Once again, Top Cow Productions has big plans for their annual Pilot Season event, revealing this year’s crop of single-issue contenders at Saturday's "We Create…Excitement" panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego. Comic Book Resources nabbed the first exclusive interview with writer Alan McElroy on his entry, "Anonymous," one of eight titles vying for fans' votes online and a full-series pick-up from the publisher
The book, to be drawn by an as-yet-unnamed artist, finds former assassin Marcus Walsh trying to make a new life for himself and make amends for some of the jobs he pulled in his past. CBR News spoke with McElroy about his involvement in this year's Pilot Season, how writing screenplays is different than comics and where the story picks up for hitman Walsh.
"We find Marcus in Los Angeles, adrift and emotionally at war with his own demons," McElroy said. "In the midst of this he comes upon a woman and her young son. The woman appears to be in an abusive relationship, and Marcus, desperately needing to balance the scales in his own life, finds himself drawn into her dilemma…not realizing that this simple act will open a door to a much larger and very dangerous world of violence and urban crime."
But what could lead a man whose job consisted of murdering people for years to drop off the face of the earth, thus quitting his job and becoming anonymous?
"Marcus has reached a point where he doesn't recognize himself anymore," McElroy said. "He's lost touch with his humanity and also realizes that the black-ops world has become so grey that he's not sure who the bad guys are anymore. Has he become one of them? And worst of all…is he OK with that? He looks at the killing fields in front of him and says, 'No more.'"
McElroy likened the experience of entering "Anonymous" in the comic book version of "American Idol" to working on an actual television pilot, noting that the most important focus needs to be on character development.
"I think what you want to do in something like this is give people a sense of the
character," McElroy said. "Who is Marcus Walsh, and how does he deal with the situations he comes upon? In the end, you want to leave the readers wanting to see more of the character and where his story will lead. The one-shot itself doesn't need to be overly complicated, as that could overshadow the character's introduction. The nature of a pilot is to launch a series, and to do that you have to provide an appetizer, not the entire meal."
No stranger to the world of comics with titles like "Curse of Spawn" and "Spawn: Blood and Salvation" under his belt, McElroy switched up his approach this time around.
"I realize that I can't bombard the artist with narrative action that he has no way to portray on the page," McElroy said. "The book would be 100 pages long if I wrote the action as I would in a screenplay. I'm fascinated by the minimalist nature of some comic books. One of the mistakes I made in my previous go-round in writing comics was loading up the pages with description and dialogue. One of the things I've purposely tried to do with this book is rely on the artist. Let the images portray tone, mood and emotion. Comics are a visual medium, and I think this story will benefit from a less is more mindset that will allow it to feel very grounded and almost film noir."
It should come as no surprise, considering McElroy's history in the creative field -- his screenwriting credits include "Spawn," "Wrong Turn" and the "Tekken" film -- that the idea behind "Anonymous" was actually born from another project.
"[Top Cow President] Matt Hawkins approached me with this idea, and as it turned out I'd been playing around with a TV series idea called 'Assassin' that grappled with the same notions or violence and the long road to redemption," McElroy revealed. "It was very natural for me to transition to 'Anonymous' as I've wanted to create a character like this for years -- trying to humanize the aftermath and the cost of a secret career of violence."