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Gorilla My Dreams: Monkeying Around with 'Planet of The Apes' writer Daryl Gregory

Posted By: Wonder Worlock
Mon, 04/25/2011 - 20:54

pic In this age of mining classic movies, especially science fiction, for new twists and turns, there seems no richer series to choose than the well-remembered Planet of the Apes franchise.

Not only is there a new “prequel” in production by Fox titled Rise of the Apes, but Boom! Studios has announced it will be bringing us a new comic book series based on the original continuity of the Apes films from writer Daryl Gregory and artist Carlos Magno. The book is set to hit stores in April!

Cosmic Book News caught up with the writer of the series, novelist Daryl Gregory (The Devil’s Alphabet), and discussed in depth his plans for those “damn, dirty apes!”

Cosmic Book News: Daryl, you are no stranger to science fiction, having written the sci-fi novels Pandemonium and The Devil’s Alphabet. I take it you are a fan of the Planet of the Apes series of movies?

Daryl Gregory: I think this is something beyond fandom. It’s like being a fan of oxygen. I literally cannot remember a time without Planet of the Apes. I can’t remember when I first saw the original movie, or how many times I watched it and the sequels. I grew up in Chicago, where the movies were playing constantly on WGN. Among my cohorts, if someone says, “Get your hands off her,” you are obliged to say, “You damn, dirty ape!” It’s just a rule.

Cosmic Book News: Can you tell us how you became involved with the new comic book prequel, Planet of the Apes, from BOOM! Studios? When does this take place compared to the Charlton Heston original? And is this an ongoing?

Daryl Gregory: The words prequel and sequel get pretty confusing with the Apes movies -- it’s much worse than Star Wars. Chronologically speaking, our story takes place in 2680 A.D., 600 years after the last Apes movie, Battle for the Planet of the Apes, and before Charlton Heston arrives in 3954 A.D.

I got involved with the book when Matt Gagnon, Boom! Studios editor-in-chief, called me and asked if I was interested (oh, was I).  I’d started working with Boom! about six months before, when they brought me on to co-write Dracula: Company of Monsters with Kurt Busiek. I’m still writing that book, but I was happy to get the call to work with them again. This is an ongoing series, so we’ll keep telling stories as long as the fans let us.

picCosmic Book News: How does working with the Planet of the Apes franchise differ from some of your other noted sci-fi works?

Daryl Gregory: In my novels and short stories, it’s all me -- my ideas, my successes, my failures. That’s both exhilarating and frightening, and a bit lonely. You’re off by yourself in a room, typing away, wearing no pants. With comic books, you’re still writing that first draft of a script alone in a room, and you’re still not wearing pants, but the story is only half told. The responsibility for telling the story is shared by the writer and the artist, and the editor is there to keep everything in balance. It’s a much more collaborative process, like being in a rock band. And I’ve been so lucky in my first two comic books to work with great artists and editors. Wait until you see Carlos Magno’s apes in this book!

Cosmic Book News: Is there a pressure to maintain a tight continuity with the movies, as the solicit proclaims? Or, as this is a prequel, do you get to add many of your own original ideas to the story?

Daryl Gregory: It’s the best of both worlds! We are absolutely honoring the continuity and mythology created by the five Apes films, taking everything we know from them as givens. That’s a feature, not a bug -- because that world is rich with humans, mutants and many varieties of apes, as well as big events like a nuclear war.

But because the time period we are dealing with wasn’t covered by the films, we get to invent new characters and situations, while fleshing out the world we saw on screen. It’s a blast!

Cosmic Book News:  Furthermore, how involved is the movie studio? Will this tie in at all with the current Rise of the Apes prequel movie currently in development?

Daryl Gregory: Our series is unrelated to Rise of the Apes -- and that makes my job a lot easier.  Fox is of course interested, because it’s their property. They looked at the series synopsis, and I believe the first script. They gave their approval to tell the story I pitched to Boom!, so I’m going to pedal at full speed until someone tells me to pull over.

pic Cosmic Book News: It was an undercurrent in the films, but we always wanted to see more of the class system of the Apes and how that played out socially and in everyday life (chimps as intellectuals, orangutans as administrators, gorillas as military). Any of that coming our way in this series?

Daryl Gregory: One of the benefits of doing an ongoing series is that we’ll be able to dive into the world in greater depth. We’ll be able to show how those class and species divisions play out. It’s such a multi-layered society, because as well as those strata of ape society, there is also a vibrant human community. In our series, the humans are not just mute savages. They have their own subgroups and political divisions, their own goals and desires. Basically, we put all those conflicting groups into a big bowl, mix and bake at 350.

Cosmic Book News: What can you tell us about your use of “The Lawgiver?” We know from the movies that he was viewed as almost god-like, and only appeared in the last with Battle For The Planet of the Apes. Will we learn anything behind the motivations of “The Lawgiver” -- or origins?

Daryl Gregory: The Lawgiver is probably the central figure in the story. We set the story about a decade after that coda at the end of Battle where the Lawgiver appears. In those few minutes, he offers a glimpse of a world where humans and apes live in harmony. But can that utopia last? What are the cracks in that society? (The answers are no, and many.)

Cosmic Book News: What role will the mute humans take in this series? Will one or more come to prominence, even though we are in the “Golden Age” of the Apes?

Daryl Gregory: This is very much a story about apes and humans. It’s really the pinnacle of ape-human civilization, when the species were living side by side and humans could still order aloud in restaurants. The big question is, is this world fated to become the one we see in the original movie, doomed to end in fire as we saw in Beneath the Planet of the Apes, or can they build something better? For example, you know all the horses in those movies are thinking, when do we get the vote?

picCosmic Book News:  Any ancestors of characters we may be familiar with from the film franchise being worked into the series? Doctor Zaius, perhaps? Zira and Cornelius?

Daryl Gregory:: Because of the time period, the Lawgiver is the only character from the movies who will be on stage in the first few arcs. But Zira, Cornelius and their son Caesar have become legendary figures in this world, and their stories have a real effect on the society, in the same way that Jesus, the Founding Fathers and Hervé Villechaize are part of our daily discourse.

Cosmic Book News: Will we see any of the Underground City run by telekinetic humans (Beneath the Planet of the Apes, 1970) in this work? Does the Forbidden City or Forbidden Zone come into play?

Daryl Gregory: I don’t want to live in a world where I can’t write about radioactive mutants with psychic powers.

As for your second question: Maybe and maybe.

Cosmic Book News: Tell us about some of the other project you may have coming our way, near and far future.

Daryl Gregory: Hey, thanks for asking! In June my third novel, Raising Stony Mayhall, will be out from Del Rey Books. It’s the usual dead-boy-grows-up-in-the-heartland-and-becomes-the-zombie-messiah book. My collection of short stories, Unpossible and Other Stories, will be out from Fairwood press in the fall.  And throughout the summer I’ll be appearing at birthday parties as Komo the Clinically Depressed Clown. I don’t actually get paid for that, I just like to appear.

Cosmic Book News: Thanks so much for your time, Daryl.

"Planet of the Apes #1" from Boom! Studios, Daryl Gregory and Carlos Magno hits this Wednesday!