The team behind the acclaimed mini-series Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes — writer Corinna Bechko, co-writer and artist Gabriel Hardman, and Editor Dafna Pleban — joined the Creators Workshop recently, to discuss their work on the BOOM Studios comic.
The story, set just before the original Charlton Heston film in the classic Apes continuity, is a sci-fi political thriller loaded with action and adventure.
Using Sci-Fi to Discuss Social Issues
Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes — and Bechko and Hardman’s subsequent Apes comics — have been praised for their complex themes and political undertones.
In particular, the comic breaks down the franchise’s traditionally strict lines between the personality traits of gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans. In the character of General Aleron, in particular, Bechko and Hardman created a nuanced portrait of a military figure who later turns to politics.
Bechko also talked about the development of The Reef, a water-locked prison complex featured in the story. She noted that the Apes government is “not particularly touchy-feely,” and a harsh, isolated prison complex seemed to fit in well with the world.
“We talked a lot about how different societies deal with the criminal element,” Bechko said. “And also we thought it would be a really cool visual, which is important in comics, of course.”
Pleban said that 20th Century Fox, the license owner, gave the creative team a great deal of freedom, allowing them to use the science-fiction genre as a way of telling relatable stories that raise questions about our own society.
“That’s always been the appeal of (sci-fi) genre, for a lot of us here,” Pleban said. “And I think we always try and give the writers as much latitude as we can.”
The Impact of Hardman’s Storyboarding on his Comics Work
In addition to his comics work, Hardman is a successful storyboard artist, having worked on films such as Inception, Superman Returns and Spider-Man 3. Hardman said his storyboarding work has been a great help in crafting effective comic books.
“(Storyboarding and comics) are very, very different mediums,” Hardman said. “But the fact is that, as a storyboard artist, I have to think about a real space, and how things would actually get shot, and a lot of really complex technical elements that would have to go into making a big giant action sequence.”
As a result, Hardman said, “when I come into a sequence in a comic, I’m thinking about it in three-dimensional terms. I’m thinking about where is this happening, I’m thinking about is this credible, and I’m thinking about, how do I keep the action dynamic while still making it absolutely clear where everything is happening and what the stakes are at any given moment.”
The Advantage of Writing and Drawing an Action Series
Hardman discussed the action sequences in Betrayal, and the advantages of serving as both the artist and co-writer on a project.
“I actually feel like some of the sequences in POTA are the first time that I’ve really gotten to craft the kind of action sequences in comics that I’ve wanted to, because I’m co-writing it,” Hardman said. “So from moment one, we’re working it out in a way where I can do the kind of action that I like.”
Hardman noted that he’s greatly enjoyed many of his collaborations with other writers — and noted his collaborations with writer Jeff Parker in particular. But, he added, “nothing beats being able to say, ‘okay, how can we make this a great action sequence?’ We plan that out from the start, and I try to make it work to the best degree I can on the page.”
Other topics discussed included:
* How the book came about
* Whether the book’s conspiracy-centered plot was worked out from the beginning, or developed during scripting
* The scripting process, and the advantages and challenges of Hardman and Bechko working together as a married couple
* Making the shift to working with another artist on subsequent Apes books
* Hardman’s inking style, and how it developed
* Colorist Jordie Bellaire’s work on the book, and whether her colors were designed to evoke the feel of the movies
* The prospect of BOOM!’s Apes books becoming available on a digital platform
Corinna Bechko is a writer of both comics and prose (Heathentown, Exile on the Planet of the Apes) who can’t shake her zoology background.
Gabriel Hardman has drawn Hulk and Agents of Atlas for Marvel Comics as well as Heathentown for Image/Shadowline.
Dafna Pleban is an Editor at BOOM! Studios over the Planet of the Apes line, as well as other titles such as The Hypernaturals and Dracula: The Company of Monsters.
Bechko and Hardman are currently co-writing Planet of the Apes: Cataclysm, as well as Star Wars: Legacy for Dark Horse Comics. Legacy also features Hardman on art.
Creators Workshop Book Club sessions are held throughout the year, featuring guest writers and artists discussing the craft and art of comics, as well as the business side of things. Additional live Workshop sessions take place every month, giving members real-world knowledge that will help them succeed in their comics career.
There’s still plenty of time to sign up before the next session. We hope to see you there.
— Posted by Paul Allor