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Inside Look: Marksmen #1

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Inside Look is Broken Frontier's director’s commentary-like feature in which creators take you behind the scenes of one of their latest comics to hit the stands. In this edition: David Baxter on Marksmen #1.

When I was first approached by Michael Benaroya about writing a mini-series for Marksmen he had already developed a dystopian world filled with super powered antagonists but he felt it didn’t work and wondered what I might come up with if I only had the title 'Marksmen' to start with and the constraint that the story must take place in the future.  I had never written a comic before, but I was up for the challenge.

As a Hollywood screenwriter my specialty was in adapting true stories from history.  I had written scripts about the discovery of the structure of DNA in the 1950s, a 1930s racing picture about the early days of Enzo Ferrari and his competition with the Nazi-backed Mercedes Benz team, and even the story of Hedy Lamarr, a famous movie star who created a patent for a technology called “frequency hopping” that lead to the development of much of our modern wireless world.  I did have a personal interest in Science Fiction and had worked on the first season of Star Trek: Voyager. Finally, truth to be told, I was a skilled world builder, but not in the world of film.  I was a former D&D Dungeon Master.  In the creation of Marksmen, I would end up using skills garnered from all my past work.

I knew that I wanted the book to be grounded in reality.  No super powers per se, only technology driven power.  I also wanted the future to reflect a truly possible future given our present situation in the United States.  This is the future and setting I came up with:

There was no nuclear war, no climate catastrophe, no alien or zombie attack that caused the downfall of the United States but decades of economic recession, oil shortage, and homeland terrorist attacks caused the government to go bankrupt and its infrastructure to collapse. Civil war followed soon after, further devastating a country already in ruins.

Only those cities that could somehow sustain themselves without trade had a chance at long-term survival.  The key for the southern cities was fresh water and just as the reserves ran out scientists in San Diego found a way to covert salt water to fresh on a scale large enough to sustain one city.  Their city… San Diego.

San Diego is now a fortress protected by the children of the Marines and Navy Seals who were stationed near the city when the Big Collapse happened.  The city is literally surrounded by THE WALL a huge barrier composed of the debris from buildings that were surgically demolished by Navy EOD teams when it became clear that the city would be vulnerable to attacks from outsiders.

NEW SAN DIEGO

The city itself resembles our current time in the general structure of the buildings and major landmarks but the roofs are now covered with Solar Panels and wind turbines that generate a decentralized power grid to keep the city lit while all outside THE WALL is darkness.

The city is now lead by a cadre of scientists from the city’s tech corporations, The Salk Institute and UCSD, which right before the BC (Big Collapse) was at the forefront of solar, wind, and battery R&D in the nation.  The scientists have used the former Navy personnel and later their children as the “muscle” needed to maintain order and keep the “Barbarians away from the Gates.”

Because there were few resources for any kind of mass production much of the city looks as it did in our time.  The vehicles have been repaired and improved with solar panels but the vast majority of the populace is using tech from our time period.  It’s like Cuba where the cars from the 1950s are still running fine, but instead what’s running are the laptops, iPhones, Blackberries, Bluetooth headsets, and LCD TVs.  Most of the media playing on the video grid is propaganda designed to keep the populace convinced that anyone from outside the city is a danger to them all and the rest are reruns of movies and tv from days long gone by.

Only the elite of the city and the military has use of current tech, which is highly sophisticated and mostly invisible.  The only universal new technology is the use of SHADES.  This is the ultimate evolution of the smartphone.  These HUD “glasses” monitor the body functions of the city’s residents and give them all the information they need (and some they don’t) to navigate their lives.  It’s sort of like being plugged into XBOX, GOOGLE, TWITTER, FACEBOOK, and TMZ 24/7 when you wear them and most people don’t take them off.  This technology has caused the lines between reality and game combat to blur for many Marksmen.

This was the jumping off point for the series.  Once Dave Elliott came on board as editor we started to brainstorm characters, antagonists, and the overall arc of where we wanted the story to go.  Dave was interested in using Arthurian archetypes, which seemed very fitting for an action series about warriors in a divided country.  His thought was to make our main character, Drake McCoy, into a future Arthur.  Someone who didn’t think of himself as a leader but would be forced to become one in order to save the people he cared for.  Once this concept was in place I just jumped in and started writing.

The first issue was going to involve a lot of set up and exposition so we both wanted to be sure that would be mixed with action from the get go.

The first three pages were devoted to showing us what kind of man Drake McCoy was through his actions.  It’s hard not to like a guy who starts things off by NOT killing the scary looking dog.  Visually, it was important to show the juxtaposition of high technology with Drake’s love of simplicity.   The second panel on page one of him mounted on a horse with his battle suit did the job.  Javier and Garry really did a great job taking my words and making a living-breathing world.

           

Page seven was a key moment because it introduced Drake’s need to recover some important technology from the past and also showed the kind of ruthless antagonists he would be dealing with. Page eight was the payoff for being nice to that dog when Drake gets an unexpected helping hand.

Page ten starts to introduce us to Drake’s fellow Marksmen and establishes that he isn’t the most liked guy in the city.   Again, I wanted to get this across with the least amount of exposition possible by intercutting the introductions with Drake’s fight with the cannibals.  Drake’s “father” Admiral Leo McCoy and his mother, Dr. Sharon Heston (a nod to Charlton Heston and his penchant for apocalyptic movies) enter the story on page eleven.  We mention “FEL tech” but other than an editor’s note that it stands for Free Electron Laser we don’t explain this.   It turns out that Free Electron Lasers are very real and are being tested by the Navy right now.  This was the first example of using real technology in the story to ground it in reality.

Drake’s saviors Cammy, Sean, and Joe appear on page twelve.  We think they can’t be all bad since they have little kids with them.  But things are not as they seem.  We learn they are from Lone Star, which though it isn’t explicitly stated is Dallas, Texas.  At one point I was going to use the Crystal Cathedral in Orange County, CA as the base for the rival city but Dave thought we should place Lone Star a good distance from San Diego and I agreed.   

We get the first look at our Big Bads, Duke and The Deacon, on page 15 during a flashback sequence.  Drake doesn’t trust his narrators just yet so he goes off on his own to verify their story.  Meanwhile Joe and the others make their way back towards New San Diego.  The sequence on page 17 was meant to show us that Joe has some technological expertise and then page 18 widens things up with the splash page of the Marksmen in their solar powered dune buggies.  Again, I wanted to get as much tension as I could out of the meeting between these outsiders and the other Marksmen.  Drake arrives at the last moment to calm things down of course so we could move things back towards the city.

         

The second splash on 22 of Duke, Deacon and his rangers was put in to show just how backwards these people seemed compared to the Marksmen.  One of the Marksmen’s drones is sending video back but is taken out by one shot of Duke’s gun. This foreshadows that it may not be as easy to defeat these folks as it seems.  Drake get’s this even if his other Marksmen don’t.

The reveal of San Diego on page 25 is one of my favorites.  It establishes the boundaries of the current city and clearly shows the convention center.  I always wanted to include the center in the story as a shout out to Comic Con fans.

The rest of the first book goes into more detail about the internal conflicts that are brewing, especially between Drake and Hercules and ends with Duke and his rangers approaching the city and gives us another clue that Duke is not as backwards as his appearance might lead us to believe.

That wraps up what I was going for in issue one of Marksmen.  As you might guess things are about to get more complicated and the first real major battle between Lone Star and New San Diego is coming your way in Issue two.   I hope this has helped give you readers some insight into the making of Marksmen.  I’ve never done this kind of commentary before but I’m looking forward to doing it again.

Marksmen #1 (of 6) is out now from Image Comics and retails for $1.00.

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