Paul Tobin Interview

Posted by Corporal Hicks on April 9, 2015 (Updated: 26-Apr-2015)

September 10, 2014 saw the release of Prometheus  – Fire and Stone #1, the first in a 12 part multi-series event from Dark Horse called Fire and Stone. It was also the first time the new spin-off license Prometheus was being brought to comic form, the very format that made the Aliens vs. Predator concept so popular.

We recently had the chance to ask Paul Tobin, the writer behind the simply gorgeous series (I think Juan Ferreyra is easily up there with Den Beauvais!) some questions regarding Prometheus – Fire and Stone as well as his work on the Predators comic adaptation from 2010.

AvPGalaxy – Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, Paul. It’s always a pleasure to speak to people such as yourself who get the chance to play with the franchises we all love! What have you been keeping busy with since Prometheus finished? Colder?

Paul Tobin – I stay pretty busy. I’m finishing up the final arc of my horror series, Colder. And then we’re just starting up my second series of Witcher. In addition to that, I’m writing the Eisner award winning Bandette with my wife, Colleen Coover. And then I’m doing a monthly Plants Vs. Zombies comic, now. And there will soon be four creator-owned series announcements from four different companies. And I’m writing two titles for the new Famous Monsters comic imprint, including Gun Suits, which is a fun science fiction mech slugfest.

And then I’m working on the 4th volume of a series of novels that will start up next year from Bloomsbury. And there’s an urban fantasy series of novels, too, that I can’t announce the publisher, yet. So… I keep busy. I probably forgot something, too.

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Paul Tobin.

AVPG – How did you get into the business of writing comics?

PT – I think the genesis of it goes all the way back to my college days, where I became friends with comic artist Phil Hester, who was just then starting out. That was the first time that I realized I could actually do comics, that creating comics was something anyone could do, all without asking for permission or being born into a special family. From there, I created a few comics with Phil and a few others. Got out of it for a while until my wife, artist Colleen Coover asked for advice on a comic she wanted to do, and helping her with that project (Small Favors) gave me the passion again. After that, it was just a matter of picking up my career and roaring ahead.

AvPG – Now that the series has been out for some time, have you had a chance to check out the response to the series? What did you think?

PT – I saw a quite a few tweets and reviews. Everyone seemed to love it. Other than Bandette, I’d say Prometheus was my highest approval rating percentage. That’s gratifying. I put a lot of love into the story, so it’s nice to get that coming back from the readers.

AvPG – Despite having Prometheus in the title your Fire and Stone series also features a lot of Aliens involvement. Which of the franchise’s would you say is your favourite? Alien or Prometheus and why?

PT – I’d say Aliens might get the slight nod, here, chiefly because I remember the stories so much from my youth, and I’m a big fan of horror, and the xenomorphs are so damn creepy. I suppose the Engineers are a much more dangerous opponent, but I’d rather face them anyway.

AvPG – And what about Predator for that matter? What do you think of the Predator series?

PT – I love the Predator franchise. There’s such a beautiful simplicity to the basic premise. He wants to hunt and kill you. You want to stay alive. 1, 2, 3… GO!

AvPG – Have you had a chance to try Creative Assembly’s amazing Alien Isolation yet?

PT – Not yet. I’ve been swarmed by deadlines for some time, now, and haven’t dug into any games. I have it, though. It’s waiting alongside the Order 1886 game, and then an empty spot on my shelf that’s patiently waiting for Witcher 3.

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The environmental suits as featured in Prometheus – Fire and Stone.

AvPG – Something that was critiqued by readers was how similar the spacesuits in your series were to the Prometheus film despite the near centuries difference in time. As I understand it this was a result of a change in time setting? Were there many changes made over the course of the series?

PT – One of the things we had to decide on early was the spacesuits. And by “we” I mean the other writers (Josh Williamson, Chris Sebela, Chris Roberson, and Kelly Sue Deconnick) and a group of editors that gathered together probably ten separate times here in Portland. We went back and forth on what suit to use, and then suddenly we realized that we didn’t really have to worry. It’s not like there’s only one type of suit for anything in the modern day. So we gave ourselves the mental okay to have suits designed for light atmospheres, or heavy suits, or all-purpose suits, and so on.

And, yeah… as to your question on whether there were many changes made during the course of the series… there were LOTS. In fact, Juan and I had completed the first issue, I mean completely finished, with letters and colors and everything, when word came down that we needed to make so many changes that it effectively dunked the entire issue.

AvPG – Can you tell us anything about the changes that were made?

PT – One of the main things is that we were able to use full xenomorphs, whereas originally it was a lesser form. Mainly, it was timeline material… what era we could set things in, that type of material. It’s a complex process sometimes, but I think all the hard work was worthwhile!

AvPG – Juan Ferreyra was your artist for the series. You’ve worked with him often prior to the Prometheus series. How did he become involved in the series?

PT – We just love working together so much. We’d worked on Falling Skies together, and then of course he’s my partner on our creator-owned Colder horror series. It just seemed like a natural to nab him up and get him to work drawing xenomorphs and spacesuits.

AvPG – I think one of the biggest mysteries that surround the Fire and Stone series is Elden. I got from the start that he was supposed to be something different to a regular synthetic. I took this from the term construct but Chris Sebela used the same term to describe the crash-test dummies in his Aliens vs. Predator story. So what was it about Elden then made him special? What made him react that way to the accelerant?

PT – The constructs are a form of the synthetics. A lesser form. Less all-purpose. I thought of constructs as befuddled synthetics, or even as drones. Elden was a high-functioning construct, but that still leaves him lesser to a true synthetic. It also means he has true bio-blood, though, and that left him susceptible to the accelerant. As to some of the deeper mysteries, I’ll have to leave those to any possible / probable followups we decide to do.

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The Construct Elden after his exposure to the Accelerant.

AvPG – And just how much fun did you have writing Elden?

PT – He was a blast! His character arc is all over as he’s affected by the accelerant, which means that he’s a truly good guy, but also a truly bad guy, and sometimes flips between the two. So, as a writer, I felt a lot of sympathy for him, even while he was doing some truly evil things. That’s fun to write, to hone that edge.

AvPG – Prometheus – Fire and Stone includes the Engineer species in a big way. You introduce one on the opening page and he helps close out the series as well. Something I’m curious about is where did you envision that particular Engineer came from? And what was he up to?

PT – To a certain degree I wanted the Engineer and his purposes to be a mystery, to even be unfathomable. I did work a lot out in my head in order that I could remain true to what I envisioned as his character, but I also wanted him to be a small bit of water at the edge of what is clearly a vast ocean.

AvPG – I was a little disappointed that the Engineer’s weren’t delved into too much in the series, especially after some of Elden’s tirades in Aliens vs. Predator seemed to hint at all sorts of interesting possibilities – time travel, creating other species. How come the Fire and Stone series didn’t explore them more? Was it a request from 20th Century Fox to keep away?

PT – We did have a request in place to stay away, to leave them room to develop their own thoughts in any upcoming movies, but it wasn’t a request that bothered me, since I wouldn’t have delved too deeply into the Engineers anyway. I think the mystery and the revelations of Engineers need to be slowly played out over time, and in fact never truly explained. They’re beyond us, so any attempts to explain them would inevitably fall short.

AvPG – I thought Francis was quite similar to Peter Weyland in that they are both searching for ways to end their mortality. Was this intentional?

PT – Oh yes. Very definitely intentional.

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The crew of the Kadmos encounter the Aliens for the first time.

AvPG – Now that Prometheus – Fire and Stone has been out for a while and you’ve had chance to see the feedback, is there anything you would want to go back and change?

PT – Not really. I’m pretty happy with everything that was on the page. Can I expand the question to “do you wish you would have had more room to develop some of the ideas, making it into a six issue mini-series?”… because then the answer would be an emphatic “yes!”

AvPG – Randy Stradley recently spoke about there being a second Fire and Stone series on the way. Will you be returning to play again?

PT – I can’t say for absolute positive, but I’ll say it’s pretty likely. It’s going to come down to some scheduling, but I want to be back, and they want me back, so we’ll see what happens. It’s certainly a fun playground and I’d love to toss some more sand around.

AvPG – Prometheus: Fire and Stone wasn’t your first piece of work for the Aliens/vs/Predator/Prometheus franchises. You also wrote the Predators comic adaptation back in 2010. How did you come to be involved in that?

PT – I think that might have been the first thing that editor Scott Allie and I ever worked together on. We both live in Portland, and he came by my studio for a lunch one day, and asked how my schedule was looking. I said something like, “Not bad, if you have something interesting,” and then he brought out the filming script for Predators. I’m a huge fan of the movie’s producer, Robert Rodriguez (I think I saw Desperado ten times in the theatres) so… I was in.

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The cover for the Predators comic adaptation.

AvPG – What material did you have available when you started writing? The filming script? Did you get to view the film early on?

PT – It was just that filming script, and then some quick notes on changes that had happened at production level. That’s all I really needed. It allowed me to see things in a unique way.

AvPG – What kind of process goes into dissecting a film for its comic adaptation? Can you walk us through how you approached the writing process?

PT – Well, this was a really strange one, because we really wanted to avoid a straight up adaptation, because those are boring as hell and don’t add anything to the movie. So, what I did is choose one character, Isabelle, and then tell the entire story from her eyes. It gave a personal tension to what was happening, and of course a huge amount of insight into her character and her past that wasn’t in the movie. We were able to really open things up in that manner… and I’m forever grateful to Dark Horse and the studio people for how much leeway they gave me.

AvPG – For Predators you focused your narrative on Isabelle’s character which left a lot of the set pieces out because she wasn’t there for those moments. Why did you take this approach?

PT – It’s just that, straight up adaptations are no more than coloring books to me, in that you already know the picture and now you’re just messing around with it. It’s entirely boring. So we brought in what’s literally a new perspective, a personal one. Comics allow a reader to really delve into a character’s inner thoughts in a unique way, and we’d have been fools not to completely utilize that tool.

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Paul Tobin’s Predators adaptation was told through Isabelle’s point of view.

AvPG – It’s quite common for adaptations to expand a little on the backstory, something we might not get in the film. You did this with Isabelle in Predators. Did you have any contact with the filmmakers when you did this?

PT – Not really too much. I had the shooting script, complete with some notes, and more notes that filtered in during the process, but I dealt mostly with editor Scott Allie.

AvPG – Did you see the final film? What did you think?

PT – I enjoyed it a lot! It did a good job of making you cheer for some truly unlikeable people, and I thought it had that good tense atmosphere for the Predator franchise, because it’s at its best when it’s an amalgam of an action and a horror movie.

AvPG – Thank you for taking the time to our questions. Before we sign off, is there anything you’d like to tell our readers?

PT – Just thanks for reading!

Be sure to head on over to Paul Tobin’s website and check it out.

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