Perfect Dark Janus Tears 4 NM Eric Trautmann Prima Publishing Rare 1st print


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Perfect Dark Janus Tears (2006) #4

Published Dec 2006 by Prima Publishing.

by Eric Trautmann & Cold FuZion Studios

Joanna Dark, deadly covert operative for the mysterious Carrington Institute, moves closer to her target, a mole hidden within the Institute’s own ranks. Her hunt is complicated by the arrival of Detective Max Conroy, an L.A.P.D. detective who is investigating Joanna’s battle with the shadowy mercenary commandos known as “Hawk Team.” On the surface, Conroy seems like a good cop, frustrated by the increasingly free hand that the sprawling, omnipresent hypercorporations are allowed ? and by just how far above the law the hypercorps have become. As Joanna carves a swath through the local criminal underworld, seeking a lead on Roarke, a Hawk Team shooter who has targeted her for elimination, she soon realizes that Conroy isn’t on the side of the angels, and is instead leading her into a deadly ambush. 32pgs, FC (4 of 6).

Interview with Eric Trautmann
Original interview transcript

Writer of Perfect Dark: Janus’ Tears
Eric Trautmann has spent a lot of time with Joanna Dark. From playing the original N64 game to bringing her adventures to life in an excellent new comic series, Perfect Dark: Janus’ Tears. As a member of Microsoft’s “New Media & Franchise Development Group” he wrote a comprehensive story bible for the Perfect Dark setting that guided the creation of two Perfect Dark novels (Initial Vector and Second Front). Outside of Rare – creators of Joanna – there are very few people who know Jo as well as he does.

Fans of the original Perfect Dark game have been waiting around a long time to get more of Joanna Dark’s story. Why do you think she is so compelling?

I can’t really speak for the fans at large, but what appeals to me is the fact that she’s got these amazing skills – she’s basically a virtuoso of violence – yet in many ways she’s terribly wounded and vulnerable.

A sane response to the death of a loved one is grief; her grief (and all the guilt, anger, denial, etc. that comes with it) is so profound that she is willing to injure, perhaps even kill, herself to rip down those she has identified as the cause of her grief. That’s compelling, certainly, and all the more so because – due to her unusual talents and background – she isn’t crazy or unhinged. She’s just very, very determined. There’s real potential for drama in that territory. If she were merely fueled by vengeance, she wouldn’t be nearly as interesting; it’s the human side of her that measures the cost she pays every time she pulls the trigger that I personally enjoy exploring.

How does the story in Janus’ Tears mesh with the stories in Greg Rucka’s Perfect Dark novels Initial Vector and Second Front?

Quite well, I hope.

I worked very closely with Greg on both novels – which was very much a dream come true for me. Greg is an amazing writer, and a stand-up guy, and I was a big fan of his work for many years; we’ve become quite good friends, thanks largely to Ms. Dark.

Here’s a semi-related funny story:

When my team was proposing a novel series for Perfect Dark, we were asked to put together a list of potential writers who would be a good “fit” for the property. I had spoken with Greg briefly about taking on the job – in non-specific terms – and he had expressed interest, which was exciting. To my mind, he was simply the best guy for the job.

So I turned over a “list” of authors, with one name on it: Greg Rucka.

Chris Kimmell (the PM on the project, with whom I’ve worked very closely on the novels, the audiobook, the comic, and so on), smiled and said that Greg was a good choice, but they were looking for a somewhat longer list.

“No problem,” I said, and took back the paper, and wrote a longer list – which naturally consisted of Greg’s name written on it five times.

Chris tolerated my, ahem, enthusiasm, and thus was a novel series born.

True story.

Janus’ Tears takes place some weeks after the events of Initial Vector (there’s even a one-page flashback to the events of Hovoro in issue 3).

It meshes even more tightly with Second Front; I don’t want to give anything away, but while certain events take place at the end of the comic series, we see them from a different point-of-view and perspective in the beginning of Second Front.

That said, one doesn’t need to read the comic series to make sense of the novels, and vice versa. They work well as stand-alones, I think, but fans will still be able to make some cool connections between them, which is really one of the most fun aspects of working with a shared universe like this.

When playing Perfect Dark Zero, what things caught your eye and made you want to explore them in the comic book?

The lightning-quick action, for one, and the veneer of “this is the world you know…but also, slightly different and weird” (with the flying cars and unusual technology), which all add up to interesting visuals.

Frankly, though, I was more interested in dealing with some of the thematic and emotional elements introduced in the game. Attentive readers will see Joanna moving through several of the stages of grief in regards to her father – and his death – in the novels and comics, which, again, makes for compelling drama.

You also wrote the one-shot PDZ comic Hong Kong Sunrise (the one that appeared in the limited edition of PDZ). How do you compare the creative process of writing that one-shot with writing a mini-series like Janus’ Tears? Did you approach the work differently?

The smaller page size limited the amount of dialogue and action that could fit on the page and still be readable. That was a challenge.

Complicating matters, the plan was to translate the comic into multiple languages, which meant – since some languages require more space – the word bubbles and captions all were slightly oversized (in order to leaving room for the Japanese, German, Spanish, etc. versions). This cost even more “real estate,” which meant I had to choose an absolute minimum of words, which was a technical challenge, as well.

Finally, it’s a slightly different Joanna than we’ve seen thus far; her Dad is still alive, she’s still reckless and thinks she – and those closest to her are indestructible – so it’s a somewhat less complicated character to write at that point in her life. She doesn’t really start to sharpen up until the events of Perfect Dark Zero.

Where did you draw your inspiration for the story of Janus’ Tears?

Coffee. Everything comes from the coffee, man.

I’m a big fan of espionage fiction and non-fiction; I probably (consciously or unconsciously) drew a lot of the inspiration for the comic’s tone and storytelling style from Greg Rucka’s Queen & Country novels and comics, the Ludlum Bourne books, the TV show “24”, and a host of non-fiction sources. A lot of that tone and style colors most of my own writing, since it is also what I tend to enjoy reading and watching.

I spend a lot of my time tracking down articles on esoteric futurist technology, modern warfare, terrorism, industrial espionage, private military companies, and so on – and I often do it just for fun – so a lot of the inspiration for this stuff comes from exposure to real-world applications of the phrase “truth is stranger than fiction.”

For Joanna herself, I find that her scrappiness and quick wit really sounds like my wife, Gabrielle, actually.

In more practical terms, the initial plot was cooked up as part of a marketing campaign for the game (remember the cool Joanna Dark safehouse stuff on the Perfect Dark Zero website?), but for a variety of reasons the campaign was shortened. I blocked out the plot with co-conspirator (and Janus’ Tears co-plotter) Jason Carl, and when the decision was made to leave the “Operation: Janus’ Tears” stuff off the website, I absconded with it for the comic.

Again: lots of coffee was involved.

How long does it take you to write one issue of the comic? Do you go through several drafts?

Depends on which issue.

Issue 1 and 2 wrote fast, probably a couple of days per issue, with a day or two of minor nips and tucks. The first issue was obviously the fastest, since roughly half of it was already written.

Issues 3 and 4 were terribly difficult, even from the outline stage; they mark the “midpoint” of an investigation/conspiracy storyline, which means the writer has to impart a lot more information, without it becoming giant blocks of boring exposition. It was really tough finding a balance between action, plot and character development in those two. I probably spent almost a month on issue 4 (redrafting it at least three times), and I’m pushing two months’ (and three drafts) spent on issues 5 and 6.

What comic book(s) would you select to complete the phrase, “If you like [comic title], then you’ll like Perfect Dark: Janus’ Tears.” And why?

Oh, I don’t know. I’m still very much a rookie at this stuff, so I’d hesitate to compare myself to established pros and their work – and I’d like to think it will appeal to more than just comics fans, if they give it a chance.

I suppose anyone who enjoys action-oriented fare, with strong, empowered female protagonists – such as those found in Wonder Woman and Checkmate might enjoy it; I think there are shades of Nick Fury and the Black Widow to be found here as well.

Some people think mainstream comics sell female characters short (to put it politely). How do you think Janus’ Tears measures up in that regard?

It really isn’t for me to judge. I tried to write Joanna honestly – to make her feel like a real human being, despite her prodigious abilities and the things that make her very, very special.

She has fears, doubts, and flaws, and I don’t shy away from them, but at the same time, her motor is really a stubborn adherence to duty, so watching her rev that motor to overcome those fears in order to achieve her objectives are what make her interesting and believable.

In terms of not treating her as well as other mainstream female characters? I certainly haven’t attempted to put her in exploitive situations – she’s treated as a competent character, worthy of respect, and I hope that comes through in the final story. She’s sexy, but that sexiness is almost incidental; it was very important to me to see her solve her own problems without help, to be the prime mover driving the story. She’s certainly no “helpless little waif” who needs to be rescued, nor was it productive to try and sexualize her.

Besides Joanna, who is your favorite Perfect Dark character? Which character are you most like?

Jack is my favorite unexplored character. I have a great Jack Dark prequel story in mind – about his Marine Corps days, and why he left the Corps – that I’d love to tell, but it’s rather bleak and hard, and doesn’t necessarily fit in to the overall tone of the universe as we’ve thus far presented it, alas. It certainly wouldn’t have fit into the current comic series, though it might work if threaded into a novel.

Maybe someday.

I have no idea which character I’m most like. I certainly think a lot of Joanna’s capacity for blind stubbornness could be attributed to me, at least as I’ve written her. Maybe Jonathan Steinberg – dependable, sentimental, a little weary, but gets the job done.

Are there any other characters or plot aspects you would like to explore if you had the opportunity to write more Perfect Dark comic books?

Why, yes. Perhaps Jack Dark’s early days, and the reasons he left the Marine Corps?

There’s a great venue for a combat sequence I’ve tried to get into both novels, but haven’t been able to make it work. Maybe third time’s the charm…

If you were casting a Perfect Dark movie, who would you pick to play Joanna, Daniel Carrington, and Cassandra DeVries?

Joanna—Keira Knightly or Natalie Portman. After Domino I might give the edge to Ms. Knightly.

Daniel Carrington—Sean Connery is the obvious choice, though maybe that’s a little too obvious. Might be fun to cast someone out of left field though. Say, Eddie Izzard, aged a bit in makeup? I expect he wouldn’t shy away from wearing the kilt.

Cassandra DeVries—Tough one. If the trailer for The Devil Wears Prada is any indication, Meryl Streep could play it in her sleep. My second choice might be Jenny Agutter (who played the devious Tessa Phillips in the BBC series Spooks).

How many issues of Janus’Tears are planned, and where will it be for sale?

It’s a six-issue miniseries, which launched this week, with issue #1. Issue #2 ships in October (we’re giving Issue 1 a two-month burn to get as many converts as possible), with subsequent issues being released monthly.

You should be able to find it on the Prima Games website, as well as any friendly local comic book shop, via the Comic Shop Locater Service.

Finally, I have to ask, can you let our readers in on the meaning of the series’ title?

There’s a couple, actually.

First, the title refers to the operational codename of Joanna’s mission through the series: Operation: JANUS’ TEARS.

In Roman mythology, Janus is a god figure depicted as having two faces; a common description for someone who’s a liar is “two faced”. So what could make Janus himself cry? Tremendous deceit or ultimate honesty?

Janus is also a figure associated with passage, with transition, which I think covers some of Joanna’s arc as a character in this story, as well as providing a transition to her continued development in the next novel, Second Front.

Not that I’ve given too much thought to this, or anything…

Near mint, 1st printing. Check description for more pictures.