Michael Alan Nelson Solves "The Enigma Cipher"

Tue, June 27th, 2006 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Arune Singh, Staff Writer

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Secrets. What are they good for? Sure, if you know the wrong thing about the right person you might be able to blackmail them into somehow enhancing your life, but that's just plain mean. And if you have secrets of your own, you're always worried about people finding out, which invariably happens. Still, it could be worse: you could be a grad student named Casey and stumble upon ancient Nazi experiments, containing secrets that could mean the end of the world. Hey Casey, no pressure! In a five-part mini-series from Boom! Studios, this very story unfolds in "Enigma Cipher" by writers Andrew Cosby & Michael Alan Nelson and artist Greg Scott. CBR News caught up with Nelson (who also recently spoke to CBR News about other projects) to discuss the August-shipping series. So what's it all about?

"The simple answer is easy: secrets," explained Nelson. "And it's about the trouble a young grad student finds herself in when she stumbles across those secrets. The Enigma machine was a device used during most of the first half of the Twentieth Century to encrypt and decrypt messages, most famously during World War II. So when our young grad student decides to decrypt a recently discovered Enigma message for her dissertation, she sets off a calamitous chain of events."

Nelson's involvement with project came as a result of working with "Enigma's" other co-writer on another series. "Andy liked my work on 'X-Isle' and wanted to do another project with me," Nelson explained. "So when he told me about 'Enigma Cipher,' I jumped at the chance. Not just because the story is so interesting but because working with Andy is a lot of fun."

Artist Greg Scott is also a familiar name to Nelson, having collaborated with the artist on "X-Isle." The experience was positive for both and Nelson's learned to write in a way that compliments Scott's artistic style and preferences. "Greg prefers Marvel style plot outlines. If there are certain things that we want to see on a page or in a panel, Andy and I will make sure to mention it in the outline. Otherwise we just let Greg do his thing. And the stuff he turns in just looks incredible. He's an amazing storyteller."

Joining Casey in her quest for answers is a diverse array of characters, who Nelson explains all have a unique role in the series. "Casey is our grad student and one of the most promising students in her field. She's involved in a distributed computing project that goes horribly wrong and she soon finds herself alone, on the run and unable to trust anyone. But she's also quite resourceful and a quick thinker, both things that might keep her alive long enough to figure out who's after her and why. Fortunately, she runs into Victor, a former NSA operative who now works for Homeland Security. He's a charming fellow, but can be absolutely deadly when necessary. He approaches his enemies with a brutal efficiency. Put them down fast, put them down hard.

"The Bad Guys are a little more difficult to pin down since they could be anyone, anywhere," continued Nelson. "It makes navigating the landscape problematic for Casey and Victor. They don't who they can or can't trust."

But Nelson knows he can trust Cosby, a man with whom he has a great creative relationship, and with whom he has a specific writing arrangement. "The first thing we do is come up with the idea and basic beats within a specific issue. From there we hammer out a page-by-page plot breakdown that goes to the artist. Once we get the art back, I'll usually make an initial pass at the dialogue then Andy will go over what I've done, make changes, corrections etc. From there we just bounce it back and forth until we end up with the finished product. Unfortunately, Andy is incredibly busy and is rarely in one place for very long. So most of our collaboration is done over the phone or by email."

The mystery at the core of "Enigma" is layered enough that Nelson feels the series could continue for a long period of time in additional series. "Even when one mystery is solved, another one can present itself so there's plenty of room to build the story," he contends. "But as of right now, we're looking at it being five issues."

Look for the "Enigma Cipher" to hit stores this August from Boom! Studios.

CBR Executive Producer Jonah Weiland Contributed To This Story

CBR News

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