|Art from "Drones"|
Hacking into government computer systems, particularly highly-sensitive military combat networks, is generally frowned upon.
But in “Drone,” a four-issue miniseries starting in November from Red 5, three irresponsible buddies in way over their heads just might wrest America's top-secret robot fighting forces from the enemy's grasp. The series is written by Scott Chitwood with art by Randy Kintz, and CBR caught up with Chitwood for a quick chat about the project.
“Drone” takes place in a near future where the military is able to pilot humanoid machines to fight certain battles, and focuses on three friends who inadvertently hack into these robots' user interface. These young men are not exactly G.I. Joe action heroes. “They say write what you know, so these characters are based on friends I've known over the years,” Chitwood told CBR. “You've got the friend who is kind of a clown or a joker. You have the quiet one that usually sits back and is entertained while the other friends get in trouble. Each of them brings a specific talent to the table that eventually helps save the day.”
Although some of the first issue's action takes place at a computer screen, our heroes' antics provide worthy diversions. “Early in the process of writing this series, I was told that there's nothing more boring in movies or stories than seeing a character sitting at a computer typing,” Chitwood said. “So these friends also serve the purpose of spicing those scenes up while helping provide exposition. But by issue #3, they discover that they're not so safe sitting at their computer in an apartment in the United States.”
Initially, the three interlopers react to the drones' actions much like a video game, rooting for the good guys to wreak havoc -- until the enemy soldiers attack the American facility housing the robots. “It's very easy to forget that there's a war under way on the other side of the planet. We're so isolated from it that we start becoming immune to the images of people dying on both sides of the lines,” Chitwood said. “Now, when you throw in the element of even the soldiers fighting remotely, we become even more disconnected. I think it's great that soldiers would no longer be in harm's way, but it completely changes the face of warfare.
“So when our hackers initially discover the drone transmissions, they're disconnected [from the situation]. It's their entertainment and their reality TV. It's not until they develop an emotional attachment or human connection to those on the other end that they sit up and take notice,” the writer continued. “I think they have to develop that empathy before they can really achieve their potential and do the right thing. I think anyone conducting remote controlled warfare would need to have a similar connection.”
|Designs from "Drones"|
Chitwood said the world of “Drone” is not much different from our own, save for some advanced technology and an altered political landscape. “I set the war in Kazahkstan because I wanted to stay out of the Middle East. That's been done a lot. Plus it's near China and Russia and I wanted all of them to play a role in this. In my mind the world is on the brink of World War III and for whatever reason, Kazakhstan is in the middle of this mess.”
Designing the titular drones was one of the great challenges of this series. “It's real easy to write about drones in text on a page. It's a whole other thing to create something that doesn't look like it came from 'Star Wars' or 'Transformers' or 'Atomic Robo' or a million other stories,” Chitwood said. “Concept designer Jesse McGibney created a variety of designs, and over time the one we settled on looked like the result of an unholy union between the Honda Asimo robot, an iPod, and a Terminator. I was very happy with the final result.”
Though there are several models of drones, Chitwood said the U.S.A. is the undisputed superpower in robot warfare in this miniseries. “In this story the United States has essentially won the 'Space Race' of drone development. They are the first that have ones that could actually work well in battle. In issue #2 we're introduced to the Gun Hounds. These robots are essentially the Big Dog robot with a large gun on its back. The thing is scary and hilarious at the same time and I could really see these things on a battlefield one day – but the Gun Hounds are actually a failed iteration of the development process. China and Russia are in catch-up mode. And since we always hear stories about Chinese spies sending secrets back overseas, that's a major factor here. Why spend years in development when you can simply steal a working design? So that's at the center of the conflict in this story. The Chinese are helping local rebels capture a group of drones so they can pull one apart and figure out how the critical components tick. That being said, the grand finale does feature US drones battling captured drones in a knock-down drag-out fight.”
“Drone” #1 goes on sale in November from Red 5.
|Art from "Drones"|