The Real Secret War: Jordan Raskin talks "Industry Of War"

Mon, August 22nd, 2005 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Arune Singh, Staff Writer

There's a lot of talks about comebacks in the comic book industry, from DC Comics' Supergirl to upcoming return of Marvel Comics' Moon Knight. Both those have had significant time between incarnations… unlike the comeback of fan favorite "Industry of War," from Image Comics & Desperado Publishing. Debuting in 2004 to positive review, the military-conspiracy series has been MIA for almost a year, but writer/artist Jordan Raskin recently told CBR News that "IOW" will be back and stronger than ever. Though there was quite a bit of Hollywood interest around Desperado Publishing's "Industry Of War," the series disappeared quickly and Raskin was happy to address that situation.

"Initially, 'Industry of War' was previewed as part of Mark Texeira's 'Pscythe' in two 16 page installments," Raskin told CBR News. "These issues came out in September and October of 2004. I already had another 16 pager finished at that time and was moving forward fast on what would have been my fourth installment, but as fate would have it, things were about to change in a number of ways which would affect the future of 'Pscythe/Industry of War.' Some I can talk about and some I can't.

"The stuff I can talk about is that right around that time, I was contacted by Daniel Alter of Alter/Sun Management. He had read the Image Comics solicitation preview and liked the high concept of 'Industry of War' so he contacted me about the idea of taking it to Hollywood before the book even came out. Music to my ears considering I had the entire

story written as a draft screenplay already. To that end, Daniel said he could partner me up with Ron Shusett (the co-creator, writer and producer of 'Alien,' 'Total Recall' and 'Minority Report'). Of course, I was thrilled at the idea. I mean who isn't a fan of this man's work? As luck would have it, I was contemplating a move to California anyway so this was just the thing that I needed to go for it. I was already ahead of schedule on my half of the book and working on issue 4, so off to California I went. For readers who don't already know, when you do your own book through Image Comics, they don't pay you up front to work on it. You only get paid from sales of the book after it's on the stands. This makes doing your own book a financial hardship. During my move, Tex started working on other projects to earn some money again so that's what's been delaying him from putting together more material for his book. Can't blame the guy, ya gotta pay the bills first, ya know?

All pencils are from "Industry of War: Act One"

"Anyway, I touched down in California and favoring my lead in the schedule, had creative meetings with Daniel (my manager) and Ron Shusett. Now during the previous year, I decided I wanted to get into film making as a writer/director/producer. To that end, I wrote, produced, directed and edited my first short film. Sort of like a trial by fire film school ala Robert Rodriguez. It was an amazing and valuable experience. I think anyone who wants to be a screenwriter should take the time to do the same because it really teaches you how the written word translates to screen. Anyway, just before we had our creative meeting, I sat down and read my original draft of 'Industry of War' which

I co-wrote with Andrew Lelling. Man oh man was I surprised to realize I didn't have a screenplay at all. I had a comic book script written in screenplay form. After my learning experience with my short film, I realized I couldn't submit this script to Hollywood and get a favorable response. The original script I wrote needed structure. Worked great as

a comic, but would have dragged as a film. At the creative meeting, Ron Shusett and Daniel explained what studio executives would be looking for in a blockbuster action film and echoed my own feelings about the script. But I was ready for that and I verbally hammered out all the solutions to the problems in a three hour meeting which they both really liked. I then sat down and wrote a treatment for the new direction the feature film version would take. Ron went over it with his experienced eye and ironed out some clarifying language here and there, but really felt I nailed it overall. Then came time for our second meeting and this is where some of the major delays for my book would come from.

"Little did I know, that when you pitch a project to Hollywood, it's not your manager and/or agent who does this, but you, the writer who has to go on the pitch meetings and verbally detail your story from A to Z within a 20 minute window. Wow... Ok, that changed things. Now mind you, I consider myself to be fairly articulate and capable of pitching my project. But the idea of making or breaking a deal based on my salesmanship abilities was too much of a gamble, so I opted to go the longer route. Since Tex was still working on making a living, I opted to take the time to re-write my draft of Industry of War from scratch as a spec script. This went on with Ron and myself over a 6 month period. I'd turn in parts of the script for Ron to look over when I got each act

finished. Act's 1 and 2 read really well but I found that by the time I got to the end of act 3, the film was suffering from action fatigue. Too much action throughout and by the end, you're actually bored by the action because there's just too much of it. I knew more would have to come out, but I had written this thing so tightly that even Ron wasn't sure where to cut (at first). The problem was all of the action was plot oriented. If you cut from one part, it would leave a plot hole down the road. Well, once I had the whole thing written, I spent the better part of an evening at Ron's house sitting next to him narrating out loud the script from beginning to end. The creepy thing is how much of a psychic Ron is, lol... Before we started cutting, Ron said it feels like we need to get out a total of 9 pages to make it work. Not 8, not 10, but 9. He said this without knowing where the cuts were going to come from. As it turned out, it wasn't the third act that was the problem, but the second act. Even though acts 1 and 2 moved really well structure wise, there was so much action in it that by the end, you're overloaded and start tuning out. Ron associated this with the feeling of overeating a really great meal. By the end, even though you want to keep eating, you're too full and just want to stop. So anyway, we shaved out about 8 pages and we both felt it was worlds better, but we still (privately) felt like it was getting tiresome by the end. Only I wasn't sure if the script was fatigued or we were fatigued from reading it out loud for so many hours. Got home at 3am, went to bed, then woke up the next morning and on my own found another full page to take out. BANG! That was it. 9 pages exactly and Ron's prediction was 100% on the nose. Now it moves like a

freight train on crack. So funny how the answer was right there in my face and I just couldn't see it until the next morning. Ron said he did that exact same prediction with Dan O'Bannon (co-writer/creator of 'Alien') as well and O'Bannon called him a witch [laughs].

"On a geek note: You have no idea how cool it was to be sitting there with Ron Shusett, the co-creator, writer and producer of 'Alien,' editing my script. I told him that too and went into my story about the first time I didn't see 'Alien.' That was because I was 10 years old and went with my father and his friend when it came out in theaters. The moment that guy started wriggling around on the table I put my head into my father's lap and only listened to the rest of the film until the credits rolled. That actually made the fear worse! [laughs] Ron was laughing. He's a really great and gracious guy and it was a blast to work with him on this.

"Anyway, we recently finished that draft and really think we have an amazing and smart action film on our hands. We're about to take it out for submission, but as the unlucky timing would have it, Hollywood largely shuts down from now until Labor Day so we have a little delay on our hands right now. I spent a lot of time being careful to avoid plot

holes and write a smart action film that has action for story sake. Trust me when I say that If it gets made, this is the kind of movie fans will want to go and see on the big screen over and over again."

Suffice it to say, Raskin will be approaching this new "Industry of War" series a bit differently and explained how the last year has changed his approach to the book. "Well, the plans are to draw the entire self contained story in larger chunks. The change to this approach came about from necessity on two fronts. The first of which is, hey, Tex doesn't have time to work on his book at the moment. He's gotta pay the bills so what are you gonna do? But the second reason to me is even more important. Since the story largely follows a screenplay structure, the story wasn't written with 16 page installments in mind. In hindsight, I found that 16 pages just wasn't enough room to create a satisfying read so I kind of came to the conclusion I wouldn't be able to continue publishing in the mini anthology format. Time will tell on future issues how they breakdown in terms of page count. But my overall goal is to make sure each issue leaves off on a satisfying story point. I want to give readers more content for their buck and give them a reason to find out what happens next."

With such a large gap between issues, Raskin realizes that some readers won't be quite as up to date on events in the book and was happy to re-introduce readers to the specifics of the book. "Do you remember the end of 'Raiders of the Lost Ark?' Remember that

enormous warehouse they put the arc of the covenant in? What if I told you that all those boxes you saw contained malfunctioning experimental military weaponry? Stuff that the government was developing, but just didn't work right.

"Now what if I told you that when the military was downsized in the early 90's, most of what was in those warehouses was accidentally shipped out as harmless surplus goods and ended up in the hands of the general public at large (or worse, the black market!)? What if things like the Columbine incident and The Uni-bomber were really cover stories the Government was using to hide the fact that their missing malfunctioning weapons were really to blame for those massacres?

"Welcome to the Industry of War. Secretly, the military has covert cells of agents scouring the world, here and abroad, hunting these missing dangerous weapons down. Our lead introduction story follows a cell of two agents, Michael Landry and James Vansanto, hunting down various missing biosymbiotic weapon suits called P.C.A's (Personal Combat Apparatus). But the latest item on their retrieval list will prove to be

their most difficult when they discover it was programmed with an assassination mission during the first gulf war. ..A mission it never got a chance to complete..! Over the course of the story, they uncover the existence of the mission through their detective work in tracking it down to Eddie Vierra, a newly reformed New York City gang-banger. Eddie

is just being released from prison wanting to leave his past behind him and live a normal life. But that's not going to happen because he's about to accidentally find that PCA, and after it attaches itself to him in a parasitic manner, its flawed design will drive him insane while filling him with the desire to complete that long awaited gulf war assassination mission.

"Now this particular PCA model is referred to as a "Bodyblade" unit. Basically, its an infantry combat harness (worn as a suit) which fuses itself with you when you put it on. But it can't simply be taken off like your jacket. Once it's on, it has to be surgically removed.

"It's called a Bodyblade because it sports various retractable gauntlet and joint blades combined with neurological computer enhancements, providing instant training to the wearer in all hand to hand combat and firearms techniques. The intent behind the bladed weapon design was for use as a viable backup should a foot soldier find himself in a close

combat situation without firearm ammunition. If the weapon worked right it would be amazing and turn a single soldier into a one man army. But the design concepts for these weapons were more ambitious than current technology would be able to execute and these things malfunction, BIG TIME! In general the onboard computer gets confused by the user's strong emotional issues and misinterprets them as combat orders. For example:

if you were wearing one while being upset with your mother in-law this week, the Bodyblade would believe its mission would be to take her out. This makes the wearer a threat to everyone around him. Especially innocents."

While each of the main characters has their own distinct story, which Raskin intends to tell to the very end, the scribe says there's a common theme linking these tales together. "Largely this is a morality tale. Eddie's decided in prison he no longer wants to live the life which earned him his reputation for being the most dangerous gang banger on the streets of Manhattan. The PCA unit he wears becomes an enabling device for him and he might as well have made a deal with the devil. He'll have to weigh finding a way to remove it versus succumbing to it's mental suggestions for him to seek revenge and

complete the mysterious assassination mission now embedded in his head.

"Then there's our retrieval agents. First up is Michael Landry: He's rumpled, sloppy, but dedicated to his job. Distrustful of his superiors motivations, Landry tempers his choices in the field from a sense of honor and morality. He's not one to simply follow orders. He questions them and uses his position in the game with the intent of keeping innocent people from being killed.

"Then there's his partner, James Vansanto: Also dedicated, but an absolute letter of the rule book kind of guy. He never questions orders and while he's torn between doing his duty vs. saving lives, he doesn't let morality get in the way of the job that needs to get done. Loss of life, no matter how innocent, is acceptable to him if it serves the greater purpose of completing his mission. The agents at odds philosophies will create a tense relationship between them more often than not.

"There are other characters we'll be introduced to, but to explain too much will give away too many story points and I don't want to turn this into a spoiler review."

If you missed the first two shout "Industry of War" tales, rest assured that you'll be taken care of- Raskin is making sure everyone can jump into the series with ease. "What I've done is I've collected the previous two 16 page installments in this first issue and added to it an additional 40 pages of new material. This will very much be a starting point for everyone who wants to read the book. I kind of look at the previously published

16 pagers as teaser stories. Sort of like the appetizer before a big meal. And, uhhh... here comes the main course [smiles]."

If there's any doubt that this book is a real passion for Raskin, just look at credits on the book- he's responsible for virtually every aspect of the book. "I've done the adapting of the original script by myself and Andrew Lelling, the pencils, inks, tones, letters... hell, even the production is being done by me."

CBR Executive Producer Jonah Weiland Contributed To This Story.

 
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