comics taken into account: Carter and Harris agree on the comics orientation and make the events of the comics nicely dovetail into the revival event, like season 5 and FTF. Great! Although, how the schedules of the comics publication (with Season 11!) and the revival align would be a challenge.
  • Comics are neutral: Comics and revival follow their own lives, with the revival event airing during the Season 11 publication, but they end up not contradicting each other. Joe Harris is free to complexify his mythology as long as it doesn’t touch upon whatever the revival will touch upon, and fans have to fanwank events in a chronological order.
  • Comics are the source: A fourth option is that the mini-series becomes a live adaptation or is partly inspired by the comics — unlikely, but who knows? Joe Harris is also involved in feature film-making!

Even if you are bitter from the later seasons and/or IWTB… there are some exiting times ahead!

PS: I wrote most of this article days after The After was cancelled; I only had to change few things to include the FOX announcement! The XF revival has been preparing in the background throughout 2014!…

XF@IDW: The floodgates have opened!

Since IDW obtained the license for “The X-Files” in January 2013, we knew that we would be getting new comics: Season 10. But we didn’t know we would be getting a whole avalanche of merchandising and tie-in products along with it — although we could have expected to! Below is a rundown of what we know is coming.

The X-Files: Annual 2014

As reported previously, IDW released an Annual comic book in April, a once-a-year publication , double the size of a normal issue. This Annual featured two stories.

XFiless-Annual2014

The X-Files Annual 2014
Frank Spotnitz & Gabe Rotter & Shannon Eric Denton, Dave Sim (w) • Stuart Sayger, Andrew Currie (a) • Sam Shearon (c)
The X-Files writer/producer Frank Spotnitz returns with an untold tale from Mulder and Scully’s first stint with the FBI. When a man returns from the dead with a warning for his wife, the agents investigate and cross paths with a very peculiar priest. And in the second story, Cerebus creator Dave Sim writes his first-ever The X-Files story and first scripted licensed work in… forever? with “Talk to the Hand,” a nightmarish tale starring a sleeping Dana Scully!

Both stories do not form part of Season 10, they take place somewhere during the “classic years” of the series (say, seasons 2-5). As expected, the story by XF’s number 2 Frank Spotnitz and Carter’s assistant (and now The After producer) Gabe Rotter is one that they had in 2009, when the 7-issue XF comics by Wildstorm of 2008-2009 looked like they would be getting more issues. Reviews generally haven’t been very kind to the Annual overall.

Interview with Gabe Rotter on the Annual: X-Files News

Reviews: X-Files News

The X-Files: Conspiracy

As reported previously as well, this is the Lone Gunmen cross-over with other IDW franchises, published over January-March: Ghostbusters, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers, The Crow! Funky idea, I haven’t gotten down to read them yet.

Interviews with the creators: BigStory | Comicbook Resources

All six issues will be collected in a hardcover edition, coming out in July 2014!

Reviews:

The X-Files: Year Zero

The next big spin-off is Year Zero. No, not the Nine Inch Nails would-be XF crossover: this is actually a prequel à la 5X15: Travelers.

IDW announced in April:

MULDER & SCULLY UNCOVER THE PAST IN THE X-FILES: YEAR ZERO

The Case That Started It All Debuts At IDW! 

San Diego, CA (April 20, 2014) – In its first year at IDW, The X-Files Season 10 has pitted FBI special agents Mulder and Scully against monsters, cults, conspiracies, and more, and now the duo will unravel a mystery that dates back to the very beginning of “the X-Files.” The brand-new five-issue miniseries,The X-Files: Year Zero, debuts this July with an original tale suited for both X-Files diehards and mystery fans alike!

In the 1940s, a shadowy informant known as “Mr. Xero” directed the FBI to a number of paranormal cases that would soon be classified as “X-Files,” which were reserved for the improbable and unexplainable. When faced with an eerily similar “Mr. Zero” in the present, Agent Mulder resolves to uncover the truth about who this mystery person is and their connection to these cases.

The multi-talented veteran Karl Kesel (FFSuperboy) makes his debut at IDW as the writer on the series. Vic Malhotra (The X-Files: Conspiracy: The Crow) andGreg Scott (The X-Files: Season 10) will be splitting art duties with Malhotra providing the art for the 1940s sequences and Scott drawing the present day storyline. Covers will be provided by Season 10’s Carlos Valenzuela, with pulp-novel-inspired subscription variants by Robert Hack (Doctor Who) and a retailer incentive cover by Eisner Award-winner Francesco Francavilla for the first installment.

“The origins of the X-Files unit of the FBI were only hinted at in the TV show, and we’re proud to present the story of how the precursors of our favorite paranormal agents established the division in the late 1940s,” says editor Denton J. Tipton. “I think Bing and Millie will become fan-favorites alongside Mulder, Scully, Reyes and Doggett.”

“I’ve always thought the 40s would be a wonderful setting for X-Files, with the Russian red menace, atomic mutations and flying saucers all lurking in the shadows— what I like to think of as ‘UFO Noir.’” said Kesel from an undisclosed location. “Of course, iconic characters like Mulder and Scully are a joy to write, and being given the opportunity to introduce their predecessors— Bing Ellinson and Millie Ohio— well, the truth is it’s all a little unbelievable to me. But the unbelievable is what X-Files is all about, isn’t it?”

With an upcoming board game from IDW Games, the ongoing Season 10 series, and now this new adventure into the past, IDW is the essential stop for fans of The X-Files! Stay up to date at facebook.com/idwpublishing!

This is an interesting direction for a spin-off story — only that in order for it not to be too painful for old-time fans, it still has to be coherent with what we know of that time period from the series! In 1946 the first X-File was opened by JE Hoover himself (1X18: Shapes), in 1947 with the Roswell crash the US government learnt of the alien colonization threat, and in 1952 FBI Agent Arthur Dales started working on the X-Files (5X15: Travelers).

In an interview with Year Zero writer Karl Kesel, he says on that that: “All that will be addressed. But the whole “filed under X because there was more room there” sounds like one of the lamest cover stories I’ve ever heard. If you ask me.” Also:

The comic will be split between the present day and the 1940s, can you give us any idea of how balanced that split will be?

About 50/50, but that’s over-all. Certain issues may tilt more toward one time or the other.

We’ve seen that Mulder and Scully will naturally be appearing in Year Zero. Is there a possibility that any more familiar faces might make an appearance?

Yes. At least one other established character from The X-Files makes an appearance—a pivotal one, actually. And there are a number of “nods” to other characters and events that readers-in-the-know will enjoy.

Are the present day scenes intended to be set during Joe Harris’ ongoing Season 10, or do they take place during the classic television era of the story?

Season 10.

Early Season 10 cover artist Carlos Valenzuela returns:

XFiles-YZ01-cvr-copy-499d7

And of course they couldn’t miss the opportunity to do some vintage pulp magazine type covers!

XFiles-YZ01-cvrSUB-2a6e9

The series will run over five issues, July-November. Solicitations are already out for #1 and #2:

The X-Files: Year Zero #1 (of 5)
Karl Kesel (w) • Vic Malhotra, Greg Scott (a) • Carlos Valenzuela (c)
When a blue-collar worker from New Jersey passes prophetic messages to the FBI from a mysterious “Mr. Zero,” Mulder is convinced it is the same otherworldly entity that contacted the FBI through a suburban housewife in the 1940s. This similarly named “Mr. Xero” pointed the FBI toward many unusual cases, leading to the establishment of “the X-Files”!

The X-Files: Year Zero #2 (of 5)
Karl Kesel (w) • Vic Malhotra, Greg Scott (a) • Carlos Valenzuela (c)
When a blue-collar worker from New Jersey passes prophetic messages to the FBI from a mysterious “Mr. Zero,” Mulder is convinced it is the same otherworldly entity that contacted the FBI through a suburban housewife in the 1940s. This similarly named “Mr. Xero” pointed the FBI toward many unusual cases, leading to the establishment of “the X-Files”!

Truly, XF has always been very close to a Cold War atmosphere, from its substitution of Soviets by aliens as “the enemy” and the vaccine against the Black Oil as a parallel to the arms race, to specific references to the 1950s nuclear war scare, and episodes like Travelers was already an attempt to capitalize on that. It will be interesting to see how Year Zero is handled.

The X-Files Art Gallery

We continue with this edition, coming out in June:

XFiless-ArtGallery01-cvr-copy-3bc66

The X-Files Art Gallery #1
Cat Staggs, Joe Corroney, Chris Mason, Miran Kim, Mark McHaley, and more (a) • McHaley (c)
This special ad-free issue presents new portraits of all your favorite X-Files agents, aliens, shadowy figures, and friends and enemies, all rendered by the dynamic hands of a wide array of talented artists!
FC • 32 pages • $3.99

Judging from the artists, this might simply be a collected edition of all the excellent art that has been made for all the issues of Season 10 and XF: Conspiracy up until now…or this might be something more. The decision to edit this certainly is original!

The X-Files: Classics

To complete the picture, the old Topps comics are being reprinted by IDW in collected volumes. More on those later.

The X-Files: The board game

The cherry on top of the cake is…the X-Files tabletop board game! IDW, which is not only a publishing company, announced in March:

0318-xfilesgame

IDW GAMES TO RELEASE THE X-FILES BIG BOX BOARD GAME

Search For The Truth On Your Tabletop This July!

San Diego, CA (March 18, 2014) – This summer, fans of The X-Files will have a brand-new way to search for the truth, with the release of a brand-new big box board game! Players will get the chance to take on the role of Mulder, Scully, and the X-Files team as they work to uncover global conspiracies and threats while going up against various members of the Syndicate.

“To me, there’s no more exciting title than The X-Files,” says IDW Director of New Business, Jerry Bennington. “Who wouldn’t want the chance to play as the wise cracking Fox Mulder or the incredibly intelligent Dana Scully? And what show created more classic villains than The X-Files? I still remember the first time I laid eyes on Flukeman, now we’ll give fans the chance to lose sleep all over again!”

The X-Files board game will focus heavily on material from the first three seasons of the television series, giving fans a chance to start from the beginning of the phenomenon. IDW Games has enlisted top-notch designer, Kevin Wilson (Arkham HorrorDescentCivilization) to bring The X-Files to the strategy board game community. Acclaimed gallery and comic book artist, menton3 (Memory Collectors, The X-Files: Season 10) brings his talents to the board gaming world by providing art direction for this project as well as the stunning box art. Designed for a playtime of between sixty and ninety minutes, two to five players will face off against one friend who will control the Smoking Man and his nefarious network.

IDW Games will release The X-Files  game in July with a suggested retail price of $59.99. Get ready to find the truth on your tabletop!

This is the biggest surprise of the lot! Aesthetically, it looks just awesome. This will be a great 21st century complement to the oldie 1996 Trivia Game, that came complete with its VHS tape with clips from the show that you had to play and rewind to find the answers to! Like the old game, the new one is focused on the first three seasons of the show — but this time not because that’s all that had aired, but by choice. I get the feeling that a “Seasons 4-6 Extension Pack” won’t be far off!

More significantly, with this release, it is confirmed that Carter and FOX have given IDW a free hand for all things touching the X-Files brand name, and that IDW has indeed seen the business potential of using that license and is actively tapping in it! This is something that might have significant consequences for the future — from us seeing a new wave of XF paraphernalia like in the 1990s, to sales attracting sufficient buzz for FOX getting interested in doing something more with its franchise.

The X-Files: Season 10

Coming back to the main attraction, there are of course the collected Volumes coming out and a “Director’s Cut” of issue #1, but also Joe Harris offering his scripts for sale, with bonus material.

The current story arc is Pilgrims (#11-15). For spoilers and covers and solicitations for all 5 issues, see the Pilgrims page. This is a pivotal story arc for Season 10, and in interviews Harris seems to consider it as the end of the first year of Season 10 (could it be the mid-point?).

So what comes after Pilgrims? Harris gave an interview to Bloody-Disgusting on the future of Season 10, well worth a read. Some excerpts:

Bloody-Disgusting: The most recent issue focused heavily on the Cigarette Smoking Man to great effect. Do you have plans for some of the other secondary characters?

Joe Harris: I Do. I’d like to spend an issue with John Doggett and Monica Reyes. That’s a huge ambition I have. A spotlight issue on Skinner would be awesome. I think we’re all in agreement on that one. I’m looking at this as we’re doing three kinds of stories. The multiple part myth arc stories, monsters of the month, and characters spotlights. I wouldn’t mind Arthur Dales involved, but he’s almost tertiary. There is a wealth of characters you can explore within this canon. So I think I’m pretty set for the next year.

BD: Because the canon is so big, how do you choose what you actually work with and are there any restrictions?

JH: I don’t have many restrictions. We haven’t kept it a secret that there are two things Chris Carter feels near and dear with the X-Files. One is the “invasion” that was prophesized for 2012. He has plans that he would like to tackle at some point. Two is more with Scully’s son William. Those are things he wants to keep for himself. We wanted to find ways to address these things, because fans want to see what’s happening with these threads. The creator of all this still deserves his day, but we’ll tease you along the way.

BD: What’s your favorite part of contributing to that mythology?

JH: This idea that there is a conspiracy within the government means something a little different in the 21st century. Now its all about who owns the government, who’s wiring profit out of it, who does it really serve and work for? In a post citizens united world where we have corporations who own everything and the NSA operating without restraint. We conduct warfare by remote control. It brings the stuff that is paranoid about the X-Files into this brand new spectrum. The concept updates itself pretty well. I don’t want to be retro. I want to spin the story into something that feels really current.

Mytharc, MOTM, and “guest” characters, it sounds like a good combination that could stretch Season 10’s run for a while. Also,  Harris teased us with another type of episode:

I’ve decided year two of The X-Files: Season 10 will include an… *off-beat* story (that’s being kind). Really excited to pull this off.

Humorous XF on print? Challenging!

Another XF-related interview with Harris is on this podcast.

Finally, some reviews that weren’t linked at before:

And we’ll be back with the Lowdown of #12, being released tomorrow!

CarterNews: The After, Area 51

Once more, Carter is busy!

“The After”

A month after Amazon released its pilots in February 6 and hosts of reviews started appearing, rumors began on Chris Carter’s “The After” getting the green light for a full series, but with no official word or comment anywhere. This was only officially confirmed on March 31, with not only “The After” but a total of 6 pilots going to series out of 10. Many people expected that Amazon would choose among the two one-hour pilots, this being the whole point of the online competition, but instead both “The After” and “Bosch” were chosen, which puts into question as to whether viewer feedback was going to be taken into account at all — possibly viewer feedback will be used to steer the show in future episodes. The official synopsis:

“The After”: Follows eight strangers who are thrown together by mysterious forces and must help each other survive in a violent world “that defies explanation.” Written and directed by Carter; executive producer is Marc Rosen of Georgeville Television and Gabe Rotter is producer. Starring Aldis Hodge, Andrew Howard, Arielle Kebbel, Jamie Kennedy, Sharon Lawrence, Jaina Lee Ortiz, Adrian Pasdar and Louise Monot.

The After” thus becomes Carter’s fifth series (although he is not mentioned as executive producer above), and his first since 2001’s short-lived “The Lone Gunmen“. Before Amazon ‘airs’ the episodes, “The After” now has to go into pre-production, Carter has to write scripts (alone or gather a team of writers), with full production and shooting (in 4K Ultra HD!) and post-production to follow — so a likely date for us to see the rest of the story is late 2014 or early 2015. We don’t know whether Carter and Amazon conceive this as an event mini-series or a first season in a multi-season story. In an interview with Carter at KCRW, it was hinted that the rest of the show would be four two-hour episodes.

See also on EatTheCorn: XFL/ETC exclusive interview with Carter | The After” released | Details on “The After

“Area 51”

March was a big month for Carter, as his other project of a show was ordered into full development! We had first talked and theorized about it on EatTheCorn, it turns out that it’s different from what I expected! The official synopsis:

“Area 51”: Writer/EP: Chris Carter (The X Files); EP: Gale Anne Hurd (The Walking Dead). Based on the New York Times best-seller Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base by Annie Jacobsen. A contemporary conspiracy thriller revealing the true story behind the infamous Area 51, America’s most mysterious military installation.

Carter had mentioned that it would include some discussion on “the spectrum of political discourse as seen on the cable news channels” and would be “treading on some of this interesting ground that Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden, and Julian Assange have uncovered for us“, so obviously some aspects of it would be about media manipulation of information and the (un)covering of governmental/military secrets of debatable ethics. However the main subject is surprisingly close to what Carter came to be known for with “The X-Files“! Area 51, codename for a part of Edwards Air Force Base in Groom Lake, Nevada, is a huge myth for UFO lore, that’s where the Roswell UFO debris would have been stored and where reverse engineering of alien technology would have taken place; it was covered in XF in 6X04/6X05: Dreamland (and the Ellens Air Force Base, Idaho, in 1X01: Deep Throat was a stand-in for Area 51).

area51jacobsen

What is interesting is that the series would be based on Annie Jacobsen’s non-fiction book, which caused quite a stir when it was released in 2011. Jacobsen presents research on what really happened in Area 51 (and in Roswell), and presents not a story about aliens but a story about military research and Cold War era paranoia — although she has been criticized of sensationalistic writing and for not citing all her sources, the approach and presentation is a journalistic one. A whole commercial website was set up for the book (this kind of attention-seeking is not something very common for non-fiction), and it became a success. The synopsis of the book:

It is the most famous military installation in the world. And it doesn’t exist. Located a mere seventy-five miles outside of Las Vegas in Nevada’s desert, the base has never been acknowledged by the U.S. government-but Area 51 has captivated imaginations for decades.

Myths and hypotheses about Area 51 have long abounded, thanks to the intense secrecy enveloping it. Some claim it is home to aliens, underground tunnel systems, and nuclear facilities. Others believe that the lunar landing itself was filmed there. The prevalence of these rumors stems from the fact that no credible insider has ever divulged the truth about his time inside the base. Until now.

Annie Jacobsen had exclusive access to nineteen men who served the base proudly and secretly for decades and are now aged 75-92, and unprecedented access to fifty-five additional military and intelligence personnel, scientists, pilots, and engineers linked to the secret base, thirty-two of whom lived and worked there for extended periods. In Area 51, Jacobsen shows us what has really gone on in the Nevada desert, from testing nuclear weapons to building super-secret, supersonic jets to pursuing the War on Terror.

This is the first book based on interviews with eye witnesses to Area 51 history, which makes it the seminal work on the subject. Filled with formerly classified information that has never been accurately decoded for the public, Area 51 weaves the mysterious activities of the top-secret base into a gripping narrative, showing that facts are often more fantastic than fiction, especially when the distinction is almost impossible to make.

Keeping with the XF vein, Jacobsen’s next book will be “Operation Paperclip“! (see 3X02: Paper Clip)

AMC and veteran producer Gale Ann Hurd considered making a series out of it from as early as November 2011, with a different writer attached at the time! AMC approached Carter in 2013 to have his take on it, and now it’s moving into full production. Again, we do not know whether this will be conceived as a mini-series or a first season — nor whether the series will fully follow Jacobsen’s grounded (but debatable) explanation or whether it will involve actual aliens (à la “Taken” or “Dark Skies“). Even so, there are plenty of things that happened in and around Area 51 that didn’t involve Roswell: military planes development, astronaut trainings, Soviet technology reverse engineering, nuclear bomb tests! Area 51 was really “in” in the 1990s and covered several times, I hope Carter can find a fresh approach for this. It looks like a full season will be produced altogether, without first making a pilot; perhaps this will air as soon as late 2014, but probably it will be early 2015.

All in all, 2014-2015 is shaping to be a very interesting period for Carter!

XFL/ETC exclusive: Chris Carter interview!

I am very grateful to Matt Allair at The X-Files Lexicon for giving me the opportunity to contribute to the interview he conducted with Chris Carter very recently! Truly, this is an honor and one of the big highlights for Matt’s XFL and for EatTheCorn: getting to talk with the source of it all, the mind behind The X-Files, Millennium, Harsh Realm, The Lone Gunmen, and now The After!

Carter has been doing several interviews promoting The After: TV Guide, The Verge, KLTA, TV Wise, X-Files News, Studio System News, and even an “As Me Anything” at Reddit — unprecedented for someone who hasn’t been too keen on using social networks!

The pilot for The After is available for viewing worldwide with a single registration to Amazon.com, and viewer reviews should still be factored in in Amazon’s decision process to turn it into a series or not — a decision it might be making in a few days’ or weeks’ time! As a bonus, an IMDB poll that Amazon is looking at.

The XFL interview is available here. Or you can find it below!

CarterTheAfterSet

Photo: Chris Carter directing on ‘The After’ Set; still courtesy of Amazon Studios

Chris Carter: Hi Matt, how are you?

Matt Allair: Hi Chris. It’s a great honor to speak with you. I really enjoyed the pilot and congratulations on the show.

Chris: Thank you so much.

Orodromeus: We first heard about The After well over a year ago, in October 2012, when Marc Rosen had been promoting it to the MIPCOM expo. For how long have you been actually developing this story?

Chris: I had the idea about six years ago, and then I finally sat down to write it about two years ago, so that’s pretty much the timetable.

Matt: The X-Files and Millennium thematically had a dialog between science and religion; will The After be a continuation of that dialog, or do you see it going in a completely different direction?

Chris: No, I think for me, those were the two big questions in life (chuckle) and so they inform everything, even if they don’t inform it directly. So I’m sure you’ll see those questions come up, but hopefully in as entertaining a way as possible.

Orodromeus: Selling The X-Files to FOX famously involved bringing forth statistics about alien abductions in the USA. What did it take to sell The After?

Chris: Really the script just sort of sold itself. I got it out there, Amazon saw it and liked it, which is pretty much all of the sales pitch I had. I met with Joe Lewis from Amazon once and we had a nice conversation, but beyond that I think the script sold itself.

Matt: You have been known for your innovative casting decisions. The After has an interesting range of fairly new actors; are there any current actors you’ve worked with who really stand out?

Chris: I think the whole cast is excellent, of course. Four have never been seen [before], certainly in the US, Louise Monot who’s our French actress. It was kind of a miracle that we were able to cast her, because we were told that she couldn’t get a work VISA, etc…But, I think she actually became available before we started shooting.

Orodromeus: You recently mentioned in interviews that you felt there is more freedom and flexibility in cable television instead of network television. What has been your experience with the new medium of online distribution so far? What are your expectations?

Chris: Well, my expectations are that this is the future. So while I think that while it’s new to me, and new to many, it will become the norm. I’m not, of course, used to the idea that you make something and then it’s put on trial, as it were, with a jury of hundreds-of-thousands of people. That’s a new experience, but it’s exciting at the same time.

Matt: Your track record for bringing in important writers who do groundbreaking work is quite impressive. Have your criteria changed over the years? Are there certain strengths you always look for when you hire a writer?

Chris: Yes, that they are imaginative, that they are in sync with my characters as I’ve imagined them, and the concept of the show, but mostly that they’ve had a body of work that shows originality.

Orodromeus: Over ten years have passed since your last show went off the air, yet there are still strong followers of that work, be it online communities of The X-Files and Millennium or the comics continuation of The X-Files. How does the creator feel to see his work live on in these ways? Is there a sense of pride and accomplishment, or rather a need to distance yourself so as to focus on new creative endeavors?

Chris: I don’t feel the need to distance myself, I always want to do something that excites me, that I feel is different and hopefully original, and I think that’s what we’ve got here with The After. For me, it’s a miracle that 20 years later people are still as interested in The X-Files as they are. There’s a whole new generation interested, and that’s amazing to me. Is that an once-in-a-lifetime experience? Maybe, I hope not.

Matt: Has Amazon Studios given you a lot of support in the production of the Pilot?

Chris: Amazon was terrific. They had really smart notes that helped make the project better which is what you want with a partner. They have been a terrific support for us and a guiding light.

Orodromeus: The After has a whole new crew. Can we expect to see any of the people you collaborated with previously in the crew?

Chris: It’s always hard to tell because people are busy, and certainly good people are always in demand. You know, it will be a combination of who wants to come work on the show – that we’ve worked with before because we love working with friends and other collaborators. But we are also looking forward to working with some new folks and faces.

Matt: Will this show being developed for AMC go in a completely different direction from The After? Is there anything new you are willing to share about this other project?

Chris: I’m not able to talk about it, but it’s not really directly connected to The After. I think you’ll see there is connective tissue there, but not obvious tissue. It based on a book that was given to me by AMC. I read that book, I didn’t see how it could be a TV series. They asked me to read it again, I did, and all of a sudden it just hit me–how you could do it. So that’s where I am in the process.

Matt: Back when you started as a writer for Disney and NBC, you worked on developing cop shows and family comedies, I even recall you wrote a script based on your surfing experiences. Now that you are getting back into television, would you like work in a genre outside of what you are known for?

Chris: Yeah, I’m interested in so many things that all of a sudden to become stereotyped as a science fiction writer. It’s funny to me because I never would have described myself as that before The X-Files. I did write something based on my–less my surfing experiences than my experiences with the surf culture–when I graduated from college. I did my journalism internship at Surfing magazine. I ended up staying at the magazine for five years. I had a tremendous experience and education there that was not just about the surf world, but about business, but about putting something out serially. So, that was a fantastic experience and I’d love to write about that–and in fact I did with a script that never got made. I’d love to revisit that.

Orodromeus: With the wide use of internet and discussion boards, the days of The X-Files were an important moment for the audience-creator interaction. Now it appears like viewer feedback for the pilot of The After will be part of the evaluation of the project on behalf of Amazon. Could you discuss the process a bit, and whether you see this as helpful or not?

Chris: I’m not reading the comments, it’s only helpful to me in that other people are and it’s helping them to evaluate responses that I’d call are more personal, in a personalized way. For me, as I have always done, I am going to try tell a story, a saga, that is interesting to me, because if I don’t do that–it’s beyond me to do that–I don’t know how to do something that doesn’t interest me on some kind of deeper level.

Matt Allair: With your previous projects, you have been known for developing mythology arcs, as well as stand-alone tales, will The After follow similar formats to your past work, or will it be more like the usual episodic television format?

Chris: It will be more like my past work. It will have a mythology, but it will have stand-alone episodes, as well.

Orodromeus: Hopefully The After will move forward with a full series order. How clear set are the other episodes? Would you work with other writers to develop them?

Chris: I do, yes, we will sit with the writers. They will sit with me and Gabe Rotter, the co-executive producer, and we will plot the series. If we are so lucky to go to series, there are no guarantees here even though I think the response has been positive, you just never know. It could go either way.

Matt Allair: Now that you have a few features under your belt, are you gaining more confidence as a director? You’ve worked with many directors in television over a decade; did they help influence or shape your choices with The After?

Chris: Absolutely. David Nutter originally was extremely helpful to me. My first episode, my first directing experience, David really helped me. He dug in there, he actually blocked scenes for me to show me how he did it, and it showed me, not only his style, but the economy and the way he thought about shots and editorial. That was extremely helpful to me. I’m still working off those lessons. Rob Bowman and Kim Manners in particular were very, very instructive. They had such a vast experience in television. They knew how to go fast, but to make it beautiful and cinematic. I’ll never forget Kim who’s no longer with us. In every episode, he tried to do something with a great degree of difficulty. I was talking to Bill Roe, the DP on the last four years of the show, and he said that in fact, ‘that’s right, Kim would always try something that was too hard’ during the show, and that’s what I think made his episodes stand out and that made the show visually superior.

Matt: Thank you so much for taking time to do this.

Chris: Thank you so much.

So much more could have been asked and said, that goes without saying, but of course the object of this interview was his most recent piece of work (covered on EatTheCorn here and here). What’s more, with this interview and others, we got hints of not just one additional project (the untitled AMC show) but more as well, and non-genre to boot — namely, a potential adaptation of his wife’s Dori Carter interconnected short stories We Are Rich, and a potential revisit to an old idea of his on surfing. It is great to see Carter active again!

Chris Carter’s “The After” Released

EatTheCorn covered extensively the pre-production of Chris Carter’s new project, the pilot for “The After” for Amazon Studios. After shooting in October-November, the pilot was released on February 6 along with 9 other pilots in Amazon Original Series’ “pilot season”.

theafter-ouroboros

Eight strangers are thrown together by mysterious forces and must help each other survive in a violent world that defies explanation.

The 55-min pilot can be viewed at Amazon.com (for free, and from anywhere in the world, with a simple Amazon account). The television landscape is changing radically, with new distribution means come also new evaluation methods: viewer feedback will be taken into account on whether “The After“, or any of the 10 pilots released, will be ordered to full series!

This is Carter’s first production to see the light of the public since 2008, and 2002 before that! Carter is writing and directing; it is his first pilot that he is also directing. A “Spedis Owl” (with the voice-over “Who Made This?”) production logo has replaced the Ten Thirteen logo.

As for the content itself… admittedly, colour me underwhelmed. Characters, dialogue, plot, directing and general visuals are what one would expect from a generic Hollywood production. The whole thing feels a lot like the profusion of series that tried and still try to replicate Lost‘s popular success (Invasion, FlashForward, The Event, Revolution…), which is ironic given how Lost at times felt like it had taken inspiration from The X-Files; all these are shows that do not attract me in the least. Many of Carter’s trademark signs — concentration on few tortured and idealistic characters, dark photography, introspective ambiance — are absent here, nevertheless less important trademark signs abound (the ouroboros above, 1013, 1121…). Despite all this, by its very nature of serialized mystery storytelling, this is a concept that would need more time to be developed, what we have now are merely random glimpses of the whole mystery and starting points for future character arcs. Promotional material since 2012 have described “The After” as a 13 episode project.

Stay tuned for another exciting “The After“-related development for EatTheCorn!