Wednesday, May 19, 2004

The Living Planet, Part 3. 

Sorry for the delay. Life interference. Part 3...


Deep space, wherein we find that the spaceship in trouble is one of a fleet of Kastra's people the Mykryl, who routinely patrol the space near Earth as a favor to their former captain and his daughter... keeping things in this part of the galaxy safe as a reward for the service of a former warrior and what's left of his family...

The Grand is concerned about the ship... seems it's lost computer control... The ships innards are organic; the circuitry and relays are made of synapses and dendrites. Pull open an access panel and you're more likely to find a few bags of blood and meat connected to an amorphous organ of some kind than you would the expected circuit breakers and fuses.

The ships controls are not responding, or, if they are, they are responding in unpredictable ways. It turns out that the organic material that makes up the innards and circuitry of the ship are the remains of accident victims and folks who have willed their bodies to science for some reason or another. The alien ship has gone through one of those wacky areas of space where weird shit happens. The phasing technology that the ship uses to shift between dimensions of time and space for travel (more on this later, as you shall see) has reanimated the meat on board and has alerted it to its former lives.

Oddly, the ship's innards are threaded with Lassie, Timmy, a grandmother, and a serial killer. You get what I'm saying, right? A family pet has been hit by a car? It's ability to play fetch is well used by its simple brain cells which search and locate data in the
ship's computer. Timmy drowned in the well? His healthy pink liver cells can filter toxins from engineering byproducts. Kindly grandmother gives up the ghost, on to her reward? Her tendons can still do useful work opening and closing doors on command. Serial killer executed by society as the ultimate punishment? Body willed to science by the government, a sick fuck now controls life support.

These four are now loose on the ship, floating sticks with two-dimensional representations of their former bodies electronically floating in air.

The Mykryl need Kastra and her pals to stop them and take control of the ship back before they drop into Earth's atmosphere and destroy Fremont.

Which, of course, they do, at the last second, using the phasing technology of the ships engines on a personal scale by bamfing the serial killer out into space and Timmy and Lassie and Grandma sacrificing themselves while exerting a last ditch effort to save the ship.

Of course, the plan can only work because they are working in concert with Justice Hall, who is revealed to be sporting a hand-held version of the phasing tech in his communication gauntlet, possibly against the day he may have to use it to stop Schaff permanently.

It's revealed in a flashback that, in fact, Justice Hall was the one inadvertently responsible for causing Schaff to be created in the first place, when he, The Grand, The Red Fez, and The Repairman (who's a woman, don't cha know) were first on this Mykryl ship in the mid Eighties. When trying to stop A Bad Guy who briefly gained control of the ship, The Red Fez and the ship's captain (Kastra's father) ended up fused into one mindless monster of rampaging destruction.

This sets up Justice Hall's fallibility and subsequent guilt, Kastra's maternal feelings with the parent-child roles reversed, why the Mykryl would still be hanging around Earth (because of a sense of duty to their mostly-fallen Captain), and Justice Hall's having the portable phasing tech in his souped-up communications gauntlet. Whew!

While the sacrifice of Timmy, Lassie, and Grandma are valiant and appreciated, the ship is now caught in the gravity well of Earth, and is going down. No way to stop it. Fremont is going to be vaporized, and probably most of the neighboring towns as well.

Only one thing to do: activate the phasing technology and hope the Mykryl can phase through the planet. Because Justice Hall, Kastra, The Grand, and Schaff are in the quinjet, trying to tow the crippled ship out of Earth's gravity, they're not going to be saved, even if the risky maneuver saves the Mykryl.

Justice Hall activate his personal phasing tech on the off chance the field of the Mykryl ship pulls them along and out of danger... but all that succeeds in doing is phasing them through to OUR EARTH.


Q: Act II is the first place we see extreme differences between the original outline and the finished product. This act barely resembles the original outline form. What finally made you cut the rather brilliantly surreal ship personality bit?

Larry: Act II was supposed to be an adventure of the team, so we can see how they interact. For the allegory, we don't really need to know HOW they interact; it’s enough to know that they DO.

Q: And do they ever. That color sequence is memorable as hell and had to be satisfying to see in print. What gave genesis to that? In the original outline the flashback warrants one paragraph... and in the final product it dominates the whole Act.

Larry: Well, the structure of the book sees us romping through the Golden Age, the Silver Age, and the Modern Age... so it just seemed a natural to dummy the flexographic press look of the comics I enjoyed as a kid. Yeah, since the alien meatship stuff had to go, I figured I'd just replace it with the Red Fez/Dave Sim/Schaff/self-publisher flashback stuff.

Q: Is that what prompted you to make the flashback so dominant? Homage?

Larry: Naw, I just wanted to make the self-publisher stuff more central.

Q: "Alien meatship"... man, that is some seriously bizarre stuff right there.

Larry: It's a crazy place up in my head.

Q: That it is. The self-publisher stand-in Schaff does play a pretty big role in here, as does his relationship to Justice Hall. In the outline you place sole responsibility for Schaff's state on JH's shoulders.

Larry: Yeah.

Q: It changes a little in the final product. We've got this moment of tenderness or kinship or whatever you want to call it... Between JH and Schaff. Here's one of those questions you hate: Do you think there's any love like that between the Big Two and self-publishers?

Larry: The folks at DC always take my call. Patty Jeres is one of the best marketing people in comics, and has a fine editorial eye of her own.

Q: So you think there's still a good relationship there. I don't doubt that, just wanted to hear your take.

Larry: Paul Levitz always has time for Mimi or me if we have a question, and I’ve always had very good conversations with Karen Berger and mark Chiarello when I have the opportunity.

Q: Any chance they'll be seeing this book?

Larry: Jim Lee has seen it, I know.

Q: Nice. Have you gotten any feedback from professionals?

Larry: Sure; all the folks I talk to regularly loved it.

Q: Which in a roundabout way brings me to my next question. One of the major complaints floating around the blogo-mart -- before the allegorical nature became clear to a lot of the reviewers -- is that the story moves in an almost herky-jerky manner from place to place. The actions of the characters are arbitrary, but that's the fun of it; but a lot of folks had a tough time with the pace.

Larry: They didn't grow up reading comics in the 60s.

Q: Crap, my eldest sibling wasn't old enough to read comics in the 60's. You've made your statement that the pacing in PLANET is a middle finger to decompression, is that right?

Larry: I wouldn't go that far, but it's a valid observation.

Q: It's certainly a change from the 288-page epic you had originally planned.

Larry: Look at the first 50 issues of the FANTASTIC FOUR... Dr. Doom, the Mole Man, Galactus, the Silver Surfer, all sorts of stuff. The story in those issues would last 300 issues today. Stories evolve... making a point about decompressed storytelling was more fun.

Q: True. How long is it taking UFF to show us the origin of Dr. Doom?

Larry: What's the UFF?


Larry: Oh, yeah... ummm... I don't know?

Q: There's a pretty heavy amount of grumbling because it's taking 6 issues to say what the original first issue did by itself.

Larry: Yeah, honestly, I don't know what to say about that. Some folks will bellyache about anything.

Q: Larry Young doesn't buy superhero comics? Now there's the shock story of the 21st century.

Larry: Naw, I get some stuff... I buy DEMO. I liked the ULTIMATES when it was coming out

Q: Don't you print DEMO?

Larry: Yeah, that just means I buy more than one copy.

Q: Give me the Larry Young shopping list.

Larry: Today I just picked up the SPIRIT volume 7, Planetes vol 3, and Back Issue #4.

Q: Any monthly series you follow besides the ones you publish?

Larry: Naw, not that I can think of. I don't read all that many comics, anymore. I'm about the trade paperbacks. Plus I read a lot of other things. Right now, I'm reading AMERICAN CARS, THE JOURNAL OF LEWIS AND CLARK, and the latest VICE and MACADDICT magazines. I have the last few Judge Dredd magazines, too.

Q: Uh oh. You wait for the trade? That makes you the anti-Christ in a lot of circles. A lot of people, I call them "whiners," talk like waiting for the trade is going to kill the business for good. I take it that argument holds no weight with you, considering you yourself are a publisher but you wait for the trades anyway.

Larry: Whiners whine, man. That's what they do.

Q: So it's not a concern for you.

Larry: It's not so black-and-white as all that. I read WALKING DEAD monthly... some stuff I just don't care about. I'm a busy guy, so I can hardly keep a monthly story straight...

Q: Your boy Adlard had a great first issue on WALKING DEAD, by the way.

Larry: Charlie's an incredible artist.

Q: The DEMO contest wraps up today, and you've heard the question floating around: Why no DEMO TPB? I know you've given an answer, but the one I saw was in a comments section, not in anything permanent.

Larry: Seriously, man, I answer this once a week. It's all over the Internet, in every interview I've done in the last six months. Here's what it says on Thought Balloons: "This is like asking a marathon runner on Mile Eleven when he's going to run another marathon."

Q: So basically back off till you've caught your wind. Last question's just one me and Shane were tossing around. We're kind of curious what you, Larry Young, comics visionary of the West Coast, see on the rise. The Next Big Thing, be it series, writing style, genre, writer, artist...

Larry: I NEVER answer this question. It's like asking a magician to explain his sleight-of-hand.

Q: Heh. "Keep an eye on the shelves," is that it?

Larry: I make my money by anticipating and then creating the Next Big Thing. Look at how many script collections are out now; look at the books that have copied the LAST OF THE INDEPENDENTS format...

Q: And damn if that isn't one pretty book, too.

Larry: "It's tough being the one with all the brains."

Q: Luckily "you're the one who's got the juice."

Larry: Just a clever mammal at the twilight of the dinosaurs.

(Stay tuned for the fourth and final installment, same time tomorrow.)

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