Conspiracy of the Planet of the Apes: Illustrated Novel
On July 25th, Archaia will be publishing the illustrated prose novel Conspiracy of the Planet of the Apes, which takes place between the scenes of the original 1968 film and focuses on astronaut John Landon. MTV caught up with author Andrew E.C. Gaska
What follows are some excerpts from the interview:
MTV Geek: Could you tell us a little about the genesis of Conspiracy of the Planet of the Apes as a project? How did the partnership with Archaia come about?
Andrew E. C. Gaska: I first became an apes fan as a child watching the ABC 4:30 movie. I remember catching the first movie and being surprised to see the story continue throughout the week; especially after the world altering events in Beneath the Planet of the Apes (interesting enough as Battle was not part of the line up, I didn't even know the movie existed until about a decade later). As these movies were repeated quite often, even as a child as I watched multiple viewings, I would see questions that seemed to remain unanswered between each film. As an adult, I know that these were continuity errors. As a child, I used my imagination to fill in the blanks and cover the mistakes. So it could be said that the genesis of these novels was actually in my childhood. The plan for this series of books has always been to enhance the greater story of the entire PoTA saga by filling in the holes that the feature films left wide open.
I actually met with FOX myself, proposed the book, got the license, and started production; hired artists and what not--all on my own. After that, my science fiction comic series, Critical Millennium, was picked up by Archaia, and received some great advance reviews calling it cerebral, visceral and political. When Conspiracy was nearly done, I presented most of the the art and the second draft to Archaia, and they loved it--we decided to expand our publishing relationship and here we are now.
According to Archaia creative director Mark Smylie, this was somewhat of a unique process. Usually a company secures a license, then looks for a writer to work on it. This time, the writer brought the license he secured on his own to the publisher.
Geek: Who are some of the principal characters in your story?
Gaska: Astronaut John Landon is the guy who gets all the bad breaks. He signed up for a mission that he didn’t really understand, gets ridden by Taylor during a ruthless trek through the desert, is beaten up by apes and lobotomized. His story is going to make it clear just how lucky Taylor was to have found allies in Cornelius and Zira.
Dr. Milo is the chimpanzee who managed to fix Taylor’s ship and get himself, Cornelius, and Zira back in time to 1973 during the third film, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, only to meet an untimely demise at a zoo, of all places. His character has begged for extrapolation from the beginning. He was clearly introduced in Escape in order to get Cornelius and Zira back in time, but a science ape of his level of genius must have had a story to tell, not the least of which was how he found Taylor and Landon’s ship, and fixed it up enough to get it back in the air.
General Ursus, an ape of some power who was important to Beneath the Planet of the Apes, was absent from the first film. You will find he was involved with aspects of Conspiracy while the cameras were rolling elsewhere in Ape City.
Chief Marcus was originally supposed to be an integral part of the original movie, but was mostly cut out. The most information fans have had on him to date comes form a movie poster showing the gorilla and saying “This is Marcus. His specialties are violence and torture.” In Conspiracy, you will find out that the chief is also a family ape, and a loving and caring father.
Dr. Galen, the surgeon who fixed Taylor’s throat and argued with Zira in the original film, is a major antagonist, as is Dr. Zaius. Finally, there is a host of new characters, designed to show the reader other aspects of ape society. There’s even the civil service gorilla named Mungwortt, who is a garbage ape!
Geek: What was the appeal of this particular era in Apes history?
Gaska: It is the defining era, and largely untapped. I have always wondered why no one created stories to fill in the blanks of the original film and its immediate sequel, there are so many discrepancies between the two it seems like a rich place to go to, and I am very happy to be the one to do it. I just needed more than one book to make it happen. I have a two book deal with FOX and Archaia, so expect to see Conspiracy followed up by the end of next year.
Conspiracy is a perfect place to reintroduce readers to the mythos, it's the story of an astronaut who finds his world turned upside down when he crash lands on the Planet of the Apes. It's not Taylor, and its not a new astronaut doing exactly what Taylor did, as was the default for ape stories in the 1970s, but it’s about his fellow astronaut Landon, and tells the story from his eyes. And Taylor is still in it, he is just not the main character. It is both familiar and fresh at the same time.
The second novel will tie up the remaining loose ends between the first and second film and tell what happened to Taylor during the time he was missing in Beneath the Planet of the Apes. It's the story that has never been told: what happens to Taylor after he disappears in the beginning of Beneath and before he reappears at the end? It's the last Taylor story, and it needs to be told.
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