"The A-Team: Shotgun Wedding," one of two biweekly comic book miniseries from IDW Publishing leading up to the big-screen remake of the popular 1980s action heroes, finds the team taking on an undercover mission when they ought to be on vacation. Co-plotted by the movie's director Joe Carnahan and written by Tom Waltz with art by Stephen Mooney, issues #1 and #2 ship in March. CBR previously spoke with Chuck Dixon, who is writing the other miniseries "The A-Team: War Stories" with Erik Burnham, and we now bring you an interview with Waltz on his corner of the A-Team's universe.
"Without giving too much of the movie away, IDW's 'A-Team: Shotgun Wedding' takes place somewhere between the opening sequence of the film (which works as a prologue to the official formation of the team) and the film's main story, which details how the A-Team, now an official black ops arm of the government, finds itself unwillingly on the wrong side of the law," Waltz told CBR. "'Shotgun Wedding' is an all-new original story of one of the missions the team finds itself on while still operating as a legit unit, though in the case of our story, the mission itself is about as unorthodox as each member of the A-Team.
"Basically, the guys have just finished a successful - but freezing cold and bullet-riddled - black op in Alaska, and are just about to enjoy a long overdue (and sunny) vacation on a wedding cruise leaving from San Diego, through the Panama Canal, and on to Miami, when the strange mission mentioned above lands with a thud in their collective laps," the writer continued. "The father of the bride, a prominent retired general and old Army Ranger friend of Hannibal's, informs the team that he has been receiving deadly threats against his daughter, and he would like the team to do him the favor of going undercover on the cruise to help foil whatever murderous plot has been hatched against his little girl. The team agrees, and Hannibal - in true Hannibal fashion - concocts a wacky plan to allow the team to work covertly... yet out in the open. What follows, of course, is the kind of explosive zaniness only the A-Team can bring to a military black ops mission - plenty of bullets, bombs, and belly laughs."
Many readers may be familiar with these characters from the '80s television show, and Waltz said that those versions of the characters remain largely intact in the upcoming film, and thus in "Shotgun Wedding." "To be honest, other than new actors taking up the famous roles, and a bit of a timeline update to make them feel more contemporary (the guys are all now Desert Storm vets rather than Vietnam vets), the core spirit of the original '80s team still exists in this modern incarnation," the writer said. "The first thing I told IDW Editor-in-Chief Chris Ryall when I read the movie script was, 'Damn... this is a great A-Team story!' Everything felt right and included: Hannibal's knack (and tendency) for off-the-wall mission planning; Face's prowess with procurement, persuasion, and passion; Murdock's ability to operate anything that flies despite his odd behavior (is he really insane or an insanely good actor?); and, of course, B.A.'s driving aptitude, which is only matched by his tough attitude."
Waltz's own military background has a bearing on how he perceives "The A-Team," and here too his assessment of the new film is favorable. "One thing I've really appreciated as a former Marine and Desert Storm vet, is that the studio - especially director (and 'Shotgun Wedding' co-plotter) Joe Carnahan - has strived to ensure that the team's Airborne Ranger pasts and special operations expertise are not lost in the shuffle, but instead are displayed front-and-center in all their adventures, both on the movie screen and the printed page," Waltz said. "All craziness aside, this new A-Team are soldiers and special operators first and conduct themselves as such. All this and Jessica Biel! (And before anyone accuses me of being sexist, the writers have penned an awesome role for Ms. Biel as a Department of Defense agent pursuing the A-Team - she's got plenty of great dialogue and tough action moments in the flick and makes for a great foil to the team... especially Face). Honestly, I totally dug what I read in the script, have loved everything I've seen from the movie stills so far, and can't wait to see this baby on the Big Screen."
As to his recollection of the original "A-Team," Waltz told CBR, "I was a pre-teen when the show hit the airwaves in the '80s, and I - like the rest of my buddies - was hooked from the very start."
"From an early age, I had an affinity for folks in the military, in particular Vietnam Vets (thankfully, my mom and dad made sure I understood all sides to the Vietnam War, not just the negative spin that was oddly popular in much of the mainstream media of the time), so seeing these guys acting as - and being treated as - heroes was absolutely appealing to me personally. And, c'mon! Explosions; flipping cars; a muscle-bound, mohawked brute with a heart (and chains) of gold; a slick lover boy who could steal a woman's heart as easily as he could steal an Abrams tank; a loony-toons pilot who could fly multiple aircraft and speak even more languages; and a John Wayne-ish leader who chomped cigars and grinned bravely while ducking bullets and returning fire - what's not to love in all of that?! And that kick-ass opening montage and theme song - let's not forget those!"
In our earlier chat with Chuck Dixon, who is writing a separate series of character spotlights that lead into the film, we asked him what makes for a successful franchise reboot, given that many properties from the 1970s and '80s have seen big-screen remakes and not all have been met with acclaim. "The key to any re-make or re-launch is to find what made it work and go with that," Dixon explained. CBR put the same question to Waltz, who concurred while adding a few caveats and metaphors. "I think this depends on the property and the medium it originally existed in. For example, some '80s (and '70s... yeah, I'm dating myself) films stand that test of time in my opinion, and should have been (or should be) left alone - movies like 'The Bad News Bears' and all the great John Carpenter sci-fi and horror classics of the era come immediately to mind," Waltz said. "I'd love to see all these remastered with modern digital technology, but the stories are fine just as they are and require no remakes. Reviving '80s TV shows, however, is a different story because those existed in a weekly adventure format, so there is always room for more tales if handled correctly. And what is correctly? I feel correctly means staying true to the core spirit of the original version - you can change timelines, you can change actors who portray the characters, you can change locations - but do not deviate from what made it popular in the first place. If it ain't broken, why fix it? Just do what the computer geeks do - upgrade! And by that, I mean modern special effects, exciting new actors... things of that nature. But, in the end, keep it real and keep it recognizable. In the case of 'A-Team' for example, Hannibal should act like Hannibal and nobody else. And I'm happy to say, that's what I believe the studio and IDW have accomplished in our new 'A-Team' adventures."
In addition to the bi-weekly "A-Team: Shotgun Wedding," Waltz recently wrote a weekly prelude miniseries for another upcoming film, the angel invasion flick "Legion." "There are a number of things that attract me to these projects, the first of which any creator will identify with: the challenge," Waltz said of pre-movie worldbuilding comics. "It's not necessarily an easy thing to take someone else's creation and work on it to a point where you can both maintain the integrity of the original creator's intent, while simultaneously making it your own in some ways. And that really is only possible with a cohesive collaboration, which is the second thing that attracts me to this type of project. With 'Legion: Prophets' and 'Legion' director/writer Scott Stewart, and now with 'A-Team: Shotgun Wedding' and 'A-Team' director Joe Carnahan, I've been fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with talented filmmakers with clear visions of what they want to present to the viewing public - both in the theaters and comic books. Yet, they have also been very open to input that I, as the co-plotter and script writer, have had along the way, allowing me to incorporate my own ideas and writing style in much of the story-telling process. Mr. Carnahan has also given our 'A-Team: War Stories' co-writers Chuck Dixon and Erik Burnham the same creative elbow room, and I know for a fact they are having just as much fun with the A-Team as I am.
"Oh, and last but not least by any means, we've got some great artwork being done on our books by a fantastically diverse group of artists, both interiors and covers - Stephen Mooney, Michael Gaydos, Casey Maloney, John K. Snyder III, Hugo Petrus, Alberto Muriel, and Guiu Vlianova, with breathtaking colors by German Torres, Ruben Cubiles, Gerry Kissell, Jason Wright, and Josh Perez. The look of our comics will be as high-octane as the stories!
"I love it when a plan comes together."