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The following interview was recently conducted with Sam Timel, writer of Milan K: Part One: The Teenage Years, available next Wednesday, February 5th, 2013.
How was this new project born?
Milan K. was initially a movie project idea that I was working on when I met - for another reason - the people at Humanoids, here in Los Angeles. I pitched them the story and they loved it, but first wanted to develop a comic book version of it. Since I'd never written for the comic book medium, this was quite challenging. For the first episode, I worked closely with the Humanoids team and managed to get some help from other, more comic-oriented, writers as well, such as Chuck Austen. I also read some European bande dessinee albums that were available in English, in order to better understand how this whole comic thing works.
What inspired this project?
The triggering elements were without a doubt the details of the real life story of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the ex-oligarch who's very recently been freed after a decade in Russian prison, and who is Russian president Vladimir Putin's number 1 enemy. But my story splits apart from the true story in the very first pages of the series.
Why did you choose artist Corentin as a collaborator?
The truth of the matter is that I've never even met with Corentin. Corentin was the publisher's choice. They had other tests and research design done by other artists that I found pretty good. But when I got Corentin's first pages, I immediately loved his art. He is a fantastic artist and I'm sorry to see him go after Part 1 of the series. But the upside of this is that we'll be able to release more of the series at a faster pace.
What is your writing process like? What are the different steps of your work ?
I believe there is nothing very unique in my writing approach. First, I develop a story arc which covers several episodes, albums if you will. I then write a more detailed treatment of a full cycle, which in the future should be no more than two episodes (the story of the first three volumes was initially supposed to be two books, but the publisher said that Corentin wanted to have more space for the action scenes, thus why we ended up with a three-book cycle…). Then, it moves into a back and forth process with the team at Humanoids in order to improve the story, the scenes, the links between them, the characters and the reasons why they are acting the way they are, etc. It is definitely my favorite step, and though it is very challenging to work with such demanding people, it is ultimately very rewarding... Finally, I write the actual script and breakdown of the story page by page. During the process, I often get into the very state of mind of the character I'm writing about. When Paline gets angry, I'm often pissed of myself, when Milan cries, I'm finding a softer spot within myself… The last step, that I do not supervise directly for obvious reasons, is the translation and its polish by French writer Philippe Thirault.
Would you tell us a few secrets about this latest episode?
When I learned that the series would be handled by another artist after Part 1, I decided to reveal who the mystery man was (in the initial story that revelation would have come quite a bit later). The good thing about it, is that it gives a more complete ending to this first cycle.