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Vanguard Prime: The Movie

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.

Jordan Dang Picture


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.

Brie Larson Picture

Major Blackthorne

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).

Charlize Theron Picture

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.

Agent Alpha

Everyone wants Idris Elba cast in everything. Who am I to deny them? And why would I want to?

Idris Elba Picture

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.

Michael Fassbender Picture Ewan McGregor Picture

(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).

Padma Lakshmi Picture Freida Pinto Picture

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.

The Overman

Alexander Skarsgard. Because obviously.

Alexander Skarsgård Picture

Big Brother

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?

Henry Rollins Picture

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…

The Magician

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.


The Ideas Shoppe: The Making of a Superhero (Part 2)

Continuing my look at the creation of the Vanguard Prime team, I thought it was best to present the other junior member – Machina.


I knew it was important to include more than one teenage member of the team, and I also knew it was important to make that other member a girl. Machina arrived in my head almost fully formed. I knew I needed a “tech-head” for the group, and an armoured one would make a contrast to all the other members. The name popped out at me almost immediately, which I took as a sign that it should be a placeholder until I came up with something “better”, but ‘Machina’ quickly grew on me and so the name stuck.


I’ve been asked more than once how it’s pronounced. Technically, it should be “mack-in-a”, but I have to admit I pronounce it “ma-sheen-a”. The disparity exists because the name comes from “deus ex machina”, a term which translates from Latin as “god from the machine”. To quote Wikipedia (always an intelligent-sounding thing to say) it’s “a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly solved with the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability, or object”.


I half-named the character after this term because her power could become an easy “Get Out of Jail Free” card and I wanted a reminder to not let that happen – at least not too much. The mispronunciation comes into play because I just think it sounds better. A writer’s heart is a fickle thing.


As far as her character itself is concerned, I drew on all the slightly older teen girls I remembered from when I was young who all seemed so much more sophisticated than I was and were all highly terrifying. Admittedly, there’s also a dash of Hermione Granger in there, as well as a large helping of Asuka Langley Soryu from Neon Genesis Evangelion, though I wasn’t conscious of either of those influences at the time. It’s only in retrospect that I realise how much those characters factored into Machina’s inception.


Design-wise, I envisioned Machina in a white V-suit that matched my original idea for Sam’s, with her outfit made-up of purple circuit-patterns where Sam’s was gold. Picturing actors in the role of my characters always helps me in creating them. I imagined Machina as a cross between Brie Larson, Alison Lohman and Stephanie Bendixsen, only British, and sketched out a rough idea of what she might look like to get a handle on describing her.

One of the first Machina sketches, where I was working out how the circuit pattern might work.

A later sketch, where the circuit patterns are starting to get out of hand.

My final, streamlined design, where the circuit patterns manage to form ‘M’s and ‘V’s at the same time.

All of these designs suffer from the obvious problem that I can’t really draw but they helped me to envision the character, which in turn informed my description of her.


Eventually, my final sketch was passed onto the book’s design team. Just as with Sam, it was thought a white suit wouldn’t strike the right image, so the colours of Machina’s outfit were swapped to black and purple. Her character is very much retained, however. Interesting note: while I drew on the actresses I’ve listed for my mental image of the character, the book’s designer used Michelle Williams as a starting point. I remember being really impressed with the designer’s insight when she told me that.

The final Machina design, where she demonstrates her armour-forming power.

Of course, all this gives an insight into the visual of Machina, but not her character. For that, I’d like to point to a couple of moments from the book.


One of those moments is where she’s talking about how she came to be a member of the team, and how that relates back to the relationship she has with her family. Machina doesn’t come from the same kind of background as Sam does. Though she by no means had a “bad” upbringing, I imagined her parents to be very distant people who’d had a daughter almost as an afterthought. The fact that she prefers to go by her superhero alias rather than her civilian name goes to show just how alienated she is from her family.


The other moment – and it’s a tiny one- is where Sam is listing the objects he sees when looking around Machina’s room and he notes all the stacks of CDs. It’s not commented on, and nobody has mentioned it to me as yet, but it seems odd in this day and age that a teenager would have need of physical albums, especially a teenager as tech-savvy as Machina.


I imagined these CDs to have been handed down to her from her older brother – the artifacts he passed on to help her cope when he left home and she was still stuck with their parents. It’s why she’s so knowledgeable and snobby about music, but it’s also why she’s standoff-ish with Sam when he joins the team; she’s created a new family for herself with Vanguard Prime, a family where she has a distinct role and purpose, and suddenly a new baby brother has come along to potentially usurp that.


She keeps those CDs as a tangible connection to her brother, using them as a security blanket in a way. I never actually address that in the book and I don’t know if I ever will during the course of the series, but it’s touches like those that writers create for themselves – if no one else – as they imagine the interior life of all their characters.


Since the book’s come out, I’ve been a lot asked about the relationship between Machina and Sam. I think the best answer I can give is that the dynamic between them is a complicated one, and that it will only grow more complicated in time to come, especially as Book 2 will throw a spanner in the works that nobody’s really counting on at the moment.


What is that spanner? You’ll have to wait until March 2013 to find out. But if you want to learn a little more about Machina, make sure to check out her bio here.