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Inside Look: Left On Mission #1

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Looking for a high-octane mix between Casino Royale and The Bourne Identity? Look no further than BOOM! Studios’ Left on Mission, launched last week. Writer Chip Mosher walks you through a few pages of #1.

The solicitation for the issue reads:

Former agent Eric Westfall has been called out of his perfect suburban retirement, complete with wife and kid, to recover an agent gone rogue.

He has to stop his target from auctioning a stolen hard-drive, chock full of classified info, on the black market for $50 million. His mission - turn the target back into a loyal agent for the government, or kill them.

But things get complicated when it's revealed that Westfall has been called back to duty specifically because he has history with his target - romantic history. Will he be able to take down Emma, his ex-lover?

I had several goals I wanted to achieve with this series and issue 1 specifically. First and foremost, I wanted to try and do something with little to no captions, no exposition, no interior dialogue, and sound effects only when absolutely necessary.  One of my pet peeves as a reader are captions that basically say in words what we are seeing in the panel. Secondly, I wanted to put the sequence back into sequential art.

I really wanted to do something very cinematic. I kept on thinking about Krigstein's Master Race, the "Silent Interlude" issue of G.I. Joe that Larry Hama did, those really cinematic moments in Cerebus, Mage, Ronin and other comics I grew up on. Finally, I wanted to write something that had a sense of pace that really informed the moment that the characters reside within. I am a huge fan of Neal Shaffer's One Plus One, Last Exit Before Toll and Borrowed Times. In his comics, Neal conveys so much about the characters in these little moments that say so much. I wanted to do that but within the framework of a spy thriller with tons of action set pieces.

So, with those very attainable goals set (yeah, uh huh), I went about writing Left On Mission. (It's my first comic, so you can read it and let me know if you think what I wanted to do worked!)

PAGE 1

Click to enlargeThis brings us to page 1.  Every goal I wanted to achieve on this book is encapsulated on this page and hopefully successful. I wanted people to know what they were in store for. On this page, we set up the two main characters of the book, the main conflict, and set the pacing of the book. By burning the picture of Emma, you know at least she is some one that is important. We have the background of Eric revealed all through a telephone conversation done in flashback. And you have the main character taking a moment to smoke.

I can't say enough about what artist Francesco Francavilla did here.  I crammed a ton of information into the first page, and he translated that beautifully. When you write something, you hope someone is going to take what you did and put it on the page hopefully better than what you had imagined. And that is what Francesco did every time.

Francesco also does storyboards for a living, so he was the perfect partner for what I wanted to do with Left On Mission. What was most important to me here was setting the pacing for the book with this page and doing it with the burning of the picture of Emma. It is very deliberate and lets the reader know that this is the language for the rest of the read. No captions. No interior dialogue. But, I think, it works.

(Also of note, this is the page Martin did to get the job coloring the book. Ostensibly retired from comics, I gave Martin this page and asked him as a personal favor, how he would color it. As a long time friend, he did me this favor and went ahead and colored the page.  Once finished, he knew he had to color the book. See how tricky I am? So like Eric is pulled out of retirement in the story, we pulled Martin out of retirement to color the book. Sorry Martin. Hehehe, not really.)

PAGE 3

Click to enlargeHere I wanted to let people in on Eric's back story in the most economical fashion possible. I loved those flashbacks in Watchmen where Dr. Manhattan would be in one place and then in another and he would be exactly the same in the panel, but the rest of the panel would be different.

So, that is what I was thinking of when I wrote this. Francesco with Martin cuing us with colors totally sold the idea. Eric is leaving his hotel room, hard cut, he's leaving his wife and son, hard cut, he's leaving the room.  I don't really go that much directly into Eric's background. I really hate writing "on the nose" type of stuff. Of course, I then tend to underwrite and obfuscate - so that is a constant battle. We don't really see anything of Eric's background until we get to issue 3, so this page was super important. Also, note the interior dialogue that I said I wasn't going to do.

This is one of maybe three times we see an interior dialogue of Eric's. By this being one of the only times we do this, I think the rarity conveys this caption's importance. What is said here really is the essence of Eric's character, and what drives him.

PAGE 6

Click to enlargeDrama. Drama. Drama. Here is one of those moments I was talking about earlier. Totally deliberate.  Francesco builds on the pacing we set on page 1, making this confrontation have weight and tension. I love how there are about 9 words on this page. This page has everything I love about comics encapsulated in it.

Of course, when you don't have tons of captions etc., you really are relying on the artist to pull this stuff off. And boy, did Francesco make this scene totally work. Look at Eric's expressions. Look at Painter's sly eyes peaking from underneath the glasses. And Martin's color job, just totally selling the hot, humid climate of Cuba. What more can you want in a page. And it all takes place in one of my favorite cities in the world - Havana, Cuba.

So there you have it, an inside look at some pages that we did. Again, as a writer, I cannot stress the importance of Francesco's contribution to the book. His innate understanding of what I was trying to accomplish has brought the project to whole new level. Bravo Francesco! Top. Of course to then see Francesco's work being colored by Martin Thomas, the best man at my wedding, has been a real thrill to me. The response to issue one has been uniformly positive. And I am humbled by the response. I hope that people enjoy the series as a whole.

And just so you know, because of  the initial delay of issue 1, issue 2 is on sale as of this week. So you can get a double dose of Left On Mission this month!

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