When Mark Long and Chris McQuarrie launched the graphic novel Rubicon in 2012, they brought people right into the middle of a re-imagining of Seven Samurai, set during the War in Afghanistan. The novel focuses on five paramilitary Navy SEAL operators who are defending the residents of a remote mountain farming village from attacks by marauding Taliban.But what led up to the events of the graphic novel?Long (Hawken) and McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects, Jack Reacher) joined forces with director Christian Johnston for a live-action prequel that launches today on Machinima Prime. The pilot follows the journey of operator, Mike, and his handler, Smash, as they disrupt the dealings of a diverse set of dangerous groups. Mike is one of the good guys with a fair amount of bad guy to make him effective.
After the jump, FOG! chats with co-creator and Rubicon prequel writer Mark Long about the project.
Mark Long: The idea was Chris McQuarrie’s. Chris was interested in writing and directing a feature around the experiences of SEAL Team X in Afghanistan. He hadn’t conceived of the story yet, but suggested it might be something like The Michael Caine classic, Zulu.
I LOVE that movie. The idea took my breath away. And I couldn’t stop thinking about it. So emailed Chris a week later and said, “You know what’s better than Zulu? The Seven Samurai.”
Chris said, “Yes it is. And in Afghanistan you’d have the problem of opium poppies standing in for the rice the bandits return for.”
Dan Capel (Founding SEAL Team Six member) and I had been searching for graphic novel project to do together so we asked Chris if we could use his idea, proposing that we’d do a reimagining of the timeless Kurosawa masterpiece. And that got us started down the path of Rubicon becoming a transmedia project – a story spread out over miscellaneous media.
So the Machinima pilot is the prequel to the graphic novel. It tells the story of a character who is killed in the first pages of the graphic novel. Which you wouldn’t know from reading the OGN. But when you see the pilot, you’ll understand why his death is so profoundly heartbreaking to the other characters in the graphic novel. It’s what I love best about designing transmedia – each piece stands on it’s own. But is you see and read both, you’re rewarded with a deeper meaning.
You developed the graphic novel with Chris McQuarrie and Dan Capel. How was the writing divided? And how fleshed out has the world you created.
I wrote the original graphic novel with Dan, and Chris sent us notes. Which was incredibly intimidating if you think about what it would be like sending pages to an Academy Award winning screenwriter. But Chris is a Jedi. His advice was very zen and would focus on core ideas, like how to make characters memorable without resorting to exposition.
Obviously the Seven Samurai was an inspiration. What else informed or inspired the world you created?
Dan added the secret sauce. Scenes and details often based on his experiences that were often surprising, but rang true because they are true. The pilot has a shootout in the opening that was created and choreographed by Dan that is super badass and straight out of his covert ops experience.
Are there more stories you want to tell of Mike and Smash or are there other characters that you want to focus on within the Rubicon universe?
Yes, absolutely. You’re going to be very surprised where they end up after the pilot. Three words: SEALS versus Yakuza.
What are you currently geeking out over?
This is funny, but I’m reading a bunch of Chinese classics like The Romance of the Three Kingdoms and The 108 Heroes of the Water Margin but as kids comics. A friend from Singapore sent one to me and I got hooked. Now I’m reading all of them. I’m playing a lot of Blacklight Retribution on the PS4. And binge watching the new House of Cards and Sherlock seasons.