The Scourge is quite different from much of your previous work. How did the project come about?
"Ben Roberts, a development exec wise beyond his years, and I were working on another project when he left that company for Gale Anne Hurd's Valhalla Pictures. As a lifelong fan of Gale's work, I imagined I begged Ben to keep me in mind if he had any projects that might start out as a comic book and later become a movie or television series. I guess it was about a week or so later and he called and said, 'How do you feel about writing a project where New York City is completely overrun by gargoyles? Like, the sky turns black with gargoyles, that's how many there are'. It turns out Gale has always wanted to do that 100 million dollar New York under siege by gargoyles story... and I was the guy lucky enough to be asked to develop it."
How did you go about turning the concept into a comic?
"What is interesting to me, as a writer who often finds himself sitting in the movie theatre watching one flick or another, is how many permutations a story will go through before it is deemed written. There was a sort of magical version of this idea, and later a version where the lead himself is transformed into a gargoyle and has to use his gargoyle powers to defeat the others... and probably about five other takes on the idea before we all settled on the perfect story. Also, I'm not sure how you would classify my previous work - or how it is quite different from this - but if I might I think I'd say I'm mostly known for my character-centric X-Men stories. The best thing about working with Gale is the woman is positively character crazy. Sure, it's an all-out action-adventure story, but more than anything she [and I] are mostly interested in telling the story about what lengths a man will go to to protect his son in the midst of chaos - with an entire world hanging in the balance!"
Can you provide us with a brief overview of the storyline?
"John Griffin and Peter Newburgh are mountain climbing in Europe. Lifelong buddies, Newburgh is trying to cheer Griffin up, because Griff is still trying to adjust to the sudden divorce which has separated him from his son. (Yeah, the guy is an NYPD SWAT officer and can deal with terrorists and bank robberies - but what makes him nervous is feeling like he's failed his son.) Unfortunately, Newburgh brings something back with him. Something that is, for all intents and purposes, a sentient virus that hasn't been free on Earth for thousands of years. A virus that transforms its host into a horrific and grotesque carrier from one human being to the next. Brrr... it scares me just to talk about it!"
What happens next?
"Almost before anyone realises it, there is a pandemic that is spreading wildly through the streets of New York. Griffin has to try to stop it from spreading, even as he races to keep his son safe. Even though a part of him, as a dad, might want to just rush his son off the island... the truth is that getting away isn't going to solve the problem. If Griffin doesn't stop the outbreak here in Manhattan - at its source - it is going to spread across the globe in a matter of days. It is now or never."
What can you tell us about our protagonist John Griffin?
"What I love about Griffin is that he is not an action hero, per se. He's more like 'Dad Of The Year With A Big Gun'. Wow! That sounds like my next big movie idea! Yes, he's SWAT so he knows his way around a gun... but what I love about the character is that he is so terribly and horribly outmatched here by a growing army of crazed, superhumanly strong, savage creatures... and all he can think about it is saving his son. How can you not love a guy like that?"
What kind of research did you do for the book? Did you study the gargoyle myth in depth?
"I went to Europe and got bit by a gargoyle. OK, not really. Yes and no. When the original idea was more, 'How do we bring historical gargoyles into present day NYC?' then there was certainly a lot of research... which was pretty much tossed out the window when it became the story of an outbreak. So yes, I did the research originally, but since it isn't a mythology-based story very little of that made it into final work."
Is writing an original project such as this more challenging than working on an established property like X-Men? How does your approach differ?
"It's funny because I just had this conversation with someone the other day about his pilot spec. He said it was easier to write an episode of The Office than it is to write a pilot from scratch because you already know who Michael Scott is and how Dwight is going to react. But I don't agree with that. I think when you write a story you pretty much have to know who they are in order to write it. Even though it will probably never come up in the story, I am sure I know where Peter's office is where he works as a dentist in Manhattan, or why Griffin chose to be a SWAT officer instead of a detective. Yeah, we've seen 40-plus years of X-Men stories so - if we're being true to the character - we'll know how Wolverine acts when he's betrayed or how Scott will react when Jean pops back from the dead again... but if I am going to write the story of Griffin and his battle with a gargoyle onslaught, then I have to know him before I start writing. So in that way it's no different."
The Scourge debuts on July 14.