’24: Underground’ writer Ed Brisson sends Jack Bauer to Ukraine
Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer doesn’t return to the screen until May 5, whcn “24: Live Another Day” premieres with a two-hour kickoff event marking the series’ ninth season on Fox. But this week, writer Ed Brisson takes Bauer to Ukraine in IDW’s five-issue miniseries “24: Underground,” which tracks the character’s experiences between seasons.
Brisson, 39, is no stranger to putting his own stamp on well-established fictional universes, having made his name on such titles as Marvel’s “Secret Avengers,” as well as “Sons of Anarchy” and “RoboCop” comics adaptations. For many fans, though, the Vancouver-based letterer-turned-writer is best known for his original titles, including his Image series “Sheltered,” “Comeback” and “The Field,” the latter of which debuted earlier this month.
Brisson, who self-published his own work for more than 17 years before his recent breakthroughs, has already had a banner year. In addition to the release of “24: Underground” and “The Field,” “Sheltered” was optioned by “Walking Dead” producers Circle of Confusion earlier this year.
Hero Complex caught up with Brisson to chat about true crime, classic Canadian television and Twitter pranks.
Hero Complex: As a storyteller and a fan of “24,” what do you find so appealing about the show?
Ed Brisson: There’s something about that adrenaline rush that I really dig. There’s not a wasted minute, you know? I like the deadline. Which is odd, because in most of my film watching, I’m more of a fan of films like “Paris, Texas,” where it’s completely the opposite.
HC: How much will you be adhering to the structure of the series, which tracks the course of one day’s events?
EB: The story still takes place around the same amount of time, we just don’t have the ticking clock. It takes place over 24 hours, but because it’s a five-issue miniseries, to break it down into those sort of chunks would be difficult. I think that it would feel more forced and it wouldn’t add to the story. IDW’s done a few “24” comics before that didn’t have that ticking clock.
HC: How explicit were the parameters you were given? Was it the sort of thing where you had to get Jack to London?
EB: There’s still the possibility that there may be more, so we didn’t want to bring him right up to where the next season may start. We want to explain where he is during that time and do things that would make sense. I was describing it as a “Littlest Hobo” story. It’s a Canadian show from the early ’80s with the saddest theme song in the world and it’s basically about a dog that arrives in a town, sorts out whatever that town’s problem is and at the end he wanders off down the road. With this story, Jack is like that. He arrives and even though he’s trying to stay off the radar, he can’t. A problem presents itself, but he’s on the run still so he can’t draw too much attention to himself. I like this idea of telling stories where he sort of gets dragged into things and always has to move on at the end of the day from any sort of normalcy that he’s tried to achieve.
HC: What are some of the differences between inheriting this type of established universe and working on your own creations?
EB: That’s always the big thing, how to insert your own voice into something where it’s somebody else’s creation? I think I just tried to find a way that felt real to me. I thought it was a good way to explore things that had sort of been touched on in the show that makes more sense with a guy on the run. It didn’t make sense that Jack Bauer would be running around diffusing bombs and terror threats while he’s in hiding. They had touched on his interaction with the Russian Mafia a lot with the show and so I kind of wanted to explore that and see what happens when he runs up against them. To my mind, it’s an interesting expansion on things. There’s still lives on the line, but it’s not necessarily a whole nation that’s going to be blown up, It’s much more of a crime thing, which is still natural to Jack Bauer and who he is, but it brings it into my own wheelhouse. Writing on someone else’s creation is about finding my own way that still seems natural to the overall story.
HC: The guy on the run, trying to keep out of trouble is definitely a classic noir, crime kind of story. Those sorts of themes have long been a staple of your work. Where does that interest in true crime come from?
EB: My dad is a retired cop and my mom worked in victims’ services when I was growing up, so there was always that sort of stuff around the house. I was always aware of it. I was raised in Oshawa, just outside of Toronto, which is a town that was totally devastated by the failing auto industry. So I sort of grew up around it. And I was not the best kid. I was a chronic shoplifter and I got in all sorts of fights growing up. Even when I got older and smartened up, I was always a fan of crime fiction. Elmore Leonard’s probably one of my biggest influences in terms of writing. In high school, the two career goals I had were either to be a cop or a comic book artist.
HC: Does it ever feel intimidating to write for such an established fan base?
EB: Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. For “Secret Avengers,” that was at the forefront of my mind. That was completely nerve-racking to work on that. Because there’s 50 years of history and countless reboots, continuities discarded and new continuities; it’s a little bit nightmarish at times. I think continuity in comics is such a double-edged sword. I get why it’s important but it’s such an albatross for telling stories. With “24,” I think I’m such a fan that when I’m writing it, I’m serving that fan within me as well.
HC: Your latest story, “The Field,” came out earlier this month. Apparently the idea was born out of a Twitter prank?
EB: I had been out drinking at a bar with some friends and the next day, one of them started tweeting that I had gone missing the night before, that I’d drunkenly stumbled off into the night and hadn’t been seen since. The Comics Bulletin picked it up and ran it as sort of a news item, knowing that it was a joke. But when I saw that, I thought, I’m going to keep rolling with it. I started tweeting about waking up in the middle of a wheat field completely naked, not knowing how I’d gotten there or where I was. It started out really silly. I was walking around this field with no clothes and then I fashioned a skirt out of wheat stalks and ended up hitchhiking and getting picked up by this guy and then all of a sudden was in the middle of this crime spree. It went on for about a day and a half. I started planning out tweets ahead of time and I didn’t break the fourth wall at all while I was doing it. My mom called my wife to find out if everything was OK, that it sounded like I was in trouble. I found out that I was planning it so far ahead that I started to think that it would make a good comic. So I sort of stopped tweeting and went off and fashioned it into this four issue miniseries.
HC: 2014 has already been a big year for you. What’s on tap for the rest of the year?
EB: The eighth issue of “Sheltered,” which is me and [artist] Johnnie Christmas, is just about to hit stands and it just got optioned earlier this year for a film so that’s pretty exciting stuff. I’m keeping pretty busy. I might say too busy, but it’s been a good year. I’d been hustling for years trying to break into comics so I feel like now that I’ve got a foot in, I’m not going to give up on this. I going to try to force the door all the way open.
– Justin Sullivan | @LATHeroComplex
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