THE COMMENTARY TRACK: "Left on Mission" with Chip Mosher

Fri, January 25th, 2008 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

Welcome back for the seventh installment of The Commentary Track. This is the regular Friday feature at CBR in which we invite creators to stop by and talk about their most recent release, often in spoiler-filled detail. Go behind the scenes and into the minds of your favorite creators and flip through their comics with them. It'll be just like a DVD commentary, but without all the awkward pauses.

Part of Boom! Studio's growing line-up of trade paperbacks is this week's release, "Left On Mission." Written by Boom!'s own Marketing and Sales Director, Chip Mosher, the book is a secret agent story filled with romance, international intrigue, and danger around every corner. Here's the official Boom! description:

LEFT ON MISSION tells the story of agent Eric Westfall coming out of retirement to stop a rogue spy from auctioning a stolen hard-drive on the black market for $50 million. Westfall must track down the traitorous Emma, and eliminate her -- despite the fact that the two were once lovers!

The art is by Francesco Francavilla, who's been seen recently at Image in the pages of Rick Remender's "Sorrow" mini-series, and is due to draw the Matt Wagner-written "Zorro" revival at Dynamite later this year.

Chip Mosher took time out of his busy civic duty-minded schedule (see below) to discuss the five issue mini-series collection and the locations seen throughout it with THE COMMENTARY TRACK. This track is as much travelogue as it is craft, making for something different and enjoyable.

As always, there are relatively minor spoilers below.


Chip Mosher: Well, the week my trade paperback comes out I get assigned to jury duty! Fun, huh? So here I am at the Los Angeles Airport Courthouse awaiting selection, when I should be out there having a signing. But, hey, duty calls and I am here to serve. I thought I'd use this commentary to talk about the book in relation to various foreign locales "Left On Mission" takes place. So that said, let's jump right into this...

PAGE 10

On this page we have our titular quote unquote hero, Eric Westfall arriving at the Jose Mart' Airport in Havana, Cuba. Havana is the first of several exotic locales in "Left On Mission" where I have actually been. Back in 1997, I went on a humanitarian mission with a bunch of old S.D.S. types. Let me tell you, Cuba is beautiful. It was incredible to walk around Havana, being transported back in time, especially with all the old cars. Everyone who drives in Cuba is a potential cabby. So, what's great is that you can walk around and find the coolest old car from the '50s and just ask if they'll take you somewhere. Money changes hands and everyone is happy.

With the embargo, I never thought I would be able to actually see the Bay of Pigs or where the U.S.S. Maine exploded, that was a real treat. I also got to visit The Nacionale, which was mobster Meyer Lansky's hotel, the one Coppola made famous as Hyman Roth's hotel in THE GODFATHER PART II. There is just so much mystery and weirdness surrounding Cuba during the Cold War, and it is just so close to the U.S. , that I couldn't imagine a better place for a double agent to be hanging out.

I love this page. Just beautiful. Makes we want to go back!

PAGE 12

This page is really where I put my flag in the ground regarding the storytelling. I really wanted to make "Left On Mission" a super moody action book. I always loved what Larry Hama did with the silent issue of G.I. Joe and I wanted to really push the sequential nature of the comic book medium. Of course, that meant I needed an artist that could pull this off and with Francesco Francavilla I found a perfect partner. Francesco really took what I was trying to do in the script and brought it to another level. He really brought a whole other level to what I envisioned. And where I stumbled, he picked up the slack. I love the pacing of this page and how it plays out. The tension between Eric and Painter is so thick you can cut it with a knife. And what a great introduction to our antagonist Agent Painter, eh? Only nine words of text. Love it! (I can't wait to see what Francesco does with Matt Wagner on "Zorro!")

By the way, this scene takes place on the Prado in Havana which is a tree lined avenue that cars are not allowed to drive down. It is considered one of the sixty greatest public spaces in the world. The avenue runs form the Malec-n on the coast at one end and Old Havana at the other. I walked up and down the Prado almost every day I was in Havana. Francesco made you really feel the huge oak canopies that exist on the Prado in this scene.

PAGES 20 - 22

Here we go again. A great sequential page with off camera violence. I always think that leaving things to the imagination works better in most situations. Here, something is obviously happening to the bad guy Eric and Painter just picked up. I wonder what they are doing to make him bleed so much? Ouch!

I imagined this being on the Carretera Central in Cuba. Which is a highway running across the island that hasn't been really repaired since Castro came to power.

PAGES 38 - 41

Emma arrives! The thing I love about this sequence is that everyone on the team really contributed something to the whole to make these pages great. In the script, I wrote the sequence to have black panels spaced between the action to emulate the effects of strobing - and Francesco knocked it out of the park. Then colorist Martin Thomas called me up and had an idea to make it even cooler by doing fades in the black panels of the action. Once Francesco signed off on that, Martin went to town. This type of collaboration is really the magic of comics to me!

This section takes place in Ibiza, which happens to be the only foreign locale in the whole series that I have not been... except in my mind, if you know what I mean! If you haven't seen one of my favorite films, "Movern Callar," check it out. Great Ibiza scenes in that one, folks!

PAGE 69

Having the two main characters kiss in front of the Washington Monument was the only really light moment of the whole story. I couldn't resist putting a love scene in front of our national phallic symbol. It was too perfect. I love the Washington Monument and especially the story behind it. Most people don't know that the Washington monument was started in the early 1800s by donation. Freemasons and other civic groups donated stones that were used to build the monument. A bunch of the stones were engraved with silly messages that pointed inward. That was until the Pope donated one with a message. The Nativist party members freaked out -- something about a papal conspiracy to control the country or something. So someone stole that stone and dumped it into the Potomac, which effectively stopped the building of monument. It wasn't until 50 years later during Grant's administration that they finished the monument. Of course, by that time the original quarry could not be found. So, if you look closely at the Washington Monument, you will notice the base it a distinctly different color of white than the rest of the monument. Isn't our country great!

If you've never been to D.C., go! It's the best cheap vacation in the U.S. All the great museums are free and you can just spend days visiting all of them. I love D.C.

PAGES 79, 82 - 84

For my honeymoon, the wife and I went to Fes in Morocco, which is just an incredible place. Francesco really nailed the Moroccan architecture on these pages and Martin Thomas went to town for the colors. I was so blessed to work with such two talented guys, neither of which had gone to Morocco. Both relied on the reference photos I gave them, and they did hours of their own research. Francesco and Martin were just totally dedicated to the vision of the book.

In these last two pages I take the reader to one of my favorite places in the world - the famous tanneries of Fes. All the tour guides do the same thing, they rip some mint leaves from a vendor in the market and tell you to put it to your nose. Why? Because when you get up to the platform (Shown on page 84) you are standing about a series of vats filled with cow piss used to tan hides. So let me tell you, you need the mint leaves.

Seriously, how amazing is it to look out and see a tanning operation that has been in operation since 800 A.D without any change in method? Walking around Fes is, like Cuba, walking back into time.

PAGE 88

Here again is one of the places I visited in Morocco, the Panoramic View! It is at this lookout that you get to see a fantastic view of a twelve hundred year old city still populated with over 2 million people. When my wife and I went to see the Panoramic View, our tour guide, unprompted, told us a quote by Anais Nin on Fes. Something really eloquent comparing Fes and its maze like passage ways to the subconscious mind. Of course, this was quite cosmic as my wife had done her Master's Thesis on Nin. So, as the sun was dropped down the horizon, my wife and I just stood there in awe.

PAGES 115 & 116

So here is where our journey ends. Fes has an international music festival, which I didn't know about before my wife and I went back in the day. But I thought it would be a great setting for the last big action piece of the book.

I also wanted to end on this page because it just goes to show what great talents I had in Francesco and Martin. In the script I had something akin to the rhythm of this page -- but nothing in mind as cool as this. Francesco just took the ideas I had to the next level, creating a perfect sequence which is probably one of the coolest I have seen in a long time. And Martin just really bellied up to the table and went to town, again! Look at those sunsets, people. Martin spent many hours manipulating photos that he took to create stellar skyscapes the likes which I don't think readers have seen before. When I see photos used in comics like this, they are never integrated this well. An incredible spread by some talented folks.

So there you have it - Cuba, Ibiza, Morocco, and D.C. I have been privileged in my life to have traveled to many different places around the world and it was a joy to put them into my book, "Left On Mission." I hope you enjoy it too!

Special thanks again to Chip Mosher for stopping by this week to give us the behind-the-scenes scoop on his labor of love. Makes you want to renew your passport, doesn't it?

In case you missed it, we had a bonus Commentary Track this week. "North Wind" #1 is another Boom! Comic. Its author, David Di Gilio, stopped by yesterday to discuss the first issue and what it's like for a Hollywood screenwriter to adapt his vision to the comics page.

If you have any titles or creators you'd like to see a commentary track from, drop us a line. If you're a creator with a book due out soon that you'd like to stop by to talk about in detail, let us know. (We're especially looking for artists/colorists/letterers who are looking to talk about their craft, as we've had a shortage of those so far.) We're busy behind the scenes lining up books for the weeks ahead, but there's always room for more!

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