This week The Pullbox was lucky enough to get an e-interview with Scott Burn, mastermind behind the soon-to-be-science fiction classic AGON, coming out of Zenesecope Entertainment.
Eric: Scott, thanks for this opportunity!
Scott: Hey guys, thanks for having me ‘virtually’ here and supporting AGON.
Eric: Can you give us the teaser-trailer version of what AGON is about?
Scott: The story is about what happens when an alien comes down to Earth and tells us that we’ve reached a stage of enlightenment where we’re being invited to join a hierarchy of advanced civilizations. However, to join, we have to compete against other emerging civilizations in a series of battles. The winner will get to join. The losers will have their species wiped out.
We can only send ten warriors. So the choices have to be made very carefully, especially since we have no idea what we’ll be dealing with up there.
The question that each species ultimately faces is who is the real enemy – the ones they have to kill to survive, or the ones forcing their hand to begin with.
Eric: What inspired this sort of high-octane action plot?
Scott: I’m an action and science fiction writer. So combining the two in the story seemed like a pretty natural pairing. What I really liked in writing AGON was that the different worlds and species allowed for an opportunity to explore action sequences in a way we (or at least I) haven’t seen before.
At the same time, as much fun as the action is, if there weren’t some compelling story underneath with an intriguing theme to explore, then it would feel empty. So the best of the action ultimately stems from the nature of the characters pushing the story forward.
Eric: AGON, where did the name come from? Are you a history buff? (it’s true, I wikied it)
Scott: AGON is a Greek term with several different meanings. But the one I’ve latched on to relates to the nature of “contests.” It’s tied into the question, what are you willing to endure to be victorious? I love stories where the hero is pushed beyond anything imaginable and has to find a way to keep going – in this case, with the weight of the world on his shoulders.
I’m pretty into history, especially from Medieval times on back. The idea of telling a futuristic story with incredible alien backdrops and wild technology that also embraces the Greek concepts of honor in battle was incredibly appealing.
Eric: So how did you get involved in AGON?
Scott: AGON is my first foray into comic book writing. I was pretty lucky in that it was exactly the kind of thing I would have wanted to write but wouldn’t have the faintest idea how to break into that world.
The team involved came to me because I was recommended by producers on a sci-fi feature I had just written. When they told me the idea, I loved it…the only question was whether they would be open to the slightly out-there direction I wanted to take the story.
Fortunately Ralph, Joe and put their faith in me and they basically gave me the reigns to do what I wanted with the story.
Eric: From the first promo image, I knew AGON would be covered in awesome-sauce – but the image of what looks like raining blood, sort of gave it a feel of a supernatural apocalyptic tale – Was this tease on purpose?
Scott: Awesome sauce. I like that. Yeah, we all have frightening images that have found little niches in our subconscious to take hold. For me, the idea of a sky turning black, not just in one place, but across the world, is incredibly unsettling. Then combining that with an apocalyptic blood red rain is just terrifying.
But the tough question was how to take the imagery and use it in AGON in a way that moved the story forward. So while the rain is frightening, it serves a much greater purpose than just to scare the world.
Which is basically what I tried to do through all the issues, find things that were compelling and use them in a way that had more significance than just a cool image.
Eric: Even though it is being published by Zenescope, it would seem that AGON is not connected with any of the rest of the Zene-verse, true?
Scott: I know Zenescope is starting to delve more into the sci-fi world with a couple of their other titles like MERC and STINGERS. But I really wanted to push the sci-fi angles in AGON. I was a big sci-fi fan growing up on the Godfathers like Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury…and others like Orson Scott Card (are there better sci-fi endings out there than Ender’s Game?).
I’m sure most people picking up the comic book know that the story involves some sort of intergalactic gladiator battles. But the story goes much deeper than that. I really wanted to use a sci-fi backdrop to explore the question of what it means to be ‘human.’ Do we have a monopoly on it because of our genetic form? Or does the concept go to something else – as we explore the other alien groups, we’ll start to find that while there are many things that separate us from them, the similarities may outweigh the differences.
So finding a way to weave in that theme in each issue made it a really compelling story to write from beginning to end.
Eric: Is there room to translate AGON into other medias?
Scott: I’d like to think that if people respond to the stories in the mini-series that it opens up the door to explore a video game where players could choose which alien species they wanted to fight for. And since each group sends up 10 warriors to fight, there’s really no shortage of ways to delve into multiplayer gaming.
If it should be set up as a feature, I think that would be great too.
Eric: Any other future / present projects we can shamelessly plug here? (Countdown?)
Scott: A shameless plug? Why not… I have a few projects in development around town. One is COUNTDOWN, a project I co-wrote that’s in development at Summit Entertainment. It’s based on an old Richard Matheson short story called Death Ship. The basic idea is about a group of astronauts who land on a planet and find their own dead bodies. Then they begin dying in the way they discovered their bodies. Creepy fun.
Then I sold a script called ORIGIN to Relativity Media. That’s a story about how we deal with it when a primordial black hole threatens to destroy the earth. What was especially fun about this one was talking to astrophysicists all over the world to really understand how space/time distorts the closer you get to a black hole. Which opens up a lot of interesting things to explore in storytelling.
I’m developing a very different sort of alien invasion story with producer Gale Anne Hurd about a man who comes to the realization that he may be part alien.
But one of the reasons AGON is particularly special to me is that it’s the first time I’ve actually been able to see my work brought to life. One of the great curses of being a screenwriter, especially a writer who creates event stories, is that if the studio isn’t willing to invest many millions of dollars into your script, then it’ll sit on the shelf collecting dust.
So even though I’ve sold things before, it’s been incredibly rewarding to finally see visuals of a story I wrote. It’s pretty great actually.
The last thing I’ll mention is my blog. If people would like to read some of my other writing, they can go to — Burningpictures.wordpress.com
Eric: Anything I forgot?
Scott: I’d like to just mention one thing. Or not a thing, but a guy (although he might say thing) and that’s my artist Paul Roper. He’s awesome. Although he’s in England and is often training in mixed martial arts, we still find time to go back and forth all day on particular images. It’s been great to have someone who can take the moments I describe and bring them to life.
I also just want to give a nod to the guys doing kickass work on the covers like Sean Chen, David Michael Beck, Paul Roper and David Seidman. They’ve done some phenomenal work.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to me. I hope people enjoy the story. It’s been a blast to write.
Eric: Thanks so much Scott!
So, AGON is coming out soon from Zenescope. I have read the first issue (review up soon) and it is indeed covered in awesome sauce – make sure you reserve your copy at your independently-owned comic shop soon!