Monday, February 13, 2006

I Needed a Hero

As with all things, my first solo script started with the merest whiff of an idea, jotted down in my idea folder and left to ferment:
“It was a day like any other day. The bed was one notch softer than it was last night. The two day-old coffee grinds were still bleeding see-through brew. The news in yesterday’s paper didn’t get any more interesting. It was your average run-of-the-mill Tuesday morning—until somebody stole the sun.”
As usual, that’s all I had. At first, I thought it was gonna be a sci-fi noir thing: What if Philip Marlowe lived in a world where the Roswell landings were both real and overt? What if the 1950s were a retro-tech playland, full of jetpacks and private eyes, hover cars and Smith and Wessons? That way lie madness, or at least the kind of madness I couldn’t shoehorn into a screenplay. There was too much, too many things to establish and then discard. (Maybe, now that I think of it, it’d work for a comic book…so don’t none of you bastards steal it or I’ll rain down the fury of a thousand berserkers upon your tender little asses.)

So, it sat there for a couple of years, occasionally to be looked at, puzzled over, and then returned to its cubby.

In the meanwhile, I’d convinced the Books editor here at the weekly entertainment magazine that cuts my checks to mix in a few comics reviews, when the book merited coverage. One of my first reviews was for Warren Ellis’ Global Frequency. The kicker for my A– review was “Part Buckaroo Banzai, part X-Files, Global Frequency starts in the middle of a mind-bending nuclear crisis and hauls ass straight through to the close. I'd say it would make a great TV show but for the sad truth that Hollywood would surely screw it up.” This was in 2002.

Flash forward to January 2004. I get my daily installment of Warren Ellis’ Bad Signal e-newsletter. In it, he talks about GF’s translation to the screen for a pilot, tentatively for the WB. And he mentions that screenwriter John Rogers is the showrunner. I hunt down Mr. Rogers’ email and send up a hail mary: I tell him that I reviewed this book, way back when, and thought that it’d make for a great TV show and, what’s more, according to Warren, he wasn’t screwing it up. I wanted to write for this show. Badly.

Now, if you know John, as I do now, this next bit probably won’t surprise you, but it surprised the hell out of me. He said that he was a bit of a ways from staffing the show but, when the time came, he’d be more than willing to read my spec and consider me. They were hopefully going to shoot the pilot in August; I was welcome to come out to the set and get a vibe for the show and, after that, “we’d talk.” I didn’t expect even the courtesy of a reply, let alone one as promising as this.

Thing was, I didn’t have a spec, not one that I was proud enough of to send out as a sample, and not one that—most importantly—I had written by myself. So I needed to get myself one of those, toot sweet.

And I remembered that “somebody stole the sun” idea and, well, it just clicked. Lost the period aspect. Still a private eye story. Contemporary, with a bit of a spy-tech slant. The hero's name would be, well, Hiro. It would be called Hero Unlimited.

I had six months. I gave myself that deadline for two reasons: 1) I’d be heading out to LA in July, stopping there before the San Diego Comic Con, so I could drop off the complete script with John then, and 2) my wife was pregnant with our second; she was due in early June and once the baby arrived, there’s be no time for anything besides sleep deprivation and flying poop. (Seriously, that shit can get some air.)

So, six months...

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