Seven Questions About Protege

Here’s the sixth installment of Seven Questions About: This time I interviewed Terence Anthony, the writer of the outstanding webcomic Protégé, which I wrote about a couple of times on this blog, especially in the post spoilers Surprising Your Audience The Webcomics Way spoilers .

Note that Protégé is currently on hiatus (at a perfect stopping point), but will resume updating a new chapter on November 25th., which gives you an excellent opportunity for an archive binge to get up to speed in time. And as always, I encourage you to do so.

Note: If you absolutely must take a shortcut, you can read this spoiler-free introduction instead.

Here we go:

Q1: Who are you?

I’m a guy who loves telling stories. I write mainly plays and comic books these days.

Q2: What is Protégé about?

Protege is the story of two killers who, instead of killing each other, are forced to work together. While they’re both extremely good at what they do, Trane and Allumette have vulnerabilities that, I think, make them interesting characters to write within the action-spy genre.

protege 11-11

Q3: Why and how did Protégé get started?

I’d created comic books when I was younger and about four years ago the itch returned. The broad strokes of the Protege story was stuck in my mind. I love action when it’s done right, and I’d been wanting to do a story that both embraces and deconstructs the genre in a way. I wanted to write a spy story that focused on the lives of rogues who don’t fit into the military-industrial complex as easily as, say, James Bond or Ethan Hunt. It isn’t an accident that the two protagonists are African American and Algerian respectively.

Note [TGC]: Not only the protagonists are interesting characters of diverse provenience, the same is true for the allies, and also for the villains. I’ve never seen such an admirable villains gallery.

After I started plotting the book I took a course at UCLA taught by Nunzio Defilippis and wrote the early drafts of the first issue. Soon after that I saw Juan’s work and his style fit what I had in my head for the look of the book. Protege is the kind of story that fluctuates between straightforward kick-ass action and complex character work that I could experiment with while learning and honing the craft of comic book writing. It’s the kind of story I could develop as my skills as a writer developed.

Q4: What influences made Protégé into what it is?

I’ve garnered inspiration and influence from (in no order at all): Takeshi Kitano, Antoine Fuqua, the Trevanian books The Eiger Sanction and Shibumi, Elmore Leonard, Mark Mazzetti, the Bourne movies, Walter Mosley, Don Winslow, Jeremy Scahill.

Q5: How much does the writing itself owe to the artist’s contribution?

With comic books I think the writing should always be significantly shaped by the art. When Juan and I first started working together there would be panels I wrote that he would draw completely different from what I described in the script, and most of the time they’d be vast improvements. Now that we’ve been working together for a while there’s a symbiosis; I feel comfortable being less detailed at times in my scripts and just looking forward to what he’s going to come up with visually and play with.

Note [TGC]: The artist is Juan Romera.

Q6: How far ahead did you plan the outline, and how did that plan evolve over time?

I’ve got the whole series plotted out right to its end. At this point I’ve constructed it as 5 story arcs, with each arc running 4-5 issues. That could be subject to change (the first story arc expanded from 4 to 5 issues) but there’s a definite end to Trane and Allumette’s story.

Note [TGC]: Since we have just seen the end of chapter 6, this means that we only crossed the 25% mark. Which means that there is so much more to come. Yay!

Q7: How do you decide whether including a specific depiction of violence, horror, or gore is necessary versus gratuitous?

To me, if you’re writing about violent characters you need to be willing to go into the deep and really explore violence. I hate stuff that tones down violent acts, sanitizes them and makes them “PG.” I think that’s copping out. Violence is messy, brutal, insane business and I’m not interested in stories where everyone only gets a flesh wound. At the same time, I try to make sure that when violence happens in Protege it’s in service to the story. To me an action scene should do the same work as any other scene and show us something about the characters involved, their motivations, all that. And if there’s some cool shots to the head as well, it’s all good.

Note [TGC]: That’s what I refer to as Breaking Bad level storytelling. And I love it.

protege 11-12

Got any comments?

In my opinion, Terence Anthony‘s answers are short and straight to the point, which is a good fit to the story he and Juan Romera are telling.

What do you think? Tell us in the comments!

PS: Let me remind you again that you can, and definitely should, do an archive binge of Protégé to get up to speed before it resumes updating on November 25th.


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