Cosmic Tales: An Interview with Dan Abnett

dan_abnettDan Abnett is a New York Times best-selling author who’s worked in the comics industry for over 20 years. He has contributed to the legacies of some of the biggest characters in comics, and most notably rebooted Guardians of the Galaxy in 2008 alongside frequent collaborator Andy Lanning, a run that laid the groundwork for 2014’s blockbuster by the same name. He has written several novels for the Warhammer 40k universe, Tomb Raider, Doctor Who, as well as three original novels.

This year he is returning to Dark Horse to tackle their latest Predator mini-series, Predator: Life & Death. I got the chance to ask him some questions about the upcoming series, his affection for the Predator franchise, and his career in comics.

Kris Solberg: The Predator franchise has been around since the 1980’s. Its fearless hunter has been part of 5 big screen adventures, as well as tons of books, comic books, and other media. What was your relationship with the Predator franchise before writing this series?

Dan Abnett: As a huge of the movies as they came out, I remember going to see the original at the cinema without knowing what to expect, and being utterly blown away by the movie.

KS: Predator has a well-established structure in most of its stories. There’s a group of humans that are ambushed by an invisible hunter, and the story then investigates whether they have what it takes to survive. How did you approach the task of telling a new Predator story? Did you attempt to include twists and turns that would surprise readers familiar with the franchise, or did you try to write more in the vein of the expectations readers might have for a Predator title?

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Predator: Life and Death #1 by Dan Abnett & Brian Thies.

DA: Actually, a little of both. We’re dealing with a squad of Colonial Marines, making landfall on a planet to carry out a mission. Soon they’re being stalked by the Predators they don’t know are already there, so… so far, so “Predator”…. but the story takes some twists, especially concerning the way the Xenomorp universe works. So it’s not just a death-hunt. It’s a big slice of chilling cosmic mystery too.

KS: In the first issue of this new series, the story takes us back into the jungle, making it quite reminiscent of Predator (1987) and Predators (2010). Why do you think the predator works so well in a jungle environment?

DA: It’s a classic hunting environment, it’s oppressive and dangerous in its own right, and it lends itself to the predators’ skill-sets. But I always wanted to deliberately evoke the feeling of that first movie. It’s a deliberately nostalgic nod.

KS: Throughout the movies and comic book series’, we have seen the predator fight in the jungle, in a city, in ice, and in space, just to mention a few. What kind of environment would you want to see them tackle next for the character?

DA: Inside an active volcano, on skateboards. Blindfolded.

KS: An idea that floated around for quite some time, that finally saw fruition in 2004, was predators fighting another legendary movie monster in the Alien. If you could pit the predator against any cinema monster, who would you choose and where would you like to see the fight take place?

DA: Too many possibilities! I wonder how they’d fare hunting big game like Godzilla. Or up against Terminators? Actually, the idea of them facing the slugs from Tremors would be fun – a very challenging prey item. As for The Thing… now that would be a terrifying contest. And never ever let a Predator loose in Jurassic Park.

Guardians of the Galaxy #1 by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning (writers), and Paul Pelletier & Brad Walker (artists)
Guardians of the Galaxy #1 by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning (writers), and Paul Pelletier & Brad Walker (artists)

KS: Several titles/characters you’ve worked on have been adapted to the big screen, perhaps most notably your run on Guardians of the Galaxy, which laid much of the groundwork for the insanely popular James Gunn film from 2014. Which adaptation of a book/character you’ve worked on do you feel embraced the spirit of its source material the best? On that note, if you had to pick your least favourite adaptation, what would that be?

DA: To be fair, I think James did an amazing job. He invited me on set to see him work, and I knew the movie was going to be a blast and very true to the source. So I’d have to say GOTG. As for least favourite… well, I think it’s kinder to just let these things fade when they don’t work. But it knows who it is 🙂

KS: There’s been countless film and TV adaptations of comic books over the last decade, and there’s much more to come. What’s a series, either one you wrote or one you’ve read, that hasn’t been optioned for adaptation yet that you would love to see brought either to TV or the silver screen?

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Wild’s End #1 by Dan Abnett & Ian Culbard

DA: From my own work, I’d love to a big screen or TV version of the series I’ve done with artist Ian Culbard, such as The New Deadwardians (Vertigo) or Wild’s End (Boom!). Generally, two of my faves: Alan Moore‘s Top Ten, and Warren Ellis‘ Injection.

KS: You’ve had quite an expensive career in comics. You’ve worked on some of the biggest titles for DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, and several other companies. If you could return to a character you’ve previously worked on with free reigns to tell whatever story you wanted, which character would you choose, and what kind of story would you want to tell?

DA: Actually, that’s happening now. I’m writer on Aquaman for DC, a book I wrote a few issues for about fifteen years ago. It’s great planning out really massive ASF/Horror adventures for him. I think I’d also take great delight in another crack at the Legion of Superheroes, or at Iron Man, a character I’ve written all too briefly before. But there are a lot of great characters and properties out there I haven’t got my hands on yet too…

KS: People love to imagine fights between two characters from comics, movies and other media they enjoy, arguing why one character would defeat the other. What would be the ultimate fight in your opinion? Which two characters would go up against each other, and who do you think would win the fight?

DA: You could play that game all day, but I’d personally like to see some of the less expected match-ups (at least meetings if not battles): Steranko-Era Nick Fury versus James Bond… John Constantine versus Dr. Strange… X-Files/Dr Who… Swamp Thing/Tarzan…

KS: Closing off the interview, could you tell me some of the titles/books you are currently reading? Is there anything that hasn’t caught on with most readers that you would like to recommend?

DA: I’m sure readers are aware, but InjectionProphetCry HavocProvidenceWolfWe Stand on GuardSagaRat Queens (and a little title called Wild’s End).

Kristian Solberg

Kris is a 26 year old viking from the land of ice and snow. Kris speaks four languages; Norwegian, English, Gibberish, and Bullshit. Kris also loves referring to himself in the third person, comic books, movies and everything that can be used to entertain this oh so simple mind from the deep, dark Norse forests.

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