One of the questions I get asked the most is whether Vanguard Prime will ever be made into a movie. And from what I’ve experienced, I’m not the only author to be asked this. I know Stephen King was particularly puzzled when he was asked what the film prospects of Vanguard Prime are, given that he’d never heard of it before.
I may have made up that last part.
In any case, book-to-film translations are always a hot topic of conversation. People don’t seem to feel a work has been truly successful until it’s been rendered cinematically with a running time of 2+ hours, and they get the chance to complain about the filmmakers completely missing the point.
But to answer the original question; the chances of Vanguard Prime ever being adapted to the screen are, safe to say, slim to none. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t be excited to have it happen, but I’m not exactly pinning any particular hopes on it. After all, it took about 30 years for Ender’s Game to be made into a film, and though I’m quite proud of Vanguard Prime, it’s not exactly recognised as a classic of its genre the way Orson Scott Card’s book is.
So now that I’ve couched all of this in a thick blanket of self-awareness, let’s pretend that a Vanguard Prime movie is something legitimately possible. Who would I cast in it, you might ask. And even if you wouldn’t ask that, I’m going to tell you anyway. That’s just the kind of guy I am.
This would be the trickiest part to cast, given that there’s not really much physical description of Goldrush/Sam in the books. I wanted every reader to formulate their own picture of him…which was kind of defeated when it came time to design the cover, but that’s beside the point. The other issue with casting Sam is that it’s a very time sensitive role; anyone I nominate now would probably be too old in just a couple of years. But if we were going with who I had pictured in my head, it’d have to be Jordan Dang, probably best known for his role as Tim Okazaki in Chris Lilley’s TV series Angry Boys.
I think I’ve discussed this before, but one of the visual inspirations for Machina was Brie Larson, of Scott Pilgrim vs the World and 21 Jump Street fame. She’s not English, and at 25 she may now be a little too old for the part, but between her roles in Scott Pilgrim and The United States of Tara, she’s what I imagined Machina to be.
There were a few different actresses who informed my image of the Major, with chief amongst them being Charlize Theron (particularly because of her role in the music video for Brandon Flowers’ song Crossfire).
But there were a couple of other faces floating around in my head when creating her, which included Stephanie March of Law & Order fame, Australian actress Emma Lung and, most recently, Haywire star and MMA fighter Gina Carano.
Everyone wants Idris Elba cast in everything. Who am I to deny them? And why would I want to?
The Knight of Wands
David Bowie’s appearance in the video for China Girl was very inspirational for the Knight’s appearance, as was Guy Pearce in Memento, but it comes down to two actors for this role. Either I stick with the Prometheus theme that’s developing and say Michael Fassbender, or I go the Jedi route and nominate Ewan McGregor. Either way, everybody wins.
(I can not get these two pictures side-by-side for some reason. Clearly they’ve had a disagreement.)
Outside of a cameo on 30 Rock I have no idea about Padma Lakshi’s acting ability, but she was highly influential when it came to envisioning what Gaia looked like. But I think Freida Pinto could just as easily make the role hers (and once again, their photos are fighting with each other).
So that’s the team, but what are heroes without some villains to fight? Here’s a small selection of who I’d pick to be the Big Bad.
Alexander Skarsgard. Because obviously.
The lead antagonist in War Zone was inspired by singer/actor/general awesome guy Henry Rollins, who may now be a little too old and grey for the role but…well, who cares?
I always pictured Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the Emperor, the Knight of Wands’ brother and chief adversary. Obviously, and very sadly, that’s no longer a possibility, and given that I can’t wrap my head around it I figured I’d nominate the next member down the food chain in the Major Arcana. Namely…
And this is a bit of a weird one, because I imagine it to be Doc Hammer, the co-creator and one of the lead voice actors from The Venture Bros animated series. He plays a variety of characters on the series, and I’m sure his skills would translate easily to live action. Plus it would amuse me immensely.
And that’s my list. Hopefully this doesn’t contradict too much with what the readers of the series have pictured, and if it has then just bear in mind that this is only my opinion. If you have a completely different vision, I’d love to hear about it. Otherwise I’ll be over here. By the phone. Waiting for that call from Hollywood to come. Which I’m sure will be any minute now. Especially given that international superstar Doc Hammer is attached to star. Box office gold. License to print money. Third salient point.
I’ve written before about the role that music plays in my creative process, and specifically the hand it had in writing the first Vanguard Prime book. Now that the second book in the series, Wild Card, has been on the shelves for a few months, I thought it’d be safe to write about the music that inspired certain scenes.
But for those who are still yet to read it, don’t worry! I’ll do my best to keep things as spoiler free as possible.
So let’s kick things off the best way you can – with a bit of David Bowie!
‘China Girl’ by David Bowie
‘China Girl’ would have to be one of my favourite Bowie songs…or at least, it’s one of my favourite Bowie songs to sing along to (I may or may not have performed a karaoke rendition at our huck’s party). That said, it’s a bit of an odd addition here as it didn’t directly influence the writing of Wild Card; I didn’t craft any scenes in my imagination while listening to it, it didn’t conjure up any particular imagery in my head.
What it did do was inspire not only how the Knight of Wands dresses when he’s out of uniform, but his appearance in general as well. The suit/trench coat combo Bowie wears midway through this video is the point-of-reference I used when describing the Knight’s attire as he and Sam jet off to the lecture they attend.
More than that, I remember thinking how unique Bowie’s eyes are, and how I’d like to incorporate the one brown eye/one blue eye look into a character one day. And then I figured, why wait?
So that’s how the Knight came to have one blue eye – it was only later that I realised that his mismatching eyes and the backstory for how he got them also resembled that of Spike from Cowboy Bebop. But you can’t always take everything into account, and being a Bebop fan I thought it was appropriate.
Note: If/when you watch this video, I would like to point that yes, it is a little racist and no, I have no idea if it’s self-aware about that or not. I’m leaning toward that being the case, given that Bowie’s talked about how the lyrics are an anti-racism message.
‘Cat People (Putting Out Fire)’ by David Bowie
Continuing the Bowie train, we have this song. Originally used in the film Cat People, it would rocket back to fame when used in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. I remember thinking how powerful and evocative it was. And though it sounded a little dated, it sounded dated in the best of ways. Tarantino used it as his story was leading into the final act, with one of his characters preparing themselves to do battle (essentially). I would play it as I imagined the flight that the Knight of Wands, Goldrush and Solitaire take to the World, readying themselves for the fight to come.
And though I thought the lyrics worked wonderfully for that (especially as the Knight of Wands is associated with fire in tarot, and I wanted to harken back to that motif in the songs I used), the lack of originality bugged me. Which is why it was fortunate that I soon ran across the next song…
‘Cities Burning Down’ by Howling Bells
If you haven’t heard of them before, Howling Bells are a fantastic Australian band fronted by the brother/sister duo Juanita and Joel Stein. I saw them play over ten years when they were known as Waikiki, and I’ve been a fan ever since. When I heard this song, I knew it fit even more perfectly for the scene I had in my head than the Bowie song did. I can’t listen to it now without thinking of the Chariot flying over the Hong Kong cityscape, its passengers preparing themselves for the darkness that lays before them.
‘Me and the Devil Blues’ by Robert Johnson
There’s a conversation that happens in the book regarding the music of Robert Johnson. My publisher was uncertain about keeping it in, given that it’s a bit of a dated reference that’s not exactly “down with the kids” (not that she put it like that…not that anyone would put it like that). But it was important to me that we maintain it, as I felt very strongly that it reflected on the character who was depicted listening to it.
If you’ve not heard about him before, the mythology that revolves around the blues musician Robert Johnson was that he sold his soul to the devil to attain his musical ability. Johnson wrote more than a few songs that referenced this oft-repeated urban legend, with Hellhound on my Trail probably being the most famous of them. I picked Me and the Devil Blues, however, as I felt the lyrics were even more indicative of the character listening to the song.
‘It’s a Fire’ by Portishead
Following the conversation about Robert Johnson, an altercation breaks out that leads to a pivotal moment in the book. Without wanting to be too spoiler-y about it, a button is pushed and things get very…uh…explode-y?
I imagined this sequence slowed down and with all the ambient noise stripped out, leaving only the imagery…and this song, which continues the fire motif surrounding the Knight of Wands. It’s not a big, rousing number to finish on, but it’s certainly a beautiful one.
And that would be it. While there are still plenty of other songs I could write about, I wanted to pick just a handful that I felt had the strongest link to the text. If you’ve already read the book, I hope this gives you a chance to revisit it, or at least that it’s provided some extra insight.
But if you’re yet to read the book, well…I hope I haven’t ruined anything for you.
‘Til next time!
The wait is over! Vanguard Prime: Wild Card will be released tomorrow, 27th February, and to celebrate I thought I’d return to a series of posts that haven’t been featured here in a while; the Making of a Superhero. And given that Vanguard Prime: Wild Card heavily features the Knight of Wands, what better time than now to take a look at the team’s resident man of mystery?
I wanted to create characters that felt interesting and dynamic enough that they could very easily be the protagonist of their own book. The examples I had in mind of these stemmed from comic books, of course, where the Justice League and the Avengers were traditionally populated by characters that were already established in their own series.
This was in opposition to teams like the X-Men and the Fantastic Four, where the characters were created to be part of a team, and as interesting as they may be in their own right, they still work better as part of that team structure.
I wanted the “Big Three” of Vanguard Prime to be much like the Big Three of the Avengers and the Justice League. Just as Captain America, Thor & Iron Man and Superman, Batman & Wonder Woman all have their own supporting characters, antagonists and personal lives, I wanted to come up with characters that felt as established as that…without the benefit of 70 or so years of continuous publishing behind it.
I started in the place I was most comfortable with, drawing on the ‘Self-Made Man’/’Mortal Amongst Gods’ elements that Iron Man and Batman share, while also focusing on the ‘Dark Avenger’ archetype originated by characters like Zorro and the Shadow, their legacies continued to this day by the aforementioned Dark Knight Detective.
It wasn’t the first time I’d used the ‘Dark Avenger’ template to create a character; when I was 10, I came up with a spoof superhero called Penguin Man, who eventually mutated into “Nighthawk” when I was 12.
But with my new story, I didn’t want a Batman rip-off. I didn’t want to just transplant Nighthawk from my childhood into the present day (not least because there’s already more than one comic book character that’s taken that name).
So I looked back at the characters that intrigued me when I was younger; not the characters I loved, like Batman or Spider-Man, but the characters that seemed slightly goofy or “off”, but still stuck in the brain. Characters like Steve Ditko’s Blue Beetle and the Question, or Jack Kirby’s Mr Miracle. Strange, colourful characters that immediately capture your interest with how quirky they are.
I’ve spoken before of the need for a memorable superhero to have a strong thematic element; something that elevates them from the mundane to the iconographic. As an example; Batman and Spider-Man draw on the animal kingdom, with those two animals informing many of the elements that make those characters unique, such as Spider-Man’s web-slinging or Batman’s Batcave.
It’s hard these days, after so many thousands of superheroes have been introduced to the world, to come up with a unique theme for a new character. What I ended up drawing from was the memories I had of my mother practicing divination with her tarot card deck. I never put much stock in the fortune-telling side of it, but I always found the names and the illustrations of the cards themselves fascinating.
So bearing in mind the off-beat features of the Ditko and Kirby characters, I was immediately drawn to the “Knight of Wands” card, combining as it did aspects of the warrior and the magician under one, evocative name.
Storytelling is the art of posing questions and then answering them. The first question I posed to myself about a character called “the Knight of Wands” is why would he take that name? Especially when you consider that there are two decks in the tarot; the major arcana and the minor arcana, with the Knight of Wands belonging to the minor arcana. Out of all the cards in the deck, why would someone pick that one?
And that’s when it occurred to me; he’s named himself after a character from the minor arcana because there’s a villainous organisation called the Major Arcana that he’s working to bring down.
That’s where the next question comes into play; why? Why is he fighting this organisation? And it’s from there that I developed the Knight of Wands’ back story, fleshing out the Major Arcana as an organisation of superhumans that the Knight’s father founded but that has been overtaken and corrupted by his older brother.
This idea had a certain Shakespearean flavour to it that really appealed to me at the time; it’s only in retrospect that I also see the influences of films like Infernal Affairs and anime series like Cowboy Bebop as also having a fair amount of influence.
Using the tarot deck also provided me with ideas for the Knight of Wands’ paraphernalia, including his method of transport; his “Batmobile” wouldn’t be a car, it’d be a supersonic scramjet stolen from the Major Arcana, named after “the Chariot” card.
Originally, I had the Knight carrying a flaming sword, but that felt off given that he was meant to be a knight of wands. An off-hand comment someone made about Doctor Who’s sonic screwdriver being the Doctor’s “magic wand” gave me the idea of giving the Knight a similar high-tech wand, albeit as a collapsible quarterstaff, which is where his “laser-lance” comes from (though I called it a “photon rod” at first).
His real name – Ethan Knightley – came from two separate sources; Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt from the Mission: Impossible franchise (not that I’m a major fan, but it was always a name I thought was cool) and Mr Knightley from Jane Austen’s Emma. I imagined the Knight to have been a Scottish aristocrat, born and bred to continue on his family’s legacy, only to end up a beggar knight errant.
This would be a Batman with no fortune, forced to do things on a budget, and just as the Knight of Wands card represents improvisation, he’d work from his gut and off-the-cuff rather from than any grand plan or comprehensive system of preparation.
Unlike the other characters I created for Vanguard Prime, the Knight’s creation came quickly. By the time I was done, I had a character that I was very fond of and just as interested in exploring, which is why I decided to make Book 2 his spotlight story after keeping him in the background of Book 1.
That affection has also led this post to being much longer than I intended it to be, but I wanted to give you a sense of everything that goes into creating a superhero character…especially as it seems to be one of the things that people Google that brings them to my website!
And if all this rambling has somehow intrigued you about the Knight of Wands, this is where I remind you that you can read all about him and the Major Arcana in Wild Card, Book 2 in the Vanguard Prime series. You’ll recognise it on the shelf; it’ll be the only one where a hooded figure is wielding a flaming laser-lance…
‘Til next time.
2012 was a big year.
It was the year my first book was published. It was the year my fiancé and I moved into the first home that either of us had ever owned. And, on December 30, on our fifth anniversary, it was the year we got married.
Given that we’re both involved in publishing, our wedding had some bookish touches. Paperlovebuds provided bouquets and boutonnieres made from the pages of Pride & Prejudice…
…while our cake topper was called “Love in the Library” and featured a title that readers of this website may be familiar with.
People don’t lie when they tell you how quickly your wedding day rushes by. It feels like it only happened yesterday but it was already over a week ago. And so far, this marriage thing is going swimmingly.
We’re planning to take a proper honeymoon later in the year, but in the meantime we settled for a week off, with a couple of nights spent in a hotel in South Yarra.
The summer heat lent itself well to seeing a few movies, which included The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Argo, and the documentary Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines, which proved to be a fascinating, emotional and inspiring look at the depiction of superheroines across pop culture, with a particular emphasis on Wonder Woman (of course). It’s been playing at ACMI here in Melbourne, but where ever you are I highly recommend checking it out.
And to add to my comic book geekery, I’ve also been reading Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, an engrossing and comprehensive history of the House of Ideas. If anyone out there knows a book that takes as detailed (and honest) a look at the story behind DC Comics, make sure to let me know!
So that’s it. 2012 is over. But there’s a lot to look forward to in 2013…including the release of Vanguard Prime: Wild Card in March! I can’t wait to get out and do some more events, as well as reveal more of the Knight of Wands’ history.
I’m also looking forward to finally getting a reliable Internet connection. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves…
Happy New Year, everyone!
For those of you who missed it, the cover for Vanguard Prime: Wild Card (aka Vanguard Prime Book 2) was revealed at Inside a Dog, including a behind-the-scenes peek at what goes into producing the artwork for a book jacket. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get Inside a Dog’s blog system to link to a high-res version of the image, so I thought I’d post it here for you to see in all its glory (click for high-res).
You can see a few new characters surrounding the Knight of Wands and Goldrush, but I’ll save details about them for the future. In the meantime, head over to Inside a Dog to see the creation of this image step-by-step!