Exclusive Interview! Brian Haberlin
Full details on Witchblade creator’s super-secret cyborg epic Ulysses Squared!
He's the co-creator of Witchblade, a top Spider-man/X-Men artist, and a former editor and writer on Spawn. Now Brian Haberlin's preparing to unleash his latest creator-owned opus, Ulysses Squared, and GeekChicDaily has your first look!
Prepare for the story of a hapless astronaut, an old Soviet space weapon, and an intelligent alien probe that inadvertently turns them both into super-cyborgs. One has good intentions, the other decidedly less so. We're figuring you can guess which is which. Find Haberlin’s detailed story description below, and don’t forget to hit our exclusive image gallery!
Brian Haberlin: While I was editor-in-chief for Todd McFarlane and drawing Spawn, I got my butt kicked into returning to creator-owned stuff. Working with Todd and Robert Kirkman, you sit in a room and they keep talking “Creator-owned! Creator-owned!” And I’m going, “Ya know, I used to do creator-owned...” So eventually I went to Todd and said I gotta move on, I gotta do my creator-owned story. That’s where all this stuff is coming from.
GCD: We've heard you're trying something different with this one...
BH: I’ve always liked playing with the storytelling medium. My book Athena Inc. was a mixture of prose and not-quite-sequential art. I also like the idea of kind of a children’s book for adults: lushly illustrated, similar to Dinotopia, but not eight panels a page. All those ideas figure into this project.
GCD: Will Ulysses Squared be a one-shot?
BH: The plan is to do it a little bit unconventionally, not like a regular comic. It’s gonna be more of an illustrated novel. It’ll be a nice big, thick read, with as many words as a normal prose softcover novel would have. But there’ll be a lot more pictures than people are used to. There are plans to continue the story, but we have to get this one done first.
GCD: Is the name “Ulysses” intended to evoke Homer's Odyssey?
BH: In the sense that it’s a journey. Alan Ulysses Grant is a guy who, as an astronaut, is more of a mission specialist. He’s not like one of the fighter jocks, but a techie who goes from being this average guy to doing all these amazing things. But he also knows that he’s been remade, and he has this inner thing going on. He looks like a normal guy 99% of the time, until he really needs to go full-on [offensive], or is in danger. That’s when this alien armor comes out and covers his body. He realizes that in a cool way he has all these new abilities, but that he’s also a little bit of a Frankenstein.
GCD: How does the armor function?
BH: When Alan is remade, he’s given a bio-computer that acts as a separate artificial intelligence which also inhabits his own brain. He actually has arguments with it, especially in the early days, because the computer part of him believes that it’s in a war situation. But that’s early on. You get this classic Kirk/Spock relationship as they eventually grow closer.
GCD: What would you say the main push of the story is?
BH: Man versus machine, but also man dealing with transformation. You look just like yourself, but you’re not flesh and blood any more. You think like you, but are you really you after all this machinery has been put into your body? You can see with the antagonist, Ares, what potentially could go wrong with Alan, what he could become. That scares the hell out of him. This story goes back a couple of years for me. Part of its inspiration is that I always really wanted to make my version of the Six Million Dollar Man. I loved that show when I was a kid. I wanted to make a story not like the way he became in the TV series, but in the very beginning when they were movies. He was like our 007, but with these extra powers.
GCD: What level of subject matter are we talking – PG, or more adult?
BH: It’s PG-13, maybe a tiny, tiny, tiny little bit darker than that, but not much.
GCD: Who are the rest of the creative team on the book?
BH: Dan LuVisi is helping with all the concept designs – I’m sort of art-directing him right now – and then for the day-to-day, it’ll be me and my brother James. We wrote a novel (But...But...Barbarians) that was released a few years ago. We’re gonna be writing together on this.
GCD: To switch gears a bit, do you think a Witchblade feature film will ever become a reality?
BH: I get pulled in when they think it’s really going to happen, because then they start planning all this background material for it. Yes and no is the best way to put it, because sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t hear what's happening.
GCD: The character endures.
BH: I can tell you where she was originally created: in a little restaurant on the pier in Santa Monica. At the time Shi and Lady Death were doing really well, and we went, “You know what? We can do better. Let’s figure out a female hero that has day-to-day problems as well as super-problems.”
GCD: Aside from the book, are there more plans for Ulysses Squared? Merchandise, spin-offs, etc.?
BH: Yes. We’ve done a bunch of releases on the iTunes store, and it could definitely go there. A lot of the stuff I do has a 3-D base to the art, so animation and lip-syncing is very easy to do for motion comics. As for films and other stuff, I'm open to the various options that may become available.