What if the biblical "Valley of the Shadow of Death" was a real place? That's the story Shadow Walk explores. I had an opportunity to interview writer Mark Waid (Kingdom Come, Superman: Birthright, Captain America, Daredevil) about his upcoming graphic novel.
How did you become involved with Legendary?
I’ve known Bob Schreck forever, and we'd been looking for something to work on. Thomas Tull had the basic idea of the story and was looking for someone to help flesh it out. I sat down with him, and it couldn’t have gone better. I will freely admit that I fully had my shields up, because I figured some movie guy is going to come and tell me how to write comics. But in fact it was the exact opposite, and Thomas could not have been more humble and more eager to learn the of medium and comics.
What is the dynamic like when you're working with a movie studio, and there is a large possibility that your work could be made into a movie?
Yes, it's a possibility, but what I really appreciated a lot was that once we had the basics of the story locked down they could have been told in any medium. Thomas and Bob gave me all the latitude I needed to tell it in the format I’m most comfortable with. Nobody asked me in any way to ever shape the story to fit a particular medium. They just wanted a really good story, and that worked out to our advantage.
Based off the art from the 10 page preview, the characters look like they are from the future or an alternate reality. When does this take place and is it in our world?
It's sorta set in the day after tomorrow, not the far flung future, it's still fairly contemporary. I think the reason you're getting that sci-fi vibe is because Thomas in particular wanted artist Shane Davis to really keep the technology cutting edge. Thomas knows a wide swath of people in various fields, and he and I had multiple calls with some consultants about what weapons technology will look like in the next few years. Shane submitted a bunch of designs about what the state of the art military armor might look like in the next couple of years. So it's a contemporary piece, but the whole idea is that if you're sending a battalion of men into the most dangerous spot on earth, you're clearly going to want them to be as protected as humanly possible.
John Raines is the only person to have survived "The Valley of The Shadow of Death." Could you tell me more about how he was created?
It was always Thomas’s idea that John Raines was the guy who leads the charge into this realm, but early on there was not much meat on the bone for him, he was more of a plot device. We talked it out with Max Brooks, who created a pretty heavy story bible for this whole universe. What we arrived at was a character is very much about control. A character who is very much about believing in what he sees in front of his nose at any given time, and doesn’t have a whole lot of room in his life for theology or philosophy. John’s not stupid, he’s just a very practical man. Putting him into this realm of The Valley of The Shadow of Death and allying him with theologians and ministers gives you a lot of great fodder for character interaction.
What's it like working with Max Brooks, who's best know for writing World War Z?
The good news is that Max has written more than his share of comics and graphic novels on his own. What he really brought to the table was an enormous amount of research, both historical and physiological. What this place might be, what the back story about people inhabiting our story might be. All with the idea of that it's a collaborative effort. So I was able to adapt and change things. The one thing I didn't feel like messing with was his incredible 60 page term paper on the history of The Valley of The Shadow of Death throughout world culture over the years. Even if we didn't use much of it on the page, it informed the way we told the story.
How far out beyond the graphic novel have you guys written?
It's a one and done graphic novel, and the story is self- contained. Based on the response there could be more.
Could you talk about Shadow Walk’s paranormal aspects or deeper message?
The whole idea is that maybe this realm is the well-spring from which all paranormal and folklore about the supernatural has arisen. If so, the very seeds of all of those myths and lore exist in this place. The further the tunnel down the expedition goes, the grizzlier and the more risky and more dangerous it all becomes.
On a deeper take way level we are plumbing the questions. What is faith all about? What is the purpose of faith in our lives? How do we deal with these things in utterly inconceivable conditions?