Top Cow's 2011 group of Pilot Season titles boasts a number of impressive names, but only one can be seen on television every Sunday. Lance Briggs, whose "Pilot Season: Seraph" just came out, also happens to be a linebacker for the Chicago Bears. A lifelong comic book fan, Number 55 has teamed with writer Phil Hester and artist Jose Luis to tell the tale of Seraph, a man who, after trying to kill himself, discovers that not only is he not dead, he's been imbued with supernatural powers.
While on a trip to Top Cow headquarters, the company expressed interest in the concept of "Seraph," an idea Briggs had in his head for a while. The football pro immediately set to work on a bible for the series, resulting in about 30 characters and various scenarios that Hester combed through to develop their Pilot Season one-shot in hopes that it will be the gateway for a full series. CBR News spoke with Briggs about the book's origin, the main character's demons and the story's larger themes of religion and faith.
"'Seraph' is a story about redemption," Briggs told CBR News. "It combines faith with action and it explores what it means to believe -- to not only believe, but to believe in something. He's a character that is very conflicted with life, reclaiming some kind of faith in life itself as well as his faith in God. It's very reality-based, so I don't think people should get caught up in thinking it's too religious or not religious enough. It's got the right balance. There's a lot of action, he's got some great powers, some great enemies -- vote it number one! 'Seraph' will be a title that will take off."
Speaking to the story, Briggs explains that the man known only as Seraph doesn't have much guidance after being resurrected, though he does quickly discover he has a series of tasks to complete.
"On the first mission, he learns that there are rules to his power, there are things happening in life that he doesn't understand, and it all starts to take shape," Briggs said. "You also have the form of the beginning and the end, the main evil character who is also his guardian angel, sitting down in a coffee shop [to discuss] the future and how God and heaven have disrupted the balance of heaven and Earth, bringing him back to life when he's supposed to be either in Hell or caught in Limbo, between Heaven and Hell."
In the Pilot Season one-shot, Briggs and Hester send Seraph on his first mission, and it's not an easy one. "He's trying to find a kidnapped child. She's the daughter of a crack addict mother. Eventually, the mother sold her out," Briggs said. "He's basically going to get her back. He uncovers a bigger kidnapping ring. The character that he's fighting is also one of the characters that he's going to meet later on, in the larger picture. He was one of the 28 different characters that Phil could have picked from. I think he picked the right one [to make this] story work."
Discussing the genesis of the project, the linebacker explained to CBR that it all came about through the good luck of being in the right place at the right time. "While I was [visiting the Top Cow studios], I was asked to pitch a few story ideas," Briggs said. "When I pitched 'Seraph,' president and chief editor Filip Sablik loved the idea. We talked about a pairing and paired me up with Phil Hester. From there, I was sent some artist [samples], and Phil Hester and I both agreed that Jose Luis would be the best fit. [Luis] not only wanted to do the cover, but also wanted to do the interiors."
In working with Hester on developing the one-shot, Briggs explained that he presented the writer with about 100 pages of material to work from. Hester then built the Pilot Season issue out of that.
"I had a year to put create the story," Briggs said. "I pieced a lot of characters together and, really, created a whole universe. I gave the material to Phil Hester, and once he read it, he got back to me and was really excited about it. Then what we had to do was take a piece of the story and create it as a teaser. We needed to bring the audience in, [while holding back] a whole lot more for the audience to learn [in future issues]. He did an amazing job taking some of the characters and tying them [together]. I loved the story and the art -- the way he wrote it couldn't have been any better."
Briggs and Hester both agreed that Jose Luis' artwork fit the story best out of the samples Top Cow sent to both creators. Indeed, Briggs' favorite part of the whole endeavor was seeing the first images of Seraph, even if, as he said, they looked "kind of Blade-ish" before revision.
"When they sent over the artwork from different artists, [Luis'] stood out," Briggs said. "He did some Hulk [samples], and a lot of the figures he did were very detailed, chiseled guys. He added an element that we were looking for in a hero. I thought that all of the artists were good, some were better for facial features, but his art made me feel like these are heroes."
Briggs explained that while he's been imaginative since childhood, he never really knew how to translate those ideas into comic books. "I've always been into comics," Briggs said. "Pitching a comic book and pitching a concept is something I've wanted to do, because I wanted to see if I had any relevance to the comic book industry. I don't want to stub any toes as a football player by pitching a comic book idea, but I wanted to see if people thought there was something there. I always thought there was something [in 'Seraph'], but didn't know how to tap into the industry."
While Briggs wondered about breaking into one industry, he was already making a name for himself in another. And while many people might believe comics and football don't mix, Briggs said his teammates have been interested in "Seraph."
"They all want a copy of the first issue," Briggs laughed. "When I started telling the story, a lot of people, they were interested. They'd quote different scriptures and say that reminded them of this. They liked that there's religion, but that it's also reality-based. It's something that a lot of people can follow."
Lance Briggs' "Seraph" is available in stores now.