Brian Wood is an amazing graphic novelist, known for his ability to tap into the psyche of his often youthful and rebellious characters. Some of his best known work is “Local,” “Demo,” “DMZ” and “Northlanders.”
After learning that Brian Wood gained inspiration for his current run of “DV8” from the great John Huston film, starring Micheal Caine and Sean Connery, I had to go check it out for myself. If you’re like me, you enjoy those added layers of understanding, so go enjoy the movie and check out this brief interview:
Henry Chamberlain: Throughout history, all the great powers have tried and failed to conquer Afghanistan. Whatever one’s politics, that is a pretty amazing fact, isn’t it? I ask this considering your inspiration for your DV8 run comes from “The Man Who Would Be King,” about two guys who try to “take over” Afghanistan. Is the war embedded in the background of DV8?
Brian Wood: Not so much war in the shooting-bombing sense, and I don’t think the word “Afghanistan” entered my mind once while writing DV8, but what always struck me about that film… and this goes back to when I was rather young, since I first saw it when I was twelve, was the disparity in cultural development and sophistication, and how ruthlessly Daniel exploits that. And how carelessly they both enter into the whole enterprise.
I think the twelve year-old me was pretty impressed by it, I must admit.
Anyway, that film’s stuck in the background of my mind ever since. I’d probably put it on my Top 10 list, if I had one. I think DV8 was born from that, with equal parts Demo and Northlanders, two of my other books.
HC: You’ve really created quite a mashup of the original DV8 and the John Huston film. It’s like you’ve taken some deep issues and brought them down to an accessible level among youth. Is that what you had in mind?
BW: Maybe. Maybe subconsciously. I think I’m being a little ruthless and careless myself with the natives in that story, and I have to watch myself since I don’t want to spoil anything. My main goal with this book is to reintroduce and further develop bits of the DV8 characters, and do a little bit of Demo, provide a little bit of superhero social commentary that I could never get away with in that other book. The setting of DV8, and the natives relationship to them is utterly crucial to that. But in all honestly I am not really making it my mission to tell their story in the same way or with the same complexity as I am the DV8 kids.
HC: Can you give us your own review of “The Man Who Would Be King”? Or any suggestions on other great films that you’ve found inspiring?
Anything else in film that might make its way into your comics?
BW: There is another film, one that is certainly in my Top Five, that could be interesting to people who know my work… and that’s “Local Hero”, an eighties film set in Scotland. I’ve used that for inspiration in so many ways and at some many different times (and will again in the near future) that I’ve taken to re-purchasing new copies each time. Seems like the least I could do. It’s a terrific film and hugely overlooked.
As far as “The Man Who Would Be King”, it’s hard to review that properly, to do it justice. I can say that its a must-see if anyone is even halfway interested in current events i.e. the war, or the politics of war in general.
I love this trend of having awesome writers take lost and forgotten titles from yesteryear and hotwiring them into today’s new hotrods. For example, Andy Diggle did just that recently with “The Losers” without any reverential care to the title’s back story. Too much respect can get tedious. The same here with Brian Wood’s take on “DV8,” published by Wildstorm. This is far from a retread. It is a whole new ball game.
It’s enough to know that Wood found the original interesting. No need for him to canonize it. Instead, he draws inspiration for his story from one of John Huston’s greatest films, “The Man Who Would Be King.” If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and grab it. Michael Caine and Sean Connery, in their prime, are two rogue British Victorian soldiers who decide that, between the two of them, they can exploit all the tribes of Afghanistan. A finer cautionary tale, for individuals and superpowers alike, is hard to come by.
And so a somewhat similar tale unfolds with a band of rogue young punks with superpowers. Sean Connery’s character, Daniel, explains to a bewildered clan of natives who have just witnessed his use of a firearm, that he is a god that has fallen from the sky. The DV8 team literally falls from the sky and crash land onto an alien planet. They sort of take it in stride as part of their latest mission until the full implications of what has happened have some terrified and others excited. Just like the Michael Caine character, Peachy, is left to tell the tale, so too one of the DV8 crew, Gem, takes on the role of narrator as part of her debriefing from some unseen authority.
For Issue Five, Rachel is at the height of her powers as a “god” ruling over a settlement. So drunk with power is she that her comeuppance can not be too far behind. It certainly doesn’t help that she’s been running ragged one of her DV8 mates who she has reduced to the role of a pet.
The collected trade of “DV8” will be a thing of beauty. It is quite a beautiful collaboration between writer Brian Wood and artist Rebekah Isaacs.
This eight issue limited run is so sweet that I highly recommend picking up the remaining issues if you are still new to this. It is quite a stylish treat down to the last page. Huge props too for Fiona Staples’s cover and such sublime colors by Carrie Strachan and spot on lettering by Jared K. Fletcher. If you’re just discovering “DV8,” then consider yourself lucky to what awaits you and congratulate yourself on your good taste.